Homeschool through High School?

prom2010-07Question:

I just started and am so delighted with homeschooling! My oldest is 11 and we are having a great time, and he is running a little business from home and learning so much and loving homeschooling. I have mapped out a plan to homeschool my children right through high school. Is that wise?

Answer:

Homeschooling is so much fun, and it is very exhilarating to see the happy change when children come home from public school and have time to learn and move at their own pace and interests. It is wonderful to see them become good friends with their siblings and parents. Running a little business is a great idea, and so much can be learned about handling money, self discipline, work, etc. Good going! Enjoy this nourishing time together.

Homeschooling through high school? Homeschooling is wonderful and right now, if you could just hold the hands of the clock still, you could enjoy this precious time of childhood forever. But children grow up: their bodies will change, their hormones will change, their emotions will change and with that, their needs will change drastically. The family circle becomes too small for their budding adulthood. They need to interact with that big outside world, at least in increments. Starting about age 11 to 14 years, depending on the personality of the child, they will begin to get a bit restless and irritable. They don’t know what is wrong with them. Until I went through this with 3 or 4 children, I didn’t know what it was, either.

What is wrong with them is that they are maturing and need a bigger circle. Especially for a young man, a beloved mother now cannot easily tell him what to do. I feel myself sigh when a child reaches that point, as I know I am waving goodbye to childhood and moving into that realm of adolescence that is full of ups and downs and higher needs. Although academically you can homeschool through high school and statistics show you can do a superior job of it, there is more to their development than academics. They need to learn how to get along socially, and learn how to relate to the opposite sex and that takes regular interaction and practice. They need diversity—learning to interact positively with people who think differently than their family does. They need to try their wings in the big world that they will eventually have to live in, without you. They need to finally try out the principles and teachings you have so diligently trained in them, and see if they are indeed true and do indeed “work”.

How can this be accomplished? There are many options, and it is quite possible to continue homeschooling, but a parent needs to be pretty sensitive and watchful to keep a teenager growing and happy. Here are the options that I have tried:

1. Homeschool only

I love having my children home, so this would be my choice, but it often leads to a sullen spirit in teens as they struggle with an internal conflict of why they can no longer be happy in the environment that has always met their needs. It can also stunt a teen socially, unless you provide a daily opportunity to socialize outside the family circle, through a job (where there are other teens employed), sports, a homeschool co-op, etc. The best balance we found was morning homeschool with the family, afternoon out amongst people. This seems to meet a teen’s needs and keep them developing and happy. Some children need people much more than others, but even my sons who were content to tinker in the workshop and didn’t seem to need anything else in life, did not develop well socially if they did not go out among non-family on a daily basis.

2. Homeschool Part-Time

If you can find a good homeschool co-op, private school or charter school or group lessons, or some other learning situation that can be attended part time for just electives, or special interests, this is the ideal situation. The best way to educate a child can be accomplished at home, but that social and emotional development is a constant need that must be addressed. Having a daily class to attend provides them with another teacher, another viewpoint, a mentor beyond what mom can do, and classmates, and that can be a very healthy situation. We all know that our children work harder for someone else, and in the case of teens, this is really true!

Although it seems a natural solution for teens in homeschool, I do not recommend online classes or distance learning programs. Teens need more interaction with people, not less. Home study means more time alone with books or in front of a computer. Academics are very important, but social and emotional development must keep pace with their scholarship to make a whole, mature person.

I also do not recommend public high school. It is a scary, God-less place these days! If you cannot find a private school or a better situation than public high school to attend a few classes at or an apprenticeship at a job where they can interact with others their age, then select the Honors classes, college credit classes, audition-only choir, or classes that are not required by the high school as basic core classes. A non-required difficult class, such as Physics will gather a much more conservative, academically achieving type of student than compulsory classes that all must attend. Also beware of “easy” classes such as Auto Mechanics or Weight Conditioning which can draw a rough crowd, although homeschoolers usually are eager for those classes for diversion. I avoid the locker room scene too, where body comparison only makes teens more vulnerable. Teens are very prone to peer pressure and can pick up attitudes from the students they go to school with, so the best students of the school are the ones who are generally more conservative and the ones you would want your teens to interact with.

If you have no other options, and pray and work at it, you can find a safe class or two in the public school. I feel fortunate to have developed a relationship with the kind and dedicated Spanish teacher in our local high school, and he took a liking to my teens, surprised at their keen interest in truly learning, as opposed to the countless students in his classes who were burned out by 12 years of compulsory public schooling. Over the years of teaching my children one by one as they became teens, he agreed to private tutor my son without pay after school in his school classroom, and this became the highlight of my son Ammon’s 8th grade homeschool year, and helped him get out of the house and experience a new teacher. Besides that, he was able to enter Spanish 2 with only those tutoring lessons under his belt, and his own motivation to learn.

Socially, what can a mother do to keep a child happy in homeschool? I have created support groups, held weekly Teen Geography Class, weekly Homeschool Co-op Class, weekly Park Day, monthly teen parties, movie nights, pizza parties, homeschool sports, cookouts, Sunday night devotionals, homeschool dances, hikes, roller skating days . . . wow, I am making myself tired just typing them all! But to keep a teen socially developing while in homeschool and create close homeschool friendships, you really do have to make social opportunities. Without those experiences, a teen will grow restless in homeschool. Friends are vitally important to a teenager, as they learn to interact with people outside their family circle. Remember, Individualized lessons, such as private music lessons, are just the teacher and the student and do not provide socializing with other teens. Some moms can keep up with their teens’ social needs, and others are exhausted my it. Each mom has to determine what is best for their child and what she can provide opportunities for without overdoing. Keep your eyes open and be sensitive to what your teen is feeling and needing. Don’t forget to pray—God is just as interested in their well being and development as you are. You’ll find the right balance during those high school years, but it is never as sweet and simple as homeschooling young children.

 

May I recommend:

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Co-op School

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Get Your College General Education During High School

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Mad Teenagers

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