The Challenges of Homeschooling Teenagers

homeschooling-teenagersAs the homeschool movement grows and matures, more and more teenagers are learning in a homeschool setting. They’re doing work through online charter schools, correspondence courses, or working through a homeschooling curriculum, or simply learning at home by whatever works for them and their family. There is an amazing variety of ways to homeschool your teen. Homeschooling younger children isn’t easy, and then teens bring their own, different challenges. Here are a few issues that you might find while homeschooling teens, and hopefully a few helpful suggestions.

Problem: Your Teen Has School Induced Issues

If you’ve extracted your child from the clutches of a dysfunctional public school system, it’s likely that they have all sorts of emotions and habits and mental blocks concerning learning. Even though they’re older, they still need that “detox” time when they leave public school. This can make everyone frantic, because if your kid wants to finish up coursework and apply for a diploma on the public school dictated schedule, it often feels like there’s no time to waste goofing off.

Solution: You Have The Time You Need

My best advice is to take a deep breath and think calmly about what will happen if your teen doesn’t completely finish all of her or his high school diploma at exactly the schedule dictated by public school. Even public schools often allow kids to take an extra year if needed. And many colleges accept homeschooled students who don’t even have state issued high school diplomas. Research the options and you may find that the situation is not as panic-inducing as it first appears.

Solution: Homeschool is Flexible

But what if you really, absolutely have to have it done on time? Homeschooling is flexible. After your teen gets some detox time, they can double up on work, have some longer school days, work on Saturday mornings or whenever is best for them. You’ll probably find that they’re moving through their material faster at home than they would at public school, simply because they’re not shuffling from classroom to classroom or spending time at assemblies, rallies, or spending the first 15 minutes of every class listening to roll call and announcements.

Problem: Your Teen Feels Socially Isolated

The longer you homeschool, the smaller the number of kids of similar age at homeschool support groups, park days, and etc. This can make even a veteran homeschooler feel isolated and as if they’re missing out on important teen experiences.

Solution: Do Things in the Community

Now more than ever is a good time in your child’s life to make sure they’re participating in activities in their interest areas. 4-H (not just farming!), Civil Air Patrol, Young Marines, Sierra Club, Scouting, Anime club, etc., there’s probably something out there for your kid to do. Make sure they get there!

Solution: Make your Own Things to Do

If you really live somewhere dismal, it might be the time now to start your own support group or club. It doesn’t have to be all homeschooling kids. Start a teen reading group at your local library. Work with an established organization that doesn’t yet have a teen presence and get them to be more inclusive of younger people. Finally, there’s the Internet. There are myriad ways for your kids to socialize on the Internet that can be fun and safe with proper parental oversight.

Problem: She Can’t Do This Work, and Neither Can I

If your teen is struggling in a subject and you don’t feel up to tutoring it.

Solution: Tutoring and Homework Help

Check around for tutoring services. While some can be quite expensive, there are often college students or advanced high school students lurking around who might be able to help you out. Maybe someone you know is a retired teacher and knows one. And don’t forget to check YouTube. There are many educational and tutorial videos on almost any subject you can dream of there.

Problem: Family Drama

Close quarters with even the most laid back of teens can bring drama to even peaceful households.

Solution: Family Meetings

Try holding regular family meetings, where everyone can make their feelings and concerns heard. Keep the tone positive, make sure to mention the good along with the bad, and resist the urge to minimize your teens’ concerns. Let them talk. You’ll be amazed at how awesome and thoughtful they really are. It may take some time for them to open up. It takes patience, but it’s well worth it in terms of your relationship with your kids and helping to promote the general family welfare.

Solution: Counseling

Don’t hesitate to seek help with a homeschool friendly family counselor, pastor, or other social services provider if you feel you have issues that are too much to handle alone. Teen years can be tricky to navigate, even for the most attentive parents. You don’t have to do it alone.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. Bon voyage in your teen homeschooling adventures, and feel free to ask me questions about how we do things here at Rebel Homeschool. I’m totally full of suggestions waiting to be unleashed on the world.

9 Things Every Prospective Homeschooler Needs To Know

These are my nine most important points that anyone who is considering homeschooling their child / children needs to know. This list was compiled purely from my personal experience as a homeschooling parent.

Homeschooling is a Lifestyle Choice

Homeschooling is of course first and foremost about providing an education for your children. The mechanics of that seldom allow you to continue living exactly the way you did before you start homeschooling, though. Not only does homeschooling change the structure of your school days and most likely require you to rearrange your furniture, it often changes how you spend your free time. You might find you’re reading more as you prepare for lessons. You’ll probably end up on a lot more outings to museums and nature centers. And most importantly, how you interact as a family will definitely change.

Homeschooling is Rarely “On The Clock”

Some people manage to make school run exactly on the same time table as their local public school. They start early in the morning and end early in the afternoon. Most of us end up rearranging our “school” time to better meet our needs. Especially in the younger years, you’ll rarely need the six hours of typical public school to finish a day’s work with kids at home, even if you’re doing a “school at home” model homeschool. Also, one of the joys of homeschooling is that you can arrange your learning hours to fit your child’s temperament, various work and activity schedules, and personal preferences.

Homeschooling is Fun and Frustrating

Homeschooling can be an intense joy. Helping your kid learn a new skill or working on some project or science experiment together is very rewarding. On the other hand, the days when nothing is going well and everyone is out of sorts can take on an ominous, looming presence that can make even the bravest of us quaver. Some homeschoolers describe every day as perfect bliss. Good for them, but the majority of us have good days and bad days. Having wonderful days doesn’t mean all your days will be wonderful, and having a string of bad days doesn’t mean you’ve lost your homeschool magic and will be doomed to suffer forever more. Like the rest of life, it’s a cycle.

Your House Will Probably Be Messier

The parents who manage to harness their homeschooled kids into reliable labor sources to keep the house sparkly clean have my profound respect. Here at Rebel Homeschool., we concentrate on learning and keep the house somewhat better than “pigsty”, but not even close to House Beautiful.

You’re Not Just Homeschooling Your Kids, You’re Also Homeschooling Yourself

Studying Star Wars By Nicki Dugan, via Wikimedia Commons
Studying Star Wars By Nicki Dugan, via Wikimedia Commons

You will learn things alongside your kids. You’ll relearn things you forgot. You’ll learn things public school never bothered to teach you. You’ll probably discover that you have a lot of learning of your own left to do and decide to go learn some stuff just for you. Put another way, learning is contagious. You’re likely to catch it too.

You Don’t Need A Degree to Homeschool Successfully

Is my Anthropology degree useful for homeschooling? Yes, but other people teach their kids Prehistory, Archaeology and related subjects without having studied them at a university. It also doesn’t matter if you’ve forgotten how to do long division or calculate the area of a circle or what in the heck a gerund is. You can review. If you really don’t know it, you can learn it with your kids.

Homeschooling Isn’t Just For Exceptional Kids

Plenty of regular kids do homeschool. It’s not just for kids with special learning needs or genius kids or kids with other issues. Your kids aren’t required to win a national spelling bee or discover a new comet or successfully breed a new species of wombat just because they’re homeschooled. They can be “normal”, “average” kids who are learning at their own speed and enjoying their childhood while they do so.

Homeschooling is not an All or Nothing, Forever Choice

You can homeschool this year and send your kids to boarding school next year. You can homeschool for whatever length of time works best for your child and your family situation. You can return to homeschooling after a period of other schooling. You can “afterschool” your kids while they’re in public school to cover subjects that public school or other school doesn’t cover or isn’t meeting your child’s needs. Homeschooling is above all things, flexible.

Time is Your Friend

Homeschooling gets easier as you go on. The early years, when you’re teaching vital skills like Reading and basic Math, are much more challenging than later schooling, which can be more student directed and independent. Older students can use resources like online tutors and learning centers to fill in the gaps with subjects that you don’t feel that you can teach alone. Also, there are many more programs for older students, such as Book clubs, Chess clubs and Computer Science camps. Your options expand as your kids mature.

Why Aren’t Your Kids in School? And Other Questions that Annoy Homeschoolers

When my kids were young, I went to extreme lengths to make sure that we were never, ever out in public during “school” hours. I wouldn’t even let them have outdoor recess time. As we all grew more comfortable with homeschooling, school hours became less like prison hours, and I started coming up with stuff to say to random strangers.

children_playing_chess_on_the_street_-_santiago_de_cuba_-_cuba
Photo by Adam Jones Adam63, Wikimedia Commons

Why Aren’t Your Kids in School Today?

It’s an early release day.
It’s a teacher work day.
Not untrue answers, as they’re true for *our* school, i.e. the Rebel Homeschool. If anyone mentions that their kid isn’t out that day, or, like one poor lady, freaks out because she thought she had missed picking up her kid early, I either explain “private school” or “homeschool”, depending on how friendly they look.

What Grade Are You In?

I’m in X grade! (X = whatever grade they would be in if they were in public school.)
Most people do not want to know the convoluted details of your homeschool day, where you’re doing 6th grade math and College level Literature and 4th grade remedial handwriting. They want a handy piece of stereotypical conversation to be able to chat your kid up on a safe subject. I did have to coach my kids in the answer for a while. I used to tell my kids: “you are in whatever grade is on your Math book”.

But Aren’t You Sad that You’ll Never Get to Go to Prom?

Not really.
This is a backdoor socialization question. There are plenty of other dances to go to outside of public school. Not to mention public school friend’s dances that my kids occasionally get invited to attend. For anime geek kids like mine, prom is not a big priority when you’ve already been to a couple of spectacular cosplay masquerade balls.

What’s 5 times 7? What’s the capitol of Rhode Island?

35. Providence. And you do know that the full name is “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”, right?
The worst annoying questions are the people who think they need to do surprise pop quizzes to make sure the kids are actually learning something. In my experience, it’s relatives and very close friends who tend to do this more than strangers in the store.


My Best advice for dealing with random questions: Come up with answers ahead of time and be prepared. A this is why we homeschool “elevator” speech is also very handy to have at hand.


10 Archived Comments

  1.  Diane

    Unbelievable! You handle it so calmly and so well. I think I’d be showing them what my kids had learned in my Judo class! Isn’t it amazing that when we do something perceived as just a bit different, we are stamped as weird. (The bad weird). I’d probably be hauling out the Homeschool statistic sheets and pointing out to them just how advanced homeschooled kids are . . .
    Thank you for not being like me!!!🙂

  2.  Ingrid McCarthy

    I’m still waiting for the “what, no school today?” question! I’m actually a bit disappointed we haven’t had it yet – maybe we need to get out more!!! I high school kid asked me yesterday if they had to wear uniforms…such institionalisation! Thanks for the tip on Rhode Island – what’s the capital of Tasmania? (just a bit of international geography sharing). Good tips🙂

  3.  Kelli Becton

    I’ve had a couple of bad experiences- today someone asked “don’t you have school today?” My son looked right at him and said, “Yes sir, we homeschool- I just gave a speech to a group down the hall.” (I was laughing)
    I had a man actually get rude – He asked my son what grade he was in (knowing that we homeschool) when my son hesitated – he said, “What, he doesn’t EVEN know what GRADE he’s in?” The real answer was the best response- (he was 9 ) and I said- “That’s because he’s a 4th grader doing 6th, and 7th grade work!” I wouldn’t normally be snarky, but he was truly a jerk.

  4.  Sharon

    How About”: “Isn’t it boring to stay at home all day and never leave the house?”
    This has been said to my 14 yr old daughter several time while she is out in public. She came up with a great answer “If I never leave the house then you are either imagining me or you are talking to a hologram”

  5.  tlryder

    Sharon, that is so funny. I like your daughter’s wit!

  6.  tlryder

    Sorry you’ve had to deal with the bad responses. I think we all get them at some point, but even knowing they’re inevitable doesn’t make it much easier to deal with in the heat of the moment.

    My favorite one so far has to be the dental office receptionist, who, when I told her that we didn’t need a school excuse said, “Oh, that’s right, you’re the weird ones! OH! NO! I mean homeschoolers!”

  7.  tlryder

    Some larger homeschooling families make matching tee shirts to wear on field trips, and so do some homeschool groups. I guess those sort of count as uniforms.🙂

  8.  tlryder

    Hi Diane,

    I was a mess in the early days when dealing with this. It’s just time in grade, as they call in in the military, that makes me more sanguine about it now.

  9.  Bpbproadrunner

    I had someone ask my kids where Columbus landed in the New World. She answered the Bahamas. This person used to be a teacher and was totally convinced that it was the Canary islands which is off the coast of Africa. We didn’t argue with him, we figured he would find out soon enough.

  10.  tlryder

    Yeah, Columbus did stop off in the Canary Islands, but that’s really pushing the definition of “New World”.