Welcome to the month-long series “Homeschool HIGH SCHOOL Made Easy,” a follow-up to the popular “Homeschool Made Easy” series (now published on kindle). I’m sharing tips from my experience as a homeschool graduate and homeschool mother, showing YOU how easy and enjoyable these high school years can be for you and your teen. Be sure to sign up for the entire series so you don’t miss a thing!
Though we parents notice our teen’s rapidly-changing relationship with us during the high school years, for your son or daughter, these relationships with friends represent the biggest social change. In fact, this growing need for friendship may be how your teen defines himself as a person during this period of his life.
Homeschool moms often have conflicting feelings about this urge for outside relationships. Accustomed to our somewhat isolated lifestyle as busy moms and homeschoolers, we may have such frantic schedules that we don’t have a lot of close friends ourselves, outside the house. And we’re doing fine, right? (Well, not exactly. But that’s a conversation for Rocking Ordinary.)
And other teens are so immature, they can’t be a great influence on our godly, talented, committed, exceptional young person, right?
Besides, our young person is so busy with studies and sports and work and music and ministry, what time does he have for hanging out with ne’er-do-well teens, anyway?
Life’s not about having fun, after all.
But that’s a truly harmful attitude to have, even if we’re coming to it by accident. Maybe we aren’t trying to isolate our homeschool teens, maybe we don’t mean to make them lonely, maybe we aren’t purposefully hindering them from developing relationships. But it can happen anyway if we don’t intentionally take steps to help our young people develop friendships.
I’m not talking about getting your girl into the popular clique. And I’m not encouraging your son to spend more time on the streets. I am reminding all of us that since homeschoolers have the corner on socialization, we need to bring our A-game to the high school years.
Our teens should be developing meaningful relationships across the many spheres of their lives:
- personal friendships
- adult friends outside the family
- work associates
- church friends of different ages
- ministry partners
- trusted mentors
One of the surprising things about our changing relationship with our teens is this shift away from being the sole resource for everything. As homeschool parents, we poured into our children nearly everything they knew — morally, academically, socially, practically. It’s actually quite satisfying as they grow to look back and say, “I taught him everything he knows.”
If they keep reaching out, our teens will build lasting relationships that matter.
But even as we homeschool the high school years, teens are looking away from us for a different perspective. They want to know what other people think. They want to see differences of lifestyle, opinion, beliefs. They want confirmation what they’ve been told is the way the world works is, indeed, the truth.
And, again, they want to practice adulting. They know instinctively that they are moving away from us soon, so they want to practice getting information, advice, and support from other sources. They are almost like different people from their parents, and they want to establish their own relationships.
So the teen years give them an opportunity to learn about adult relationships through friendships. By making friends of their own, they will learn valuable lessons we cannot teach them:
- how to resolve problems with someone outside the family
- how to be loyal to a friend, and how to recognize who will be loyal to you
- how to get advice from a friend, and how to know when and how to give advice
- how to discern the character of others
Outside friendships are very important for homeschool high school students. How can we help our teens make friends and influence people in a safe, productive way? Here are some tips that have helped me as a homeschooled teen (back in the day!) and that we use with our own teens now:
Remind teens that friends come in all ages and situations.
This is something we learn as adults, but most teens don’t realize. Our closest friends may not live near us, look like us, worship with us, or have much in common with us. My best friend lives clear across the country from me; we haven’t lived near one another since I was a preteen. One of my daughter’s closest friends is two generations older than she is.
Our teens are almost like different people from their parents, and they want to establish their own relationships.
A friendship is a close relationship that gives support and companionship through life. And this is where homeschool teens have a distinct advantage: no longer confined to socialize within a small demographic, they are free to cultivate deep relationships within their community, their neighborhood, their church.
Listen when your teen complains of loneliness.
Feeling alone is a common human emotion; we each struggle with it at times. You may even feel lonely right now, yourself. But when our teens complain that they don’t have a close friend, it’s tempting to brush their concern aside with a “you’ll make friends later in life” or “successful people are usually lonely.”
Even though those are true. We do need to develop the strength of character to stand alone in our convictions. There are seasons of life that are lonely. And often times, friends we make in college and adulthood last longer than the pals we played with in our teens.
But our teens do need companionship now. They need to practice all those friend skills we mentioned before, and they need to learn the painful (and fun) friend lessons from the safety of home. So when they feel lonely, when they notice a void in their social life, it is important that we listen and take their concerns seriously.
Help your teen find new social outlets.
Just like there is more than one kind of friend, there is more than one way to make a friend. Sometimes, our teens just need some helping being creative. We can’t mail-order a friend for them. And as I’ve learned from trial-and-error, setting up “play dates” to meet a new friend are not incredibly helpful, either. We don’t need to set up our teens like a blind date. Just don’t do it.
Instead, we need to show our teen how to meet people the adult way — by getting involved in the lives of others:
- join a ministry (or two)
- get a job
- volunteer in the community
- visit shut-ins
- greet visitors
- take a class
- join a sports team or music group
And then keep doing it. Our teens will make friends and lose friends, break up with friends and become disillusioned with friends. But if they keep reaching out, they will build lasting relationships that matter.
Empower your teen by stepping back.
I asked my teen daughter what to say about teen friendships, what advice teens wished homeschool moms knew. Without missing a beat, she said, “Back off and let us grow up. A lot of homeschool moms just smother their teens. Like Mrs. X, the one who never lets her daughter go anywhere without her, so she just doesn’t speak for herself. If her mother leaves the room, she’s a different person! But no one can have a real relationship with her because her mom is attached to her hip. That’s not healthy.
“But on the other hand, there are moms like Mrs. Z who don’t parent enough. Teens need consequences, and they should just suffer for their own wrong choices. Parents who do what they say and live up to their own rules but let their teens develop their own relationships and make their own mistakes — homeschoolers need more parents like that.”
So let’s back off, Mom. Let them practice friending without us. Then we’ll be here when they need us, giving advice when they want it and wiping the tears when they have them. Just like we will for the rest of their adult lives.
How do you help your homeschool high school student make friends?
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