I started writing this blog post about three years ago… I kid you not, I found it in my moleskin… se7en points all in a row!!! So why didn’t I post it back then, well frankly I was a beginner high-school homeschooler back then and thought I would post it once I had had a little more time on the job!!! Luckily, I waited because I did go slightly insane when my first born entered high-school… I had a mental list of what I wanted my kids to achieve during high-school: time-management, exam techniques, life-skills and so on… yes they do need all that, but your child is not going to master everything in the first week of high-school… my kids didn’t suddenly become well-adjusted, career driven, adults, they became regular teen-agers. Our first high-schooler, who has never rushed a day in his life – took one look at my good intentions and continued as we had already schooled all along: A couple of hours in the morning, with the afternoon free to pursue his passions.
I have to add a proviso to this post… my kids have been homeschooled their entire lives and we always intended to home-school our kids all the way through from the beginning to the end. There was never a year to year decision to make, it was a lifestyle that we adopted because we were called to it. Our kids know no other way to learn than to free wheel from an inkling of an idea and a spark of “that sounds interesting” to a self propelled research project. It is their way of learning, but I realise it is not the only way of learning. While I wouldn’t change the way we learn, I am not recommending that other folks should change the way their kids learn either… if my kids had been schooled in a more conventional way then I wouldn’t suddenly expect them to fit into our way of educating… just as I wouldn’t expect my kids to suddenly want to fit into the school system.
That being said, I have to say that homeschooling high-school has not been as terrifying as folks seem to think it is… it certainly doesn’t warrant the hushed tones: “You are homeschooling high-schoolers”… as if I forgot to put them into high-school when they came of age. To be honest I never really gave it a thought, we liked what we were doing… it worked and our kids were learning. I didn’t say it was easy, but it certainly is doable!!! Just because your teens are homeschooling doesn’t make them saints and it doesn’t mean that they will be chomping at the bit to learn all those nasty little things they need to get into their heads for a school leaving certificate.
Se7en + 1 Thoughts on HomeSchooling High-Schoolers…
- Just Carry On:
- You Are Qualified:
- A High School Day:
- Life is More Important:
- Don’t Stress About the Gaps:
- Welcome Opportunities:
- Your kids will work in Fits and Starts:
- The Fine Line Between School and Life:
In the olden days when our first born was about five, one of the first questions we used to get asked when folks heard we would be homeschooling: “But what about matric?” (Matric is your school leaving certificate in South Africa). Seriously, my oldest was five at the time. I am a firm believer that while you have a view on the end goal, you need to keep your focus on the day to day… just like a new mother needs to know how to nurse her baby but teaching them to get dressed, not quite yet. So a new homeschool student needs to be provided with learning opportunities and then left to learn… they don’t need to pass matric in their first week of school. In the day to day of school you learn as much as your students do… what routines work and what don’t. Each child has a different way of learning, each child has different things that they love to learn and that is the joy of homeschooling. You have the time to let your students be themselves. Just keep on doing what you have always done for school… your students will actually do the rest. They will grow up and they will continue to learn, with the goal of having them work independently… they will naturally lean towards that, it just takes time.
My first grader needs me to sit alongside her while she does school, to check every word… to make sure her letters are correct. My third grader needs to show me each piece of work as he gets done, because instant and immediate response is a necessity at that stage, but he doesn’t need me right there as he wanders through his math sheet. My sixth grader likes me to check off her work on a list for the day… she has a schedule and she sticks to it. As your kids get older so their natural independence will develop. By the time your child is half way through high school you will find that they can work independently. You do say, “Here is the book,” and leave them to it, they do the work bit by bit, they work on the assignments because they enjoy it. I check that their assignments are getting done a week at a time. Just like my grade 1 student doesn’t want me to leave her side… so my grade 10 student really doesn’t want me alongside him for school time at all. I am not teaching complicated biology courses… he is doing them and interested in them. I am not teaching my high-schoolers Economics or French… but they are learning both and they are excited about it.
Our High-schoolers begin their work day with me, and I ask them what work they have planned for the day… they have a weekly schedule and I don’t mind too much if some weeks they elect to do a little bit of work from each subject each day or if they do a subject per day. I know my oldest likes to get stuck into a subject and would rather spend a morning reading history and looking things up… and at this stage he likes to spend a morning on a writing assignment and getting it right. I am happy with that, he is working and his course work is getting done. One of the great things about my high-schoolers is that while school is something that happens during a fair part of the day, they have a lot of things going on that they are interested and working on in totally independently as well. Just by introducing them to a variety of topics when they were younger means that they have a pool of ideas that they wish to pursue. Yes, there are things they don’t enjoy doing… but they can do it and as long as I check that they are doing it and not getting behind they are fine. At this stage getting a small dose of the topics they least like is a matter of discipline – sticking to a task that they would rather not – welcome to 90% of most jobs!!! Our high-school school day ends with a look at what they actually did for school… I think it is important for them to notice that their intentions are often not exactly what they actually did and it allows them to refocus on their goals for the week.
Honestly life is more important and getting good habits into place is far more important than academics… I sometimes wonder how teenagers survive as days and weeks and months are spent grinding away at a desk. When I had a handful of young kids in school I would think nothing of taking the morning off because it was a beautiful day and heading for the beach. The great outdoors is fantastic for little people (and their mum) and believe it or not for teenagers too!!! People have this idea that because your child is in high school that they no longer need to play – hello… once they hit university or a nine-to-five job then you can safely say they probably won’t have time to play – but in high school there should still be plenty of time to play and heaps of time to dream and think… Seriously, my teens can think of nothing better than wiling away days on lego… and I am all for it… there is plenty of time in life for work.
I don’t know any college or university students that knew everything when they got there. Seriously, however you were educated there will be gaps. The first week of any University course I did was really a sweeping overview of what I should have know to achieve the course… even in the topic that I loved at the time and had done fairly well in at school.. there was a lot to learn that first week!!! That being said… it is not so much the odd topics that they may not cover that we need to be concerned about, but rather the gaps in their knowledge that they create for themselves. You know this least favourite topics… I have to say that whenever my students have needed a skill from their least favourite subject they were instantly able to raise their game. One of my high-schoolers is far from passionate about writing – he would much rather be doing, but last November my three oldest children all wanted to participate in Nanowrimo and they all rose to the challenge and far exceeded my expectation!!! It was a huge effort for all of them and at the end of it they had each written a more than passable novel. For all those moms that lament that their first-graders can’t or won’t write a sentence… just wait, the time will come when they may well want to write. Never underestimate your homeschooler… they really do rise to the occasion.
Don’t get so caught up in what must be done that you forget to take opportunities… last year an opportunity arose for our oldest to take part in an international conference… he took about two weeks off school to research and write a paper, he took part in an international debate and loved it, then another week to participate and probably a week off afterwards to process and recover from the whole experience. Shock and horror, my child probably didn’t do a math exercise or any language arts for an entire month. Did he learn, you bet!!! Did he gain invaluable life-experience, certainly!!! Did he love it – oh yes!!! The point is… it is easy to say that for the next 36 weeks my child will do an hour of math, literature, history, science… etc everyday and take fifteen minute breaks in-between… but life is just not like that and since home-schooling is a way of life – it isn’t like that either.
Yes I know consistency is key but your teenager will appear to do very little for days and suddenly a spurt of energy will produce mountains of work that you never thought possible. Inspiration is paramount, for them to pursue their own interests. I think those days when they appear to be doing nothing and are frustratingly slow to us, are most likely the days that they are doing the most pondering and planning and then wham it all comes together… There is nothing like a deadline either!!! Our high-schoolers do odd courses outside of the home and while they may be late with a report I have asked the for… they are never late for their teachers outside of home. (That may say more about what I ask of them than it does about their ability to manage time well!!!). They also write exams outside the home and get used to that stressful feeling, though none of them seem to have noticed that one must be stressed for exams yet, rather it is a test to see what they know. And long may that last!!!
and the se7en + 1 th point…
There is this idea that your kids are in school until they are seventeen and then they start living… well as a parent and from where I am looking… gotta say my high schoolers are living already. They seem to accumulate learning experiences so easily… they spot an interesting workshop at the museum and sign up for it. One of our teens attends college courses in the evening – I hate to say it, for fun!!! He loves it, he loves the academic jump from his day to day, he loves the workload, the reading, the interaction with students and a lecturer. The assignments just about kill him, but he enjoys the process and he gets good grades. Other than that they seek out volunteer work, and have spent hours of time working alongside scientists in the name of volunteering and they love it – teens really do love working, just the right kind of work. Honestly, my kids are dying to be sixteen and eligible for real part-time jobs. I have a feeling that with a couple of college courses under their belts and real-life work experience… the very abrupt line between school and college is going to be a lot more hazy for our home-schoolers.
I think when folk ask us if we are homeschooling high-school, they are actually asking: “Will our children be able to attend university or college if they homeschool?” Almost certainly, if that is the path they want to pursue. Will we have to rearrange how we educate and compromise the very excellent curriculum we have used so far, so that our children can prepare for school leaving exams… probably not. We do intend to continue our way through school and when they decide what they next step is then we can prepare them for that. If our children need to write matric say, then they will have twelve years of school. Just because they are homeschooling doesn’t mean they aren’t working – they will have covered the necessary math and grammar and science and history and whatever else they need. Some intensive exam training will be enough to get them through and probably a whole lot more than adequately. We are three years away from our first student finishing school do we have to know all the answers now – not a whole lot!!!
If you had to ask me what the most crucial thing about home-schooling high-schoolers is I would have to say: Welcome the Adults Your Kids are Becoming. Hang out with them, listen to them… they have a lot to say and you will, despite the barrage of media coverage, love your teenagers just as much as you loved them when they were toddlers… differently… but just as much.