Tips to Homeschool in High School
Now that our oldest son has just graduated and our next two children are already earning college credits in high school, I finally feel confident to say homeschooling works. By the grace of God, I haven’t messed up my kids the way everyone (including myself) feared I would.
Some parents are really daunted by the idea of homeschooling their children through high school. (Some of us were freaked out even by the responsibility of teaching kindergarten!) The good news is, it’s not as hard as it sounds, especially if you have laid the groundwork well in the early years.
This is the first of a four-part post series designed to encourage you that homeschooling your high school student is enlightening, rewarding, and totally doable.
Develop an Independent Learner
The key to educating older children at home is developing them to be independent learners who don’t need parents or teachers to spoon-feed them information. Instead, they are eager and able to find the information they need for themselves in order to figure out what they need to learn and how to go about learning it.
I hear a lot of parents worry about homeschooling their teens. Many moms and dads wonder how they could possibly teach something to their teen that they aren’t super-knowledgable about themselves like Physics or Calculus.
By the time your child is ready for Physics or Calculus, he doesn’t need you to teach him anymore. He’s ready to teach himself. We are conditioned to think that a subject matter expert is required to teach each separate subject because that’s the model most public high schools use. But that’s not necessary. Relax, your limited knowledge of any particular subject does not limit what your teen can learn about that subject. He just needs to learn how to learn.
At some point, every biker must take off the training wheels if they are going to succeed. Training wheels are helpful for the new beginner, but quickly become a hindrance to those who are ready to do more.
Start taking the training wheels off your child’s education process. It is ideal to begin in earnest at the Jr. High level, but it’s never too late to start doing less hand-holding and spoon-feeding.
Unlike removing actual training wheels, transferring the ownership of your teen’s education from yourself to your teen is not something you do one afternoon in less than an hour. It takes lots of time and few spills before they will be proficient at independent learning. Be mindful of the balance between demanding too much (which leads to frustration) or expecting too little (which leads to an underdeveloped individual).
Give her room to fail.
What? I thought we do everything we can to help her succeed! What do you mean?
Well, a big part of learning how to succeed is learning how to fail wisely. We usually learn much more from our mistakes than we do from getting it right the first time. Overcoming the fear of failure and knowing how to glean instruction from mistakes are important lessons our teens can only learn if they actually have the opportunity to mess something up. If we are calling all the shots and not giving them a chance, life may go more smoothly, but they won’t learn near as much.
Our sophomore daughter recently spent 6 months teaching herself Algebra 2 (not her favorite subject) in preparation for the College Algebra CLEP exam. When we questioned her more closely on her preparation methods, we discovered she had checked out the incorrect CLEP prep book from the library. She has spent all those months studying the College Mathematics material which is a similar but different CLEP exam. We were all frustrated to discover her error and lamented the time she had spent studying material for the wrong test.
In the end, she decided to go ahead and take the exam for College Mathematics. She passed the test and after the fact learned that it earned her twice as many credit hours as the one she originally intended to take.
In this case, giving her the freedom to fail worked in her favor, but it doesn’t always work out like that. Sometimes there are real negative consequences to mistakes, but that’s okay. Then we can teach our teens how to learn from it and move on. I’m pretty confident my daughter will be more careful to double check what she is studying in the future!
Follow up frequently.
Growing an independent learner is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. In the beginning, it’s is necessary to check in with your teen often to make sure they are actually on track.
Keep in mind they are likely to say all is well even if it isn’t. You need to actually examine their progress and not just take their word for it. It’s not that they are lying. (Our precious kids would never do that!) It’s just that all humans have a tendency to over-inflate their success and minimize their shortcomings.
Schedule regular meetings with your teen to go over goals, accomplishments and what’s next. These meetings may occur daily at first, spreading out to weekly and then monthly as your teen develops and grows as an independent learner.
It's worth the cost.
Passing the reigns of learning to your teen is a lengthy affair that often feels like two steps forward and one step back, but the rewards of teaching someone to teach themselves far outweigh the headaches of getting there.
So start looking for areas where your teen or pre-teen is ready to move beyond the training wheels. Give him a pep talk and a good push. Run along side him for a while and cheer wildly when he races ahead without you. You’ve done your job well.