Homeschooling when kids are little is a lot of work but it’s usually enjoyable. Young children want and need to be with their parents. As those loving kids grow into their teen years, the enjoyment can drain from a homeschool relationship. Teens are looking to break away from their parents and form their own identities. Keeping your teen homeschoolers happy is about finding a way for them to exert their independence while you remain in charge of the educational aspects of their life. Read on for tips on how you can find that balance.
Engage Your Teens in Organized Sports
Allow your kids to select a team sport that appeals to them. You’ll have to do some research to find a coach that aligns with your values but team sports have many benefits for teens. First, doing well as part of a team can raise self-esteem. Kids also learn to work on relationships with people they may not especially like or agree with. They will learn time management by balancing their sports obligations with their school work and other home activities. Perhaps most importantly for teens, it gives them a space to try out their growing independence. As a parent, you’ll have the security of knowing that it’s still a supervised activity. So break out those softball gloves and soccer balls and find a league near you.
Let Teens Choose Their Own Classes
Real learning thrives when students have choices. By high school most kids have prioritized where their interests lie, so allow teens to select their classes accordingly. Let’s say the arts are highly valued in your family, or perhaps an art elective is required. There are a wide variety of subjects that fall within the realm of creative expression – literary arts (writing, poetry, storytelling), visual arts (painting, sculpture, photography), graphic arts (drawing, animation, printmaking), decorative arts (architecture, interior design, fashion), and performing arts (theatre, dance, music). Being able to pick their favorite subjects will make learning more enjoyable for the students. There may be a bit less variety in core classes that fall under the umbrella of math, natural science, and social studies, but there are usually still some options from which to choose.
Allow Teens to Pursue Passions Projects
Everyone wants to feel that their work is meaningful and fulfilling. As an adult, you know that schoolwork is meaningful. It provides important skills they’ll need for life and is preparing them to be successful adults. For teens, though, schoolwork may feel pointless. Their brains are wired to seek immediate reward and instant gratification. Instead of allowing them to receive those endless dopamine hits through hours of mindless video gameplay, encourage them to take on a passion project. They’ll engage the planning parts of their brain and learn to delay reward or take pleasure in the smaller everyday achievements that working on something meaningful can provide.
To work, it’s imperative that you allow your kid to choose their own project; it’s their passion, not yours. On the other hand, with the short attention span of teens, it’s also important that you ask them to stick with the project until it is completed, if it can be done in under a year, or until they’ve given it a fair try, anywhere from six months to a year. After the initial time investment, revisit their project and see if they want to continue or try something new. You should never grade this project though since it should also be a safe space for kids to fail.
Let Your Teens Plan
Finally, another way to give your teens more autonomy and keep them happy at home is to let them feel in control. Have your kids plan their days. Of course, this is within reason. Explain that even adults always have someone else to answer to so their plans need to be cleared with you and make sure it fits your schedule too. Let them plan other social events. You probably already have connections to other homeschool families in your area. Encourage your teens to work with their homeschool friends to plan social events. This could be a prom night for everyone, an end-of-the-year picnic or a group camping trip. Whatever they decide to plan, it’s important to let them know you are available to help, but then step back and let them take charge.
All of these options work to keep your teen homeschoolers happy by acknowledging that while they are not quite adults, they are no longer children. Encourage them to make connections with people outside your family circle, find their passions and make good decisions. When you are willing to engage in trusting give-and-take with your teen, you’ll be surprised at the ways these adjustments can make life happier for everyone in your home.