Originally Sent: 2/7/2013
February 7, 2013
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Remind Me Again: Why Am I Homeschooling My Teen?
If your school calendar begins in September and ends in June, February marks the halfway point for many of you. It’s over-the-hump month! For some, you may need a push over the hump around this time of year!
We’d like to provide you with fresh motivation and incentive to remember the many reasons why you decided to homeschool your teen. We figure it’s always nice to have reasons for high school at home, especially when relatives, friends, your teen (or you!) may be quick to provide reasons for not homeschooling your teen.
One Track, Two Tracks or Infinite Tracks?
Every woman understands the difference between dresses bought off the rack and a dress specifically tailored to an individual. (We’ve spent enough time in dressing rooms to know which we would prefer if we had our druthers. )
Customization in any area is worth the extra effort, but especially when it comes to your teen’s high school program. Some parents use academics as a reason to place their teens into a public or private school, but our opinion is exactly the opposite. Most brick-and-mortar schools offer high school students one, two, or at the most three tracks for completing their high school programs. Each student must be jerry-rigged into one of the tracks offered, leaving little to no room for alternatives best suited to the teen. Contrast this to the homeschool environment where customization is not only possible, but truly limitless.
For your promising archeologist, you can roll with the flow and offer courses taught by master archeologists, and if you are feeling adventurous, top it off with a field trip to Turkey! If music is more to your teen’s liking, the flexibility in her homeschool day may allow for taking private lessons from a virtuoso, or giving lessons to younger children, or rearranging school schedules to accommodate participation in ensembles, youth orchestras, or recitals/ competitions.
Focusing on your teen’s areas of strength and interest can open up many avenues for courses, internships, and opportunities that may not be possible in a typical 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day. While studying civics your teen may be called to lobby his state legislator with regard to an upcoming vote. Of course, this will occur during the “normal” school hours when public or private school students could not be released to take advantage of such an activity. Your relative who is an entrepreneur may be very interested in helping your teen implement a marketing plan for that next business idea. Putting the plan into action is more likely to happen with a flexible educational schedule. The academic tracks open to homeschooled teens are many, so be sure to focus on the possibilities rather than any opportunities you assume your teen is missing by staying home.
Setting the Pace and Exploring the Limits
Another plus of homeschooling is setting the pace of learning. If your teen is finding it difficult to grasp Algebra 1 concepts, you have the flexibility to slow down and spend time on areas that are tripping him up. Extra time focused on these skills will be pivotal for more advanced principles. When teaching a lesson that your teen has previously mastered, you can either speed up the pace or provide a higher level course or one that presents the material in more depth and breadth to stimulate advanced thinking skills. When you and your teen establish this rate of progress, it results in less frustration, more confidence, and a better foundation for future lessons.
A word of caution here: many homeschool parents feel the necessity of requiring mastery of concepts before moving forward. While this is worthy to some degree, to retest students until they receive an “A” can raise expectations that a similar practice will occur in other academic settings. Thus, it is wise to teach the material along with study skills and then award your teen the resultant grade. Remember, you are preparing your children for future study environments and employment.
Explore the limits by offering your teen courses that are not typically available in a school setting such as entrepreneurial courses, financial management, psychology, or astronomy among others. If your teen is outrunning you, homeschooling allows him the opportunity to jumpstart his college career by taking dual enrollment or Advanced Placement (AP) courses to earn college credit. He doesn’t have to wait for the rest of the class to catch up to his skill level!
Brainstorm with your teens the possibilities for informal internships or job shadowing opportunities with vets, bankers, plumbers, lawyers, artists, bookkeepers, city managers, chefs, and many more! A close look at the responsibilities of workers in various jobs provides your teens experience they won’t encounter in textbooks. Point them in the direction of career resources where they can begin to research the job trends, education or certification required, and other aspects of a career they may not have considered previously.
Making the Most of a Limited Resource
Homeschooling is not only about the academic benefits. It encompasses preparation for life. Your teens will be “teens” for a narrow window of time. Homeschooling enables you to make the most of that time by building relationships and lines of communication. Be reminded that conversations may take place any time of the day or whenever the channels of communication are open. They are not confined to early morning when the teen is barely awake and dashing to get to school on time or late at night after a grueling day of school and extracurricular activities. We do not want to “idealize” the homeschool day, but we both remember conversations taking place with our teens during breakfast, driving to co-ops or outside classes, at lunch, and in the evenings when our teens weren't exhausted from being away from home the majority of the day.
Family activities are easier to schedule when you are in charge of your calendars. You can plan off-season vacations or just a day away. You have the flexibility to pack up on the spur of the moment to assist an elderly relative, or give a surprise day off from school to welcome spring and warmer weather! These instances give your teen lessons on how to overcome the bumps of life when schedules and days don't go as planned. They will miss such teachable moments if they are away at school.
Passing on the Intangibles
We’ve saved the most important item for last so that it resonates long after you finish reading this newsletter. For many of you, homeschooling is the educational option you’ve chosen because you believe it gives the best opportunity to pass on a legacy of faith, hope, and biblical values to your teens. While we agree that quantity of time at home together may foster that expectation, if you are staking your claim on that, it makes for discouraging times when your teen may not pursue the godly lifestyle that you wish him to embrace.
Others say they homeschool so that their children are best friends; but if your children are poster children for sibling rivalry and bickering, what then? Some parents state that their reason for homeschooling during the teen years is to protect their teen from outside influences that drag her down. What if your protective guardrails have not been successful in shielding your teen from finding her way to wrong ideas and friends?
Better family and sibling relations, limited peer pressure, and training in godliness are all wonderful reasons for homeschooling during high school, but they should not be your ultimate goals. If they are, then achieving them can lead to pride, and not achieving them can lead to despair. Instead, it may be more helpful to consider your ultimate goal to be that of walking in obedience to the One Who can provide everything you need to meet the challenges of what He has called you to do.
These are some of the areas of influence that homeschooling high school enables you to have that may get lost as you wander in the wasteland of “Why am I homeschooling my teen?” As you remember these reasons, we encourage you to enjoy the good fruit in your teens’ lives when you see it, and to wait patiently for the Lord to work when it’s not visible. Your job is not to produce good fruit—only the Lord can do that! Your responsibility is to provide an environment of love, acceptance, gentle correction when needed, and an example to follow. All is within your reach (with occasional detours and setbacks along the way) if you’ll seek the Lord's guidance and direction, and lean on His strength and daily grace.
If you are an HSLDA member, we are here to rejoice with you on the good days, comfort you on the difficult days (with the comfort we ourselves receive from the Lord), and pray with you when the reasons for homeschooling your teens may seem distant and vague. (For those of you who have not yet joined HSLDA, we’d love to extend an invitation to become a member.)
Join us in March as we share how you can bring the world into your homeschooling plans!
Encouraging you to keep going with lightness in your step and joy in your hearts,
Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer
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