The Essence of Highschool - Part 1
- 2006 6 Jan
"What are you going to do when they get to high school?"
This seemingly innocent question was the source of anxiety for many a homeschool family in the early days. Back when our family began in the eighties, homeschooling was still very much a pioneer movement--young and full of energy, but not yet sure what the later years would look like.
But more than twenty years down the road, homeschooling your highschooler is no longer uncharted territory. It has been done and is being done with ease and success, and needn't be the overwhelming proposition it initially appears to be. Curriculum and support abound, and if you know where you're heading, you can take your students through all twelve years with confidence.
A company would never send an ocean liner out onto the high seas without a destination. In the same way, homeschooling your highschool-age children calls for a port to aim at. Yes, it's possible to look at high school itself as a goal, as many do in the public school arena. But in homeschooling, knowing where you want to end up is a fundamental question that will dictate curriculum choices, course of study, and ultimately, the success of the endeavor.
For some parents, high school is viewed as preparation for college. However, the issue is deeper than whether or not we should send our children to college. A friend of mine recently commented that as homeschoolers, we don't have to raise the next president. If we can help our children become honest, hardworking, responsible adults who love Jesus and seek to please Him in all areas, we can count ourselves successful. Whether or not they attend college is not our decision anyway, but the Lord's, and what we really need to seek is an understanding of the gifts and callings God created them with, and where He wants to take them in their lives. He may want one to be a doctor. He may have created another to excel at mechanics, gardening, or public relations.
Sometimes it is easily apparent which direction the Lord wants a child prepared in. Other times, it seems a profound mystery. Either way, the objective for high school is to get our children ready to take the place in life God has fashioned them for, even if we don't yet know what that is. In short, by the time they reach adulthood, they should be adults.
Seen from the perspective of preparation, high school is a season in which the teen works toward independence in many realms. Firstly, our over-riding desire and prayer is that they will make the transition from outward motivations of parents, rewards, and consequences, to the inward motivation that comes from a consciousness of a personal relationship to Jesus. It's no longer about "Dad said" and "I have to write neatly or Mom will make me do it over again." By graduation time, we hope to see conduct and motivations springing from a desire to please the Father.
Decision making. It's surprising how many home school parents continue to make all the decisions for their 16, 17, 18-year-olds, then somehow expect that these children-turned-adults will be proficient in the decision making process, without ever trying their wings. A variation of this is that parents say they will let their son or daughter make a decision, but if they don't agree with the conclusion, they over-ride the teen's choice in favor of one that seems safer.
True, there are occasions when age and wisdom may need to step in to avert catastrophe. But no matter how long and strongly parents seek to control, prevent mistakes, and ward off embarrassment, the time will come when their child must stand alone. How sad it is if our children have reached that point not only un-equipped, but actually hindered by we who have been given the responsibility to steward them for God.
Responsibility. We all want our kids to marry someone who is responsible. But how often we fail to raise kids that others will want their responsible kids to marry! If we plan every academic move from kindergarten through twelfth grade and play the policeman to make sure they follow through, we are in danger of producing graduates that stand around waiting for someone to tell them what to do.
I don't know about you, but I'd trade ten teens politely waiting for orders for one who can look around, see what needs to be done, and take the initiative to do it. To that end, one of the aspects to build into a high school agenda is that of independent study and self scheduling.
Goals are inspiring. But their real value is that they guide what we do in the practical realm. Choose curriculum that encourages your teen to become a responsible, mature decision-maker. Top of the list would be those materials that promote independent learning and scoring. Bottom of the list would be ones that put the burden of learning onto the parent by relying heavily on teacher input, expertise, and correcting. If the options that further these goals seem a bit rote or boring--not your dream curriculum--it may be comforting to know that students tend to delve deeply into their areas of interest, thus making up for possible shallowness in curriculum choices, and just about every course available, if followed, will give a student the necessary knowledge to pass a Graduation Equivalent Degree test.
In view of raising responsible adults, have your high schoolers analyze their own textbooks for the coming year, decide how many pages or chapters must be done each week to finish at the projected date, schedule tests, etc. Give them oversight as needed, but increasingly leave it up to the student to stay on track. Mom, don't check up on and nag them six times a day to finish, finish, finish. Have them go over their calendar and progress with Dad each week, or if Dad isn't available, with Mom. You may want to have a parent correct tests, but aim toward leaving it up to the student to keep the academic fires lit under themselves. By the time they're seniors, they should be taking full responsibility for their own education.
[Editor's Note: Next week Leslie will address the topics of life skills, myths, diplomas, and how it is all worth it.]
Leslie Wyatt has been married to her husband, Dave, for 23 years. They have six children ranging in age from 6-20, and have been homeschooling for 16 years.
This article was originally published in the Nov/Dec '05 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com To request a free sample copy, visit http://homeschoolenrichment.com/magazine/request-sample-issue.html