The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens (a review)

If you've read many books about homeschooling, you've probably started to notice that a lot of them are saying exactly the same thing. Not many stand out from the crowd as being different, offering unique and truly helpful information for homeschoolers.

Debra Bell's The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens is not your typical book on homeschooling. I would even venture to say that it is the definitive book on homeschooling teens. If you homeschool middle schoolers or teens, this is the one book you need to make sure you have on your shelf.

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens is organized into nine main sections, each of which is full of practical information, clear explanations, and helpful additional resources. Here's a rundown of each section.

Part 1: Making the Decision.

If you've not yet decided for sure whether you can — or even should — homeschool through high school, Debra Bell spells out both the advantages and challenges. And she really lays it on the line. After you're done with this section, you'll be much more confident in your decision either for or against homeschooling your teens through high school. Even if you're already planning to go the distance, don't skip this section! It might open your eyes to unforeseen challenges in your future.

Part II: Beginning with the End in Mind

Creating your curriculum plan for your teen's high school years doesn't mean just filling up four English credits, 3-4 math credits, etc. It needs to be adapted to your teen's special gifts, abilities, and future plans. How do you do that? Debra Bell explains how you can discover your teen's gifts and adapt your curriculum choices to the demands of the changing job market.

Part III: Educating for the Real World

Not all teens are created equal, and some skills are more important in the real world than others. This section discusses how teens learn and study, and how to develop critical and creative thinking skills, those skills that are of the utmost importance in today's job market.

Part IV: The Middle School Years: Early Adolescence

If your child is not yet a high schooler, you can start preparing your child in middle school for a successful high school experience. Subject by subject, Debra Bell explains what skills middle schoolers need to develop and offers a number of resources in each subject that can be used to teach those skills.

Part V: The High School Years

This section is likewise broken down by subject. Recommended book and online resources are listed and explained for each subject category. Debra Bell also includes sections on electives, internships, and apprenticeships. Part V is pure gold for parents who are struggling with exactly how to plan curriculum for each high school subject.

Part VI: How to Do the Hard Stuff

Many parents feel ill-equipped to homeschool their children through the high school years. But that shouldn't stop them. There are a number of ways for teens to learn the difficult subjects parents may feel unprepared to teach, including tutors, mentors, co-ops, distance learning, and self-instruction. Debra Bell explains the ins and outs of each method, providing valuable links and resources for each one.

Part VII: College Credit @ Home

One of the big advantages of homeschooling through high school is the ability to earn college credit during high school. This sometimes-confusing topic is clearly explained in this section, including dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP), and CLEP exams. Debra Bell even discusses how some homeschoolers can earn a full college degree from home if they choose to go that route.

Part VIII: Record Keeping

For many families, record keeping is a four-letter word. It's something that strikes fear in us the instant we hear it mentioned. In this chapter Debra Bell clearly explains several ways to award credits and grades, how to create transcripts, keep records, and produce a diploma, as well as how to create and use an effective portfolio. As usual, she includes several recommended resources for each topic.

Part IX: Next Stop: College

For those students who plan to go on to college, Debra Bell takes the mystery out of the process for homeschoolers. From how to deal with admissions officers, nailing the high-stakes tests, how to make the most of visits and interviews, and even seeking and finding financial aid, Debra Bell paints a clear picture for homeschooling parents and teens.

The Appendix

This section, spanning about 85 pages of the book, offers a variety of valuable resources. Here's a list of what's included in this section:

  • Top websites for high school at home
  • Ten terrific online tools
  • Ten goals every teen should reach before leaving home
  • Sample student transcripts, college application essays, academic resumes, and annotated resumes
  • Questions to ask during a college visit
  • Sample questions to prepare for a college interview
  • Sample rubrics
  • Middle school reading list
  • College-bound reading list
  • Recommended Christian literature
  • Academic competitions
  • Resource guide

I heartily recommend The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens for any homeschooling family with children approaching middle school.

If you don't have middle schoolers yet, you might want to pick up Debra Bell's The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling first, which is similarly spectacular, but not focused solely on the teen years.

Obligatory disclosure

I've owned the original The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling for many years and absolutely love it, so when I learned that Debra Bell was publishing The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens, I begged — or rather, I "politely asked" her if she could send me a copy to review. At the time I asked, I was helping to design her new website (which has not yet launched yet), so thankfully she obliged. Consequently I received this book free, but my opinions in this review are entirely my own.

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  1. Liz says

    Hi, I enjoy your blog. Your recommendations are terrific, so this is one more book for my amazon wishlist. I just noticed that amazon has no reviews for this guide yet, and I wanted to recommend your review be placed there. Just a suggestion, though you probably already thought of it.
    Blessings, Liz G


    Joy Reply:

    @Liz, Actually, I hadn't thought of it. I've never done an Amazon review before. Thanks for reminding me! I've already submitted it to Amazon and it should be posted within 48 hours.


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