Homeschool, Homeschool high school
Comments 15

Dear Homeschool Mom — You Didn’t Mess Him Up

This week, I shared with you why my high school students are not taking dual credit classes. While a few homeschool moms have spoken out in favor of not only dual credit but also CLEP testing for homeschoolers, the vast majority of my readers have expressed relief. There is so much pressure in high school — especially for us mommies — that our freedom and individual choices sometimes get lost. So I think we all can take a deep breath of gratitude this week that, in reality, we all agree on the most important truth: each of our teens need the right education for THEM, and high school homeschooling is not one-size-fits-all.

It takes a lot of faith to homeschool high school, too.

One of my readers commented with a question, though, that I thought deserved a longer response than a quick reply would allow. So let’s look at it together and see if we don’t all identify with her fears and frustrations.

I need some advice, please. My son is in 9th grade, and we are doing teaching textbooks algebra 1, he spends more time frustrated than he does learning. But, this is how he is with all of his subjects…..especially math. He hates to write, hates math, doesn’t mind scince (I let him choose what he wanted to learn in science) or history. I am concerned for his future, in that I don’t want to mess it up! I want desperately to set him up for success. I just feel horrible inadequate. I would love for him to learn a trade..although he would prefer not to…he doesn’t know what he’s interested in doing yet. But, he loves video games and tv. I don’t mind some of that, but I don’t want it to be his life. Any advice is appreciate. Thanks.

— Jg

First of all, dear friend, I wish I were right there beside you to pour you a fresh coffee in my bright red mug and hand it to you with a warm hug. I am right with you; I feel the same way, too, most days. We just carry on in faith.

I’m going to take your concerns in order.

“He spends more time frustrated than he does learning.”

Welcome to high school. This is your first year homeschooling ninth grade, right? Because you will find out soon that this is par for the course with teen students. There’s several reasons teens get frustrated at this point:

  • The subjects are suddenly much harder. Even when we try to ramp up middle school gradually to help them prepare, it’s still an adjustment. We can’t avoid it, just expect it.
  • The pressure is suddenly real. It’s transcript time, and everyone knows it. In his heart, he wants to succeed as badly as you want him to achieve, but since things are unexpectedly more difficult, he feels defeated right out of the gate. That’s very frustrating. He only has increasing difficulty to look forward to, as well, and that’s not encouraging.
  • He is hormonal. I know, the middle school years are really rough with attitude adjustments, but we aren’t quite out of the woods yet. Late high school, like right before graduation, he will suddenly turn into a delightful man you sincerely want around the house all the time. But then, he leaves. Right now, he’s still waking up feeling weird and acting weird and not understanding why. And he stinks, which doesn’t help.
  • He wants to be independent. This is a tough time for homeschool students, especially, because they want so badly to be their own person — that means not mom. So the only way your son can assert his individuality is by pushing back at mom (you’re the one around all the time, so you get the brunt of it) and dad. But he loves you, and that makes him feel badly about making you upset, which makes him more upset, which makes him make poor choices when he’s expressing his independence. It’s really hard to be a homeschool teen guy. Bless his heart.

So, yes, he is frustrated, and that’s to be expected. You can’t change how he feels, but you can kindly acknowledge that you know he is frustrated, you love him, and that you want to help him (not cause more problems). Encourage him to express his frustrations in meaningful ways — the whole “use your words” thing we went over when they were three years old — and to not let it spill over into anger or irresponsibility.

He hates to write, hates math, doesn’t mind scince (I let him choose what he wanted to learn in science) or history.

Ok, that’s also to be expected. I hated all of that, too, when I was a homeschool teen (I really, really hated to write). But you know what we always tell them: that’s life. We have to do the work we hate, because it’s our job, and right now, the job is high school. No discussion, just get through it the best you can.

Now, that aside, I do ask my teens if there is anything in particular they need help with, and I encourage them to ask specific questions. So when they are grumbling (or yelling, or throwing school papers around the house) in frustration, I’ll ask, “Are you venting, or do you want help? If you want help, tell me how to help you.” They need prompting to make that distinction.

Finally, I love that you give him input in his studies. I do the same, within reason. I tell my teens what their graduation requirements are and where they have choices. So they know what they can control and what they have to just do because it’s mandatory. It actually helped clarify things.

And I made a transcript chart on a google doc and shared the link with each of them. They can see what they are doing and the grades that are being shared with colleges, so it reinforces from the beginning what their job is and how well they are doing it.

I am concerned for his future, in that I don’t want to mess it up! I want desperately to set him up for success. I just feel horrible inadequate.

Here’s where I started to cry, because…well, I cry about this too, sometimes. I don’t think there’s an honest homeschool mom who hasn’t. It’s a lot of pressure, homeschooling high school.

But here’s what I forget too easily — It takes a lot of faith to homeschool high school, too. We are trusting God to work through us to prepare our young person for his future. We are absolutely inadequate for that task. Only God’s sovereign, powerful hand can guide them to their destiny.

And the sobering reality is this: There is little we parents can control now. High school is, by and large, up to the student. Let that sink in for a moment. You can’t make your teen learn, you can’t make him study, you can’t make him pay attention, you can’t make him want good grades. It’s entirely up to him.

Your job now is much different than it was five years ago. You are merely providing the tools, the accountability, the guidance, and the certification. That’s a small part of the process at this point. In reality, your son is personally responsible for most of his education now. 

Yes, you are inadequate. We all are. Yes, you are concerned for his future. We all are. But you are setting him up for success. He decides what he will do with it.

I would love for him to learn a trade..although he would prefer not to…he doesn’t know what he’s interested in doing yet. But, he loves video games and tv. I don’t mind some of that, but I don’t want it to be his life.

Your son sounds like a perfectly normal teenaged homeschooler. Mine, too, wanted to be a video game tester, and he still places gaming at the top of his favorite things to do. But guess what? He’s grown up a lot the past four years.

You know what? Your son will, too. He isn’t mature enough to make his own decisions, but neither is any other fourteen-year-old guy. Keep parenting, keep loving, keep holding him accountable, keep hugging him. He’ll grow up some day. 

This is not that day.

I prayed for you yesterday, and I’m praying for you today. You aren’t messing him up. Just keep going.

Your friend,

Lea Ann

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  1. I have worried about my son as well, for all of the exact same reasons! I just keep telling myself that only God knows what skills he will need in his future, and only God can prepare him for that. I will continue to do my best, but I will also try to do more trusting and less crying, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tammy says

    Thank you. I desperately want these amazing boys God has gifted me with to succeed, but it has to be their success, not mine. You made me realize that part of this homeschooling thing is working myself out of a job and working them into one.


  3. Susan says

    Thank you so much for this article. My daughter started high school this year, and it’s been frustrating for both of us. Same thing – she doesn’t like writing and is very frustrated in algebra. She used to have no problem reading assigned books but is really balking at it this year. Don’t know if we are going to make it through The Odyssey! This was very encouraging to me because she is one who has no drive to take duel credit classes. I feel better in following a traditional high school path. Thank you for making me see I’m not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Laura A says

    I am SO GLAD I read this. My son, too, is a 14 year old who doesn’t care much about anything except his gaming & he wants to be a video game designer/tester. I think it bothers me a lot because he used to be one of those kids who would have a meltdown if he didn’t make a 100 on a test. We were planning to do some 8th grade & some 9th grade subjects this year, but it hasn’t worked out that way. My goal at this point is to keep moving forward (even if it’s slower than I would like) & to make sure our relationship isn’t damaged in the process.
    I know some people would say that I need to take away his electronics & MAKE him do his work, but I feel like that won’t help him in the future. He has to learn some self control. I won’t be there with him in college to make him put down the controller & study.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right. I had to come to the same conclusions. We set limits, but still let him have fun. And as he became more mature, he was able to discipline himself more, too. It takes a lot of wisdom and faith. 🙂


  5. deborah says

    I am new at homeschooling…colleges have certain criteria needed to enroll…i have noticed that some homeschoolers are taught unconventional does this come into play when applying for college? I get very confused..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deborah,

      Each college has its own specific admissions criteria, so homeschoolers can inquire about what they want to see for documentation, etc. But most accept a fairly standard transcript, test scores, and essay for evaluation. My student was just accepted for college, and we found the process surprisingly easy.

      Those with a more unconventional route, like unschooling, will find equivalencies for high school study. They may log how many hours they spend studying each subject and save projects, research, and writings to demonstrate competency. Most universities will still require standardized college entrance exams (like SAT or ACT), and these help colleges understand the student’s level.

      In my experience, most (but not all) unschooling students become increasingly conventional as they approach college age. It’s just easier for them to transition to college if they have practiced studying with similar curriculum and documenting their learning with tests and essays.


  6. Bethany says

    Lea Ann,

    That was beautiful. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and honest response. I needed this. I was ready to give up homeschooling but maybe with this fresh perspective, I just might be able to carry on.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Colleen says

    So good to know I am not walking this path alone. I love my big 15 year guy – but the mix of him, school, and me don’t always make for the smoothest days. Prayers and blessings for all. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Melissa says

    Wow! That letter that started this could have been from me. Exactly. So good to know others are fighting the same fight. Thank you for the encouragement and the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Paint On The Table says

    This made me cry. I could have written the exact same letter except we don’t start 9th grade until fall. But even 8th grade is a struggle lately. We have four children from Pre-K to finishing 8th grade. My youngest is showing signs of what I think is probably aspergers or something along that spectrum. Everything is a challenge before you start school. I just can’t thank you enough for this letter and the response you gave. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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