Homeschool was going great until my son turned twelve. Now I am struggling to keep him interested. Why?
Because your son has reached what I call the “Eleven Year Itch.” It sneaks up on mothers, with their first child. Homeschool seems to be going along in a fairly regular, happy pattern when your oldest child becomes increasingly “ant-sy” and restless and sometimes downright unhappy. It took me a long while to figure it out with my first child in homeschool. Now I watch and expect it to arrive for every child anywhere between ten and thirteen years. It’s sad, it dampens the fun, but the final destination for our children is to grow up and be independent…so they are really just right on schedule!
Some quiet, self-contained children will only get an slight case, and homeschool can continue with just a little modification. But for most 11-13 year olds, the home circle becomes too confining. They are growing up. They need to get outside and experience the world beyond the family. If you plan and provide for it, the need is pretty easily satisfied. If you ignore it, homeschool can become increasingly unhappy to your growing chid, and nearly impossible to continue.
If you want to continue homeschooling, you will need to provide for these changing needs. Time to look outside the home and get your child involved outside of the home. Here are some ideas:
- being mentored by a teach in a favorite interest area
- enrolling in community classes (not online, but in a group setting)
- being involved in team sports
- attending group lessons (dance, art, martial arts, sewing, choir, etc.)
- getting a part-time job
- serving outside the home (service projects in the community, helping neighbors, etc.)
- volunteering at church or in the community
- joining Scouts or other clubs
- music groups: band, orchestra blue grass fiddling club, guitar jam sessions, etc.
- part time classes at the junior high or high school or charter school
It takes more contact than a once-a-week class to create friendships. Anything that gets your child out of the house and involved with others in a group setting will help, but several outings per week is best. Having a job is a great boon too, accomplishing the social need, the need for financial independence and the need to act as a capable person, all in one fell swoop.
What if there aren’t many opportunities in your community? Consider offering something yourself. It isn’t too difficult to organize a once a week “club meeting”. When my boys were in need of social contact, we started “Boy’s Club”. We invited all the boys we knew (and put up a flyer at the library to invite other homeschooled boys we didn’t yet know) to come each Wednesday afternoon for a few hours of fun. With a few ideas and general overseeing from mom, the boys had a grand time creating an obstacle course, making a rope swing, having races, and many other fun projects. They got to be friends in the process and planned other get-togethers.
If you want some ideas for your club activities, try the book Hangman, Hopscotch, Hot Potato & Ha Ha Ha which has a collection of 250 child/teen games and activities. We’ve used this book for our clubs and teen groups and it provides a lot of fun!
Your son can initiate a club for any of his interests. Other mothers I know have started Chess Club, Lego Club, Sewing Club and other fun opportunities for friendship over shared interests. When I had teens, I taught (or rather, supervised) Geography Class. This was simply a gathering of all the homeschool teens we could find to meet weekly at our house and learn about different countries, do research reports and present them, try foods from different countries. It was really a social get-together, with lots of laughing, playing basketball out in the driveway, running around having fun. But we did take an hour of the two we spent together to learn Geography!
Homeschooling means addressing all dimensions of your child’s development, not just academic. Social and emotional needs must be provided for too, and all it really takes is opening up the confines of the family circle to the big world outside, so your child can grow up.
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