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Homeschooling Teens: Don’t Fear the High School Years

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Parents may worry about homeschooling teens. They wonder how they’re supposed to manage these hairy, gangly creatures they barely even recognize, let alone get teens to participate in schooling and family life. Parents may fear the weighty responsibility of homeschooling teens, of  preparing them well for college and career, and of readying them for the realities of adulthood.

 

In the homeschooling world, these worries are understandable, but often unnecessary. The overnight transformation some parents fear–the one where teens become uncooperative and  unpleasant to be around–isn’t as widespread a concern as they might think. In fact, I speak to probably thousands of families every year, and I rarely observe this problem in families with teens at all.

What I can tell you for sure is that, while homeschooling isn’t for everybody, anyone who wants to do it, can do it. In my experience over the last several decades, I find that parents with a genuine desire to best serve their kids, and a sincere willingness to put forth the effort, are typically able to make it to the finish line with remarkable success. With national homeschool statistics putting the number of homeschoolers nationwide at approximately 2.5 million to date, lots of people certainly seem to agree.

But, isn’t the academic work harder when homeschooling teens? You bet. The record-keeping duties associated with the teen years are a little harder, too. But, I want to reassure you that homeschooling teens is really just homeschooling little kids who grow up. Besides, parents get better at it over the years, so the difficulty level isn’t as high as folks might assume.

Overall, the teen years are incredible opportunities for connecting and encouraging our young adults, and guiding them on a path toward a future of their own design. In my opinion and the opinion of millions of others nationwide, the rewards of homeschooling–including teens–can easily justify the decision.

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"The teen years are incredible opportunities for connecting and encouraging our young adults, and guiding them on a path toward a future of their own design."

To Homeschool or Not

Homeschooling teens is becoming more and more common every year. Though homeschooling often starts when kids are little, if starting young isn’t in the cards, tremendous gains can still be achieved by starting in middle or high school. Long gone are the days when homeschooled pre-teens and teens were sent back to school. Today’s homeschoolers understand that a combination of research, planning, and securing the right resources results in a highly customized high school experience, one that can rival even top programs from traditional schools nationwide.

A common concern when homeschooling older students is how ordinary parents–for example, parents without college degrees or without teaching experience–are supposed to be able to handle the coursework required in high school or pull an entire curriculum together. Yet there is ample research demonstrating that success in homeschooling is not dependent on the background of the parents.

One reason I believe this is true is because we parents have known our teens for a long time. We understand their likes and dislikes, what they’re capable of doing until this point, they ways in which they seem to learn best, and how to interact with them to everyone’s mutual benefit. I believe this advantage is one of the reasons parents are able to homeschool their teens without an extensive educational background of their own. This unique qualification is actually what makes parents the ideal teacher for their children at any age.

When raised in homeschooling, teens can be given the freedom and encouragement to  work independently without constant supervision and moment-by-moment accountability. I find the kind of trust that develops in that kind of environment is a real contributor to teen homeschooling success. In my view, by the time kids are 12 or 13, their parents have learned when to allow them to work independently and when it’s time to step in. Parenting itself is about moving from constantly holding our childrens’ hands to holding the ladder as they climb higher, right? I purport this level of intuition, developed over years of parenting and homeschooling practice, is something no amount of teacher training could ever provide.

Finally, teens are resourceful, knowing things we never dreamed they understood, yet figure out totally on their own. Modern teens, in particular, can be ultra informed, opinionated, and easily capable of defending conversations about many things. Still, as homeschooling parents, we learn to recognize where the gaps lie, and we’re uniquely motivated to help fill those gaps before the kids leave our nests. Homeschooling teens–really just an extension of parenting our kids anyhow–gives us opportunities to help our teens stay grounded, and speak from their hearts and truths, not by following trends or mass media. And with the help of books, courses, and resources, we can always outsource anything we're unable to do by ourselves.

Is Homeschooling Teens Different?

Homeschooling teens is different in some ways, but similar in other ways to homeschooling little ones. Let me be clear, though–teens are different, not harder. They’re different in that requirements and record-keeping become really important during the teen years. It’s different, because as you just read, parents must often source ways for teens to learn. But, it’s the same as younger students, in that parents are still directing the education, still keeping records of achievements, still supporting the child 100%, and still highly invested in his or her successes.

I liken homeschooling teens to conducting a symphony orchestra. As parents, the job of homeschooling teens is more like coordinating the program, keeping the pace and tempo, featuring soloists and sections of the orchestra, and insuring musicians play in harmony and unison. Though parents may still drop in for a solo from time to time, homeschooling older children is less about making music ourselves and more about managing all the other musicians who help make it for us.

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"Add to that the experience some teens get by working with kids of all ages, overseeing babies and toddlers, and interacting with all kinds of people outside the home, and it’s easy to see how homeschooling creates a much more realistic social environment than one in which teens are confined to."

What Do You Teach?

Homeschooling teens involves a lot more than academics. Preparing children for life takes more than theories and books alone. I find there are three distinct areas that need to be covered in any comprehensive homeschool program: core academics, personal skills, and life management. I’ll review each of these separately, but understand that some of these skills naturally overlap and are interwoven into the daily life of a student raised in homeschooling.

Core academics includes the basic classes and credits it takes to gain access to college and careers. The core is generally understood to be a combination of English, mathematics, lab sciences, social sciences, fine arts, physical education, world languages; and it’s usually accompanied by a variety of meaningful electives. Regardless of the lifestyle led or the student’s eventual goals, covering the basics, and covering them well, provides a kind of insurance that kids will are well prepared for wherever they end up after high school graduation. I generally recommend extensive writing experience and test preparation as part of academic preparation, as well.

Personal skills vary from teen to teen but generally include things like general hygiene, practices toward health and wellness; social skills such as speaking and listening; understanding tools to manage stress or conflict; using discernment and critical thought; and trusting intuition. Although families can certainly devise courses and curriculum to cover these areas, these skills are often acquired by growing up in a supportive, conscious family.

Life management, on the other hand, may require deliberate teaching in high school. These are areas that should absolutely be included in the curriculum for teens to become successful adults. Within life skills, I always recommend teaching financial literacy; independent living; space planning and organization; time management; and other areas of particular importance for each student, like automotive maintenance, child care, technology training, travel acuity, or other necessary skills for unique situations.

Outside the Standard Curriculum

A huge benefit of homeschool life is the luxury of extra time. Extended blocks of time can really benefit teens preparing for their individual futures. Extra hours in the day can be used for just about anything, though I advise guiding teens toward finding a balance between activities for relaxation and pleasure versus activities to support their goals after graduation–unless they’re both the same thing.

High school is a great time for exploration outside the traditional curriculum. In my work with students and families, I find that “extracurricular” pursuits are a total win-win for teenagers. They provide fun and enjoyment for students while also having a great impact on their futures.  Kids who find their way into internships, who do volunteer work, who hold part-time jobs, and who participate in clubs are able to put those activities on college applications. Entrepreneurial teens find they can list those experiences on a resume. Teens with leadership experience become competitors for great  scholarships. The possibilities that come from activities outside the general curriculum are limitless, so these are great ways for teens to spend their time.

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"Preparing children for life takes more than theories and books alone."

Social Aptitude

Because every discussion about homeschooling teens invariably lands on the topic of socialization, it’s important to understand that teens can be homeschooled and still learn all the social skills they’ll ever need.

Living in a family and going about their daily lives is an excellent way for teens to get socialization. To those who scoff at the notion that family life offers valuable socialization, I assert that spending more time with family results in more experience in valuable areas, like getting along and being a team member, than kids who spend time away from home will ever get.  Add to that the experience some teens get by working with kids of all ages, overseeing babies and toddlers, and interacting with all kinds of people outside the home, and it’s easy to see how homeschooling creates a much more realistic social environment than one in which teens are confined to a room full of same-age students, then expecting them to know how to behave in real life.

 

 

 

Getting Started

Starting to homeschool a teen is similar to homeschooling at any other age. Armed with a good book, a couple of web sites, and a copy of the homeschool laws for that region, most parents will easily figure it out on their own. For those who need extra guidance, veteran homeschoolers like me are available to offer guidance and encouragement along the way. More than likely, teenagers themselves will be able to help, too!

About the Author
Marie-Claire Moreau
Author: Marie-Claire Moreau
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. The founder of homeschool groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks (Wyatt-Mackenzie, 2011, 2015), is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame and with no teaching background whatsoever. A liaison for regional school-to-home organizations and a homeschool leader in Florida, Marie-Claire also mentors homeschool families nationwide. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA, H.E.R.I., Home Education Council of America, Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool, and many other events. Her articles have appeared in and on CONNECT, Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of other blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached via her web site www.marieclairemoreau.com or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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