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Why homeschooling my teens is (shockingly) easy, enjoyable, and gratifying

FAMILY
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Well ... most of the time!

While I do not believe my family’s education choice is superior, I’m having such fun homeschooling my teens lately that I feel compelled to throw open my front door and talk about it. So if you’re even the least bit curious about homeschooling – specifically older kids – stop by and stay a while.

“What in the world are you going to do about high school?”

It’s a question I’ve fielded since my sons were young. The person asking was always stymied, as if we were discussing a foreign planet which neither of us had ever visited. I’d scratch my head, thinking I was missing something – I mean I attended public high school, and I don’t recall performing brain surgery between P.E. and study hall. Regardless, I once had a former science teacher challenge me about how I’d provide chemistry labs and higher math instruction to my budding ‘tweens.

“Uh …,” I laughed nervously, “Hmmm …”

Looking back, I wish I’d echoed the wisdom of Susie Lloyd, author of a few hilarious books on the subject, when she was in a similar situation: “High school? I’ll drive off that bridge when I get there!”

While my husband and I would have initially preferred a formal school setting, our rural area provided very limited options. Also, as soon as we dipped our toes into the world of home schooling we were surprised by what we found – unlimited academic resources and kids that were exceptionally well bonded to us and one another. As far as “driving off that bridge” when we arrived at the high school years, I’d say we’ve certainly landed soundly, safe in the arms of Divine Providence. Not a day goes by that I don’t marvel at all that’s available to my kids academically and socially at low to no cost to us (and we live in the middle of nowhere). Here’s what the schedule looks like this year for my 8th and 10th grader:

– Wake up at 8 a.m. (rather than 6:30 in order to catch a bus). Studies prove that teenagers are not getting enough sleep and it’s adversely affecting their studies. My teens sleep 9 to 10 hours a night and they seem to need every second of it. Sure this freedom could be easy to abuse, but we don’t.

– Academic instruction from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Online Math, live online History/ Geography; I handle their literature and science instruction with used textbooks and check in with our district and online resources to make sure we’re covering everything they need to know. This sounds daunting, but it’s not – just a few minutes now and then. (My kids consistently score in the high 90th percentile at end of year state testing, so I’m confident they’re getting what they need.)

– Afternoons are free for violin and piano lessons, ski club and tennis club (with the local high school). My boys plan to get part-time jobs at a local river rafting spot that favors homeschooled teens, as they’re available to work longer hours.

Our goal for next year is “dual enrollment” in the community college. And while it may sound impressive to have a 16-year-old in college, my son will start off with Advanced Algebra and use the same textbook the local high school is using for Algebra II – only he’ll be receiving college credit for the same work. The daunting chemistry lab work that used to leave me intimidated will be accomplished in a few 3-day intensives in which the students will perform an entire semester’s worth of research in a few weekends. These dives into a formal academic setting raise the question: “Why not just enroll them in school?”

My answer: We simply don’t need it right now. That said, I respect our community’s hard-working teachers and recognize the role of the public school system. But the way we do things, my kids are finished with academic instruction by 2 p.m. (no homework, even though they do read a lot for fun). They have time to explore in the woods and pursue cool interests like teaching themselves violin and woodworking from YouTube videos. They’re fascinated with life and learning and they have plenty of friends, but above all – we’re all crazy about each other. And while I’m not a sociologist, I have a strong suspicion that the reason these boys don’t suffer from typical teenage attitudes like “This is boring” or “No one understands me” is because they’ve never been in a setting that fosters these attitudes; they spend the majority of their time bonding with their family that has embraced an attitude of lifelong learning. Sure, my boys socialize plenty with kids their age; they may even attend the local prom, but their time in these settings is less than the norm – and it shows.

Is the home schooling paradigm perfect? Of course not. My kitchen floor alone is evidence of that. You’ll find tater tots mashed in with baby socks and juice spilled all over a half-finished algebra exam. I do sometimes fantasize about sending my kids to school just so the cafeteria lady would give me a break from cooking — the constant food prep is literally my only gripe about home schooling. However, my husband and I have decided to spend the funds we’d be using on school uniforms on extra take-out food. In short, there are ways to overcome our obstacles; the effort is worth it, and the positives far outweigh the negatives.

But the very best part about home schooling teens? They’re interesting! Their academic lessons are interesting as well. While my three-year-old finger paints and makes ridiculously amazing dinosaur sounds, my teens will watch all the Ken Burns documentaries with me then discuss them on the way to soccer.

Gandhi once said “There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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