Articles by Donna

The Amazing Wonderful Easy High School Years

Home Educating a high schooler is often seen as scary. Parents worry for years about credits and calculus and College Entrance. It is as though this is a time of schooling that promises to fail the parent and force them to put kids in real school. Of course, there are numerous cheerleaders to that effect all around and often parents feel less than qualified.

Well, I am here to tell you I have LIVED through the high school years!! And my child and I are alive and well!  And much like any fears we have of the unknown, it was all for naught. I have heard the forewarnings by the naysayers for all the different ages and stages of my children – the weaning time, the terrible twos, the precocious five year old, the smart aleck seven year old, the pubescent ten year old and the adolescent hormone raging thirteen year old and, of course, every parent’s nightmare, the TEENAGER that drives (which is a whole different article in itself!)

Each stage of course was NOT what folks said it would be. In fact, I found every age fascinating in a variety of ways. By the time my oldest hit what others call teenager and I call young adult, I had begun to doubt the negative and to anticipate the positive.

I must admit there were some hair-raising times. Seeing a sixteen-year-old whose hormone induced reasoning quickly turn into a 2-year-old tantrum complete with breath holding, feet kicking and throwing one’s self on the floor thrashing about is not a pretty site to behold. Many a time, with glaring eyes and hands around his neck, I asked my husband just whose idea was having children, ANYWAY? Despite this, I have discovered that even the most stressful times were learning experiences for us as parents as well as people.

The emotional guiding of this tall person has been much the same as when he was younger-lots of love and direction. Since we are both night owls, we had a lot of late night chats about doing the right thing in a world where those standards are not agreed upon. The developing of the whole person was still a lot of work on both sides, but the academic part was a piece of cake. A breeze. A walk in the park.

I never considered the possibility that perhaps I was incapable of guiding my children through the high school years. First, I have never believed that “teaching” was my responsibility, but rather the student’s. Secondly, and more importantly, I have never entertained the thought of any other option but home education, so failing was not an issue. We pressed on and stuck with home education, even when it may have been difficult.

Around the time when my oldest was about nine years old, I realized I had taught him very little school”, but he had learned quite a lot all on his own. He had learned because, although I did not sit and force feed facts and information, I gave him my time, guidance and resources. I provided the books, games, computers, trips, conversations and real life experiences with real people. As we quietly moved into the high school years, somewhere around thirteen or fourteen, he simply began to do his own work. I mapped out his high school requirements and let him go with the books and resources I had already purchased. When he stumbled onto a problem he could not solve for himself, we sat down and figured it out together. But I didn’t ask where he was in the book or demand tests. I seldom assigned work to be done. Well, except for one notable time when, due to pregnancy hormones, I came down with “teaching ” fever, and I just knew no one was learning anything!!!!

I gave my then sixteen year old a book about ancient civilization and said Okay, read the chapters, answer the questions at the end, and then I will give you a test.  Four months later he was still on the first chapter. In the meantime, I had gotten some reading books on the same subject, he read through them all and came to me to discuss the beginnings of Greek and Roman culture. When I inquired why he hadn’t finished the first book, he said Well, I couldn’t just read it and learn something; I didn’t know which questions you would ask and which answers I would need. “Oh,” was my reply.

You might say the light bulb came on, or at least grew brighter. I realized he wants to learn these things and will, but not within a time frame I inflict on him. He HAS learned a lot of things that I still haven’t a clue where he learned them. He has a good handle on many things and those things he doesn’t just do not matter at this time.

The thing that is most important to me is that we have spent eighteen wonderful, amazing, mentally stimulating, emotionally exhilarating years together as a whole family. I know this son of mine as well as I know myself. I don’t have memories of bad teachers, crying about a failing grade, a bully taking his lunch money, labels that follow him through his school years, or a teacher being unfair. And more importantly, neither does he. This makes all the hair-raising aspects of parenting worth every minute.

I didn’t just get through the high school years. I didn’t simply endure spending 24 hours a day with my child; I enjoyed and savored every moment.

I often joke with people that the teen years are a replica of the toddler years, but with a taller person. If I didn’t trust experts and systems with my young child, why would I have any more confidence in them during the years when attitudes, character, and standards are being cemented as well as hormones needing to be controlled? Was it hard work? I suppose, but parenting IS hard work and to wimp out just because someone says we aren’t qualified deprives us of some wonderful times with our children.

High School is not the time to stop parenting and hand it over to someone else, but is a time where we reap a bounty of memories to store away for the years ahead. High school is not a scary time to fear but a time to enjoy the earlier foundation we have laid as well as taking steps with our child towards becoming an adult. We slowly move from parent/child relationship to parent/friend. They will be out in the world soon enough, busy with life and not needing us as much.

When listening to parents with older children, I hear a lot of I wished I would have spent more time with my child during the teen years, but I have never heard I think I spent too much time with my teen. I want to watch my child become an adult without looking back wishing I had spent more time with him. More importantly I don’t want to look back and realize that experts and peers had more time to influence him.

Homeschooling a high schooler is for the faint hearted and for the strong, for the unsure and the confident, and for the brave and the weak. As parents we can overcome whatever we need to in order to provide the best life for our children. Whether or not we think we can do something is irrelevant in the long run, we just do it. Our children, our young adults, are worth the effort and the time. They, too, need the memories of a time when they were loved, protected and respected.

High school is a time when we, as parents, are stretched to our limits and come out on the graduating end thankful we held on to our children and thankful we gave them a large part of ourselves on a daily basis.

Donna Mitchell
This article was originally published in the
November/December 2001 issue of HELM
(Home Education Learning Magazine),
and subsequently published in the on-line ezine

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