Has your homeschooled teen outgrown you yet? Don’t freak out. It’s a normal phase of development.
I remember how it was with Miss Number Five. She didn’t do the schoolwork when I told her to do it. She didn’t do it the way I said to do it. For example: now. But mostly she just didn’t do it at all. At first, I had no idea there was even a problem. Teenagers “with better ideas” is a thing. You get used to it. After a series of these people, I developed a five step process:
I would ask her about her schoolwork
Then remind her about it
Then nag her about it
Then confront her about it
Then punish her about it.
This usually worked. What was different this time was that she would say things like, “I really am going to do it.” And she meant it.
At first it seemed like the magic fix was “tomorrow.” Then another tomorrow. Then the tomorrow after that.
You know that prayer in which you pledge to accept your death with all its pains, penalties and sorrows; in reparation for all of your sins, for the souls in Purgatory, for all those who will die today and for God’s greater glory, amen? I began to wonder: Is this it?
New prayer: O God, Please let me live long enough to see my children’s children… so they can become teenagers and give their parents what is coming to them.
Before I could help my homeschooled teen I had to figure out what the problem was. Was it me? Was it her? Was it the two of us together?
I couldn’t believe that. We used to be such friends. She had been crazy about me when she was one.
There wasn’t anything wrong with either of us. It was a normal development. You could even think of it as good news. She was ready for the next challenge.
She needed more than Me and her at the Same Old Kitchen Table.
It was specifically these three things that were causing us trouble:
1) There was no pressing deadlines to the work I gave her – mainly English. But everything else had deadlines. Her part time job, online courses, and extracurricular activities all happened at set times and places, none of which were eleven o’clock at night which was when she generally showed up at my bedside for school.
2) There was no one at home in her age group. Her older sisters had each other. They were close in age. They kept each other focused. Or they disrupted each other enough to keep it interesting. This child, though, was four years away from the child on either side of her. Where’s the fun in that?
3) The one on one tutoring method which for years was so efficient was completely worn out. Okay, I was worn out. Okay, I was boring. At least she was bored with me and I was bored with me. In this we were agreed.
Clearly, my homeschooled teen was a social creature who needed a classroom setting.
So I opened my home to teach a class. Nine of her friends signed up.
Wait, you say. Instead of dealing with one teenager you had ten? Did you not just increase your workload tenfold? Yes and no.
Yes, I now had ten students to teach, guide, and correct, rather than one. Yes, it was work. But homeschooling is work anyway no matter how you do it. I can accept work. What I cannot accept is work that is not paying off, work that has no clear direction, or in the case of my daughter, work that is not being done.
This class was work but it solved all three of our problems.
1) It had built in deadlines. The other kids were coming over Wednesdays at 1 pm, no matter what. My kid had to show up. I had to show up. You see, I needed a deadline too. I too had gotten used to the promise of tomorrow. I too had other deadlines that seemed more urgent – like feeding people – than nagging my kid to do her homework. But now, I had to have my class material ready by a certain date and time, and to have all the objectives in a tidy list, and to execute them step by step without leaving in the middle to go pound chicken. English class was planned, prioritized, and uninterrupted. It had a beginning, middle, and blessed end. “Done” is a holy word even if it does have four letters.
2) Being with peers energized us both. She enjoyed performing alongside the others, competing with them, and having discussions with them. I enjoyed the other kids. I enjoyed my own kid. And I loved teaching. This was a big surprise to me because I had previously been afraid to teach kids outside of my own. I had always dodged teaching at co-ops and parishes, preferring to contribute potato peeling or toilet cleaning skills. But for necessity, I might still be burying this latent talent in some toilet beneath a mound of potato peels.
3) It opened my kid up to what I had to offer. I mean, just because other people pay me to write and speak was not enough to get my kid to show up with bright eyes and drink in my vast experience. But once I brought her friends in, and they were paying attention, she realized that I might actually know a few things. Not only that but we were all having a blast. Lessons felt like a game. My daughter and I became even better friends than we had been when she was one.
That was English through tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade. We started with Public Speaking, then did Writing, and finished with Shakespeare.
By the way, what started as a living room co-op quickly expanded to a parish based co-op with multiple classes and more kids than we can fit in the space.
The growth just shows how many other homeschooling parents are suffering from you, me, and the same old kitchen table.
The family is the basic building block of society but the family is not all there is.
If it were, none of us would need to go to the grocery store, the dentist, or Confession. We need other people. God made it that way on purpose.
Kids need friends. Friends help shape them into the individuals they were meant to be. After parents and siblings, who else is rude enough to tell them when they are being rude?
A homeschooled teen especially needs other kids to learn with. They bring interest, freshness, new eyes, and something to watch other than that same old person sitting across that same old table.
By the way, did you ever notice that your teens behave better when their friends are around?
You ask yourself, how did that little savage get so respectful, so cheerful, so tidy? That is the magic of having friends around.
In my long experience of homeschooling, I have seen that homeschoolers make the best friends in the world. So much for the myth that homeschoolers don’t have friends. They in fact have true friends. Friends who really care about them, friends who grow up with them, and grow in virtue with them.
Bringing those homeschooled teens together for classes is one of the joys of homeschooling.
Consider buddying up with other homeschoolers to share your talents. Start small. Two or three other families is really all you need.
I will always cherish the time when I first taught those ten kids in my living room. Maybe I’ll even do it again when my grandchildren are teenagers and they outgrow their mom’s kitchen table – if I live long enough to see it.
Want ideas on how to run your own co-op? Get my Ebook: A Homeschool Co-op by People with More Kids than Time or Money. Available for Pay What You Want pricing!