In a recent article at Cafe Mom, Ericka Souter listed 7 reasons she could never homeschool her teen. They are all fairly common concerns that most parents wrestle with as they decide whether to continue homeschooling through the middle school and high school years and I’d like to address them:
1. I could probably get him through algebra and geometry, but we’d both need a tutor when it came to calculus. Sure, I took it in high school but it was in one ear and out the other as soon as the final was finished.
One thing that homeschoolers discover early on is that they learn along with their children. Most parents realize fairly quickly that there were gaps in their own education and they remedy the situation by plunging right into the learning process with their kids. With math, for example, parents not only review what they already know, but they fill in gaps as they work through the curriculum, progressively adding to their own skills as they teach their children. Many homeschooling books are designed to walk parents through every step of teaching various subjects, some even including video lectures.
If parents are uncomfortable teaching higher-level classes such as calculus and physics, they have a wealth of resources at their disposal. Some parents enroll their children in online classes for subjects they find challenging, while others, like our family, join co-ops in which parents pool their skills and teach classes to small groups of homeschoolers. In our co-op, a homeschooling mom who is a physician taught biology and a dad who is a mechanical engineer taught physics. We used a video-assisted program for pre-calculus, and my older son took discrete math at a local university during his senior year of high school. The array of options is almost dizzying.
2. I can’t imagine his first intense classroom setting being a college lecture. Talk about intimidating.
I must admit that I don’t know a single homeschooling parent or student who really worries about this one. One thing about homeschooling is that the children tend to spend time with people of all ages rather than in age-segregated classrooms. By the time they graduate from homeschool high school, most have spent a great deal of time in adult settings, where they learned to interact with the community in the “real world.” Most have attended classes of some sort (Sunday school, co-op classes, etc.) and understand the protocol for classroom behavior. Really, it does not take 13 years of training to learn how to sit at a desk, raise your hand, and answer questions when called upon. The majority of home-schooled students are bright, articulate, and confident and have no trouble adjusting to a classroom setting.
3. We’d get sick of each other by week
“I wouldn’t want my kids home all day — I don’t have the patience.” I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard this when I told people we were homeschooling. I’ve always been tempted to respond, “What does it say about your parenting that you have raised children you can’t stand to be around?” It sometimes seems like people have children and then immediately begin counting the days until they can put them on the school bus so they can have some peace and quiet. Some of this is because parents know what their children are like when they get off that bus: cranky, exhausted, and not especially pleasant to be with. They don’t realize that homeschooling changes the whole family dynamic. A family that spends all or most of its time together not only avoids the jarring transition from school to home every day, but also gets to spend the best part of the day together. During that time, parents constantly mentor their children and model good behavior for them. One of the blessings of homeschooling is that the children are more influenced by their parents than their peers and so they naturally enjoy being together, even in the teen years.
Before we had kids of our own, my husband and I volunteered as youth leaders in our church and there met our first homeschooling families. We were shocked to meet teens who not only weren’t embarrassed to be around their parents, but who actually enjoyed being with them. These kids actually volunteered their parents when we needed chaperons for a sleepover or a retreat. Though we saw this occasionally from public school students, it was consistent with the homeschooled kids, one of the rewards of spending so much time together.
4. When he complains about his bit**y teacher, he’ll be talking about me.
Years ago I heard something that changed the way I thought about teenagers: “Rebellion is not God’s plan for the family.” As a culture, we have bought into the lie that it’s normal for teenagers to rebel and to dislike their parents. While it may be “normal” in our culture, it hasn’t always been that way and we should reject the notion that teenage rebellion is inevitable.
If you spend any time with kids who were homeschooled, you’ll likely hear a discussion about who had the strictest parents — they’ll try to one-up each other with complaints of “I wasn’t allowed to watch TV growing up” or “my mom made us do all the Saxon math practice problems, not just the odd numbers!” My older son tells his friends about how he used to sneak down to the family room to watch Liberty Kids whenever I was sick with a migraine, and my younger son laments that he’s the only kid he knows who hasn’t seen all the Disney movies a dozen times. The competition is a unique homeschool-geek-culture phenomenon — all in fun — and most of those kids will tell you (and their friends) that they are grateful for their parents and appreciate being home-schooled. Many of them will go on to be just as strict with their own kids.
5. When I complain about my crappy job, I’ll be talking about him.
6. I can’t teach him the same survival instincts you learn navigating your way though mean girls, jocks, geeks, or whichever else cliques exist these days.
Let’s be honest. Many of the behaviors that go on in the public schools, especially those associated with bullying, are punishable by firing in the workplace. And spending six hours a day confined to a room with thirty people the exact same age as you is nothing like any place of employment the student will ever encounter. Being told when and where to sit, when you may use the restroom, and when (and what) you may eat is more similar to a penal institution than a business environment. Also, see #2.
7. I’m not a trained educator. Parents love to complain about their kids’ teachers, but it’s a tough job. Probably one of the toughest. It’s a combo of instructor, counselor, soother, conflict resolution expert, and motivator. How exhausting is that?!
All of the skills listed above are basic parenting competencies, whether or not a family homeschools. What parent hasn’t refereed sibling conflicts, soothed hurt feelings, or dealt with unmotivated children? Homeschooling is just a matter of applying those basic parenting skills to educating one’s own children. While teachers in brick-and-mortar schools may need special training to manage a classroom of thirty children, tutoring a few students does not require such training. In fact, many former teachers who choose to homeschool find their education training to be a hindrance and that they need to retrain themselves in order to adjust to the close, personal tutoring situation.
No one denies that homeschooling can be challenging — the teen years are no exception. But homeschooling also brings unique benefits that can actually make the teen years more enjoyable and less tumultuous. It is well worth the challenges.