I had a romantic view of what homeschooling high school would look like. I imagined a highly motivated student successfully completing his lessons. He would gleefully check off his lesson planner. He would then ask for more subjects to be added to his schedule because “learning is so much fun”.
The reality is, I forgot it was a stressful workload. I forgot there were new skills to learn. I forgot there were subjects that were uninteresting. I forgot that I wanted to be anywhere else but at school.
During our first year of high school, my son has done a super job being patient with me as I try to find my footing in our new phase of homeschooling. This year has had its set backs and huge leaps forward. It has truly been full of wonderful moments connecting while learning together. Most importantly, I have learned from a valuable source of fellow homeschool moms, what not to do as a homeschool parent in the first year of high school. I have learned that high school requires flexible planning, prioritizing skills over lessons, creative motivating, and above all, shepherding his heart.
#1 Flexible Planning
Planning a successful homeschool high school hinges on the child’s goals. What does your teen want to do after high school? I know this can be hard to narrow down, but try to determine if your teen wants to go to college, trade school, or enter the work force directly.
Next, you will need to make the four-year-plan. My Freshman wants to major in science in college. Find out what the colleges require for that degree. Are the requirements heavy in science? What classes or activities can aid this? For example, would introduction to organic chemistry be a benefit? Would an internship during the summer months help? Include these options in your four-year high school plan.
Be realistic about workload. I made the mistake of expecting my Freshman to handle nine credit hours. What was I thinking? I wanted to frontload his four years so his senior year would allow for special interest classes and extracurriculars. Schedule out the years with the core requirements (Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science). Then, sprinkle in the electives once you have seen how your student adapts to the new workload.
It will take time, plenty of observations, and honest feedback to know when to add more to the plan. However, you will definitely know when it is too much.
#2 Prioritizing Skills
I had to learn to prioritize extra time to teach note taking skills, bullet journaling, time management, task prioritization, and study skills. I didn’t schedule his day for this! I quickly forget what comes easy to me was taught in the classroom by patient teachers and it takes extra time. These are fundamental skills for success in college so do not overlook them and definitely schedule more time to build these skills. If that means that the awesome new logic curriculum doesn’t get used this year because there isn’t enough time in the day, that’s fine. It will be picked up the following years.
Remember you make the plan and the schedule, so don’t become a slave to it. Allow extra time in his school day for skill building knowing this will boost his confidence in future high school classes and beyond.
#3 Creative Motivating
Unmotivated. Uninterested. Easily distracted. Welcome to the teenage years! This is the biggest struggle of homeschooling for yours truly, as a Type A parent. Especially when I have created this exceptional plan. I feel like giving it all up! But then I remember that I’m not alone. There are other mamas who have gone before me and their kids graduated and are not living in their basements. I can do this!
Really, these tendencies, to procrastinate and general avoidance, have always been there but with the new stressors of high school, they seem glaringly obvious. Why? Because homeschool just got real. Now there is a transcript, a deadline, and one chance to get it right…and it’s all up to us to get it right! Hand me the paper bag!
There are solutions to motive our dear unmotivated loved ones. Ask your teen what is their favorite thing to do in their downtime? Is it screen time? Exercising? Doing a hobby? For my family, it’s uninterrupted alone time. I like to call this Chill Time.
Next, find out your teen’s least favorite subject(s). If it’s History and English, schedule them first in the day. After they are completed, offer them an hour of Chill Time.
Consider their learning environment. Would your teen prefer to complete their trouble subjects in a comfortably pleasant room of the house? That may also look like a room without clutter and low lighting. Would they like to listen to soft music during the lesson? Perhaps, while drinking coffee on the porch swing? Yes, please! Do what you can to create a preferable learning space.
We also started scheduling Adventure Days for a fun family activity. This may be visiting a museum, kayaking, hiking, or doing something new. Use your imagination for motivating opportunities.
When it comes to motivating your teen, troubleshoot for a solution instead of pushing them into submission. It won’t work, dear parents. Been there, done that, and didn’t get the t-shirt.
#4 Shepherding the Heart
When we drive the cows for hay, we create a human fence around them to nonverbally direct them where to go. We push from behind and the side until we get to a fence line. Then we walk, gently applying a little pressure, slightly to the back flank, guiding them forward. They can barely see us in their peripheral. They know we are there, guiding them, but they still know they have the freedom to break the line. This gives them a sense of trust. If they break the line and run off in the field, we gather them up and start over again. Eventually, they make it to the barn grateful.
Teens, like the cows, don’t want to do something unpleasant, even though it is for their own good. All we can do is point them in the right direction and walk with them. Teens also need confidence knowing when they make mistakes that we love them and believe in them. We must guide our teens with grace through the marathon of high school, to make the wise decisions and head in the right direction. It has to be their choice without us making it for them.
Finally, brave homeschool parents of high schoolers, I cheer for you and pray for your resilience, patience and perseverance. If we can make plans with their goals in mind, prioritize their needs over the schedule, consistently encouraging them to press on, while guiding and nurturing their heart, I think we will be alright.
We can do this.