Obstacles or Advantages?
- Friday, January 25, 2008
When we're homeschooling young ones, we find ourselves juggling babies and toddlers, finger painting and potty training, kindergarteners and phonics. Then come middle graders and the challenges and joys of cursive, multiplication, lava-exploding volcanoes, and the Little House on the Prairie books. Throughout all we do with our kids during the early years, we hear plenty of feedback (some positive and some not!) on our homeschooling. It seems that everyone has an opinion on our educational choice, and many feel free to pass on their wisdom to us.
Most parents quickly learn that not all advice is equal. We may be occasionally stymied by an unusual question or flabbergasted by an audacious remark, but overall, we tend to take comments judiciously. We hear the person out to the end, take what is relevant and beneficial to heart, and simply let the rest go.
Another major issue we are forced to confront repeatedly during our parenting and homeschooling is that of comparing our children to others. Is our baby walking as soon as our friend's baby? Why doesn't our 3-year-old speak in complete and understandable sentences yet? Shouldn't our 6-year-old be reading as well as his 4-year-old cousin? Must fractions be taught in 5th grade, or can they wait until 6th grade? And what about Latin? Everybody else is studying Latin!
Fortunately, it isn't long before we realize that this type of thinking can easily lead us to frustration and even despair, with our children, ourselves, and yes, our homeschooling. So, being the smart people that we are, we tell ourselves to stop the comparing! For the most part, we manage this task well over the years, with just occasional slips along the way.
We gradually prove to ourselves what we have always believed: that our children truly do progress at their own pace and in their own fashion. We watch as they develop their individual strengths and passions, and we rejoice as we see them mature over the years. We track their weak areas. We strive to challenge them with methods that will best aid their overall spiritual, emotional, and academic growth.
As our young children approach the 12-year-old mark, we begin to feel rewarded for all of our efforts. Certainly, the kids aren't perfect, but we see how much they've achieved during their early years. We feel validated (perhaps even a bit proud?) in what we have accomplished together. We also might have the thought that no one would dare to question our homeschooling choice any longer. After all, look how well it has worked!
But wait... what's that? A big turn up ahead in the tunnel of homeschooling? Whoa... where did the light go? What is this anyway? I thought we were through the hard stuff. Hey, slow down! I'm not sure we're ready for this part of the trip!
Sorry, but there is definitely no slowing down now. It's true that we have reached the last segment of the homeschool journey, but this part can often be tricky, with many unexpected twists and turns, some difficult uphill tracks, and even a few thrilling but nerve-wracking downhill plunges.
As someone who has finished the homeschooling through high school process with two of my children already (and will soon have two more teens graduating), let me assure you that the final destination is worth every moment of the trip. You need not regret your decision to homeschool your teens all the way through high school. The rewards are many and wonderful.
However, you should set out on this journey well aware of the fact that you will be questioned. People will doubt you can do this job well. They will try to convince you to change your plans.
However, forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. If you are ready for the onslaught of subtle doubts and outright attacks, you and your students will be able to carry out your plans and reach your goals without taking a risky detour through institutional high school instead.
So what are the two biggest questions that will be thrown at you as you approach the high school years? More importantly, are they really the obstacles people say they are? Or are they actually advantages that will benefit your teens immensely?
WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION?
What--again? Isn't this the most common complaint we hear from the very beginning of our homeschooling? Yes, and the questioning won't stop now. As a matter of fact, it will only increase. After all, teens need to be around other teens. Have you not heard? So the popular culture insists, and disappointingly, many parents agree.
I will not spend much time here discussing the many negative aspects of "socialization" within the traditional schools. We are all quite familiar with the peer pressure environment of high school. Most of us lived through it ourselves (if barely!) in the distant past. We are also treated to ongoing updates as to the schools' violence issues, the flagrant immorality (or at the very least, the prevalent "romance" mentality), the incessant bullying, the rampant disrespect for teachers, etc.
It is true that teens need to learn to deal with many different types of people. They also should grow comfortable in standing up for their beliefs and gain valuable experience in leading others. However, these goals certainly don't need to be (and many would argue that they often can't be) accomplished in an institutional high school.
How can we, as parents of homeschool high school students, be sure that our teens have friends, learn to get along with various personalities, develop cooperation and teamwork skills, continue to respect authority and their elders, grow in their ability to empathize with others' problems, and mature into confident leaders--all the while maintaining their own values and faith?
There are actually many ways for positive "socialization" to occur within the homeschool setting. Be encouraged that employers and colleges have consistently pointed out that they see a big difference in the quality of independence and leadership, as well as general "people skills," that homeschoolers possess as compared to the typical high school graduate.
Here are some different ways that your high school teen can experience a wide variety of people and environments while being homeschooled.
(Remember: not all of these choices will be beneficial to all students. Each person is very much an individual with different needs, and each family must determine the experiences they believe are best for their teens. In addition, all situations should be previewed as to appropriate supervision and other such considerations.)
Positive "Socialization" Opportunities
- Church and community
- Orchestras or symphonic bands
- Nursing Home or hospital volunteer work (Call around--these places are so grateful for visitors!)
- Teaching children's homeschool classes: art, music, drama, science, etc.
- Teen interest groups: writing, art, hiking, etc. (There aren't any such groups? Start one!)
- Sports: homeschool groups, church groups, community leagues (recreational or competitive). Don't forget the "overlooked" sports, such as fencing, tennis, etc.
- Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and scouting-type clubs (great leadership training!)
- Part-time employment in a variety of fields
- Camp counselor work
- Mission teams
- Community college classes (These provide a chance for academic studies amongst people of varying ages, who are generally more serious in their life outlook, while avoiding many of the social pitfalls of the typical high school.)
The above list is just a start. I am sure you can think of other experiences for your teens that will help them learn to relate well to others in different situations and to gain an appreciation for the many varied personalities they will encounter in this life.
Finally, there is another big plus to being homeschooled through the high school years. Your kids will naturally have more time, freedom, and flexibility than the typical student, so they can take advantage of valuable opportunities that simply would not be possible if they were burdened with the time constrictions of a traditional school.
Yes, this is the really big one, isn't it? This is the one thing that really scares many homeschool parents--even those who manage every other pothole in the road with no problem at all. Those people in our lives who do not support our homeschooling choice are fast to point out the looming problems. In fact, they usually start doing so when the kids are about 5 years old! They boldly state that we are in no way capable of teaching our teens calculus or physics, and how on earth do we expect to give them the benefit of group literature analysis in our isolated front room?
To be honest though, even without the unwelcome input of these usually well-meaning but often irritating advisors, most of us as homeschool parents are quite proficient at giving ourselves a hard time about this issue. We question whether we really can handle this high school thing. We remember our own days in high school (and yet very little of what we were taught there!), and we doubt our ability to communicate such knowledge to our ever-growing and changing teens.
And we are so afraid that we will miss something!
On that issue, we can relax. After all, every student (homeschooled or not) will have gaps in their content learning. However, if teens understand how to learn, if they know how to find the answers they are seeking, they will fill in these holes as the need arises. In addition, when something is learned because it needs to be learned, the retention of knowledge is much greater.
The reason these academic matters are so important to us is that we care so greatly about our children and what their adult lives will be like. We want them to have it easier than we did; we want them to find fulfillment in life; we want them to be happy.
However, we need to remember that we cannot control what their lives will be. We can influence the future in many ways, and it is good that we do so. Yet, in the end, each young person is responsible for his or her own choices, goals, and actions. We also need to remember that each of our children is unique. We know this fact, yet sometimes we act as if we have forgotten it. Each of our children will follow different routes to different destinations. What works best for one teen might be a disaster for another.
Some of our high schoolers will need to learn advanced calculus, and some will not. Some of our students will have an interest in car repair, and some most definitely will not! Some parents can teach calculus, some can teach car repair, and some can teach neither, but we can all help our children find a way to learn what they want or need to know.
As parents to homeschooled high school students, our job in the academic arena is to assist our kids in determining what their goals are and the different ways available to reach those goals. This job encompasses searching out the best materials and/or methods--those most fitted to the learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses of each student. Fortunately, we have many options open to us.
My oldest two children followed what most people would consider a very demanding academic route during their homeschool high school years. Actually quite different in their interests, they each studied at their own pace in what we feel was a relaxed fashion. The result? They were both offered full academic scholarships at many selective colleges. Homeschooling had nothing but a very positive effect on their ability to excel in the academics of their choosing.
My next two children are in the midst of high school homeschooling at this time, and they are also relishing the freedom to choose much of what they will study and how exactly they will reach their different goals. Neither of them is as academically intense as their older siblings, but they both have definite ideas as to what they want to accomplish in their lives. The variety in our children can be both challenging and invigorating!
My own goal is to help them all along their way through our high school here at home. Daily, I remind myself that, whatever others may say, I have seen the fruit firsthand, both in my own children and in the lives of many other homeschooled teens. Homeschooling through high school does work. May you and your children enjoy it and reap the many benefits, too!
Kim Lundberg is the busy mom of 9 great kids. She and her family have been homeschooling for 16 years, and they make their home in beautiful northern California. Kim enjoys teaching drama, writing, and world history classes, as well as reading mysteries, baking goodies, camping, and listening to her kids talk, sing, and make music.
This article was originally published in the Nov/Dec '07 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com
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