Homeschooling a teenager holds a lot of challenges and as always, parents are anxious to get it right. While there’s no one-stop solution to all your problems, being open to trying new practices is certainly helpful! Here are some great ideas for you to try incorporating into your homeschooling routine in 2014.
1. Set aside dedicated ‘project time’ for your child – One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling your children is that they get the freedom to pursue their interests. However, in their eagerness to ensure their homeschooled children are learning “enough”, some parents fill their children’s schedules with assignments, learning routines and extra-curricular activities or classes. This leaves little or no time for children to get actively involved with the subjects that truly interest them. On the other hand, simply having the time or freedom to do what they want is not enough for your children to ensure they can follow their interests. This is where ‘project time’ comes into play. This is time that is set aside for children to do whatever they want. During this time, you make it clear that you are available to help your child in any way necessary. Lori Pickert, in her book Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners, describes it as ‘a time when you’re available and able to give your child your full attention, when materials are ready, when plans are recalled and possibilities are discussed.’ This is extremely encouraging for children and is a great way to show them that their interests matter to you. It is important that you do not force them to take up a project or learn about a particular topic during this time. Leave it to them, and soon you will find them taking up, and sticking to, a project that they care deeply about. While this is an important activity for kids of all ages, it is even more relevant for homeschooling teens who will soon be applying for college admissions, where self-directed projects score big in a student’s portfolio.
2. Look to mainstream games for help with subjects – Every parent has their own ideas and rules when it comes to homeschooling their kids. A common topic of disagreement within homes and between homeschooling families is whether and how much video games should be allowed during homeschooling. Parents hold varied beliefs in this regard – some contend that video games are harmful at worst and serve no useful purpose at best; others believe in using educational kids’ games to help their children master scholastic skills, and some even believe there is value in allowing children to play video games for as long they please! Whichever group you belong to, here is something that might interest you. In some schools across the country, teachers have begun to use mainstream video games to teach subjects like language arts, science and history, with encouraging results! As a homeschooling parent, you can borrow from these ideas to make your homeschooling routine more fun, or to help with a difficult subject. Some ideas you can explore are using SimCityEDU to teach about environmental issues, Civilization to teach about history and even World of Warcraft to teach language arts! This is guaranteed to change your child’s interest level and understanding of the subject in question.
3. Make opportunities for your teen to be alone – When homeschooling kids, the entire family ends up spending a lot of time together. In fact, at times it can even seem like everyone’s spending too much time with each other! This situation can feel particularly stifling to teenagers at a stage when they’re craving independence. If your teenager does not have opportunities to spend time away from the rest of the family, see if you can create such opportunities. While some homeschooled teens may get this time in the form of sports practice or tuition, others can make use of camping trips and the like to get out of the house more. Keep in mind that whatever option you choose, it should be of interest to your child and your teen should also be able to spend time with other teens during this period. Also try to create opportunities for your child to be alone with the other parent so that they can develop a special relationship of their own.
4. Exercise together – As kids grow older, the worry of getting into college pushes academics to the forefront, often at the price of physical activity. This sends out the message that exercise is not very important, an attitude that leads to poor lifestyle choices in adulthood. As a parent, you can teach your teens that exercise is as important as any other academic activity. Schedule some form of physical activity into your homeschooling routine, perhaps even as a family activity. This holds many benefits for both of you – it will help you squeeze in exercise into your own routine, relieve some of the stress of homeschooling for both of you and boost your child’s ability to focus and learn!
As you reflect on the past year and identify the areas you’d like to improve in for the coming year, see if some of these great homeschooling ideas will help you achieve more with your teen.