Monday, March 15

Why a 5-Year High School Plan Might Be Best for Your Homeschooled Teen

Looking for a way to homeschool the high school years with more freedom and less stress? Today we’re talking about the benefits of a five-year high school plan and why it might be the best fit for your teen.

3 Reasons to Consider a Five-Year High School Plan for Your Homeschool

Sometimes we forget to embrace the flexibility that comes with homeschooling. Instead of putting it on a shelf and breaking it out for emergencies only, we can tap into that flexibility when homeschooling high school and create a plan that meets our teens where they are. That’s where a five-year high school plan comes into the picture.

Tapping into our homeschool freedom is exactly what led my husband and me to shift to a five-year high school plan for our teenage son. The following reasons are primarily what led us to that decision.

By sharing our thought process, I hope you’ll see the freedom that comes with an approach like this and imagine how it could change your plans for high school at home for the better.

Younger Than Typical Grade Level

We began homeschooling my now teenage son when he was three years old. Because he moved pretty quickly through those first years of home education, he’s always been a grade ahead of most students his age.

Being ahead doesn’t usually cause problems in elementary and middle school grades, but it begins to look a little different once high school, college, and career paths are on the horizon. That’s because being a grade ahead means your student is at least a year younger than the typical age of his academic peers.

When it comes down to it, college at 16 or 17 makes for good television, but for real life humans? I can’t say that it never works out, but I can say with certainty that it’s not right for every student.

Think about it: a one-year age difference doesn’t always seem significant, but our kids don’t necessarily grow and develop evenly in all areas. This is one of those scenarios where that comes into play. Simply put, academic readiness doesn’t guarantee emotional readiness, maturity, or independence.

And even if readiness itself isn’t the issue, having a fifth year of high school can still make a world of difference for a younger student. That extra time can provide a buffer period for a younger teen to become comfortable and confident when transitioning into college or career.

A Relaxed Approach to High School at Home

It’s not uncommon for homeschooling parents to choose a relaxed homeschool atmosphere for preschoolers and children, but eventually those relaxed homeschoolers grow up and transition to the teenage years.

Relaxed homeschooling and a five-year high school plan go hand in hand because the combination allows your student to make progress academically, but without the time constraints built in to a traditional high school schedule.

That transition to the high school years is a lot gentler — a lot more relaxed — with a five-year plan. Instead of obsessing over core subjects or letting college admission prospects dictate the high school years, adding an extra year holds space for things that are often overlooked in high school like nature study or extracurriculars.

The Gift of Time

Lastly, you may want to consider a five-year high school plan for no other reason than wanting an extra year at home for your teen to use as needed.

An extra year provides time to build a stellar transcript, tackle dual enrollment without unnecessary overwhelm, or begin working a job while spreading out assignments and earning credits needed for graduation.

As a homeschooling parent, it may come down to wanting the extra time to meet your goals for high school. Regardless of what the transcript says, if you’ve cultivated a lifestyle of learning, it’s entirely possible that you need five years of high school to get through all you and your teen want to cover.

That extra time could also benefit your teen if you make unexpected curriculum changes or choose to outsource some subjects and have less control over timing with those courses.

Extra time is also helpful for reviewing specific concepts and navigating unusual schedule challenges due to travel, family issues, or other things that make it difficult to meet attendance requirements.

Putting It All Together: Why We Said Yes to Five Years of High School at Home

For us, the decision to add an extra year of high school came after our teen completed his freshman year and it involved all of the reasons I shared above. In a nutshell, when we began homeschooling his sophomore year, we realized we didn’t have enough time to fully execute our high school plan.

Well, we technically had time, but we didn’t have the time to follow through with our customized learning plan for him and take advantage of dual enrollment. We also knew a traditional four-year approach would make it difficult to follow through with our homeschool plans while working an internship or job.

Even worse, we knew that adding dual enrollment and a job to his mix would give him little time for his personal development and creative pursuits.

Most importantly, we don’t want to look back on his time as a homeschooled teen with regret. That extra year, while unconventional, gives us a chance to provide the rich education he’s worked for without missing out on valuable opportunities that will also help him grow.

In closing, the freedom that comes through homeschooling doesn’t vanish in the middle school years. We don’t have to surrender the final years to pressure and overwhelm or demand sacrifice from our students. Instead, we can add margin to our high school plans and use that fifth year to help our teens finish strong.

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Emily Copeland is a Christ follower, ministry leader, and home educating mom of two living in coastal North Carolina. She shares tips, ideas, and resources to help others lead well while educating their children at Table Life Blog. You can also find her on InstagramTwitterPinterest, and Facebook.  


  1. How did you label that extra year? Did he do two eighth grades and count the second toward HS credit, two ninth grades, two twelfths? I have chronically ill teens and this could be a possible answer to some of the stress for them.

    1. I am contacting our guest poster to have her answer this...

    2. Hi Alicia,
      We're still working through this 5-year plan, so I can't say for sure how we'll frame all of this when it comes to transcripts. However, I did contact the college my son plans to attend to get guidance and to be sure they'll accept this nontraditional approach. Based on advice from the admissions office, I'm planning to refer to it as a 13th year.

      My contact said there are quite a few applicants who do this because of dual enrollment at our local community college and it looks similar from a logistical perspective. She also said to include specifics about the five years in the application process (like in an admissions essay or field to share additional details about coursework).

      All that to say, I recommend checking with any college that may be on your teens' radars to see what they're specifically looking for. And if college isn't in the plans for your high schoolers, I wouldn't stress over the labels. I'd just stick with Year 13 or 13th Year.

      Hope this helps!

    3. Thank you for responding with all of that information! Very helpful.


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