Are you worried about homeschooling high school students?
Picture a homeschooling mom of high school-aged students. She’s worried that her high schoolers aren’t making the progress they should, and that they don’t know everything they need to at this point in time. She’s worried that they won’t graduate on time, or that they won’t be ready for college or work. She’s ready to begin the new school year going full blast and pushing hard so they’ll get caught up. Maybe she even feels a little bit under-qualified to teach some of those tough, upper levels courses (who really remembers everything they learned in Physics?)
It can be a nerve-wracking and uncertain place to be. So what do you do?
I (Wendy) have two homeschool graduates (and one homeschooler currently in highschool), so I’ve definitely been there! I was especially worried about these things with my son since he wasn’t particularly motivated when it came to school work.
Looking back, I realize that I spent far too much time worrying and planning and pushing him to work harder and faster. I also spent too much time thinking it had to be that way and that there was no other choice. If this resonates with you, here are some of the things I learned through homeschooling highschoolers that I think will help!
It’s Not a Competition!
This is actually a huge revelation, once it hits. Because we homeschool, we’re not in a competition with all of the other homeschoolers (or public or private schoolers for that matter) to see who can make the most progress each year. I realized that it was absolutely fine, as long as he was doing the best he could, for him to be “behind” others his age. If he wasn’t very interested in school, pushing him to work harder and faster and to do more certainly wasn’t going to have the desired effect. It would only make him dislike school work even more.
It’s hard though, isn’t it? We all want to feel like our kids are “the best.” We might not say it out loud, and we might not want to admit it even to ourselves (and we don’t even mean it in a nasty way.) We just want to see our kids do well. We want to see them succeed.
What I Changed
So what did this realization mean for my son and for me? Once I realized we weren’t in a competition, we had a happier school experience. It meant I was more relaxed and less stressed so he could be more relaxed and less stressed. It meant he was able to enjoy what he could even though he never did particularly love doing school work. And yes, it meant that he spent an extra year at home doing high school work.
At first, it was hard for me to admit that my son took an extra year to complete high school. But now that it’s been a few years, I can look back and see that it didn’t really make much difference for him. It really wasn’t a big deal. It didn’t cause any harm. In fact, it gave him some extra time to mature and think about whether he wanted to go straight to work or whether he wanted to go to college. It actually turned out to be a good thing for him.
And to be honest, it was actually a good thing for his younger sister, who is now in 11th grade herself. She realized that, if it’s important to her to finish high school and go to college, she has to be self-motivated and to work hard without waiting for me to push her. She understands that she really will have to spend an extra year in high school if she doesn’t get her work done. And this knowledge has helped her stay motivated to get her work done on her own. It has also helped make her school years and our relationship easier.
I guess what I’m trying to say is simple. I’d like to see us, as homeschooling moms, spend this year enjoying our time with our children. Of course it’s important for our kids to learn. It’s also important to love our children and build a good relationship with them. I don’t think we should do one at the expense of the other. I don’t think we have to do one at the expense of the other.
Suggestions for You
Enjoy the time you have with your teens. Do things with them just for fun. Let them know that you enjoy being with them and spending time with them.
Don’t make every conversation a life lesson. Yes, there are times when you need to share life lessons and give advice. You should! It’s part of your job as a parent. But it’s okay to just enjoy a conversation about a light-hearted topic now and then too. Talk about a book you both enjoyed. Talk about a movie you’ve seen or something you’ve done together. Chat about something your teens are interested in even if you don’t particularly love that topic. You’ll be glad you did. And so will they.
Encourage your children to do their best. But try to do it in a positive way. Set a good example yourself. Offer help without judgment.
Remind them now and then to stay on track, be responsible, and keep in mind that graduation is just a short time away if they keep working hard. But don’t nag. If your teens choose to disregard your advice, you can gently remind them to stay on track, but you really can’t force them without ruining your relationship and making their success your responsibility. (Which may work short term, but it won’t have any lasting effects–except negative ones in which your teens expect you to be responsible for their behaviors.)
In a few short years, your high schoolers will be working or in college and grown and gone. You don’t want to look back on these last few years with them at home and regret that you spent your time with them stressed and unhappy, or in conflict all the time.
What about you? Is it hard for you to allow your children to have weak areas? Are you tempted to have your student work too hard to try to keep up with everyone else? Or have you found ways to keep it all in perspective? I’d love to hear from you!