I don't think I have met a homeschool family that takes the education of their children lightly. I was no different. As a new homeschool parent I read countless books on homeschooling. I sought advice from other homeschooling parents, joined support groups, and scanned the Internet for information. I researched curricula, found activities, and filled my home with an abundance of educational books and games. When my kids transitioned to their middle-school years, my husband and I started looking into the college-admission process. I spent sleepless nights wondering how to keep the best records so our kids would have the best chance of success in life.

I can't imagine I'm the only sleepless, information-seeking homeschool mom. Why? Because I know that as parents we want to raise our children to become happy and successful adults. The problem we sometimes struggle against is the idea that happy and successful doesn't always mean academic, straight A's, and Harvard-bound. Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that goal. What is wrong is when our plans and goals for our kids become the only way.

Homeschooling is all about tailoring education to fit your child and your life, not squeezing your child into someone else's mold of happy and successful.

So what do you do when you have a teen who has felt led in a specific direction and who feels compelled to train for their career while in high school? Do we simply fill their days with schoolwork and tell them they must wait until they are 18 years old to begin that journey? Or do we take advantage of the unique opportunity homeschooling brings and allow them to train now? What reasons should we look for when deciding whether to allow our teens to begin their training in high school? How do we even begin to format that training alongside a typical high school course of study? Further, what are the disadvantages?

What are reasons for allowing your teenager to train for their career now?

  • Your child has been passionate about an area of study and has been working or training for a period of time long enough to show you that they truly are serious about their desire.
  • Their area of interest requires intense training at a younger age.
  • There are compelling reasons for letting your child explore their interest while still at home and under your shelter. Sometimes this is because the industry they are entering will be harsh and it is better to enter it relatively young with guidance than young with no guidance.

What are some disadvantages of allowing your teenager to begin training for their career now?

  • The dreaded s word: socialization. Typically, early career training combined with a normal high school course of study is a heavy load. This means your student has a full schedule and less time for homeschool co-ops and outings with friends.
  • Their schedule won't look like that of other kids their age. Friends will notice. We had well-meaning friends question us about our daughter's schedule. Be gracious in your response, but don't make excuses for your decision.
  • Slowly transitioning control over to your teenager can be hard. Natural consequences are some of life's biggest lessons, yet as a parent it is so hard to stand back and allow those to happen. Let them! Then learn to step in and show your teen how to get back on track. We all make mistakes. Your teenager will too. Let them know when they make a mistake that you are still their biggest fan!

What does this look like at a practical level?

The beauty of homeschooling is flexibility. However, high school graduation comes with some requirements. I began my daughter's high school plan by listing the basic graduation requirements for our state. Because we also wanted to keep the possibility of college open, I looked at the college-admission requirements for the colleges she had expressed an interest in attending. Next, I reviewed a typical course of study for some performing-arts high schools since that is her area of interest. My goal was to get an idea of the number of training and performance hours she would have received if she had attended one of those schools. I used this information as the building blocks for her high school course of study.

This information gives me a solid framework. It also alleviates any guilt I feel when a well-meaning friend mentions the hours each week my daughter spends at dance, vocal, and acting classes. I simply reply that these are the hours my daughter would be spending if she were attending a performing-arts high school. The same idea would hold true if you used this formula for a teen who is training privately in a sport or a specific area of music. Be sure to keep track of the hours spent and keep a record of the training received.

Now that I've explained how we put our framework in place, let me share how our weekly schedule works. We work my daughter's high school coursework around her training schedule, with the understanding that she needs to be from point A to point B in her coursework by a certain time period. I allow her to make decisions regarding when she gets her schoolwork done. We have a system where she is accountable to me in the same way an employee would be accountable to their boss for a job. We meet on Monday mornings to assign schoolwork for the week. She lets me know how last week went and we go over any assignments if needed, and she turns in any assignments that were due. If assignments are not completed, we discuss why. We try to look for things we can adjust in her schedule and go on from there. The most important thing is that you go with the needs of your teenager. My daughter needs creative freedom and tends to work better with a flexible schedule. I have another teen who is quite the opposite, so I can say with confidence that we would adapt this schedule for him.

The end goal is that your teenager (and mine) graduates ready to move forward into the world knowing the ins and outs of the career they wish to follow. Hopefully they have made progress because of the skills they were able to develop during their high school years. Wherever the road leads, they will have skills that will help them through their adult life.

Leah Nieman is a wife, homeschool mom, and co-founder of CurrClick.com. She's able to balance these roles with the amazing support of her family.

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