Blog

Upper Grades Homeschool "Socialization"

Socialization is a common concern of parents of older homeschoolers. Many families make the decision to send their children to traditional school for this reason. A common myth is that our older kids simply “need” things that only a school environment can provide.

This is actually one of those times where I agree with the myth.

(Well, partly.)

I believe we can stay the course for homeschool in the middle and high school years. I also believe, however, that we need to provide our children with a broader range - and more “school-like” opportunities at this age.

As our children mature into the middle and high school years, we need to keep in mind the need they have for independence, belonging, and ownership.

Learning everything from mom and/or a textbook won’t cut it. Sports teams are increasingly difficult to find for older homeschoolers. Children need other voices of authority and accountability.

The teen years are a tricky transition time - at any age - but for homeschoolers there are many decisions and changes to be faced.

 Contrary to popular belief, our older homeschoolers can easily become “unsocialized” without some effort on our parts — here are some ways to keep your big kids engaged and socialied!

We must be intentional about the academic, physical, and peer opportunities we provide for our homeschoolers. It is an interesting situation, though, because as we step away so our children can assume more independence, we need to be MORE involved in and knowledgeable about their activities.

To put this in simple terms - homeschooling our teens requires more head space! Increasing independence doesn’t mean parents can step out… quite the opposite!


Academics Socialization in Upper Grades Homeschool

Do you recall a specific teacher that truly excited you about a subject?

I remember an English teacher in middle school who was passionate about language. Learning beautiful words was a priority in her class. The influence of Mrs. Willets, followed by my wonderful literature teacher, Mrs. O’Connor, the next year, created a love of reading and writing in my young mind.

Our homeschoolers need these types of experiences. How will they discover a passion unless it has been shared with them?

My daughter, Anna, discovered a love for science after having two great teachers in Chemistry and Anatomy & Physiology. - teachers at a local classical school she attends. I am CERTAIN if she wouldn’t have taken these classes she would never have discovered her interest in science.

We can still retain the “homeschool” atmosphere while giving our children varied academic voices. All of the following options are still “homeschool”, but they give kids the chance to hear from expert voices:

  • online classes (Mr D Math is a perfect example - he completely reversed my daughter’s feelings about math!)

  • local homeschool hybrid schools/co-ops

  • parent-taught classes by ANOTHER parent who has expertise in a certain area (maybe an IT dad who would teach a coding class, or an accountant mom who teaches a math class).

  • mentorship with a member of the community who is willing to take a child under their wing and teach them about a particular area

(I loved that my kids got to meet Mr. D in person - we highly recommend him for upper grades math!)

 Kids love learning from an “expert” — Mr. D Math is a great example for another voice that can speak into our homeschooled teens!

Most teens work harder for a “teacher” than they will for mom or dad.

And, having the experience of time pressures, grades, and serious accountability not only prepares our children for college (or whatever comes next) but it also provides them with a feeling of accomplishment and confidence when it is all said and done.

I have found mixing a variety of teacher, parent, and student-led coursework to be the perfect marriage in our homeschool. My daughter has a lovely mixture of online and in person coursework, self-study, mentorship, and parent-led instruction, too.


Physical Socialization in Upper Grades Homeschool


Many teens have a deep need and desire to take part in a sport and/or be part of a team. If this physical outlet isn’t met, all other things will suffer.

What is a parent to do, however, when their child reaches 8th grade and the opportunities for things like Little League and other rec sports dwindle?

 Creating opportunities for sports teams in upper grades homeschool - Homegrown Learners

A few ideas:

  • Do you live in a state where homeschoolers can play on public school teams? (Some states like Alabama have laws in place to provide for this.) Find out about these state laws at HSLDA.

  • Many private schools allow homeschoolers to play on their teams - my son plays basketball for a local Christian school.

  • Create your own opportunity. For example, my kids played on a homeschool USTA tennis team. A few moms worked with local tennis coaches to set up instruction times, and then registered a USTA team of homeschoolers.

  • Check the YMCA - our YMCA offers certain sports through high school and I have also seen special opportunities for homeschoolers, too.

  • Ask around, and if an opportunity doesn’t exist - create one yourself!

The physical outlets we provide for our kids are every bit as important as the academic outlets!


Peer Socialization in Upper Grades Homeschool

This can be THE MOST CHALLENGING part of homeschooling teens - friendships.

When our children are younger simple park dates and field trips are enough for socialization, but as our children mature they need deeper friendships with meaningful connections.

The world of traditional school encourages our children to cast their nets wide rather than deep — more is better, right?

More friends. More activities. More AP classes. More, more, more.

In the homeschool world we have the beautiful opportunity to encourage our children to go DEEP.

 Socialization in Middle and High School Homeschool

Cultivate a few lasting friendships. Hone in on one or two activities you enjoy. Study a few things that are of interest to you. Less is more. The gift of space is HUGE for our teens.

Keep this in mind as you think about socialization and your teen. We need to cast aside the notions of what “should” be for our kids, and give ourselves permission to let them be who they are, without the pressure of a school telling them what to do.

I would encourage you to do everything you can to steer your teen towards healthy social outlets - even creating them yourself - so that you can provide them with strong friendships and activities during their middle and high school years.

Examples:

  • activities with local homeschool groups (we have a few that put on dances during the school year - so much fun!)

  • participating in a local co-op or hybrid school where different families take turns hosting social events for the teens

  • choosing activities carefully where your children have good friends

  • making your home inviting and a gathering place, so your child can invite their friends over

  • carefully cultivating a homeschool circle of families - a group you will travel the entire educational journey with


I have been so pleased with the homeschool path we have taken with our children. My children are happy and safe. They have kind friends who support them. They aren’t concerned about superficial things like boyfriends and girlfriends, clothing, popularity, or social media. We have worked hard to craft a life that is meaningful and valuable for them - minus the junk our world has told them should naturally just be a part of being a teenager.

Let me encourage you to stay the homeschool course with your big kids.

It’s SO worth it.

Do you homeschool big kids?

What unique opportunities have they taken advantage of that you can share with us?


Learn More About Homeschooling Upper Grades

* indicates required

Eighth Grade Homeschool Plans

Weren't we just building LEGO landmarks and pretending to be westward explorers

Here it is - eighth grade - and while it's hard to believe - it is HERE and we are READY! 

I'll say it over again and again... I'm so thankful we abandoned traditional school to homeschool our children. We have created an abundance of memories and children who love to learn and love being with their family.

Through homeschooling, we can address our children's particular talents and desires. I'm seeing my son is a math and science kid, and he also has a humorous, compassionate side, too. I can't wait to see where God leads him!

Eighth grade is full of many of good things.

 Eighth Grade Homeschool Plans

A Word About Eighth Grade

Because I've been down this road before, I know the importance of looking ahead to high school (and yes -- maybe even college) in the eighth grade.

A few things we are doing in that regard:

  • Math - Think about where your child needs to end up in math - for math minded, college bound kids this is generally Calculus. If this is your child's goal, then they should be taking Algebra I in the 8th grade. Some children may just need Algebra I, II, Geometry and Pre-Calculus.
  • Science - Science minded kids they will probably want to take Physics in their senior year.  If this is the case, then Physical Science is probably a good idea for 8th grade. Some children will not take Physics and that is OK! 
  • Will your child want to dual enroll? Maybe they can get some high school credits out of the way in 8th grade. Perhaps they can take a foreign language for credit or an elective of high school quality.

Every child is different, and our goal as homeschoolers is to MASTER the subject matter, not to be slaves to a curriculum.  

Also, please remember to STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE. Your child is your child and you cannot compare the education you are giving them to anyone else's. (end of lecture)


How We Begin Our Days

We have a "Morning Time" of sorts each day.

Spending nearly an hour each morning eating breakfast, having devotions, and reading aloud, helps our days get started on the right foot. It lets us ease into the day, and it also connects us to each other first thing.

I love that.

Grant's Challenge group is studying Proverbs this year, so we read a chapter of Proverbs each week and discuss. We will also be doing memorization for his confirmation studies at our church.

Then, there is our read-aloud time - a favorite for both of us!  I shared our picks in Favorite Read-Alouds for Teen Boys.


Classical Conversations Challenge B

My son has participated in Classical Conversations since the third grade. He is now in Challenge B with a wonderful group of young people.

 CC Challenge B

 

He attends "school" one day each week and is led through six separate subjects (strands) by a parent/tutor. We have a guide for his work and complete the rest at home. This format has worked well for him so far. 

We take homeschooling one year at a time, so I can't say if he will move along to Challenge I next year or not - we'll cross that bridge when we get there!

We are following the entire Challenge B curriculum (which I am listing below) with the exception of math.  We also add in an elective (music appreciation this year) and some physical education.

Math

We made a switch this year to Shormann Math Algebra I. 

We had always been loyal to Saxon with my son, but the spiraling and repetitiveness was driving him a bit nuts. After a lot of research, I learned the Saxon homeschool edition is a bit lacking in some concepts and standardized test preparation. 

Shormann has courses through Calculus, which was a requirement. It also keeps grades for you, and the parent can be almost 100% hands-off, which is what I need for math at this stage of the game. 

So far it is going VERY WELL. It is video-based, with math terms presented at the beginning of each lesson, lecture (with note-taking encouraged), practice problems, and then video solutions. It is also God-centered and fits the Classical model quite well. 

(Try it for free and see if you like it - we did, so we purchased it.)

 

Latin B

Grant is continuing with Henle Latin this year.  There is something about the puzzle pieces of Latin he enjoys, so this subject is fun for him! 

 

Literature/Writing

Continuing from last year with The Lost Tools of Writing to hone writing skills, the kids dive into a few pieces of literature this year - and then into short stories and eventually writing their own short stories.

 

Current Events and Mock Trial

In my opinion, this is one of the greatest benefits of Challenge B - confronting hard topics, learning how to argue both sides of an issue, and honing mock trial skills. 

In the first semester, we're researching difficult topics (we started with Euthanasia) and are learning to think and reason through them well. The second semester brings a mock trial case, which culminates in "competing" against another Challenge B class in a real courtroom with a real judge presiding.  

Good stuff.

 

History of Astronomy & Origins

One of the advantages of the Challenge program is learning how to RESEARCH and WRITE. 

Children who have been in CC since Foundations have a firm grasp on the timeline of the world, so the science strand allows them to write their own history of science and see how that coincides with other events in history. 

If we know anything it is this: Subjects are NEVER isolated in history. Everything is interconnected, and God is in the middle of it all! 

We give students guidelines on research so that they can write their own history of astronomy, instead of just reading a textbook. This method allows students to take ownership of their study of astronomy while applying discipline to complete their projects on time and present in community. Students retain the great moments in scientific achievement in the context of history, which forms a good foundation for more intensive science studies that will follow.
— Classical Conversations

Informal & Formal Logic

This is a challenging logic curriculum. 

My son reads the text, watches the video lesson, reads the text AGAIN, and then completes the exercises. 

It's beautiful to watch how the art of logic ties into debate, science, and all of the other strands. 

 


Electives

There are still some things that we want to add to our son's education. If learned anything going through Challenge with my daughter, it is that we can't rely on one curriculum or program to be our everything. 

We cannot lose the wonder in high school.

We homeschool for a reason - and for us, that is to individually tailor our child's education to their strengths and desires. As my daughter progressed through her high school career her education changed, and I fully expect the same to happen with my son.

 

Music Appreciation & Piano

We're using SQUILT LIVE! this year for music appreciation (it helps when your mom is the teacher!). 

Grant uses the daily listening calendar to learn about all different types of music from all eras. He also attends the live lessons each month to dive deeper into specific pieces. 

He has also been taking piano lessons for several years and will continue that this year. 

It's one of those non-negotiables in our homeschool - and I happen to think he really enjoys it, too!

 

Sports

I don't think you can school a teenage boy without a physical outlet! 

Grant works out at the YMCA, but he will also be playing basketball with a local Christian school this year. He's been attending basketball camps and drills on Saturdays to keep his skills up to par until the season begins. 

He played flag football last year in a local league and may do so again this year. 

(I have some thoughts about organized sports at this age - good and bad - but I'll have to save that for another post!)

 Have to keep a homeschool teenage boy ACTIVE!

 

Those are the plans for 8th grade. 

I'm looking forward to what the year holds, because I know it will go quickly and then we will be in high school.

 

Are you homeschooling an eighth grader this year?

You might also like:

Homeschooling the Middle School Boy

Engaging Book Series for Middle School Boys