Preparing Your Homeschooler: Tips for the Next Educational Phase

By: Beverly Matoney | The Homeschoool Copywriter

Homeschooling offers a unique educational experience for students, providing them with personalized attention and a flexible learning environment.

As your students progress through their academic journey, you will be guiding them as they advance from elementary to middle school to high school and on to college or the trade of their choice.

In this guide, we will explore effective strategies and key considerations for moving through each of these educational phases and give you the tools to help them thrive in their educational pursuits.


Elementary School: Fresh Beginnings

Elementary students are wide-eyed and ready to explore the world around them. Everything is fresh and new. Suddenly, your homeschoolers are learning to read and perform mathematical calculations while investigating historical events and amazing scientific phenomena they’ve never encountered.

Imagine the elementary years as the construction of a framework on which your students will hang more complex ideas and concepts as they build their knowledge base and move into higher grades.

You can set up your homeschooling adventure to prepare your elementary students for more advanced learning even when you all are just starting out.

  1. Explore the World: While book studies make up a significant part of your homeschool adventure, make sure to include real-world experiences with your elementary students. Every encounter has something to offer whether it is research, connecting the dots, or expanding understanding.
  2. Change It Up: A routine and schedule are valuable for your homeschoolers, but don’t be afraid to change things up from time to time. This will prepare your students for unexpected events throughout their lives and help them adjust and adapt to new situations. Plus, you can take advantage of perfect weather or quiet days at typically crowded places to let your students explore.
  3. Celebrate Even Small Wins: Since early learning is full of new concepts, be sure to praise successes and use constructive criticism to bolster learning. Notice when your students have reached a conclusion on their own, as this will set them up for more independent learning in later years.

Moving On To Middle School

Middle school is a time for expanding on the basic ideas your students learned early on. The educational framework is built, and now you get to help them hang deeper concepts on it.

Your students have greater opportunities since they are older and can participate in a wider variety of learning experiences. And you have greater freedom as you encourage them to take on more responsibility for their own education.

As your students mature, advancing from elementary school to middle school is a significant milestone. Here are some ways you can facilitate a successful transition.

  1. Gradual introduction: Begin introducing middle school concepts and expectations in the later years of elementary school to help students adjust to the increased work and complexity. Even if your elementary student doesn’t quite grasp the idea, you’ve planted a seed for their next encounter in a few months or years.
  2. Structured schedule: You may need to structure your schedule a bit more as your child prepares to move into middle school. While you needn’t be rigid, a schedule will help your students develop time management skills and learn how to prioritize their work. Of course, you can still surprise them with unexpected days out doing novel things.
  3. Socialization Opportunities: A good support network is crucial for your homeschool journey. Elementary students can have regular play time and meet ups with other homeschoolers, but your middle schoolers will benefit from participation in local homeschool co-ops, sports teams, or clubs. These interactions will help your student develop social skills and grow a sense of belonging to a larger community.
  4. Independent Learning Skills: Foster independence by gradually assigning more responsibility for assignments, research, and multi-day projects. This will prepare your students for the self-directed learning required in middle school.

Notes on Independent Learning

Developing independent learning skills is crucial for homeschool students as it empowers them to take ownership of their education and prepares them for future academic and career endeavors.

An added bonus in encouraging independent learning is that it frees up your time to research, plan lessons and outings, and refresh yourself as the primary educator in your students’ lives. Here are some steps you can take to help your homeschoolers grow in their independence.

  1. Set Clear Expectations: Clearly communicate your expectations regarding independent learning. Explain the importance of self-discipline, time management, and taking initiative in their studies. Encourage them to take responsibility for their learning journey.
  2. Gradual Release of Responsibility: Gradually release responsibility to your students by giving them increasing autonomy in their studies. Collaborate with them to find out what interests them and pursue those topics. Start with small tasks and assignments and move on to more complexity and independence levels as they progress. This approach will build their confidence and competence over time.
  3. Teach Study Skills: A lot of what you’re doing as a home educator is teaching your students how to learn. Dedicate time to explicitly teach study and research skills. Help your students develop effective note-taking techniques, organizational strategies, and efficient study habits. Guide them in setting goals, planning their study sessions, and monitoring their progress.
  4. Encourage Self-Directed Research: Students gravitate to what they love. Encourage your students to explore topics of interest and pursue independent research projects. Provide them with both physical and digital resources such as books, online databases, videos, and approved websites related to their research. Teach them how to evaluate the credibility of sources and synthesize information. Introduce them to the art of interviewing subject matter experts to further their research skills.
  5. Promote Problem-Solving Skills: Boost critical thinking and problem-solving skills by presenting real-world challenges and open-ended questions. Encourage your students to brainstorm solutions, think creatively, and analyze different perspectives. Support them in developing logical reasoning and decision-making abilities.
  6. Provide Structured Independence: Balance independence with structure. The flexibility you enjoy in homeschool offers a perfect opportunity to let your students shine in their personal talents. Set clear guidelines and deadlines for assignments and projects while allowing your students to move freely within those guidelines. Help your homeschoolers set daily or weekly goals to allow them to manage their time effectively while still adhering to a routine.
  7. Encourage Self-Reflection: Build a habit of self-reflection in your homeschool students. Ask for honest feedback and understanding on a concept or idea you’ve explored and for them to evaluate their progress, strengths, and areas for improvement. Help them identify strategies that work best for their learning style and support self-correction and self-assessment.
  8. Emphasize Self-Motivation: Sometimes students get stuck. Help your homeschooler develop natural motivation by emphasizing the importance of the personal goals and aspirations you helped them set. As they find meaning and purpose in their studies, celebrate their achievements and provide constructive feedback plus rewards to keep them motivated.
  9. Create Collaboration Scenarios: While independence is important, collaboration skills are equally valuable. Encourage your students to participate in group projects, cooperative learning activities, or homeschool co-ops. If you are teaching multiple students at different grade levels, this is a perfect opportunity to encourage coaching and mentoring skills. Collaboration enhances communication skills, teamwork, and the ability to learn from others.
  10. Mentorship and Support: You are your homeschoolers’ mentor and guide. As they develop independent learning skills, offer guidance, check-in regularly, and provide support when needed. Be available to answer questions, clarify concepts, and offer assistance when they encounter challenges.

Remember, developing independent learning skills is a gradual process. Be patient and supportive as your homeschool students grow in their ability to take ownership of their education. These skills will help your students transition more easily to high school and into college and beyond.

Heading Into High School

It seems they were just learning to read, and now they’re getting ready for college. What? They just got into high school! High school is a time for much deeper learning to add to that framework, but also a time for coordinating the next four years to create a solid foundation for higher education.

Advancement from middle school to high school is a critical period that sets the stage for future academic success. Implement the following strategies to support a smooth transition.

  1. Academic Planning: Collaborate with your student to develop a high school academic plan, considering their interests, career goals, and college admission requirements. Review core subjects, elective courses, and extracurricular activities to create a well-rounded educational experience.
  2. Credit Transfer and Documentation: It can’t be said strongly enough. Document everything. Ensure that any credits you awarded during middle school are properly documented and transferred to your student’s high school transcript. Most states require standardized testing in middle school, so these assessments can be included to validate the completion of coursework.
  3. Increased Rigor: Prepare students for the increased academic rigor of high school by gradually introducing challenging assignments and higher-level thinking skills during their later middle school years. This will help build confidence and resilience in tackling advanced coursework. Ease your students into more independent learning, as this will help them after graduation whatever path they choose.
  4. College and Career Exploration: Encourage your students to explore potential college majors and career paths through research, internships, and mentorships. This exploration will help them make informed decisions when selecting high school courses and extracurricular activities that align with their long-term goals.
  5. Life Skills: Spend the next four years preparing your student for life after school. Help your homeschoolers develop essential skills for college life or independent living such as time management, organization, effective study habits, money management, and critical thinking. Encourage them to participate in extra-curricular activities that will add to their transcript and resume.

On To Adult Life Whether College Or A Trade

You did it! You helped your homeschoolers go from bright-eyed elementary students to bright-eyed high school graduates! Now they are ready to explore the wide world in a whole new way.

Not every high school graduate intends to head to college or university. Some have a calling to pursue a particular trade or other career path such as military service. Transitioning from high school to college or a trade marks a significant shift in your students’ lives. To ensure a successful launch into the world, apply the following strategies.

  1. College or Trade School Selection: Assist your homeschoolers in researching and selecting the most suitable colleges or trade schools based on their career aspirations, academic interests, financial considerations, and location preferences. That seems like an overwhelming set of criteria, but since you know your student better than anyone, you are more than prepared to offer sage advice. Encourage campus visits and virtual tours to help them make informed decisions.
  2. College Admissions Process: Remember all that documentation you kept through high school? This is when it becomes imperative to have. Guide your students through the college or trade school admissions process including application essays, standardized testing, recommendation letters, and financial aid applications. Familiarize yourself with admission requirements and deadlines to ensure a smooth application experience.
  3. College Readiness: Those life skills you introduced in high school will be put to the test once your student leaves for college. Essential skills such as time management, organization, effective study habits, and critical thinking make the transition into college much easier. Encourage your graduates to take challenging courses, engage in extracurricular activities, and pursue leadership roles to bolster their self confidence and their college applications.
  4. Trade School Preparation: If your student plans to pursue a trade, facilitate their transition by connecting them with vocational programs, apprenticeships, or trade schools that offer relevant training. Research the requirements for apprenticeship programs and guide them through the application process.

Homeschooling your students from elementary to high school requires thoughtful planning, support, and clear communication. By gradually introducing new challenges, fostering independence, providing socialization opportunities, and aligning education goals with future aspirations, your homeschoolers can confidently navigate the transitional periods with ease and confidence.

With proper guidance and preparation, advancement through the grades can become stepping-stones toward a fulfilling and successful homeschool academic journey.

A word for home educators:

Transitions affect you as well as your students. Sometimes it’s difficult to release that elementary school mindset of helping your students with everything. As always, when they grow, you grow.

By taking time to refresh yourself and encouraging more independent learning, you free your students to reach higher and expand their thinking through personal research and yourself to find new ways to approach each stage of their learning process.

Take time to enjoy each moment while preparing for the next. It is our sincere hope that this guide will assist you and your students throughout your homeschool journey.

About the Author: Beverly Matoney

Beverly Matoney is a wife, mother to two wonderful adult children, and writer living in northeast Georgia. She began her career in sales and marketing, but eventually opted for the stay-at-home life. When her oldest child was three, she and her husband decided homeschool was the best path for their family. That was way back in the early 90s when homeschool was just beginning to gain steam as an education alternative. But what an adventure it was!

Fast forward 20+ years, and their children have grown, graduated from homeschool, gone to college, and started their own lives. What’s a former home educator to do? She follows another dream she had of being a writer.