MOST HOMESCHOOLERS start off in the beginning for just “one year at a time” during the elementary years, trying out the homeschool lifestyle to see if it works for their family culture. I put that “one year at a time” in quotes because this has become an infamous homeschool phrase. We all get sucked in to try it for “just one year,” and then we are hooked. Even me.
I did not initially want to homeschool, but my husband told me to try homeschooling our preschooler for “just one year,” and that is the end of the story.
Maybe you started homeschooling to overcome learning difficulties, to help your gifted child reach his full potential, or to better meet the challenges of your special needs student. Perhaps you wanted to avoid bullying, negative peer pressure, and other worldly influences in the public school system. You may have even set out to give your child a firm moral foundation, to pass on your own values and principles, to prepare the young person for a lifetime of worship and ministry.
Then high school comes along, and you are tempted to quit.
The teen years are too difficult, the high school subjects too demanding, the social pressures and hectic schedules and graduation requirements too scary. Parents who begin with all the best intentions find themselves unable, unwilling, and unprepared to meet the demands of high school. So they put the student back into public school.
I nearly did the same thing.
The teen years are already super hard on parents. You’ve got hormones, you’ve got relationship issues, you’ve got identity struggles, you’ve got separation difficulties . . . and your teen does, too (ha!). This makes for rough going for a few years. There are also the academic and parenting pressures of launching a new adult into the world. It seems way easier to just pack up the teacher’s manuals and put everyone back on a bus.
But maybe we have it all wrong.
What if instead of freaking out (like I did), instead of giving up (like I wanted to do), instead of stressing out about homeschooling high school (like maybe I occasionally still do) . . . what if instead, we reinvent the entire process? What if we simplify everything, strip homeschooling to the foundation, and find our purpose, our calling, our joy – and then pass this on to our young people?
Find the Purpose in YOUR Homeschooling
It’s time to recommit yourself to why you are homeschooling your teens. For these high school years, connecting to your values remains more important than ever. Your homeschool why – that purpose, that commitment – will change everything. Your homeschool why refocuses your teaching, defines your curriculum, guides your choices, and ultimately simplifies your high school journey.
For my own family, there are four main reasons my husband and I continue to homeschool during the high school years. These goals shape our education, our activities, our entire family life. Maybe you will identify with some of these homeschool values. Perhaps you will add more priorities for your own family.
1. To pass on our values to our teens
The teen years become a most critical time to reinforce beliefs, principles, and values that shape the rest of life’s decisions. Now’s not the time to give up, but rather to dig in.
Teens are hypersensitive to inconsistency and (dare we say it?) hypocrisy. They yearn to experience a life of meaning, and they want to see actions lining up with lifestyle. They’ve been promised all through childhood that God is good and that clean living pays (so to speak), and they are looking for evidence that the world runs consistently with the principles we have been teaching them.
They want to see us live our faith.
Mom, the single most valuable lesson you will ever teach your children is to love God and love others. These teen years represent our greatest opportunity to walk the walk, to humble ourselves before our children, to transparently share our spiritual journey, and to help them launch out on their own.
If we can keep this perspective, if we can stay laser-focused on that ultimate goal, the rest of our fears and frustrations will fall away. When we seek God’s best for our teens while humbly admitting our own inadequacies, we will find the Spirit’s supernatural enabling for each day.
2. To teach academics with a purpose instead of pressure.
Hey, I know academic pressure. As a teen back in the early years of the homeschool movement, I remember the stress of proving to homeschool was legitimate, when my parents saved every test and worksheet, every percentage point was scrutinized, every college entrance exam becoming a measurement of worth. Now a homeschool parent, I am keenly aware that every A seems to be worth thousands of dollars in college scholarships, every C feels like a personal failure, every essay and test measuring whether we should or should not be trusted with the education of our own offspring.
Yet, I do not want to teach to the test. I do not want to measure my student’s success on a number scale. I do not want to tie test-taking or communication skills with financial incentives. The broken educational institutions around us fail young people that way. Homeschooling should be different.
Nevertheless, it takes faith to spend more time understanding than regurgitating. It takes faith to wrestle with the messy truths of history rather than memorizing pithy sayings. It takes faith to slow down math to learn the principles instead of the shortcut.
When we connect with why we are homeschooling, when we remain true to our convictions about who God created our young people to be and the kind of difference He desires in their lives, then the distractions of grades and tests and arbitrary standards grow dim. We find a new focus on the purpose of each day’s lessons, and we find a new vision for a lifetime of learning.
3. To guide our teens through relationships.
One of the most significant changes in the teen years is in how they view relationships with friends and with the opposite gender. Young people desire close friends and learn painful lessons about cliques, gossip, and breakups. They notice boys and girls in a new way and closely watch their friends flirt, date, and break up. They experience powerful temptations. They define what kind of friend, what kind of boyfriend or girlfriend, and even what kind of spouse they will become.
This is all super hard.
Some people homeschool to try to avoid all those messy teen dramas. Others send their teens to school thinking teens need to be around more of all that socialization. In reality, homeschooling allows us to walk alongside our young people through these experiences, offering comfort, counsel, and protection as they make life-long connections to people from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, ages, and even beliefs.
Diversity represents a painful struggle in our culture. Homeschool teens have a distinct opportunity to represent biblical love, sensitivity, and unity within their communities and churches. We as parents must demonstrate the courage and humility to reach out first, ourselves. Our relationships within our family and without the community teach powerful lessons to our teens.
4. To prepare our teens for responsible, productive adulthood.
Through the teen years, we take definitive steps to train our teens for adult life. They work jobs out of the home. They pay bills. They manage their time and their finances. They participate in ministries and community events. They choose a college and figure out how to pay for it. They take responsibility for their own mistakes and learn how to live with consequences. We have said many times that if our teens can survive high school with us as well as their first couple of years at college on their own, we will never worry about their adult lives. They will have the tools and experience they need to keep going.
Isn’t that what homeschooling – and all of parenting – is about: showing our young people how to have a relationship with God, teaching them to love others, preparing them to fulfill their responsibilities to God and man?
These are our family’s four most significant principles for homeschooling high school, goals that define what we are doing and why. You might notice what we left off of our list: college acceptance, giftedness training, career launching, isolation from the outside world, controlling their choices. Those motivations may be central to some homeschoolers, but they are completely peripheral to the Garfias family homeschool why.
When we keep our priorities in focus, all of the rest is simplified. Don’t believe me? Turn the page for how you can make homeschooling high school easy.