Mid-High School

Too Late 

to Start




Barb Shelton

and several other homeschooling moms



Also an

"article within an article":


 How Do I Begin to 

Develop a Lifestyle of Learning 

with a Child who is Half-way

Through High School?



Marilyn Howshall


(That section is about

half-way down the page!)




Intro from Barb:


       If you are considering homeschooling a high schooler starting "midstream," you are probably in at least a little bit of turmoil right now. This page is packed with a lot of encouragement, inspiration, and practical help!  I hope that if you are in this boat, you will thoroughly read everything on this page before making another move or spending another dime as what's presented here is going to be life-changing, pivotal, and foundational for you. How do you spell "relief"?



R-E-A-D  T-H-I-S  P-A-G-E!   



NOTE: Everything written by me (Barb) has the

above sunflower-bear next to it; everything written by "others"

is inside a text box with a seed packet nearby.




[Barb:] I am occasionally contacted by homeschool moms wanting to take their child out of high school "midstream."  They are almost invariably "desperate, in panic, overwhelmed!!!!" ~ which actually happens to be the exact title of an email I recently received.  Because I know many others are in similar shoes, I want to first share an excerpt from her email, and then my response, in hopes that it will be of encouragement to others needing to hear the same thing... (I have slightly changed a few things to protect her privacy and to make it make more sense to you.)



I am so discouraged. I am in panic too because I have middle school and high school children, and I am losing time. I can't afford a trial and error program. Your book Form+U+la, which I have learned about today in the internet, seems to tell me that I am too late to read it because I haven't read it 2 or 3 years earlier before I started homeschooling. I would like to change my whole approach to homeschooling, but am I too late? Please tell me what to do from here?



First, the place this mom probably got the idea she is too late was from a multi-authored article here at my website called When to Read Form+U+la?  That is for those with younger children wanting to know when it would most benefit them to start reading Form+U+la; but it doesn't mean that mid-high-school is too late!  


Now, to speak to this mom, and anyone else in her shoes...  My heart goes out to you. I pray this will be a time during which you'll draw close to the Lord like never before. Not that you haven't! Just that I think this is what "going from glory to glory" is about.   (It only gets better!) ... And I pray, too, that you'll receive comfort, direction and practical steps to take. You are in a very good place already! 

My advice to you as we begin to delve into this first, relax, take a deep breath.    Be still and know that God is God, and that He has a perfect plan for you... And He will take you from right where you're at!!!  If your life is not yet in His hands, that is where you will need to start, as this is not a "do it yourself" approach.


My book is not going to be a program that either works or doesn't work; it's going to help you focus on what GOD wants you to focus on. It would have greatly behooved you to have read it even five years ago; but you didn't, and so God is going to help you right where you're at, and take you from here. It is NOT too late; it's just going to take a lot more focusing and undoing is all.    Get the book ~ the latest edition, not one with the gold and black cover; the one with the pictures of our family on the cover ~ and start reading it from cover to cover, and then start over again. There is a jumpstart plan you can use with your kids at the beginning of it, right before the first chapter. That will help you help them get going on a "lite" plan that will not be overwhelming. 

In the time before the book arrives I suggest you get your kids occupied, the fix yourself a nice pot of your favorite beverage, set yourself down at your computer, and PLANT yourself at my Homeschool Oasis. If it's pretty much all you do for the next four days, it will be WELL worth your time!!!!!    I have spent many many hours creating for people EXACTLY in your shoes. There is much to think about and consider where you're at; it can feel very overwhelming. But just keep pressing into God as you continue reading. He WILL show you the way through this. If you come to an article (at the Article Chart, which is where you'll want to spend a good portion of your time) that's just not making sense, skip on to the next one, but consider coming back to it later, as it will probably make more sense at another time. Maybe even print out the Article Chart and check off articles as you go. There will be very FEW that will not apply to you, but some will be more helpful now than later, and visa versa.
"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act." God is wanting to pour out abundant GRACE on you right now. Let Him minister to your heart. My pastor recently spoke on "Being Desperate." The BEST place we can possibly be is DESPERATE. If we are not desperate, God does not have free reign to move and work and redeem. That's all you need right now ~ for God to REDEEM. You have already made it to the starting line, where many never even get! They just float along, oblivious to the fact that God has something better for them. 

One gal who wrote to me had a good way of putting it ~ that it's not another program, but something very different...


"Thank you so much for your courage in presenting a message which seems so eccentric to the masses who have been deceived for so long. God has laid it on my heart to pray for you on a regular basis. I believe He has chosen you and Marilyn (Howshall) to draw families back to Himself. Your vision for the generations is one of the things God had been showing my husband and me over the last few years. It is so exciting to see that God is working in many ways to get that message out to His people. Your ministry carries with it such huge responsibility. As I was teaching my little group of 10 or 11 moms, it was almost frightening to realize they were actually listening to me and would very likely change their methods of education based on what I said. I became very aware of how important it is to stay close to the Lord, so that it is His message and not my own that is going out. Your writings are such an encouragement in that area. Always pointing me to God and His ways not just to some new educational philosophy."


And here's what another dear homeschool mom (Twila) recently wrote to me. She, too, is in the same shoes.




"The Lord began my undoing about five years ago. It has taken every bit of that time to do an un-religion work on me and now it looks like He is beginning an un-schooling project on me. It is all truly a paradigm shift in my way of thinking, but brings joy and peace. I have a 16 and a 12-year-old. There have been many tears and much conflict in my efforts to school at home the last 5 years. That small still Voice has tried to tell me to do things differently but I just didn't get it."


Back to me (Barb) talking to the Senior High Form+U+la List...  I think the reason she thought it was too late was because of this article at my website called "When to Read Form+U+la."  I don't think it's ever too late; it just may take a lot more to redeem a situation. The more hardened a heart, the longer it may take to soften it. The more bad fruit in a life, the more cleaning up and cleaning out will be needed. The more off-target our thinking, the more it will take to get it set aright. But I don't think it's ever too late, until your children leave home.

Next I want to share a letter from Donna Heck, my Senior High Form+U+la list shepherdess and online secretary. (She had been sharing much wisdom and experience from her heart for a couple of years, so I finally nabbed her and gave her a couple of official titles!  


Donna answered the question "Is it too late to start?" to one who was asking it on the list, but if you are asking the same question, her answer is directed to you too!



You were wondering if by beginning this late in school (age 16) you will be able to complete the requirements and graduate on time. Part of this question/answer will change as you read Form+U+la and you come to realize whose "requirements" you are questioning. But let me say this; my older son came home to homeschool at the same age as your son. He is ADD and was being passed simply based on his age ~ not his ability. The two years we homeschooled him were the best years of his school life!  (Those were HIS words!)  


Not only did the Lord equip him with the knowledge that He wanted for my son, but we had the most wonderful discussions and time together! I saw his anger and frustrations drain away. He had absolutely NO self-esteem when he left public school and that began to come back as we spent time together. Here was a boy that felt he could NEVER go to college...  but he did! 
So, is it too late? Well, I guess that depends on what you're measuring
against. God "redeemed" the wasted years in my son and gave him so much more than we ever dreamed he could achieve! I hope you will choose this path.

~ Donna Heck       



Coming up next is the response I received from another homeschooling mom when I asked on the Senior High Form+U+la List if anyone had any experiences with taking a child out of public school part way through.  This gal, Sheilah, welcomes email from anyone in a similar situation who would like to talk to someone who's "been there done that".  Having started homeschooling our kids when they were 4 and 5 years old, I don't have this experience.  I can encourage, but I can't help as one who has done it and knows what's it's like from the inside.



In response to taking a "mid high-schooler" out of public school, I can only see great results from my situation. My 17-year-old son got into a little trouble at public school and I had already taken my daughter out for the same reason four months prior to this. I was "told" that I couldn't take him out at that point, but I was so desperate to rescue him from the school, his "so called friends" and other outside influences, that I listened instead to God. I really figured if all else failed, he could at least get his GED. I didn't opt to go that route, as I wanted him at home to finish his high school. I also wanted to take advantage of the dual enrollment program at the local community college. I signed him up for the next semester and he started with just one class. I knew (or felt very strongly) that he would not have chosen to go to college or make much of his education or training if he continued on the route he was taking while attending public schools. He finished his first college course with a 93 average, Praise God! He is so awesome to help us in our time of need! My son does pretty well with his homeschool work, but he is like every other boy who has to be reminded of what is expected.
Most of all, I see "good fruit" in him because we have more time together as a family, we can talk much more, the "bad" influences are gone, he is getting much more training in what's most important in life, and we have quite a bit of support at our church for homeschoolers, so he doesn't feel alone. The Lord has brought each one of my three children home, one at a time and I am so glad He did! He didn't overwhelm me, He gave me each day "one step at a time".
In Christ,
Sheilah Hughes; Jacksonville, NC




And finally, last but certainly not least, we get to the "meat 'n' potatoes" of what I have to present to you on this topic.  Not what *I* present, actually, but I present to you what Marilyn Howshall has to say on this.  It is long.  Please do not let this keep you from reading the whole thing!  Of anything on this page, this is going to make the most impact on you ~ and be the most difficult to receive if you are in a very different and difficult place. This is not to in any way devalue anything else I've presented to you here! (which includes what I myself have written!)  But only to say that what's coming next (an article within an article!) is going to make the most difference in your life.





Marilyn Howshall answers the question...


How Do I Begin to

Develop a Lifestyle of Learning 

with a Child Who is Half-way

Through High School?


You probably feel like you need your teenager on a crash course of some sort, however your approach will depend entirely upon how long you think he will remain at home. My suggestions can be applied no matter how much time you have, but the benefit to your child will be greater if he chooses to submit to a season of vocational preparation until he is truly ready to go out into the world on his own.  A "leave home at age 18 mentality" whether he is ready or not will surely lend to your stress level and not allow you to accomplish very much with him. The quality of your relationship will be the measuring rod of how far you are both willing to go with his preparation for life.

For instance, a happy, contented child will not be in as much of a hurry to get out there by a certain time unless he has definite direction that you both agree upon. If he does not though, he should either be willing to submit to ongoing preparation no matter how long that takes or he will end up choosing to go his own way whether or not he has strong and acceptable direction. If you are willing to allow your child what he truly needs, the down or debriefing time away from superfluous academic requirements then you will have the time to focus on the most important areas of his development. Focusing on what is really important will redeem time.

Important Training Objective:

   Self-Motivation Toward All Disciplines
Self-motivation toward learning what he needs to learn is probably your most important training objective and should be approached immediately. This is what I began doing with Jennifer. She has always been schooled although never really instructed. She is basically behind in everything. I am concerned with developing her character, heart motivations, skill quality, etc. She also does not know what she likes to do but seems to know quite well what she does not like! - in short she possesses the condition of boredom in her soul.

One of the first conversations I had with her was regarding boredom, explaining what it is, what it does, and what is and is not healthy in her line of thinking and choice of activities. She did not like this. She thought I was describing a dread disease she had! I told her she was right but that it was done to her and was not her fault, but she had a choice now to learn to overcome it. I told her that boredom is a dread disease of the soul that will rob her of her life. It was nearly two months later when she finally saw the truth of what I had told her and admitted she needed discipline in her life to overcome it! 

Next, I simply observed her for a few weeks to see what types of activities she was motivated toward. This helped me to see what to further develop and it also showed me the voids in her life. She was not motivated to do anything and she is almost completely self-absorbed. I spoke with her about self-motivation and how we live by grace which means that we do not always adhere to a rigid routine but that we choose to do our disciplines at other odd times whenever the opportunity presents itself, and that we also choose to do more than what is required of us at times. I set up a few very basic disciplines for her life that we could build upon once she got more adjusted to her new lifestyle with us away from familiar school lifestyle disciplines.


Household Responsibilities

I found that most children in the system no matter how old they are are very much still like children unless they have had a unique parental involvement. Children need real responsibilities to develop life-skills, common sense, and maturity - something lacking in today's teenagers. I feel it necessary to get children no matter what their age to be contributing toward the daily management of the family's needs. They need to develop as much responsibility as can be handed to them. Boys should be doing some form of manual labor and working with their dads in the adult world as much as possible. The important traits of common sense, resourcefulness, concern for another's welfare, self-initiation toward life's responsibilities, etc., are a few of the qualities that make the difference between children and adults. I put Jennifer in charge of the kitchen dishes, sweeping the floor, dusting and vacuuming so that she could contribute to chore time. This does not sound like much but she could not do a good job with anything that was given her. Both Kathryn and I have had to follow her around and make her redo her work or show her how to do it right or a better way of doing something. Training in household responsibilities will help to mature her character and help to draw her out of her self-absorption and prepare her for working for someone else if the need arises. She now initiates the morning routine but still needs to learn self-motivation for the evening chores. If your child cannot initiate household responsibilities how can he manage his life away from home? Training for life begins in the home.

Basic Academic Skills
Next I determined Jennifer's skill level by reading a couple of letters she had written to friends (all letters get editing attention and a copy is made before they are sent out). It was easy to see at a glance that I would have to back her up to third grade skill level in her writing skills as she had been allowed to develop several bad habits all of which made it hard to read her writing. Since she had never heard anything about God before, I put her to copying the Psalms in cursive. At first she did not like the continual erasing but I regularly reminded her that handwriting was not the only thing being developed during this activity. Her character was being challenged to pay careful attention to detail for the first time in her life. She eventually enjoyed it and initiated this activity on her own. Three months along and she was initiating helping her little brother to copy the Psalms and teaching him how to memorize them as well!
I am now using the copies we made of past letters to show her how to structure her thought and break it into paragraphs. (She had never been taught this; her letters are one long paragraph with confusing, mixed-topic, sentences, yet she is fifteen and has never been set back a grade in school!?)

Next, I backed her up a bit in math as I determined that she had been pushed through assignments too fast and really did not know what she was doing. She, at the age of fifteen, still did not know how to arrange numbers in a column, yet she was made to do fractions and complex seven-step word problems where she had to work problems on scratch paper (in columns!) to come up with the answer. Basic skills were not learned well enough for her to be doing that kind of math! She also could not address an envelope! How do I know? Five letters she sent out the first two weeks after she was here came back undeliverable. She had made mistakes in addressing and the mistakes were not even consistent with each other. She really did not know how to address an envelope nor even understand the components of an address. We are learning that she also does not know how to listen to instructions. We have had to repeat and redo many things including projects, chores, and table-time. Is she ready to go out and support herself or run her own household? Ask these questions of your own child and you will know which disciplines on which to spend your time and energy.

So, the guiding rule of thumb I believe when attempting to redeem some time and equip practically for life would be to determine what immediate basic skills need to be polished up and refined before adding to them. If the child begins to enjoy improving her skill with regular household activities and basic table-time work then a desire may be growing in her heart to learn something new that springs from an interest deep within her, such as singing, writing a song, playing a piano, etc.


Next get the child reading as many good books as there seems to be time for. Jennifer's soul condition hindered her from embracing any reading time on her own except for the trash she had brought with her. I shared with her how would be having her read lots of good books that would educate her mind and her spirit and that I would be having her keep a record of books read. She was not thrilled. I made her read for thirty minutes a day at first. After about two months and several more "mildly intense moments of fellowship" with her she began and is still choosing today to read for larger blocks of time on a daily basis. I had told her that with the lack of proper education, correct thinking and void of truth in her life up until now, that she could not read too much at this season of her life. After three months, she has read several books now including the set of six books by Hannah Hurnard, Hind's feet on High Places. I recently just gave her the record book I wanted her to begin using to document all the books she was reading, and she received it with a joyful spirit and even a little eagerness to do the required recording. 

Personal Interests

In conversations I have had with Jennifer, I helped her to see her life on paper in four divisions to show her how off balance it was and in what are as I wanted her to spend her time. The four areas I discussed with her are: chores, topics of interest, productive use of topics of interest, and diversions (moments of fun or rest). The diversions
category had up to that point received the most attention in her life as demonstrated by the immediate gratification she seemed to need for every activity, pre-planned event, etc. that came up and the fact that she only seemed happy at those times and overly somber and withdrawn during times of routine disciplines like chores, table-time and reading-time. I told her that while diversions were a necessary part of life they would not help her develop vocational direction, and that chores would help her to overcome laziness and teach her a work ethic and responsibility. I encouraged her to be thinking about an animal she might like to own so that we could help her to care for something other than herself.

Next I asked her to meditate on some topics that might interest her and helped her to see how I would be directing her interests toward possible vocational application. I conveyed the importance of spending most of her time in this area of developing interests and gave her examples from Kathryn's and John's lives as to how the interests can be more fully developed, thus developing both her learning ability and vocational direction as well. This will be some time in unfolding in Jennifer's life because of her lack of education. She still needs a few years of heart and character training and routine disciplines. Your child may already have some of the correct tools in place in his life which will make it possible to move ahead at a faster pace. All children are different, go with the peculiar needs of your child and most importantly, emphasize your relationship with him and his with God.  Without teachableness you will not accomplish a thing! Jennifer is teachable and even though she has a lot of worldly ideas in her head now, because she is developing a heart-to-heart relationship with God, I know that there is a lot of hope for the needed changes and at this time I believe she will allow herself to stay with us as long as it may take for her growth to catch up to where it needs to be before "leaving home."   - Marilyn


Copyright 1999 by Marilyn Howshall



So where to start at this point?  This totally depends on where you're at right now, whether or not your child is already out of school, how imperative it is that they get out now (if still in), and what your most immediate needs are. Since I don't know your specific situation, the "one-size-probably-doesn't-really-fit-all" answer I'd give would be to start by getting Form+U+la (the latest edition, with the pictures of our family on the cover; that's the only "latest edition.")  The very first chapter of that has a "Jumpstart Plan" that you can get your student going on today!  That will get your student occupied ~ without spending a mint on curriculum ~ and free you up to start getting some vision and understanding. I highly suggest you not buy any curriculum until you have read Form+U+la from cover to cover!  You will save yourself a wad of money!  Just start at the beginning of Form+U+la and read all the way through, not skipping a single thing. Pray as you go and let things sink in. Don't allow the enemy to get you off-track with making you feel like this book is a bunch of stuff to do!  Form+U+la is not "one more thing to do" ~ which you do NOT need!  It frees you up to HEAR GOD for your own family!!!  Here's what one homeschool mom said: 


"This is the re-education in my thinking that had to take root to relieve the "pressure of doing it all."  Even though it took several years (I'm a slow didn't have anything to do with the way Barb communicated it), realizing that Form+U+la is not "one more thing to do" made all the difference in my attitude towards high school and what we were trying to accomplish in these last years of homeschooling. It was freeing for us and I pray that those who read Barb's material will see that up front!

You do realize, I hope, that home education is more about the parents than it is the kid. Kids, yes; but what's going on in the mind of the ONE bus driver is going to impact the entire busload of people. So it is vital and non-optional that your focus start with renewing your own heart and mind!!!  


The jumpstart plan isn't all your high schooler needs!  He needs a new mindset too!  (And, by the way, "he" covers both guys and gals!)  Coming out of the system is one thing ~ and a very good thing!  But getting the system out of your student (along with you) is just as important!  Intersperse your own reading with talking with your child about the changes taking place in you and the new ideas you are learning, which will help the needed changes start coming about in your child's thinking.  Otherwise you'll just end up falling into the "school at home" trap!  And, believe me ~ and hundreds who have walked that path and "crashed and burned" ~ it is a hard path to get OUT of!  


Use your child's walk with the Lord as the focal and motivating point.  Does he love the Lord?  If not, that's where you need to start, by lovingly bringing him to the Lord.  If he already does, then he's going to want to follow God and seek His way.  You, as the parent, have been placed over him for this season of his life for a reason ~ a GOOD reason.  Be assured that what you are feeling in your heart did NOT come from the world, but from God.  Talk about what he wants in life and how he thinks he's going to get there. I'm not just talking about "submission to parental authority" here.  This is important, but you want to engage is HEART AND MIND; not just "righteousness."  God will honor that, but your child needs to be discipled and gain understanding, not just walk in what he feels he wants. I don't remember if you've read Wisdom's Way of Learning but that, along with just about ALL of Marilyn's other books will help you tremendously in gaining the understanding and vision you need at this point. "Without a vision, the people [homeschoolers] perish."

You might also have your child read our daughter, Sharnessa's Letter of Encouragement from Sharnessa at my website. She wrote it to a boy who did NOT want to homeschool anymore.


But first and foremost, seek God and His perfect will for you and your student!  He has a plan for not only your life, but for how to homeschool and make the most of these precious years!  He will redeem "the years that the locust has eaten" ~ but only if you let Him, and let Him lead you!  We don't get to do it "our way" and expect to have God's blessings and peace.  And that goes for the education of our children as much as ~ if not more than ~ anything! 


So to get back to the original question...  "Is mid-high school too late to start homeschooling?" ... My final answer is:  It depends a great deal on how teachable your student is, but probably even more on how teachable YOU are!


~ Barb   




I got this background and

all these graphics at:


..and the brick garden fence at:


High School Helps Page    Main Lobby


Sr. High Form+U+la List Page  


Article Chart     Catalog Main Page 


For the catalog write-up on Form+U+la,

click here:



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