The Teen Years

(Adapted from an article originally written by Rosalind Peterson)

The Overall Plan
Both the parents’ and the teenager’s own goals are important. It is important to set goals about what the student would like to end up doing. For example, if the teenager wants to enter a polytechnic course (which may require four year 12 passes for entry, for example) then talk with him/her about what needs to be done to get there and make a plan together. Be realistic about exactly which four subjects will be passable.  A light study of French for a term or two at home is probably insufficient preparation to take on year 12 French and pass.

Long-term View
You only have a few more years before your “child” will embark out on his own – for better or worse.  What do you especially want him/her to have done before leaving home?

Develop the Relationship
Again, because it won’t be long before your “child” will leave home, schedule some relaxed time together.  Deciding on goals (see above) will require both listening to your teenager and finding a setting where he/she feels comfortable enough to share his/her thoughts and dreams.

Curriculum in the Secondary Years

A richly diverse educational programme for primary-aged children with lots of interesting field trips is not usually realistic during the secondary years.  A teenager needs to study fewer subjects but at greater depth.  Raymond Moore (often called the ‘grandfather of homeschooling’) recommends lots of unit studies during the primary years followed by solid textbooks for every high school subject especially if your teen is planning on tertiary studies. Careers in trades usually have courses of study also, so working hard during the secondary years will be beneficial for all teens and enable them to develop good habits whatever their future path. Dr Moore also advocates plenty of physical work whether it be serving others, volunteer work or a part-time paid job. Don’t over burden your teen though and work together to find the right balance in their commitments.AHE website pic18

Be Realistic
If your child wishes to enter a degree programme they must fulfil the entry requirements. Entry to university via Cambridge exams requires at least three year 12 subject passes (incl. English and maths) or a year 13 certificate from NCEA or ACE. Entry to polytechnics usually requires a year 11 or year 12 certificate or specific subject passes depending on the course of study.  Ensure you and your teen research the entry requirements of any courses they may wish to pursue.

Although seeing “Beauty and the Beast” performed on stage may be a wonderfully rich educational experience, it is not on the same academic level as an in-depth study of a Shakespeare play and passing year 13 English.  During the upper secondary years in particular, you need to ensure your teen has done the work required for the year and not just allowed another year to muddle by!

Tertiary Entry
Our family’s preferred approach is that, when the teenager is a year or two away from entering whatever tertiary institute he/she has in mind, they enrol with Te Kura or Cambridge and do the required papers for entry.  ACE or the CENZ level 3 certificate is another option which can lead to entry at tertiary institutes in New Zealand. Again be realistic: What particular subjects can your child study at that level?  And, once enrolled, make sure that they have the time they need to finish the work.  They may no longer be free to visit Grandma every Thursday afternoon, go shopping regularly, or on all the field trips the rest of the family are going on.

Secondary students need to develop responsibility to get their “own” work done, even if this initially needs input and direction from you.

Less Academic Pathways
Not everyone wants to go onto tertiary education. Te Kura have an ‘authentic learning’ option from year 11 onwards which can include job shadowing and internships.  NCEA offers a vast array of different subjects and it is certainly worth spending some time with your teen looking at possible educational options that are outside the norm if that is what suits your child.

Common Subjects in the Secondary Years

ScienceAhe science
What level you study science to will depend upon your teen’s goals.  If you want your teen to obtain a good general knowledge of science, then completion of something like the Apologia General or Physical Science can give you that.  If your teen is science-oriented then you might like to complete much (or even all, incl the advanced options) of the Apologia series.  Or your teen may study one or more of the sciences through Te Kura or Cambridge and use their syllabus.

It is important to keep up maths if you are doing higher level science study. The saying, “Bio is really chem; chem is really physics and physics is really maths,” pretty much sums it up.

MathsAHE website pic17
American maths curriculums cover topics in a different order than NZ curriculum.  We personally use American maths books because they are well designed for home-schooling and are taught well (e.g. Maths-U-See and Saxon). However, if you intend to study NZ year 12 maths (through Te Kura for example) then you need to ensure you have covered the required topics.  If you are using a NZ maths curriculum you should easily transition to Te Kura, if that is your preferred path.

People studying for Cambridge exams need to use Cambridge texts from Year 11 onwards or at least be prepared to consult the syllabus to find out how their preferred textbooks fit with the syllabus.  Tertiary institutes throughout New Zealand require a minimum of year 11 maths to meet their numeracy standards.

EnglishAHE website pic8
The key to secondary level English success is to make sure the student learns how to plan and write an essay (in all its various forms) and how to analyse and critique literature. It is assumed that the student already has a good grasp of grammar and spelling by the time high school is reached. NZ tertiary institutes require year 12 English or above for entry.  This can be English language or English literature.  Many NCEA subjects carry English credits (either reading credits or writing credits), so it is possible to meet the requirement without actually doing English as a subject.

There are many, many other options for secondary study from languages, economics, divinity or geography to mechanics, first aid, sailing and outdoor pursuits.  Find out what will suit your teen and enable him/her to reach his/her goals


Your relatives may become a little more concerned about your crazy idea of homeschooling once your child becomes a teenager.  For relatives who are willing to listen, it might help if you work out what in particular they are really most concerned about but beware of changing your plans to keep others happy.  Some want to see that your child has the opportunity for a university education so, if you show them that you have done all the research and a plan is in place, they may become more relaxed.


School can be a valid and valuable option for some previously homeschooled teens, but don’t send your teen to school just because they are driving you batty! Year 12 and 13 can be difficult years to cover all the things you want to at home and school may well fit with your goals and objectives.

Out-of-zone enrolments need to be registered by September or before and you will probably need solid proof that your child has actually completed year 11 before the school will allow enrolment in year 12 etc.  If you think school might be an option in the later years, it can be useful to sit external exams via a “link” school or to enrol at Te Kura and cover the subjects your teen wishes to pursue further.  Once your child turns 16 years old they can enrol at Te Kura as an adult and enrolment is free.  If you have been studying Cambridge subjects and especially if you have passed any Cambridge exams, these will provide adequate proof to a school of where your child is at academically.

If you do choose to stay at home throughout the secondary years you will probably require more self instructional books than you may have used previously.  Your teen will need to develop self discipline and other necessary skills to work through their books.

Finally, enjoy this time — it will pass all too quickly.