Unexpected Things About Homeschooled Teens

I was a great mom of teens before I had teens.

I read all of the homeschooling literature. I was sure that my teens and I would discuss interesting literature and history. We’d do science experiments together. They would work in their math books, reading lesson after lesson, and somehow, the intricacies of algebra, geometry, and trig would be grasped. They would help their siblings with school work and perform much of the housework for me.

That was before I had teens.

I’ve been surprised by many things in my life, but many of the biggest surprises have been the way real life goes down with homeschooled teens. I’m sure parents with their kids in conventional schools have many surprises, but because I’d read all the “right” books and because I was homeschooling, I was sure that my kids’ experiences as teens would be different.

Here are several of the biggest surprises that I encountered in homeschooling my teens.

  1. They often develop just like typical teens.

I was certain that teenagerhood was just something created by society to excuse bad behavior and poor parenting. All of the conservative Christian homeschooling literature talked about how helpful and cheerful their kids were. How motivated the young people were to do chores and help with siblings. I was shocked when my kids displayed moodiness and bad attitudes because “they’re homeschooled!”

The teen years are not an excuse to let your kids get by with bad attitudes, but don’t be surprised when these things crop up. Teens are trying to figure out their place in the world. They’re learning about love and friendship. They’re dealing with strange feelings toward the opposite sex and figuring out how to make their own way in the world. Some days they can’t wait to grow up and other days they wish parents had never been invented.  Teens are dealing with all of this conflict using very immature, inexperienced brains along with huge rushes of hormones.

Homeschooled teens have just as many bad days as traditionally schooled teens, so there’s nothing wrong with your family. Deal with the attitudes in a compassionate loving way and don’t smother your kids under the expectations that they will never have those rotten times.

2. Homeschooled teens teach themselves all their lessons.

I can’t believe I fell for this homeschooling myth. There are many smart homeschooled kids who do teach themselves chemistry, algebra, and calculus. However, there are just as many who need a little–or a LOT–of hand holding and direction in their lessons.

This concept scares many homeschooling parents (myself included) because their math skills may be a little shaky. I’ve seen these nervous parents dump the responsibility for learning these lessons into the laps of teens, saying that “People can teach themselves anything if they really want to.”

Of course, this is true. But most homeschooled teens don’t really WANT to learn these difficult subjects. If left to themselves, they’d rather do anything else than struggle alone through lesson after lesson of upper level math. These kids are aching for a teacher to come alongside them to teach them what they need to know.

I’ve dropped the ball far too many times in this department. It isn’t fair to my kids to just glibly tell them to figure it out. On my better days, my kid and I spend time together looking up website after website, lesson after lesson until the two of us figure out how it is done.

It IS hard. But it’s the right thing to do. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my kids when they ask me to do what I signed up to do when I decided to homeschool them. They’re asking for a teacher. I can either do it myself, or find one for them.

If I want them to have an excellent education. I am going to have to make that happen.

3. Homeschooled teens need friends.

I read all the books that said that homeschooled teens love hanging out with their families and siblings more than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, my family enjoys spending time together, but around the age of 12 or 13, my kids really longed to step away from the family a bit and make friends with their peers.

This was tricky for me because I read the books that said that my kids should be best friends with their siblings.

But, it’s developmentally normal. I had to step it up socially for my teens. And, yes, as an introvert, it was very, very challenging. But it was SO important.

My kids have the best group of friends. I love these teens so much, and I am so glad that my kids have this peer group. In fact, their concept of friendship is so much healthier than mine was as a teen.

I figured out that I saw teen friendships through the lens that I had developed as a teenager–teens that encouraged one another to develop poor attitudes and to do wrong things. In reality, teens can have healthy friendships that spur one another toward growth, spiritually and emotionally.  I’ve seen it happen in my kitchen every time their group gets together.

The energy that I expended making these relationships happen has been so worth it.

Teens do need friendships. I’ve learned to encourage the healthy ones, making them a priority, and talk, talk, talk to my kids so they know what healthy friendships look like. This helps them spot unhealthy relationships and manage the challenges relating to needy or unhealthy people.

4. Homeschooled teens need just as much prodding to get things done.

There are many tales of homeschooled teens who happily do their chores, their schoolwork, and start home businesses.

In my 15 years of homeschooling, I’ve never met one of these homeschooled kids. I am sure they exist somewhere, but most of the kids that I know…are just like mine. They’ll leave their shoes laying around, have to be told to do the chores that they do every single stupid day, and need external motivation to get their schoolwork done every day.

That’s normal teen behavior. They do grow out of it. At least, I’m told that they do. The jury is still out on my kids.

The teen years are hard but they’re not impossible. Just remember that kids are kids everywhere and don’t hold yours to an impossible standard just because they are homeschooled.

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