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How to Survive Homeschooling Your Teenage Son

Hi! I’m Wendy, and I survived homeschooling my teenage son! And I do have a few ideas for you on how to survive homeschooling your teenage son (or daughter) too! At this time of year, many of us are looking at what worked and what didn’t work for our homeschools as we get back on track and work toward finishing the school year. That could mean that you’re dealing with attitude issues that your students have (or that you have!) and trying to deal with them in a positive way that will allow the remaining school year to go more smoothly.

For those who are homeschooling tweens and teens, sometimes the attitudes we deal with present more of a challenge than the school work itself! So what do you do about it if you find yourself attempting to teach teens who are resistant to learning or who are resistant in general? I’d like to share with you some things I learned years ago when my son began moving into those teenage years and things started getting rocky in our homeschool. (Just to give you hope, my son graduated from our homeschool in May of 2016! Yay! We made it all the way through!)

I’m sure there are some blessed homeschooling moms out there who homeschool their teenage sons and love it!  I’m sure there are some of you who have teenage sons who enjoy doing their school work, want to do a good job, hope to please you, and keep up with assignments and papers and maybe even their books and materials all on their own.  Then there are the rest of us who homeschool our teenage sons who don’t do all those things!

As I mentioned earlier, my son graduated from our homeschool in May of 2016, but there were times I wasn’t sure if the two of us would make it all the way to graduation. There were times that neither of us enjoyed homeschooling very much. Times when I just wasn’t sure what to do or how to do it. Times when we both wanted to give up.

After several years of having a stressful relationship and a difficult time homeschooling, I finally decided to just sit down and have a conversation with my son about our relationship and our homeschool. He knew that homeschooling allowed him more free time, a more flexible schedule, the ability to stay up later (He’s always been a night owl.), sleep a little later in the mornings, and other benefits, so why wasn’t he doing his work and allowing both of us to enjoy homeschooling? It turned out to be a good conversation, and I can’t believe it took me so long to initiate it!

I talked to him about why he was so miserable and (I’m being honest here!) why he was making me so miserable.  I didn’t much like the answer.  It turns out he felt like I didn’t like him.  He felt like I was always criticizing him. He felt like I didn’t want to be around him.   I think he really felt like I didn’t even love him. So what on earth is a mom to do in a situation like that?  I’ll tell you some of the things I did to try to repair our relationship and help things go better.

It took several months, but he gradually began to realize that I did (and do) love him, like him, and want the best for him.  Of course he still occasionally had a “stubborn day” or a day when he was less than cooperative, but in general, things went so much better! He was still disorganized (and still is to this day) and often had trouble keeping up with his work, but things went so much better, and homeschooling was much  more pleasant for both of us!

Here are some of the changes I made:

  1. Strangely enough, I had to start by changing my attitude toward my son.  I had to choose to see the good in him instead of the bad or the things that bothered me.  I had to force myself to look for times when he was kind or obedient or did something good, and I purposely complimented him without adding a “but” to it.  (You know.  “Thanks so much for cleaning your room, but you didn’t make up your bed.”)
  2. I made a point to compliment him to his sisters or to his dad in front of him.  These were honest compliments, though!  In order for him to know I was being sincere, the compliments needed to be honest and deserved.  At first, this wasn’t easy.  The more he earned honest compliments, though, the more he wanted to earn more, so it got easier!
  3. I made opportunities to spend time with him without his sisters.  I made sure to spend a few minutes in his room in the mornings when I woke him up and/or at night when I could talk to him without being interrupted.  I talked to him about things he wanted to talk about, like video games, books he was reading, church activities, etc.  I didn’t use this time to tell him what to do or correct him for misbehaving or anything else other than just-for-fun chatting.
  4. As he began to “come around,” I asked him to do small jobs around the house to help him see that he really was needed and wanted in this house.  I asked him to unload the 50 lb. bag of wild bird seed from the van because it was too heavy for me.  I asked him to get things for me from the top shelf that I couldn’t reach.  I didn’t make up little tasks for him to do like I might have done when he was very young.  Instead, I asked him to do things that really needed to be done and that were an honest help to me.  Because I waited to start asking him to do these things until our relationship was on its way to being repaired, he never complained about doing these things for me.  Then I was able to honestly share my gratitude for his help.  He knew I really did need him, and that allowed him to feel useful and important–because he was.
  5. I started taking him places just with me.  Even if I was just going on a quick run to the grocery store or the gas station, I started asking him if he wanted to ride with me.  He began to see that I enjoyed his company and wanted him around.
  6. I made a point to tell him that I love him and to give him a hug and kiss each morning and each night before bed.  At first he was a little resistant, so I didn’t push him.  As he learned that I really meant it, though, be began to remind me if I forgot his hug and kiss!  He still makes sure he gets his hug and kiss every morning and evening, but he might not admit it if you ask him!  😉
  7. I tried to be careful to point out behaviors that needed to be changed in a more positive way instead of a way that made him feel personally attacked.  Instead of saying, “You were really rude to your sister just then.  Next time I want you to be nice!” I might say, “Please speak nicely to your sister.”  I tried to point out the behavior that needed to be changed and not make it sound like he was a horrible person.

I pray that these tips are helpful to you if you have a son (or daughter) with whom you don’t have a positive relationship!  In my list, I didn’t mention the need for sincere prayer, but that is actually the #1 action you need to take.  I asked God to show me, whether I liked it or not, what I needed to do to improve my relationship with my son.  And He did!  And I didn’t like it!  I can tell you, though, that a “bad” relationship can be improved.  Don’t give up!  Keep praying and keep in mind the tips above along with whatever else God shows you.  It’s worth it!

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  1. I’ve experienced this a couple of times in raising and homeschooling boys. It can be such a discouraging time for parents. You are so right about prayer and asking God to reveal things about ourselves that we’d probably rather nOt see! For a mom, it takes self control and discipline to spend time with a messy teenaged boy. Thanks for the reminder to just let them be themselves sometimes without having to hear nagging and correction. It is not easy to shift out of mom mode to listen but the payoff is always good. 🙂

  2. Wendy, your article hit the target this homeschooling mother of three teenage sons (one graduate and two to go.) I appreciate your transparency and excellent advice. I just made a shopping date with one of my sons who popped in as I was reading this. Thank you!

    1. Oh, I’m so glad to hear that! It’s sometimes hard to post about topics like this one, but I think it’s important for other moms to know that it’s not always “fun.” There are usually many more good times than bad, though, and it’s absolutely worth it to work through those “bad” times when necessary. Thanks for your comment!

    1. Thank you, Christa! The truth is that I almost didn’t write this article. I know, though, that there are other moms out there who face the same issues I do, so I felt like it was important to share this information. Thanks so much for your comment! I appreciate the encouragement.

  3. This is pretty much exactly what I needed to read today. These first few days back at school after the holidays have been a real doozy with one of mine. We’ve just been butting heads like crazy. I’ve blown my top a few times and then he feels crappy and I hate myself. This stuff is not for the faint of heart. I have found myself just throwing up my hands and saying, “I might as well send you to school since you don’t care anyway!” His response is something like this, “I’ll care even less if I go to public school and I’ll get a crappy education!” ((sigh)) Sometimes I honestly can’t picture what caring even less would look like. Thanks for the good reminders and encouragement. I was literally praying for help and answers (through tears) last night.

    1. Oh, Nancy, I’m so glad this post encouraged you! Homeschooling is definitely not for the faint of heart! I pray that things go well for you for the rest of the year.

  4. Hi there! I so needed to read this post today! My son is 17 and in his last year of homeschooling. Sometimes it seems like we have a huge disagreement every day. Sometimes I feel like it’s too hard for a mom to homeschool a teenage son. I could see my son saying the same things your son said-not because it’s true (as I’m sure it wasn’t in your situation either) but because that’s how he sees things from his limited perspective.

    It’s so hard when he walks around like a grouch and doesn’t have anything nice to say so much of the time. He’s not being mean-just kind of in the middle. Every time I try to talk to him about being nicer he just gets an attitude and makes exaggerated statements about how I expect him to act like a girl, smile all the time, etc. I don’t feel like that is the truth at all but he obviously does! I would just like him to exchange some niceties with the rest of the family and be pleasant to be around at least some of the time!

    I guess the answer is to just love him and not to try to change him. I mean, it doesn’t go well when I try to change my husband so why would I think that it’s going to go well when I try to change my son, who is well on his way toward manhood? I so need God’s help in this area because it is my nature to want to discuss problems and hash them out untill they are resolved. He just feels attacked when I try to discuss things with him though.

    It’s so hard that sometimes I think I’ll breathe a sigh of relief when he graduates this year. I know that I’ll cry as well but homeschooling will be so much easier and more peaceful without him having a bad attitude towards it.

    Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great kid. We’ve never had any real trouble out of him. He’s just very strong willed and opinionated and not easy to teach! If only dads could take over the homeschooling once boys hit the teenge years!

    1. Melanie, I’m sorry that I never responded to your comment until now! Your school year must be almost over by now, and I hope it has been a good year. I agree that boys are definitely not like girls! My son sounds a lot like yours. We have 2 years to go, though! And I understand what you mean about him being a great kid but strong willed and opinionated! I think those traits will probably come in handy when he’s an adult and is taking care of his own family. 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

      1. Hi Wendy! Thanks for responding to my comment.

        I had forgotten all about this blog post and comment. I reread my post and I must have been having a really bad day because it is so negative! I’m sorry about that.

        There have been many, many joys in homeschooling my son. I wouldn’t trade our homeschooling years for anything. I’m so thankful that the Lord led me to homeschool him long ago, when he was just a sweet, little 7 year old. There were many ups and downs throughout the years but the overall experience has been amazing. My son is turning into a wonderful young man. He’s a leader, a hard-worker and has a strong faith in God and he is very opinionated about what’s right and what’s wrong. He’s far from perfect, but I’m so proud of him.

        Yes, those same attributes that often drove me crazy are turning out to be some of his greatest strengths as well. We had many hard days but the great days far outnumber them! Homeschooling isn’t always fun and easy. Sometimes it’s just getting by through tears and hard work but the end result is so worth it!

        Sometimes, I’m glad to be done homeschooling my son. Other times, I wish we could start all over again. Where has the time gone? How did my sweet, little boy grow into a man so fast? If I had a few more years left to homeschool my son, I would do so many things differently. I would follow his interests more. I would major on the majors and not the minors. I would stop trying to force my opinions down his throat and give him room to form his own. I wouldn’t worry so much because, looking back, I can see that God worked all things out for his good.

        Thanks again for your wonderful post. It really encouraged me and gave me some great ideas. I wanted to update my post a bit and leave things on a more positive note.

        Praying that your last few years homeschooling your precious son will be the best yet!

  5. Hi I’m Marcus and my daughter and Grandson are in a very similar situation. My grandson and I are very close and he spends a great deal of time with me. It’s truly tuff on all of us with both of them not understanding or knowing each other that well. I know my daughter love her son very much and wants the very best for him. My grandson loves his mother but has misunderstood growing pains that have caused him to struggle in school and at home. My daughter e-mailed me your article because she recognized your information and experience could help our family. My daughter has also expressed an interest in home schooling my grandson. I also think that home schooling may be what’s best for him to get him back on track. But one other thing does cross my mind with home school is no social skills or interacting with other people his age or is interacting with other people his age the problem in the first place. I’m not sure what the correct moves are right not but I’m willing to try almost anything to get two of the people that I love best on track to a health mother and son loving relationship. Thank you for your review and information.

    1. Hi Marcus! I have to apologize for just now seeing your comment that you made so long ago! Occasionally I miss one or two, though I try to be sure I don’t miss any. Yes, the teenage years can be trying! I’m glad your daughter was encouraged by my article, and I hope she knows that she’s definitely not alone!

      I’m going to include here in this comment a link to another article I wrote for a wife whose husband doesn’t support her desire to homeschool. The reason I’m including the info is that the article contains links to several other articles and websites where you and your daughter can get more info about homeschooling. It’s interesting to read your question about social skills and the possibility that interacting with kids his own age might be part of his problem instead of part of the solution. I think you could be right about that! It’s a shame that so many people think homeschoolers don’t have the chance to acquire proper social skills. You will see (if you look at the articles I referenced in the post that I’m linking to) that homeschoolers actually (at least the vast majority of homeschoolers) have much better social skills than kids who go to school. My children grew up knowing how to interact with everyone from newborn babies to other kids (of all ages–not just their own ages) to other homeschooling moms to grandparents. THAT is a kid who knows how to properly “socialize,” not a kid who is only comfortable with others his own age. There are so many homeschool support groups now as well as church activities, getting together with family, taking piano or tennis or some other kinds of lessons, etc. that provide lots of opportunities for socialization. I hope you will take a look at the article and then at some of the resources I mention. I really think you will get some information that you will find helpful!


      1. I am glad you are willing to try, Marcus. I want to let you know we get that question lot. MY kids have learned to laugh and share that we socialize so much we have a hard time getting to actual school curriculum. We have a Co-op that meets 2 days a week (the second id for mostly older kids). We do everything from art to science. We even have multiple choirs and bands. The ages in class is 2-5 years split, depending on the subject. Enjoy looking at the resources and I hope you’ve started your homeschool journey!

  6. I came over from the high school link-up. Thank you SO much for sharing this. I am sure it was not easy to write such a piece and it is a real blessing. We are at the front-end of the teen years and I already see myself starting to make some of the mistakes you caution against. Thank you for the reminder and the tips. I have read other places about tween/teen boys having a “bad” year (or years) and almost resolved myself to the fact that it simply must be something we will pass through. Your insightful post (and your son’s honest response to you) is allowing me to see things in a whole new light. There are concrete things that I can do to make these difficult, hormonal years easier for my son- even if I have to step out of my comfort zone to make it possible. My relationship with my children is the crux of all that I do. Thank you for helping me see that I was starting to head down a destructive path and thank you for the wise words to aid my journey.

    1. Tracey, I am so happy to have been an encouragement to you! I wish I had considered a few of these things several years ago when my son first entered the teenage years. I knew, though, that I needed to post on the topic (even though it was a difficult post to share) to let other moms of teenage boys know that they aren’t alone and that there is hope! The teenage years homeschooling our boys don’t have to be miserable, terrible years for our boys or for us as their moms/teachers. In fact, I have to go back and read my own advice now and then to keep myself on track! I pray that you and your son enjoy the rest of your homeschooling years and don’t settle for the idea that the teenage years have to be bad ones. Thanks so much for your comment!

  7. Thank you for sharing. Out of desperation, I Googled, “homeschooling teenage boys” and clicked on your post. I needed to read this. May God bless you!

    1. Christine, I’m so glad you found my post, and I hope it encouraged you! We all go through difficult times with our children whether we homeschool or not. Please come back any time! You can also find the Hip Homeschool Moms Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hiphomeschoolmoms . There you can post questions if you’d like input from other moms and/or from the HHM team.

  8. I too have 3 teenage boys and each day at least one of them is miserable. I have homeschooled for 10 years and by far the 12-14 year olds can be crabby like you’ve never experienced. I really thank you for your advise and suggestions on how to work together and focus on what’s truly important – loving these boys and making them understand that they are smart, valued and loved. I googled the same as Christine – how did we all survive before!!

  9. Thanks so much for this article. I was on pinterest after searching for homeschool scheduling, and for some reason searched homeschooling teenagers. The truth is, I’ve been concerned about our 14 yo boy and his lack of enjoyment with school subjects and his general melancholy attitude. I know I need to cover him in prayer and also that he needs more affirmation from me. After reading your article, I think he shares the same feelings as your son- that I’m too critical and that I don’t like him or spend enough time with him, and that I spend too much time with his three younger sisters.
    I have noticed lately that when I watch Dr. Who with him or talk about his favorite topics, he’s much more cheerful. Now if I could get him to enjoy his sisters more, our homeschool days would certainly go better. More prayers going up!
    Thanks so much for bringing up the hard stuff and opening my eyes. I appreciate your openness. Tomorrow will be a new day with new opportunities to better our relationship!

    1. Kristi, I’m so glad my article encouraged you! It wasn’t an easy post to share because it’s never any fun admitting my weaknesses and mistakes, but I felt like I should for the sake of other moms who are going through the same thing. It’s encouraging to me to hear from moms like you who were blessed by what I shared.

  10. I am a little flumoxed by seriously concerned’s comment. If I see parents and children acting politely, affectionate to one another and handling any social situation with grace I know they have been or are being homeschooled. Ever since my oldest daughter made the decision to homeschool her three I realise what a mistake I made by throwing my kids into the public school system. Now, all of my daughters homeschool. We learn from one another. It’s ok in our family to say “I don’t know, why don’t we find out” My Grands have taken me on a wild adventure that has included biology, history, the classics, on and on. One daddy teaches math, the other survival skills, aunts teach horse back riding, cooking, pyschology, Nana teaches sewing and accounting and Grandpa teaches electronics and engineering. What a wide range of subjects. The kids all decided they wanted to learn Spanish this summer and that’s what they’re doing. ON their own! Amazing what happens to young minds when there is NO question they cannot ask.

  11. Thank you for this honest and encouraging post. I’ve been struggling with my teenage daughter because I get this feeling that she resents being homeschooled all throughout high school. We enjoyed homeschooling during her elementary grade levels, but it has become much harder in her teenage years. She is a very social person and I think she misses being around her friends more often.

    When I ask her what is wrong or how we can improve things, she doesn’t say anything. After reading this, I’m beginning to think that maybe we also need to repair our relationship as mother and daughter. And when our relationship gets better, hopefully the homeschooling will follow.

    1. I’m so glad this post was helpful to you! And thank you for your comment! It is encouraging to us, too, when we know what we’ve written has helped someone.

  12. What a lovely post. My son is going through some of this right now. We are on the road to recovery, but got really rough for a while.
    Blessings, Dawn

  13. Thank you so much for writing this! It’s like you wrote this just for me. I’m going to implement your suggestions and pray for God to heal our relationship.

    1. What a sweet comment! I’m so glad you were blessed by this post! It is absolutely possible for God to heal your relationship and allow both you and your son to enjoy homeschooling and have a closer relationship. I pray that that is exactly what happens!

  14. I too have read this article and the comments thru tears of frustration and now thankfulness knowing I am not alone in dealing with a head strong, opionated 14 year old boy. I told the Lord I needed answers and this has helped me tremendously. The pressure of accountability has hit with starting our freshman year and feeling that all the credits and courses must be done to perfection. My son has not done so well with a more strenuous schedule and shift. I realize that I need to be less demanding and more loving and patient in this shift and do better at following God’s leading. We have home schooled for 14 years with our oldest son graduating in 2013. The personality and learning styles are completely different, and this has reminded me to take time to love and then they will do better to learn.
    God bless you and thank you for being exactly what I needed today! God always knows where to lead!

    1. Oh, Natalie, I’m so happy this article helped you! It’s easy to get into a pattern of negativity and stress (for both teacher and student), and then it’s so hard to move past it! I’m so happy to know that you were encouraged, and I pray that you and your son can more forward and that your homeschool will be different (in a great way!) as you continue.

  15. My wife is in the thick of this struggle right now with our 13 year old son. My question is, how do I share this information with her without being “Mr. Fixit”. I try to share in her struggle but I’m away at work. I see her relationship with our son deteriorating and it breaks my heart.

    1. What if you just share this article with her? Or maybe print it out and write her a short note to go with it. But be sure to let her know that you’re not saying she’s doing something wrong. Only that you love both her and your son and that you want what’s best for both and you don’t want to see their relationship deteriorate. Let her know that you support her and are willing to help her problem-solve if she wants you to do that. Or maybe offer her some time to get together with a close female friend who can help her work through the problems. But the most important thing to remember is that she may, at least at first, not be open to your suggestions/information. If that’s the case, I would drop the subject and give her time to think about it. But be ready to be understanding and kind if she later approaches you to discuss it. It’s hard for us moms to know how to feel about problems with our children! It’s very hard for us not to take it personally. (So be sure to let her know that you’re not blaming her!) If you’re a Christian, I suggest praying about it for a few days before you approach your wife about it. I hope this is helpful! I have definitely been there and done that. My son and I aren’t perfect, but our relationship is good, and I hope your wife and son can reach that point too! It’s definitely possible! Blessings! ~Wendy

      1. This blog came at a perfect time. My son and I just started his Senior yr. And it has not been easy he’s already behind in school work and onsite classes. I think I finally figured out what the problem is, my son works with his phone next to him and so he gets distracted. I’m praying for this school yr. to end on a good note.

  16. Thank you for sharing honestly about the work you allowed God to do in you in order for your relationship with your son to grow. I am seriously considering homeschooling our child as he enters high school this fall and I really needed to hear what you said about how your son received the things you were saying and doing. I can find as many reasons not to homeschool as I find to homeschool, yet I keep feeling pulled toward it. Thanks again!

  17. Hi Wendy! I am a mom of 2 homeschool teen boys ages 16 and 17 and this really hit home. I have been on the relationship recovery journey for about 3 months now with both of my sons and have been able to have very open and honest conversations. It has been so helpful and brought us closer. I just realized you posted this 8 years ago LOL Has your son turned out ok? 🙂 Thank you for sharing your journey and helping me feel less alone in this.

    1. Hi Holly! Yes, he is now 23 years old and recently moved out on his own. He’s doing very well! 🙂 Our relationship is good, and I’m so thankful for the years I had to homeschool him even though (to be honest) it was challenging at times.

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