Don’t Be Intimidated by Homeschooling for High School (Part 2)

One question I’m often asked is how involved you should be with your teen in their daily work; my answer is that it depends on the teen, but that your goal should be to work towards independent study by the end of high school. This is good for your teen, but it’s also good for you, especially if you’re homeschooling younger children at the same time. If your child is college-bound, you’ll cripple her if you don’t send her off to school accustomed to independent study. And even if she’s not going to college, being able to work independently is a valued skill in any employee.

When I homeschooled my teens, I gave them increased independence each year, so that by senior year, I was giving them assignments on Monday morning and not working with them again until Friday afternoon, when we went over everything. This didn’t mean I was unavailable to them during the week. But I encouraged them to research things for themselves before coming to me with questions. This worked well for us.

On the other hand, my third child is an auditory/kinesthetic learner, so some of the advanced reading assignments I gave her during 11th and 12th grades were too hard for her to learn from based only on her reading of them. But we found that if I read the hardest books aloud to her while she knitted, she absorbed much more of the material, so that’s what we did. I had the time to do this because I was only homeschooling one other child besides her. Interestingly, once she went to college, she no longer needed my help in this way.

In addition to your teens’ daily assignments at home, you may find it desirable or even necessary to enroll them in outside classes. My son took a homeschool chemistry class at a local Christian college, primarily because I didn’t have the time or the inclination to teach him chemistry at home. He also took Spanish at a community college because Spanish is best learned in a group environment where conversation is emphasized. Several years later, after we had moved to another state, his younger sister took graphic design classes at a tech college near our town. We found that having our teens take a few community college classes during high school gave them classroom experience as well as college credits, and I recommend this to other homeschooling parents of teens.

As your teens get older, you’ll find that they won’t need help filling their days. When given the freedom to pursue opportunities that interest them, they do so. Our eldest daughter started a weekly Christian coffeehouse/concert series in our town after writing dozens of pastors asking for a place to hold Christian concerts. Our son joined the youth board at our church and participated in several mission trips. Our younger daughter started a small business selling her stuffed animal creations online and at the farmer’s market of the tourist town we lived in during her teen years. None of these activities had anything to do with my husband and me, other than the use of our car. Our teens pursued these things on their own, with our approval. These activities gave them self-confidence and showed them that they’re capable of following their interests and dreams. For homeschooled teens, living in the real world offers far more challenges and joys than the unreal world of football games and proms that public school teens live in.

Part of that real world living is having responsibilities. Homeschooled teens (especially younger ones who don’t have part-time jobs yet) can help with cooking, cleaning and childcare of younger siblings. Those years are also prime time for learning homemaking and mechanical skills that they’ll need when they’re on their own. It’s important to raise young people who can fix things, cook things and make things. Believe me, such people are a joy to have around the house!

(Excerpted from Stages of Homeschooling: Letting Go (Book 3), now just $2.99. Learn more HERE.)

Don’t Be Intimidated by Homeschooling for High School (Part 1)

First off, remember that homeschool high school is nothing like public high school, and it doesn’t need to take nearly as long each day. There are no passing periods, no assemblies, no waiting for buses. So there’s no need to stick to the same time schedule that they do. Many people have asked me how long our high school day was. I usually required my teens to work on their studies in the morning, and as far into the afternoon as it took them to finish. I encouraged them to get an early start so that they’d have time to pursue their own interests the rest of the day. (Later on, their various part-time jobs, which we strongly encouraged, also came into play.)

Next, keep in mind that the curriculum you choose will determine how long it takes to study each subject. A very demanding math curriculum will require more time than a basic arithmetic review. Which one you choose will be based on your teen’s future aspirations and goals. If he wants to be a chemistry major in college, you’ll need a solid math curriculum. If he wants to go into the dramatic arts, you’re better off finding a basic math course and spending the time saved on the study of classic plays. And if he wants to be a car mechanic, use that same basic math course so he can spend the time he saves apprenticing with a self-employed car mechanic in your town.

Never forget that the goal of homeschooling a teen is to customize upper level studies to your teen’s needs. Those needs may not be as obvious at age 14 as they will be at 17 or 18; to make matters more complicated, teens change dramatically during those years and so do their needs. But you’ll recognize general areas of interest that really won’t change much. For instance, my son went from wanting to be a computer engineer at 15 to a business major at 18, then felt called into the ministry at 20. As it worked out, he’s now in his late 20s and is a manager for a Christian publishing company with plans to eventually enter seminary as a second career pastor. But during his teen years the common threads we could see were a desire to study beyond the high school level and a love of management and business principles. So we (he and I) designed his high school studies with an eye toward college prep and an emphasis on management.

A friend of mine who homeschooled several teen sons aimed the studies of the first three toward vocational prep because they were clearly “gear heads” who loved doing anything mechanical. But her fourth son was more studious, so she designed his studies to be college preparatory.

Each child is different; one big advantage of homeschooling is that you have the time and opportunity to plan a course of study with your teen (note that I said with) to capitalize on his or her interests and plans. That’s why you need to take all information that you get from books or friends with a grain of salt, tailoring the things you learn to your specific child.

(Excerpted from Stages of Homeschooling: Letting Go (Book 3), now just $2.99. Learn more HERE.)

Hot Off the Press: Letting Go

The third book in the “Stages of Homeschooling” series, Letting Go, is now available for $4.99 at

Like the previous books in the series, this book is a combination of new material and a variety of articles I wrote while homeschooling my four children. Stages of Homeschooling: Letting Go (Book 3) focuses on:

  • “Making the Choice to Homeschool Older Children and Teens” (Motivations for homeschooling through high school)
  • “Which Subjects Should Homeschooled Teens Study?” (Includes those your local high school probably doesn’t offer, but should)
  • “The College Decision” (Not which college to attend, but whether your teen should even go to college)
  • “Preparing Our Teens for the World of Work” (The 21st century world of work, not the 20th)
  • “Tips for Homeschooling Parents” (Hints and hope for parents of homeschooled teens)
  • “Books and Resources” (A few of the best)
  • “Personal Memories of Homeschooling Teens” (Glimpses into the life of a longtime homeschooling family)

Learn more about the entire “Stages of Homeschooling” series HERE.

Young Men Need to Work

A recent “Hi and Lois” comic strip shows Hi, the dad, dropping off his recyclables, pumping his own gas, using the self-checkout at the grocery store, stopping by an ATM machine and renting a movie using an automated machine. Later his teenage son comes home looking frazzled and announces “I cannot find a summer job! Where are all the jobs?!”

That’s a good question. Point taken.

As a five-year-old during the Great Depression, my dad sold gum on passenger trains to make money for his family. As a teen he hauled sacks of grain in a mill; he’s been a hard worker all his life and even though he’s pushing 80, he still repairs and restores cars and helps members of his family (just this week, he helped two different family members who were moving).

When my husband was a teen, he mowed his church’s acreage for free and cleaned buses for pay. By age 17, he had an engineering job that would become his occupation for many years. He’s always been a hard worker, has run two businesses and continues to work hard to take care of our family.

Ten years ago, my then-16-year-old son spent his summer working in a grocery store. It was a job he’d had for over a year; he would continue to work in several stores in that grocery chain throughout college. Today he has a good job for which he travels frequently and, because he’s in management, always puts in many hours.

You see the pattern here. Young men need to work. It helps them develop the work ethic they’ll need to support a family. But today, unemployment is very high among teens. In some areas it’s over 25%. Even those who do work are finding it hard to get more than 15 or 20 hours of work per week. We hope that this situation will change eventually, but what of our young men in the meantime? They’re at a crucial point in their development; if they can’t find work, it will be far too easy for them to sink into a stupor of gaming and partying as so many already do; others with more energy and nowhere to use it constructively may be easily lured into criminal activity out of boredom.

It’s crucial that we help our young men find work of any kind, paying or not. We can talk to our friends and neighbors to see who needs help around their homes and yards, or better yet, their businesses. Perhaps churches can mobilize their youth to work around the church grounds or in the community.

This is a nationwide problem; if we don’t get a handle on it, we’re going to have a generation of messed-up young men. That is not a comforting thought.

Homeschooled Kids and Rebellion

One of the most popular articles on my website is “Homeschooling to Prevent Rebellion.” I think I’ve received more email about that article than any other I’ve written.

Let’s face it: many of us choose to homeschool our children partly (mostly?) because we want them to turn out “right.” The craziness of the public school environment makes it obvious to us that sending our children there is a dangerous decision. But if we teach them at home, we can educate them more efficiently using the materials of our choice (as opposed to the materials chosen by our local school board) while also teaching them how to control their behavior so that they become happy, productive adults, at the very least. Ideally, if we have a faith tradition, we want to share that faith with our children, too.

This is all well and good, but sometimes the responsibility we take on for homeschooling our children, which can seem huge and all-encompassing, leads us to believe that our children’s proper development is completely up to us. That would work if our children were puppets. But they’re individuals given free will by God. This complicates things.

To make matters worse, some speakers and writers in the Christian homeschool community insist that the sole purpose for homeschooling is to raise Christians. They may be well-intentioned, but what they’re doing is loading down parents with a burden they weren’t intended to carry. Because while it’s our job to “raise up our children in the way they should go,” we don’t have the power to make them Christians, or even to make them good.

I really like how Tim Sanford put it in his book, Losing Control & Liking It:

“…embrace the reality that whatever you do as a parent, your teenager still has that gift of free will. You could do everything right and your teenager could still choose stupid. That part is not your fault, even if it breaks your heart.”

He mentions the father of the prodigal son and the pain he went through, and then adds:

“What is your job?

To validate and nurture.

What’s not your job?

To make your teenager turn out right.

Learn to be content with these realities, and your life as a parent will be a lot easier.”

I’m aware of a lot of bewildered homeschooling parents who are just now facing the difficulties of having a rebellious teen. I feel for them because I’ve been there. It’s a lonely place. And the pain doesn’t necessarily go away once the child hits 18. In fact, for some homeschooled kids, the outward rebellion doesn’t reach full strength until then.

There’s no easy way through this. If you crack down hard on your offspring, you’ll likely push them further away. Yet you can’t give up on your principles, because they’re part of raising your children “in the way they should go.” What you can do is pray for yourself and your child. And never forget that God loves your children even more than you do.