Kids of every age come with their own unique blessings and joys. Personally, I LOVE homeschooling young adults! During the middle and high school years, we begin to experience the fruits of our efforts in a whole new way, as those arrows take shape for launching. We see their character and personalities emerge, their aptitudes develop, their talents and gifts flourish. We can really appreciate the people that God created them to be, and ponder what their Maker has planned for them in the coming years.
Homeschooling older kids is dramatically different than homeschooling elementary aged children, and I don’t think there is a specific formula that everyone can follow. I can only speak in generalities, and share how we have handled these upper years so far.
Give them Real-Life Experience
Please don’t treat young adults like they are children. They are capable of so much more than society often gives them credit for. By this point in time, they hopefully have learned to be responsible and diligent from years of chores, school, and service. During these upper years, give them some experience with contributing to the household or community in a more adult-like way. Some ways that this can be done include:
Serving at Home
Teach your teens to cook, to care for children, to do repair/maintenance jobs around the house. Those skills will benefit them when they have their own homes someday. But don’t leave it at them just knowing how to do those tasks; have them put those skills to use, according to their own giftedness and interest, by serving your family. Have your culinary-lover cook one or two dinners a week for your family as a chore. Have your outdoorsy teen cut the grass weekly. Pay teens to babysit so you can go on an occasional date with your husband.
I love this photo from our “Chopped” competition!
My fifteen-year-old son, STEM-oriented son, Timothy, is doing some intern work for my husband. He spends a few hours a week helping my husband with some of his job duties. We pay him for his time. This helps my husband out so we can see him a few hours extra hours a week, it allows my son to earn some money of his own, and it allows him to get some real world experience.
Teach Music (or Tutor any Area of Mastery)
As they develop mastery over a musical instrument, teens can teach what they know to others. Currently I have two piano teachers (Ashlyn, 17, and Olivia, 15) in the house. Until recently, Timothy taught guitar to Ashlyn, but after gaining a basic knowledge of how to play, she decided to quit those lessons to focus on other things. As with Timothy’s internship, we pay our girls to teach music. They give us a great rate (smile), they earn some spending money, and six of my children are getting a great musical education!
This is a new practice for us this year, which was born out of pure need. I had just given birth to my tenth baby this past August and was not ready to start school for the year. My children, however, were chomping the bit to get started! They genuinely wanted to help out, so we decided to try out the idea of having the older kids teach a few subjects to they younger ones. Ashlyn decided to teach Astronomy to our 2nd, 4th, and 6th graders (with a Kindergartner occasionally joining in). Timothy and Olivia decided to tag team Geography for that same crew.
Churches usually have many needs that teens can help out with, from nurseries to worship bands. The community and local ministries have needs as well. Food pantries, pregnancy centers, homeless shelters, hospitals, nursing homes are all places where teens (and younger children) can volunteer their time and bless others. If you know of some other service-minded families, serving as a group can be a wonderful experience, but if not, serving with your own family is a worthy endeavor.
There are plenty of opportunities for a teen to earn some cash right in our household, as we can use all the help we can get! However, if they weren’t interning or teaching, I would likely encourage my teens to look for a part-time job. As it is, their current pursuits would make regular employment difficult to manage (as well as for me – the chauffeur – to get them there!) so they just do occasional odd-jobs or babysitting gigs in addition to their tutoring and interning jobs.
Take on Challenge
Our oldest daughter published her first novel in December, and her second is in the works to be published in July. Our oldest son is teaching himself to code. Our 14-year-old has a few books in progress of her own. Several enjoy movie-making, and work on filming every time they have some free moments.
Give them a Voice
Do you have a budding writer in the house? Or one who has developed some mastery over a skill they could share with others? Nothing inspires a teen to do their best work than knowing that others will see it!
Blogging is a great outlet for kids who want to write or share what they are learning. Our kids run blogs dedicated to:
- book reviews (Ashlyn and Olivia, who are 17 and 14)
- mentoring teen girls (Ashlyn and Olivia, along with two of their friends)
- the art of writing (Ashlyn)
- building with Legos (Young Mike, our 12-year-old Lego fan)
If your kids are shy and aren’t comfortable sharing their voice with the world, private blogs are a great option! In our family, we have a private blog where we post all of our children’s writings, but only our family is able to read it.
When your teen is ready, you might consider letting them gain some college credit! Community college, CLEP exams, or College Plus are all great options for high school students.
By the middle of her senior year, our oldest daughter had finished all the credits needed to graduate from high school, so we decided to begin college early through College Plus. She is enrolled in the “insanely full-time” track, which requires a lot of work and study. In her first semester, she has already accumulated 24 credits! We expect her to have earned her bachelor’s degree by the ripe old age of nineteen.
Give them Freedom…
I let my kids have a say in our curriculum purchases. I give them some choices in what subjects they want to study. I ask for their input when I’m deciding whether to enroll them in a class versus home study. They like to look at curriculum samples and help decide if something will be a good fit for them, and I value the feedback they give me.
I let them work independently for the most part. Throughout the week, they complete most of their schoolwork independently, and they choose most of their own literature – unless I have a particular book I want them to read.
… But Stay in the Know
While I believe in giving my older kids some amount of freedom in working independently and pursuing their interests, I as the mom/teacher have a responsibility to keep up with how they are doing, coaching them where they need help, and intervening when necessary. A few systems that have helped me to stay involved are:
Simply, I ask them about what they are learning, and we talk about it. Dinner discussions with Dad are often centered around the highlights of their studies.
I sign their checklists
When they finish all their assignments for the day, they bring me their clipboard/checklist, and I review it, ask a few questions about what they did that day, and sign it.
They write status updates
For those subjects that I entrust to the teens to do independently, I have them write a short report for our homeschool blog. The reports tell me:
- The chapters they read in their Bible, along with a few notes on what it was about and/or how it made them think
- A few highlights from their science studies
- The books they are reading/finished reading, along with their impressions of the books
The reports are only required to be three short paragraphs, but sometimes they can become long when the kids are particularly excited about something they read or studied. I read these on Friday afternoons when I update our homeschool records.
They email me math scores
My children use Teaching Textbooks, a software program that teaches, tests, and tracks their grades for me. In a perfect world, I would log in daily or weekly to see for myself how they are performing, but I have seven students from Kindergarten to college, and this isn’t always possible. I log in occasionally for accountability purposes, but in the interim, each of my kids emails me their math scores every time they take a test. On Fridays when I update my homeschool records, I enter the scores into my computer.
We study History together
This year we are studying Government and Economics rather than history, so it’s a bit different. Generally speaking, however, I use History Revealed for my older kids’ history studies. We LOVE studying history together. Reading and discussion is KEY in learning history and learning FROM History. The kids also do weekly projects and performances associated with history that demonstrates in a fun and engaging way what they have learned. This has helped me stay connected with what they are learning and how they are doing.
Writing is important. I’ve explained to my kids that no matter what their future holds, no matter what job they may have, no matter what their situation in life, they need to know how to write well. Thus, I aim to have them continually working on a piece of writing. Some years we’ve used curriculum writing instruction, and it has been helpful. This year, we are not using any writing curriculum for the teens.
As mentioned above, some of my teens write for publication, whether books or blogging. Others may have a particular topic of interest, and they ask if they can write about it for their writing assignment. I don’t often need to assign specific writing topics when they are already engaged in heavy-duty writing. I do read all their writings though. The bloggers run their posts by me for feedback before publishing, and everyone else posts their writings on the private homeschool blog.
When we use History Revealed, writing topic ideas are built right into the curriculum.
If they aren’t already writing something on their own, I assign writing prompts. Sometimes I come up with my own ideas, but when I’m not feeling inspired, then I head over to Sharon Watson’s website for some fantastic writing prompts.
Some One-on-One School
As you can see, teens can do a great deal of school independently, and we like to study certain things in groups as a family. Teens don’t need much one-on-one instruction anymore, as those days of phonics skills and spelling tests are long over. But, you are still needed to teach them certain things one-on-one.
Driving comes to mind. Even if you hire a driving instructor, you are still needed to coach your kids through many hours of driving practice.
Writing is another. Even a natural writer will need some amount of coaching, and for those who struggle with writing, a good bit of direct instruction will be needed.
Any other subject could require some one-on-one teaching, depending on when and where your kids struggle. For example, my kids usually complete math on their own, but if they don’t understand something, they know to bring it to me for help. This happens less and less in the teen years, but they do still need help learning sometimes!
Love these Years!
Homeschooling teens is a vastly different experience than homeschooling the younger years, but what a breathtaking thing it is to watch, in these years, as children transform into adults. Mentor these unique and wonderful people that God has placed in your family. Intentionally spend time to connect with them, and keep those relationships strong! The time flies incredibly fast, my friends.