Homeschooling high school is a tricky decision for many parents.
Whether you've been homeschooling from the beginning or are switching to home-based learning starting in high school, there are some extra considerations you may want to consider.
First, determine whether or not an OSSD is required.
The OSSD (Ontario Secondary School Diploma) is only given upon completion of the Ministry-approved program, and only through an accredited, Ministry-approved school. There are virtual and distance education options for OSSD.
Some homeschoolers continue their home-based education throughout the high school years, while others enter the school system as teenagers after elementary level home learning.
Conversely, some teens who have always attended school switch to home-based education at the secondary level. Their reasons vary, but often involve issues of bullying, stress and anxiety, or the need for a more personalized course of study.
If your teen is currently in school, withdrawing your child may or may not be your home-based option of choice, so before you take any action, please read the detailed blog post about your options for switching to home-based learning.
A recommended book for teenagers is The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education, by Grace Llewellyn.
To High School or Not to High School?
When families are contemplating the question, there are a few main areas of concern:
Parent's teaching skills
"How can I homeschool my teenager when I don't feel confident teaching high-school level subjects?"
Parents who have been taking a directive, instructional approach to homeschooling the elementary grades, or whose teen has been attending school until now, sometimes feel inadequate about their ability to take on the teacher role at this stage. Perhaps the subjects seem too difficult -- maybe they didn't finish high school themselves, or they did finish high school (maybe even college or university) but it was a long time ago and they never properly retained or understood those high school subjects well enough to explain them to their own children. If you're one of those parents, the good news is: you don't have to take on that role! Just because you're taking responsibility for seeing to it that your teen receives a satisfactory education, doesn't mean you have to be the one delivering the instruction. If you want to delegate that task to a tutor or enrol your teen in a distance education program, that's perfectly acceptable.
The other good news is that direct instruction is not the only option. You can take a leaf from the book of unschooling parents, who know first hand how much a child or teen can learn "on their own" -- which means through their own self-motivated experimentation and research, and their own seeking out and questioning of people who would have the needed answers and explanations. In fact, the self-directed learning habits of unschooling teens make them particularly adapted to fit right in to the post-secondary environment, where students are not simply spoon-fed knowledge but must rely much more on their critical thinking and research skills and an ability to study on one's own. Stanford and Harvard universities have actively recruited homeschoolers for this very reason.
Whether you opt for instruction or self-directed learning, if you want the course of study to be more or less aligned with what students are learning at the same age in school, you can consult the Ontario Ministry of Education Curriculum Guidelines for the Secondary Curriculum at www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/curricul/curricul.html
High school diploma
"Can my teen get a high school diploma even though we're homeschooling?"
Homeschooling, in the strictest sense, means being self-taught or taught by one's parents. It may be with the help of tutors, but it doesn't involve enrolment in any high school, so it can't result in a high school diploma. However, if we define homeschooling more broadly to mean studying from home without attending school in person, it can include enrolment in a distance education program. If the program is offered by an accredited school, it can result in an accredited high school diploma. This is the only way a home-based learner can obtain one. The Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) can only be issued by an accredited secondary school in Ontario.
Does that mean all homeschooling teens need to be enrolled in correspondence schools or online schools? Not at all. School enrolment is only necessary if the goal is to obtain a conventional high school diploma. The diploma itself may not be necessary, depending on what career the young person plans on pursuing and what path they plan to take to get there. It is not necessary to have a high school diploma to get into a university or college. See University Admissions in Canada.
If you do opt for pursuing a high school diploma, you will need to meet the requirements for the number of credits in each subject.
If your teen is currently attending school, please read the detailed information about your options for switching to home-based learning.
High school credits
"Can my homeschooled teen enter high school after grade 9 and still get enough high school credits for the diploma?"
The Independent Learning Center (ILC) sponsored by TVOntario has a page on diploma requirements in terms of which credits are needed.
There are only three options for obtaining high school credits:
1. Attend an accredited brick-and-mortar high school ~ This could be either a private high school with a government approved curriculum, or a public (or separate) high school.
2. Enrol in a school that provides distance education, either through correspondence courses or Virtual Learning Centres ~ OFTP has prepared a list of Correspondence Schools and Virtual Schools, some of which offer Ontario high school credits. Please note that this list is only the correspondence schools/virtual schools of which OFTP is aware. You can search for more on the Internet.
Note: To earn OSSD credits, students must have a Ministry Identification Number (MIN) or an Ontario Education Number (OEN) as well as having an Ontario Student Record (OSR). When applying to correspondence or online schools, it is generally understood that homelearners do not already have these, and the school would generally apply for the government number for the student and then open the OSR.
"Won't my child need a high school diploma to gain admission into university or college, or to get a job?"
The most common hesitation about whether or not to homeschool during the high school years, is the concern about not having a high school diploma and how that might affect a student's chances at being accepted into a post-secondary institution or getting a job. There is often a presumption that a high school diploma is necessary for admission into university or college. Fortunately, thanks in part to the efforts of the OFTP, more and more colleges and universities are establishing special homeschool admissions policies that offer alternative means of verifying that a student is at the requisite academic level and social readiness. A whole section of our website is devoted to entering college or university as a homeschooler, and we provide a list of institutions that have homeschool admissions policies. See also University Admissions in Canada.
Entering the workforce
"Won't my child need a high school diploma to get a job?"
It really depends on what kind of work or career your child wants to pursue. If the job comes after some post-secondary study, it's unusual (although not unheard of) for an employer to require documentation of high school completion if you're already providing documentation of attendance at, or graduation from, a post-secondary institution.
If your teen doesn't plan on attending college or university, or wants to postpone attendance until after they've worked for a while, then proof of secondary level education becomes more important. There are indeed some employers who will only hire people who have official high school diplomas. Even employers who hire unskilled workers for jobs that pay minimum wage sometimes require proof of high school education. However, if the employer is not too picky and just wants a token of documentation or a sense that the student was able to complete a course of study, it may be acceptable to submit a different kind of certificate:
- a homeschool certificate of graduation you print yourself (you can use a template)
- a homeschool certificate of graduation you order online (e.g. from www.homeschooldiploma.com or diplomastore.com)
- the General Education Development certificate (GED)
Before you opt for either of the first two options, please also read Sarah Rainsberger's blog post on Homeschool Diplomas - Fact vs. Fiction.
In the U.S., to protect people with learning disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot require a high school diploma unless it is "job related and consistent with business necessity."
General Education Development (GED)
"How do institutions and employers feel about the General Education Development (GED)?"
The GED is an international testing program for adults who have not completed high school. This program allows adults to earn the Ontario High School Equivalency Certificate which is issued by the Ministry of Education. The GED test consists of five tests in core high school subject areas: writing, social studies, science, literature/arts and mathematics. In Ontario, this test can only be written by Ontario residents who are 18 years of age and older and who have been out of school for at least one year.
Direct inquiries regarding GED to the Independent Learning Centre (ILC) at:
(416) 484-2737 or 1-800-573-7022
Please note that the GED certificate is not equivalent to the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) but can be used as one factor in admission requirements for mature students when applying to a college or university.
As far as employment goes, please note that the GED is sometimes seen by employers as a negative -- an indication that the person wasn't able to follow through with high school. CareerBuilder.com has an article on High School Diplomas vs. GEDs: Do Employers Care?