Instant Homeschooling: Five Steps to Take When You Bring Your Teenager Home for School

Jan 28, 2019

One of the things I find most inspiring about homeschooling is the bravery of moms and families to go a different route.  Let’s be honest: homeschooling requires some courage. It requires sacrifice of time and finances. It means that you are taking on ALL the responsibility for education in a very real way.

This is a blog for those of us who find ourselves homeschooling in the blink of an eye. One day your teen is in school, and the next day your kiddo is home…with you…every day…all day.

While I am not an expert, I am someone who found herself with a reluctant teenager sitting at the kitchen table wondering what to do. Let me provide some encouragement and some very practical things to do.

STEP #1: Breathe and Relax

STEP #2: Deschool

STEP #3: Research and Network

STEP #4: Incorporate Variety & Novelty

STEP #5: Adjust, Adjust, Adjust

 

STEP #1: Breathe and Relax!

New homeschool mom, you’ve made a big decision, and as with all big decisions, it is important to stay calm and confident. Take deep breaths and keep any anxiety you might feel to a minimum. Let me put some of this into perspective. You are not the first person to homeschool, and you won’t be the last. While it might feel as if you are isolated and alone, there are many, many homeschoolers, and this is not a unique situation in the least. Your family may not understand, your former school teachers won’t understand, and perhaps even friends won’t understand. That’s ok. You aren’t making a mistake, and it is going to be just fine. If you don’t believe me, just google homeschool graduates. They are out there! And if you need more encouragement, Philippians tells us that we can do all things through Christ!

 

STEP #2: Deschool

Instant HomeschoolingWhen you bring your child home, it is a shock to the entire system. This is especially true if you have pulled your student mid-semester or mid-year. It’s a bit like bringing a new baby home: EVERYONE has to adjust, and this doesn’t happen overnight. It is important to just destress and to be a family. Do things you WANT to do. Don’t make the mistake most make: hop right in and recreate the exact school situation at home. School is school; homeschool is homeschool. They are not the same.

Most times a precipitous change of educational format means that there was a build-up of conflict and stress. There is a reason for your decision to homeschool, and it may have been fraught with emotion, tension, and tumult. It’s time for healing and soothing.

Take this time to do some of the things that may not have been working so well in the past. Get to know your student. Have him do productive things that he likes and enjoys: read, art, build, exercise, etc. This should be a time of encouragement and affirmation of your student.

Since this blog is written with a parent of teenagers in mind, I know your first thought is, “What about the credits?” or “What will we do? How will my child graduate in time?” Moms, the 12-year educational cycle is an arbitrary number. You can graduate earlier, and you can graduate later. Take the time to build your student up and to do the remainder of these steps so that you set your student up for educational success.

A final outcome of your deschooling should be a determination of what your homeschool outcome should be. Is your student striving for a simple high school graduation towards a vocational future? Is your student college bound? Or is there some combination of things your student would like to explore? You don’t need to know all the specifics; in fact, you likely can’t know those, but knowing a general tendency for your student is helpful for the next step.

This blog, from The Homeschool Mom, contains much more detailed information on deschooling.

 

STEP #3: Research and Network

You likely began your research before you even made the decision to homeschool. You had to learn what your state requires for homeschoolers. If you haven’t done this, you should do it now. A great place to start is with Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Their site provides information for each state, and it is truly a wealth of information.

During the research stage you want to look for (1) information on local resources and (2) various curricula. You need to know “what’s out there.” One way to do this is to begin networking and interacting with other homeschoolers. Find some local homeschool support groups. Two sites to use to uncover what groups are available are this one and another source by Homeschool Life. These support groups will serve as a source of information for and will provide you with knowledge of local opportunities and events.

Facebook is another great source of information, both locally and nationally… and even internationally. There are likely hundreds of groups filled with thousands of homeschoolers ready to provide guidance and share information and user reviews. You may get conflicting opinions if you do post a question on social media. My advice: take it all with a grain of salt, reflect, ponder, and do what is best for you and your family! Homeschoolers are a fiercely independent group, so feel free to do your own thing!

Another aspect to research is what your teenager needs to graduate and what courses you need in order to meet the desired educational outcomes. This may be a combination of state requirements, future college choice considerations (e.g., foreign language requirements), and student interests (e.g., enjoys all things film). What you want to create is a diploma plan outlining what classes you need for the remaining time of school. Again, remember, the time is relative! You could use the quarter system, the semester system, add a fifth-year, etc.

SPECIAL NOTE: Your plan is your plan. It is a general idea of what you think your student will do over a period of time. If you need to provide this document to a local community college or to others, keep the plan general. For example, call your English classes English I, II, III, or IV. This will allow you to adjust without too much rework or explanation later if you decide against taking a particular class at a particular time. J

While researching, compile a list of compelling curricula. This may be the most overwhelming thing about starting to homeschool. Please believe me when I say that even veteran homeschoolers are overwhelmed by the amount of choice and the number of providers available. There was a time, twenty-five years ago, when options were few. Now, however, it is almost a tsunami of vendors purveying books, ebooks, complete curriculum, online schools, online courses, distance learning, and a host of live experiences locally. Think about your student’s learning styles and what will work for you and your family.

 

STEP #4: Incorporate Variety & Novelty

Instant HomeschoolingIn the spirit of successful homeschooling and not re-creating traditional school at home, this is the time to incorporate some variety and some novelty in your school. It is my advice that you do not put all of your eggs in one basket. I suggest that you use a variety of approaches to teach your student at home.

Choose some local instruction or co-ops. Choose a couple of subjects you can do at home with little more than the book and answer key. Choose some online providers that are reputable. (This blog discusses what to look for in an instructor.) Do not, do not, do all of it yourself. It is too much for a new homeschooler, in my opinion.

Add in outside activities. Check out local theater groups. Most areas have local homeschool sports if your student is into that. There are speech clubs, religious groups, square dancing groups, travel groups, etc. One of the open secrets in homeschooling is that there is sometimes too much socialization! An irony if there ever was one!

Your teenage student is going to CRAVE interaction with others and friends. This is going to require rebuilding an entire social network. As much as you might like his or her school friends to remain active in your student’s life, this may not happen. It’s going to be a huge adjustment for your student. Building new friendships and finding other activities will mean more effort for both of you. This situation may mean lots of driving for you. It’s just something you’ll have to do if you want your homeschool to succeed. Online learning can help with some of the adjustment, but local interaction is still important.

Finally, I urge you to save time for the electives and for the fun, exploratory things. Seek out opportunities for computer programming, film, or whatever area of interest your student may want to explore. Homeschooling affords you the opportunity to have the time to relax and allow your student to check out those things that might be a calling on your student’s life. Your student’s involvement in these choices of everything from curricula to activities will create buy-in and will provide a sense of ownership and stewardship. The transition is so much easier when the student is onboard and involved.

 

STEP #5: Adjust, Adjust, Adjust

New homeschool mom, a plan is only a plan, and you can adjust. Taking the time to try a variety of curricula and approaches will show you quickly what works and what doesn’t. All of us constantly adjust what we are doing. That is one of the beauties of homeschooling. You can change directions when things are not working.

 

Welcome to the world of homeschooling! You’ve got this! It’s simply baby-steps all the way, and eventually you are done and wonder how quickly it went by!

Jodi Guerra is an Instructor and Coordinator with Excelsior Classes, a consortium of online teachers dedicated to excellence in online instruction. She has been involved in the education of children and adults serving in public schools, private schools, and corporate America. For the last eighteen years, Jodi has worked with homeschool students in private classes, tutoring situations, and in the virtual world of online education. She seeks to make every learning situation fun yet productive. Besides teaching, Jodi loves to read and finds both cooking and sewing to be creative expressions.