My homeschooling beginnings were quiet, like an insignificant ripple in a pond. My eldest daughter entered preschool and school. While she was there I researched this new idea of homeschooling. The more I read the more I loved the idea. Two things drew me to the idea. One was that our family budget would not be as stretched and there would be less pressure on our weekly finances. Resources that were required for schooling costs could be reserved for family outings, holidays, and needs. The other was that we could work on building a healthy family and home culture without unnecessary conflicts with outside commitments. Life at that time felt like we were caught on a merry-go-round, until the day we got off the merry-go-round and tried something else.
With young children starting out we began very slowly. We were blessed by the support of an experienced homeschool consultant and by a small, local homeschool support group. The children spent their days in old fashioned play, with a scattering of reading, writing, and maths instruction. We visited the library, extended family, local parks, and enjoyed neighbourhood walks. They were simple, old-fashioned days. Those days allowed us space to grow our family culture and to give thought to building our family relationships.
With teen-aged children our family life is colourful and lively. Today old-fashioned play has turned into occasional babysitting and hobbies. Today many more hours are devoted to study time. Today our family-life has expanded to include a growing circle of friendship, community, and ministry. Our lives today have grown from those early, quiet, beginnings.
I have written loads of posts and held loads of discussions with Mum's and Dad's interested in beginning their own journey into Home Education. Any piece of advice or encouragement I give is tailored to their particular situation and is different to something I might suggest for someone else, although my ideas are framed within the Charlotte Mason, Christian Classical and Natural Learning philosophies of education. How, why, and when you begin homeschooling is dependent upon your family lifestyle, your family culture, your family budget, your family home, and your family work. Herein lies both the beauty and difficulty of home education. How you plan it, the resources you use, the groups and activities you participate in, how you structure your days, are all dependent on these varied factors.
Your journey is your very own. Somehow that is both freeing and frustrating.
Beginning the journey of learning at home with teens will be different to beginning with younger children. The transition is a little smoother if your teens have some hobbies they are committed to and some study goals they want to achieve as these provide your starting place. If your teens are burnt out by school or are unsure about how to purposely fill their days, the transition can be a little bumpier and it may take a little longer to find your rhythm.
TIPS FOR TEENS
1) You may find your teens need extra sleep. Especially if they are burnt out for any reason. Allowing them to set a later wake up time and have a peaceful start to the day is important. Alternatively an earlier bed time may suit your teen better. You don't want them to sleep the day away and grow into unhealthy sleep-wake patterns, but acknowledging their real need for extra rest is important.
2) Growing independence and responsibility is important to encourage in the teen years. Independent learning is one skill that is important for life and assists in the development of healthy independence and responsibility. This can be encouraged through working on a weekly schedule together, considering healthy time management principles, and taking responsibility for their study. Some teens welcome this with open arms, while others need gentle guidance and encouragement, taking responsibility and independence one step at a time. Self-guided study books, study habits, and projects are an ideal way to introduce and grow these skills. This is one reason I lean towards choosing study resources created by home educators. Home educators allow scope for a wide age range and abilities, they allow for independence and a variety of study schedules.
3) Literature holds an important place in life with teens. Make time to share literature with your teen. Set aside time to read-aloud, to discuss, to ask questions. If possible open up the family dinner table as a time to chat about movies, literature, art, music. There will be times when you and your teen will not see eye-to-eye on personal issues, and it is these times when being able to talk about literature especially keeps our lines of communication open. As a parent, learning to ask questions that promote discussion and learning to listen to my teens is essential. Make time for literature. Honey for A Teen's Heart and The Question by Leigh Bortins are two resources I have found helpful in this area.
4) Guidelines for technology and social media are important. The goal is healthy usage, not simple restriction. We have some simple rules like no technology at the dinner table, internet is turned off at certain times, social media access after study time is completed, and no devices in bedrooms. Family camping trips are an excellent method of taking a break from technology and social media. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr would be an interesting book to read and discuss with your teen in this area.
These are some really basic and general tips for making a start home educating your teens. But this lifestyle of learning, although not always easy, does not need to be overcomplicated. Take your first steps, and you will grow into it.