Overview: Your teen hates homeschooling high school, and no one is happy. In this heartfelt article, a mom who has been there shares insightful ideas for getting you through.
“Uuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhh!! WHY do I have to homeschool all the way through high school??? Why can’t I just go to public school like all the normal kids? I’m such a freak! I HATE THIS!!”
And so it begins. Again. And for about the gazillionth time you wonder if maybe you should go ahead and give them what they want and send them to the local school. Because phew, it sure would make life easier than this struggle with a bad attitude EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Assignments aren’t getting done, learning is not happening, and the tension is palpable. This is exhausting! And NO ONE is happy. There are too many tears — often yours! Maybe it’s time to change the plan.
What to do and NOT do when your teen hates homeschooling high school
Well, I have always said that every family must decide for themselves whether or not to homeschool. There is no shame if you decide that it is not the best thing for your family.
But I personally don’t think you should give up that easily.
“Wait, what are you talking about??” you say. “THIS IS HARD. I have TRIED, all right? I am not giving up ‘easily,’ but there comes a time when enough is enough. Sheesh!”
And you may be right. But I’d like to give you some things to think about first. As a mom who has stuck it out through four homeschool graduations (one more to go), I’d like to present some ideas that may help your perspective for how to handle it when your teen hates homeschooling high school.
DON’T let your teen decide
There are a lot of people out there who say that your teen should be allowed to decide for themselves how they want to be educated. If the teen wants to go to public school, these people claim, then that’s what should happen, and the parent should go along with that desire.
Ya know what? I don’t agree. Yes, teens have more opinions about things now that they are older, and yes, they should definitely have a say in their education. But I don’t believe that means they get to unilaterally make the “to homeschool or not to homeschool” decision.
In our household we didn’t even allow the topic to come up for discussion very often. We were homeschoolers, and that was it. “You don’t have to like it, kid, but you do have to realize that this is the way it is. So you might as well get used to it.” (Did I just say that out loud? :-) )
I’m sure this sounds hard-hearted and inflexible to some. But the way I look at it, we are fulfilling our parental role by deciding that we know best for our children rather than letting them dictate to us. We, the parents, are the ones with the life experience. We already know what public school is like, so we know all about whatever it is they might be missing by being at home all day. (And it’s not much that’s positive, imho.)
Related Reading: Opportunities My Teens are Missing Because We Homeschool High School
Does this mean we NEVER allowed our teens to express their opinion about this? Of course not. But we didn’t allow them to go on about it day after day. And we certainly didn’t discuss it when their attitudes were bad. If teens want to be allowed to share their concerns, it needs to happen in a respectful manner, hello. So the whining and crying and slamming doors didn’t win any points around here.
I think parents today are scared sometimes to remember that they are the adults, and that their teens are still NOT adults. We win the wisdom competition and the life experience competition and the big-picture perspective competition. Your teen does NOT understand the ramifications of what they’re asking — BUT YOU DO. Don’t be afraid to disagree with them. Don’t be ashamed to pull the parent card. We’re parents; this is what we SHOULD do.
Just like you made sure your littles didn’t run out into the street, things don’t change now that your kid is taller than you are. They still don’t know everything — even though they think they do, lol. If you have good, solid reasons for wanting to homeschool high school, then there is no reason to give into their whining for a social life or to get out of the house.
DO know your WHY
Please take a moment to notice that last sentence: the part where I mentioned having good, solid reasons for wanting to homeschool high school. This is crucial. Why do you want to homeschool high school, anyway? If you know your WHY for keeping your teen at home, very thoughtfully and specifically, then that makes it a lot easier to stand firm when that teen is giving you a hard time.
Do dialogue with your teen
Let’s say that your teen IS approaching you calmly and respectfully and wants to propose the idea of forsaking homeschool for a local brick-and-mortar school. Then YES, definitely sit down and dialogue with them. This is very important and should command your full attention.
Don’t just assume you know why they want out — although you might have a good idea, lol — let them express for themselves what their reasons are. Give them the opportunity to tell you exactly what they think is wrong with the homeschooling gig and why they want to go to school instead. LISTEN. They want to be heard, and if they are communicating with humility, then it is mutally respectful of you to give them that chance.
Then, if you have developed your own WHY, you can explain to them all that it is and all that it means. Talk to them like they are someone who deserves an explanation. Let them ask questions. Don’t try to pin them down or tell them how wrong they are; just explain your own position.
And then, when you’ve talked it all out, you can tell them that while you appreciate their point of view, you’re going to have to be the heavy and make this decision against their desires. It’s not easy to do this, and you can tell them that. Tell them you want them to be happy, and you think this is the best way to ensure that over the long haul.
DO meet your teen halfway
Another topic for discussion would be to ask your teen how homeschooling could be better for them. You can meet them halfway, not by giving into their demands, but by showing that you are trying as hard as you can to meet their needs in a way that is more acceptable to you, that works within the realm of homeschool.
Maybe it IS the social aspect of public school that appeals to them. Well, then, it’s up to you to make homeschooling more enjoyable by finding ways they can make new friends.
Maybe they are bored by their curriculum. Then find ways to switch it up. Are you letting them pick what courses they take? This is one way to let them have a say in their education. Give them as much freedom of choice as you can. Find more than one curriculum about a subject and let them choose which one they want to use.
Maybe they don’t understand their work. Then make yourself more available to them, or hire a tutor, or enroll them in an online class with a “real” teacher.
Maybe they think you’re hovering too much. Then step back and let them enjoy a little more self-determination. Or a LOT more. At this stage they could truly be handling ALL of their schooling all by themselves. So let them, if that is what they want. Or at least start working towards that goal.
If you’re worried they won’t be diligent, then perhaps outside accountability is what is needed. Any type of co-op, or an online class with an actual teacher and definite schedule, or dual enrollment, or tutoring — these can help a lot to encourage a teen to get off their you-know-what and do decent work.
And now it’s time for them to make a choice: the choice to either abide by your decision, to prove that they are as mature as they say they are by giving in gracefully and with a good attitude; or to rebel against what you’ve said and make life miserable for everyone, including themselves.
What if they take the second path? What if you’ve had this big, long talk, you’re adapting your homeschooling to their concerns, and they STILL want to be difficult about the whole thing?
As one who has had to deal with this personally, I say give it time. Be patient. Stand firm, show love and affection, praise them, encourage them, come alongside them in whatever way you can. If homeschooling is truly what you think is best, then you can work through even this.
One thing to remember is that senioritis is a thing. So if this bad attitude has just come on fairly suddenly since last year, and your kid is due to graduate in May, then that might be all this is. ALL of my kids had it to one degree or another. They were SO READY TO BE DONE. And that can look a lot like what we’ve been talking about.
The difference is that they don’t hate you, or even school, in their more lucid moments. They can usually actually see when they’re being unreasonable, even if it is only grudgingly admitted. They still do (most of) their work, albeit maybe not thoroughly or well. Truly, they are just counting the days.
Be reassured that senioritis is only temporary, and all you have to do is make it through to graduation. Then it does get better, really. Hang in there!
DO be realistic
With the kid who just has a bad attitude and it never gets better — and even with the senioritis kid — sometimes you gotta realize that while you are standing your ground and staying the homeschool course, at the same time you can’t hold very high expectations for the quality level of the schooling that occurs.
Can I speak plainly for a second?? Be honest: what do you really remember from high school? Not much, if you’re like me. Do you really think that just because our kids are homeschooling, they will remember very much of what they learn right now? I think realistically we have to say no.
Yet we have these grand ideas of days filled with learning that are rife with educational breakthroughs and moments, when everyone is thrilled by what they’re reading and are willing to write at length about it and present to one and all, and everyone is happy, and we all feel so fulfilled.
Anyone really have ANY days like that? I don’t recall that many, even with the kids who were the better students. We had MOMENTS like that, but we certainly weren’t characterized by that type of atmosphere on a daily basis.
Yet we all have this dream that we’ll get there — if only our kids would cooperate, lol. Well, sometimes they just won’t; and in that case, I advise that we stop fighting against reality.
Sometimes you just gotta grit your teeth and get through it, even if it ain’t pretty. Sometimes for the sake of that we-WILL-homeschool-through-high-school mountain that we want to die on (and it’s a very valid one to pick, I think), then we need to relax our standards and our expectations and make the act of schooling easier for the hormonal ball of frustration — aka the teen — that we are dealing with.
Forget about that 20-page research paper; turn it into a 5-paragraph essay instead. Drop the dry, boring textbook and find some workbook texts in their place. Don’t do midterms and finals AT ALL. Cut down on the number of credits you think are necessary. Find other ways to earn credits, like getting a job or volunteering or making a project.
My personal feeling is that the relationship is way more important than the assignment. If the assignment isn’t working, find some way to adapt it so that it will. If the course isn’t working, go ahead and drop it.
NO, this is not the same thing as letting your teen “win.” This is called adapting to the individual needs of your child, who is obviously frustrated with the status quo, for whatever reason. High school does NOT have to be that hard for them OR you.
Do feel free to remind them that all these choices that they are making, to ditch the harder work in favor of the easier, may come back to bite them, if they can’t get into the college they want or get the job they applied for because they didn’t stick it out in Chemistry or Algebra 2. Or if they get to college and get an F on their first paper because they never learned how to do one when they had the chance.
Sometimes your words will make a difference; sometimes they won’t. LOL.
DO carefully consider the alternative
If all else fails, and you are still slogging through the mud of frustration, and the battle still rages day after day, you might think you want to do public school after all. Please only do this after considering very carefully.
Did you know that public high schools often don’t take homeschool credits? This is SO WRONG, but unfortunately it can be very true. Check with yours before making any promises to your kid about sending them there.
Remember, too, that like families, public schools may seem great from the outside, but when you get to know them better, there may be issues you weren’t aware of. Peer pressure, drugs and alcohol, sexual promiscuity — this is not what the school presents to the world, but this IS what goes on. And teachers are not the educational gurus you might think they are. I wrote a comparison of public school vs. homeschooling here: Homeschooling vs. Public School: From a Mom Who Has Taught Both.
Also, consider the fact that your teen’s response to homeschooling is a window into their character and their spiritual/emotional maturity. Your kid with the bad attitude is actually in a spot where they need you now more than ever, although they don’t realize it. Do you really want to farm them out to someone else for most of the day to figure it out on their own? Or worse, to figure it out based on the influence of teachers/students who don’t have the same behavioral code as you do? Don’t forget that if they have a bad attitude about doing schoolwork at home, going to the local school does not guarantee a change for the better. They may still hate their schoolwork just as much there. How is that an improvement?
There are no easy answers to any of this. Our kids grow up and become individuals, and sometimes those individuals can be really challenging, can’t they? Sigh. But we still love them and want what’s best for them, and that’s what we need to cling to.
Here’s my final piece of advice: try to think about how you will feel 10 years from now. Will you be glad you stuck it out, even if it wasn’t everything you had hoped it would be?
I know I am. I think you will be, too. Hang in there.