when teens don’t want to homeschool anymore…and how to keep the magic alive

I think teens in seventh grade and up really need a say in whether they want to homeschol or not as being a willing participant is an important part of homeschooling high school.  

It is also important, though, to know that teens and especially homeschooled teens who may never have been in any type of school setting cannot anticipate exactly what they need, and that you as the parent have the experience to be able to anticipate more knowing and loving the child standing in front of you.  You also know what the schools are like in your area, and what options are available, and whether or not these would be a good fit.  Some teens that are reluctant and difficult at home are also extremely reluctant and difficult at school and the setting doesn’t really change what is going on.  Some teens do better at school and work harder there than at home.  Some do much better at home without the added social or competitive pressures at school.

Other confounding factors include that some states allow homeschoolers to partake in public school sports or even participate in certain courses, which really meets some teens’ needs, and some states don’t.  Some school districts easily and readily accept home credits in early high school for what you have done in the home environment, and some will not accept those credits, so that can limit options for teens who want to go to high school for junior and senior year.  Not every teen is actually interested in dual enrollment, which is often offered up as a solution to this problem, and is being used widely for  public high schoolers as well.  And much of all of this depends upon what your teen wants to do after graduation, and what they will need.  The number of AP courses one can take is a big deal for some majors at some colleges, and whether this is right or wrong, you may be in a scramble to find your teen these kinds of courses.  Anything previously decided in eighth grade through sophomore year may change dramatically with the 16 year change, when a teen may get a much clearer picture about what they want to do and what they need to do to be on their way to that dream.

For some parents, not homeschooling high school isn’t really even an option discussed.  There family culture is such that that is the only option. Some families decide that opening the doors is okay, but they search for the best fit in schooling or classes.  But the reality is that things change, whether you are homeschooling or not,  because the older teen years tend to be more hectic with more outside activities.  

We may be left feeling a bit off -kilter with all the transitions, especially if it is our first high schooler.  Also, we   are aging and changing ourselves – by the time our last children reach high school we may have been homeschooling 25 years or more!  A lot can change in twenty five years!  Our spouses may be talking about retirement  or working less and traveling and what they want to do once the children are out of the house.   I find these thoughts seem to naturally come up as parents hit the early 50s themselves.

I also find myself, at almost 49, wanting to give back a little outside of my own home and family to others and wanting a day or two back in the clinic after taking so many years to homeschool.  It happens.  Life is often about change!  When we have worked so hard to provide stability and rhythm and calmness for our families over the years, sometimes this can feel strange and disconcerting, to say the least.

So with all these changes, we can be left as homeschooling mothers wondering what our identity is. If we aren’t a homeschooling parent, are we still really needed to be home?  If we aren’t homeschooling, and our last child is older, do we still need to hold the magic of nature tables and puppetry and window transparencies and rhythm? What will we be doing the rest of the time whilst the children are at school?  If we want something outside the home, will our children suffer with the change, will it be too much to juggle?  How do we hold magic for the last child, especially if there is a large age gap between the older children and the last child?

In our family, we are there – our youngest is in only the tiny realm of  third grade; our oldest will be a high school senior in the fall and wants to take all her classes outside the home due to AP credit and the nature of what she needs with calculus and physics, and our eighth grader who really dislikes school “work” (she likes to learn) due to learning disabilities that makes everything doubly hard has said she would try harder and work harder outside the home than she will in it.  She might enjoy it more at home, but she wants to go to college, and feels she will be more motivated to work really hard outside the home and she wants a bigger social circle than what we have homeschooling high school around here.  Loneliness can be real in the teen years.  So, the final situation there is still in process, but likely some form of school.

So, where does a situation like that leave us as homeschooling parents?

How do we keep the magic?  Do we?

I think we do.  Art, and the rhythm of the changing of the seasons, and the rhythm of everyday  is nourishing to every person in the home.  Part of what draws many of us to Waldorf homeschooling is that it is healing for the adult in the home as well too.  Festivals may look different than with tinies under the age of 7, but I think it is still important to mark them.

I still like to do a nature table that changes with the seasons, and put out seasonal pictures that change.   I like to gather fresh flowers and have arrangements that reflect the seasons. I like to cook seasonally, and to mark all the festivals we are used to marking, even if in a bit of a simpler way.

I like to create art that changes with the seasons, even if I only have a few days a quarter to sit down with the kids and create seasonal art. I will even create it by myself and put it up.  The kids notice.

Boundaries and rhythm still stand.

For our third grader, who is out of the home way more than his older sisters ever were at that age, I prioritize nature time.  I will even give up a school day to take him hiking.  The children in our neighborhood don’t really come outside to play, and he needs the time outside.   I have tried to find things within a few exits off the highway of our home for the most part so the driving we do do is less impactful, and to know where parks are when we are waiting for siblings so that outside time is the standard rhythm and constant.

I also prioritize older siblings doing things with our third grader, helping him with school, so he feels special in the shuffle.   His times to play with friends or to just have an afternoon home without having to go to something for his siblings is also a priority.  Not going to lie- it’s a juggle when you have busy teenaged girls!

I have spent a lot of time in inner work.  This year I really prioritized self-care, and that has helped me roll with some of the changes I think I would have been more resistant to and upset about than before.  It also has helped me see clearly where we are in this season of life, and what is going to carry us through the next ten years as a loving family, with healthy and happy young adults as opposed to just thinking about homeschooling as an end to itself.  Homeschooling is not the end, it is the beginning. That’t the real discussion, and more that I hope to write more on in the future. I think this is the part of homeschooling no other homeschooling blogs are really talking about.  

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences,

Carrie