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,


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

  1. Hi Carrie! We’re going through a period of transition here too. My oldest tried high school and dual enrollment last year as a freshman, and decided to commit to high school this year. She wanted more structure than we were able to achieve at home. For that same reason, we’ve decided that my second will also attend high school next year. And we just stumbled upon a lovely Montessori school for my 4yo (lots of outdoor time and incredible teachers)! Not what I thought we would be doing after 9 years of homeschooling, but my husband needs my help in developing his business (based in our house). It’s so hard to keep all those separate personalities moving in the right direction when their needs are so different. I appreciate your reminder about inner work to make this a time of growth for me and not just hanging on.

    • Hi Melanie! Fantastic insights, and yes, inner work is so the key to be able to roll with all the changes. Hugs and love, Carrie

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I have 2 girls with an 8 year age gap, 10 yr old and 2 yr old. I often wonder how the future will shake out with homeschooling and especially being an older mom (I am 44) how will all of us change and grow, meeting individual needs, keeping the magic for the younger while accommodating a crazier schedule for the older, and also my own desires for traveling and learning, but also keeping a tight family dynamic. Looking forward to hearing you at the homeschool conference!

  3. Where can I find more information on the 16-year change? I wonder if that is what my oldest is going through. He has been back in public school for several years after homeschooling for 5 years. He’s having a really intense junior year this year with several AP classes that are going well but also geometry and chemistry that he’s really struggling with. Out of the blue, he’s started to blame homeschooling for his chemistry and math woes and saying that he hated being homeschooled and that it has held him back. This is all new–the first I’ve heard any of this kind of talk. It’s probably another part of why I’ve been wondering why on earth I’ve been doing any of this.

    • HI Lisa! I think this is a really common way for homeschooling mothers to feel junior year – whether they are still homeschooling or their teen went to high school. So knowing it is pretty normal in my experience, and yes, you wonder why you went through all the homeschooling, probably doesn’t help, but know you are not alone. The best book I can think of on this change, besides the blog posts on this blog, is the book “Between Form and Freedom” by Betty Staley. There is also a good article by Douglas Gerwin on high school from the Waldorf perspective and what each year is about and I think you will find it reassuring. It is available for free at Waldorf Library On Line Blessings and hugs, nice to hear from you Carrie

  4. Such a timely post for us, Carrie. Thank you for that. One of our twins (9th grade) feels like she wants something different, probably school. The girls have never been to school, so it feels like a magic wand to the inner turmoil of the teenage years. The other two want to keep homeschooling (Mathilde is in 8th grade)… As you know, with our nomadic traveling lifestyle, it is a huge decision. I can really see how more motivating being part of a group would be (but she is doing great with the online classes – in small groups). It is a huge decision for our family to settle down (where? we have nothing… no furniture, etc.) when 4 out of 5 want to keep traveling… but she says she is unhappy… And my job is to try to see what is being 14 and what is a real need for something else that we cannot provide in this lifestyle.

    • Totally agree with your last line, especially since it affects four other people who are happy. I really can’t see you all settling down! ❤ I think there are going to be limitation and things that aren't right no matter what the school situation for most 14-17 year olds… 🙂

      Blessings and love, Carrie

  5. Pingback: when teens don’t want to homeschool anymore…and how to keep the magic alive – Parents Article – Parents Blog

  6. This is another excellent post! I know where the inspiration stems from and despite your title, I think you address far more than ‘what if your teen doesn’t want to homeschool anymore.’ This is such a tricky age, supporting your teen in figuring out what is right for them and then collaborating with them to make sure it works for them and you (and potentially other family members, as well)! We are in a similar place…trying to decide, with our 8th grader, where and what would be the best fit moving forward, given a transition isn’t optional. Change is coming!

  7. Thank you for sharing, Carrie. Even though my kids are so young they aren’t technically homeschooled yet I so excited about homeschooling and of course think we will go all through high school. But, maybe not! Such good reminder to always look the totality of the situation as well as the individual child/ren before you and remember that the overall well-being is more important than holding to an ideal or what worked in the past. By honoring where each child is in his/her journey and continuing to nurture them, whether their academic education is at home or school, you’re continuing to be a wonderful and supportive mother and inspiration to all of us reading your blog. Thank you and best wishes to your family with the new horizons.

    • Beautiful and kind words, Kate. Yes, many things can change on the way but I think the totality of each child and what they need and the intactness of the family in whatever form is so important. ❤ Lots of love, Carrie

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