The decision to homeschool your teenager is a serious one. In comparison to younger children, teens require greater dedication of the parents to the responsibilities of home education. Teenagers are more independent in the completion of their course work, but the parents assume a larger accountability for planning and evaluation. Because they know their children best, parents make excellent guidance counselors. Together with their teens, they must begin to make life goal decisions as they consider which courses to pursue.
Beginning to Homeschool in the Teen Years
Those who begin to homeschool when their students are teenagers may have different problems than those who have homeschooled for many years.
- The parent may not be aware of his student¹s level of learning. His grade level may or may not help in determining which curriculum to use and at which level. They can start by using a diagnostic test to determine how to place their students.
- If the student is behind grade level, it may be a great discouragement to him to realize that he must work in graded books at a level below where he thinks he should be based upon his age. The parent should assure him that by homeschooling, working one on one, if he applies himself, he should be able to raise his grade level quickly.
- A teen-aged student may be resistant to the idea of homeschooling; it may be because he has not been under authority. It would be wonderful if the student started out wanting to homeschool, but the decision is ultimately the parent(s)¹ responsibility. The student needs to submit to that authority. The parent needs to help his student understand that he is his God-given authority and placed in that position for his protection and well-being.
- Depending on the reason to homeschool, if there is concern about a lack of friends, the family may want to get involved in a local support group or co-op for the teen-ager to meet new friends. If one of the reasons to home-school is peer pressure on the student or his inability to choose good friends, it might be good to exchange socialization with his age group for extra time with Mom and Dad.
While teaching your teen at home may offer extra challenges, most home schoolers with that experience report that the rewards of better relationships and character development as well as academic successes have made it well worth the effort.
Pay Attention to Schedules
Since teenagers can do most of their school work independently, it is important to pay particular attention to their schedules. The parent must carefully consider an established time for course work and other activities. They should plan the due date for each assignment (and consequences if assignments are not completed on time). The student might prepare a journal detailing his work and review this daily with his teaching parent. If difficulty within a subject is discovered, the parent would then schedule a time to concentrate on it. Although the older student may occasionally become a substitute teacher for the younger children in the family, this should not be overused, possibly jeopardizing the education of all the children.
Teaching High-School Level Subjects
Many home-schooling parents are concerned about their ability to teach high school level subjects. These fears are usually unfounded. Home-school curriculum providers frequently offer help for the parent educator through their teacher manuals or over the phone. In many cases, parents can find help through local home-school support groups or through community resources. One possibility for families living in college or university towns is to find an international student willing to assist in tutoring. For example, an engineering student from France could tutor your family in French, math, and science. The international student receives the benefit of a home away from home and earns extra spending money. The home-school family not only receives help with the academics but also an invaluable cultural exchange. Additionally, home-school families should not overlook the resources of local businessmen, many of whom are eager to share their expertise with young people for little or no cost.
Another way home schoolers can deal with high school courses is by enrolling their students in dual credit courses with their local community or junior colleges. Dual credit courses are those for which high school juniors or seniors receive high school as well as college credit. In Texas, state-supported community and junior colleges are now required to treat students from private and parochial schools including home schools in the same way they treat students from public schools for enrollment in dual credit courses. Home-school students have been able to earn many credits which they have been able to transfer to four-year colleges after graduation from their home schools.
High School Graduation
As administrators of private schools, home-schooling parents determine what is necessary for graduation. Completion of high school level coursework and extracurricular activities usually make up the criteria for graduation. Parents may have their teens take nationally normed standardized achievement tests and/or SAT or ACT college entrance exams to determine educational proficiency before pursuing an apprenticeship, trade school, or going on to college. If your student plans to attend college, become familiar with scholarships that are available.
It is a good idea to keep records of classes your teen has taken, his grades, and his attendance records. While not required by law, these records will be very helpful in building a transcript, which will be necessary when applying to enter college or the military.
Pursuing Special Interests
Because high school at home usually takes less time than if the student were in a formal school setting, the teen has extra time to pursue special interests and projects or even apprenticeship. This provides the teen with a unique opportunity to develop career and life goals. For example, a teen who works as a volunteer in a hospital may discover that her goal to become a nurse may not be what she really wants. She may come in contact with physical therapists, develop an interest in physical therapy, and decide to pursue a career in that field instead. It is much better to discover this goal change before entering nursing school.
Because home school students tend to be mature, responsible young people with good work ethic, they are often in demand in church nurseries, family businesses, and other part-time jobs. Some of these jobs are available during weekdays and sometimes during traditional school hours. It is perfectly legal for home school students to take advantage of such opportunities if their parents are in agreement that they can do this work and maintain their academic studies. Recently the issue of child labor laws was raised in regard to these kinds of activities, and THSC representatives sought the help of a U.S. senator in obtaining a clarification from the U.S. Department of Labor in regard to this issue. Officials from this department ruled that participating in such activities and employment opportunities does not violate the federal child labor laws.
An apprenticeship or special project provides an excellent opportunity for the student to gain practical experience in his chosen field. It may also afford the chance to earn money which can be saved for college or for launching a business. Through the development of special interests, the teenager may also be able to gain early entrance into the field of his apprenticeship or be given higher placement in his college coursework.
Home-educated teenagers have unique opportunities for socialization. A truly socialized teen should be able to interact comfortably with people of differing ages, social strata, and cultures. Home-schooled teens are not in a classroom of inexperienced, immature age-mates for most of the day, so they have more opportunities to develop friendships with people different from themselves. Church, civic, and sports programs offer the opportunity to develop friendships with others their own ages. Often activities associated with their special interests or apprenticeships provide contact with individuals of diverse social and cultural backgrounds, so social isolation is not usually a problem.