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From School to Home: Our Story (Part 3: Big Kids)

Homeschooling big kids is a totally different ball of wax.

Those magical, sweet years of homeschooling littles (see Part One of our story) gave our family so many precious memories. The initial years of homeschooling instilled a love of learning and a deep sense of family in ALL of us.

After we had made the decision to homeschool the kids we then enjoyed several years of Interest Led Learning, Charlotte Mason’s principles, and a spirit of truth, beauty and goodness. (see Part Two of our story)

Life is just so predictable, though. Right when we begin to get the hang of something - to find the groove - things must change. I’m convinced this is God’s way to keep us growing and drawing closer to Him.

When my oldest got close to seventh grade I knew something needed to change. It was at this point that I can look back and see a dramatic shift in our homeschool - not better or worse - just different.

We needed the shift.

From School to Home: Our Story (Part 3: Big Kids) #homeschool

The Appeal of Classical Education

I had always tried to keep current with research about homeschooling. After reading The Well Trained Mind, I had implemented pieces of Classical Education in our homeschool. I knew that even more Classical elements would be a good fit for my youngest.

Grant was a collector of facts. He loved good books. We had been going down a very structured math route with him. I knew that Classical homeschooling would probably be a very good match for him. He was smack in the middle of the grammar stage.

At the same time, I thought that my oldest (Anna) could benefit from a lot of what I was reading about the dialectic stage.

Classical Conversations

A friend of mine introduced us to Classical Conversations. From everything I could tell it seemed this community approach would be the perfect thing for my then second grader.

My daughter was just the perfect age for the Challenge program, so I enrolled her in Challenge A. (equivalent to 7th grade)

(What I didn’t realize, and what I desperately wish I would have known at the time was that it was very hard to succeed in the Challenge program without the prior foundational experiences. I know children have done this, but I do think we do our middle schoolers a disservice when we expect them to jump into Classical education at the age of 12 or 13. It seems a bit like asking a child to bake their own cake without a recipe when they have never baked before and don’t possess the knowledge of what the ingredients are and how they work together.)

My daughter’s experience in Challenge A was much different than my son’s - I think this is because my son had 4 years preparation for Challenge A and my daughter had NONE.

Another observation: Classical Conversations communities vary widely.

My experience was entirely different based on the two communities we attended. I have heard different experiences from friends in other areas. Visit your local community to see if it is a fit for you. Do your research on the background of the company and the community. Research leadership in your area. And… remember that YOU are in charge of your homeschool.

( I have found it helpful over the years to write down our reasons for homeschooling and revisit them several times each year! )

Don’t Ever Tie Yourself to One “Program”

To make a long story short, my daughter stayed in the Challenge program four years.

She gained many good things from her years in Challenge. (I have written about not losing the wonder in high school and the importance of following your child.)

The valuable lesson I learned, however, was that we should never feel an allegiance to one method or program. The minute a method becomes an idol should be a warning signal. We must always stay in our own lanes and follow our child’s lead. In the end, it was important that I listened to my daughter and let her follow her passions.

(My son completed all of Foundations and Essentials and will be entering Challenge I this fall. He has an extremely unusual situation that involves a combination of 10 committed families and children who get along very well. I do tweak the Challenge curriculum and we participate because of the community. I anticipate him graduating with this group of friends, but I have also learned to never say never.)

Another lesson learned? Each child is different!! To assume one method will fit all of your children isn’t realistic!

Our #homeschool story - Part III

My daughter’s 12th grade World Literature class - what a blessing this group has been!

I think, also, that my daughter learned flexibility, grace, and courage in her homeschool high school experiences.

She has been the “new kid” at a local Classical school. She has learned to assert herself and how to step in and make friends. We can see so clearly how God was guiding her journey every step of the way!

The Courage to Be Different

Stepping away from Classical Conversations after the 10th grade gave us a feeling of FREEDOM with my daughter’s education.

She will be graduating in just a few weeks, and has enjoyed a combination of online classes, classes at a local Classical school, and a smattering of classes we have designed together at home. She will be attending college - majoring in Special Education (her great love).

God has been faithful and good throughout her homeschooling journey, and I am thankful I listened to HIM when it mattered most.


Take Some Good From Everything

I feel like a broken record - sharing the lessons I have learned, but there are so many.

Whatever curriculum, program, or method you choose - find the good in it. If it isn’t for you 100%, you always have extracted some good. I am convinced that if we adopt this attitude all will be well.

Life is like that, too - take a little good from everything you encounter, correct?

From our experiences with Classical Conversations, Memoria Press Academy, Mr. D Math, HSLDA Academy, Shormann Math - and many other resources - we have pieced together a unique education for each of my children that I hope honors each of their strengths and talents.


Our #Homeschool Story - Part III

Our sweet Challenge group - my son is the goofball on the top left!

Yes, They CAN Get Into College

Finally, everyone used to ask me if I was worried my homeschooler would get into college.

My answer? NOT AT ALL.

I found that being an unaccredited homeschooler put us into a separate category. We found colleges that were interested in my child and vice versa. If we had to jump through too many hoops to apply to a college then I knew that wasn’t the place for my homeschooler.

I wouldn’t let college acceptance factor into your homeschool high school decision. I tell my friends with younger homeschoolers now to just be sure they meet the state required credits for graduation, be sure your child takes some SAT or ACT prep, and that they can write well.

I sought to maintain the integrity of my daughter’s high school education first and foremost, and it has all worked out beautifully.

Read my series Homeschool to College to learn A LOT more about this topic!

Did you miss a part in the series?

Find them here:

From School to Home: Our Story (Part One)

From School to Home: Our Story (Part Two)

My prayer is that you have courage, ideas, and inspiration from our journey.

Questions or comments? Just let me know below!


25 Benefits of Homeschooling Your Teen

Many homeschooling families begin to doubt their decision to homeschool as children enter the teen years.

I understand.

The teen years present a host of parenting challenges in general - throw education into the mix and it can be overwhelming. The high school years especially feel like a time we just need to get it right.

Are they getting the right credits?

What about sports?

How can I help my child with Calculus?

Will they miss the prom?

Will they get into college?

The list of questions is enough to keep a parent up at night, isnt’ it?

I am proponent of never saying never, but I feel confident in our decision to homeschool through high school (largely because I’ve done it!). So many people tell me why they could never homeschool high school.

I’m here to tell you why you CAN, and share the many benefits.

25 Benefits of #Homeschooling Your Teen

Strong Relationships with Parents

I think it is fair to say I have a very good relationship with my children. We are together so much and this forces us to have to work through it all - the good and the bad - on a daily basis.

Time to Develop and Explore Passions

Because we aren’t slaves to a traditional school schedule my children can spend time on what interests them. During the high school years, especially, this is is so important.

Sleep

Our teens need their sleep. Yes, I agree they need to know how to get up with an alarm clock and follow someone else’s rules, as well.

I like to think we have a healthy mixture of this in our home. We have days where we have to be up and out, and days where we can sleep in and rest if we need it.

No one can accomplish much when they are run down and worn out!

Absence of Peer Pressure

We haven’t dealt with mean girls, cliques, being “uncool” because we’re smart, or any of the other worries I had in traditional school.

I’ve almost forgotten how MEAN teens can be to one another. I am SO thankful we don’t deal with this. In fact, I think we have just the opposite: iron sharpens iron!

Less Attitude

We often associate the teen years with attitudes - eye rolling and disrespect. I read an interesting thing about adolescence the other day:

Adolescence metastasized during a season in American history when families weren’t prepared to raise on of the first generations ever to experience childhood with both parents working outside of the home. Without parents that said, “Follow me,” - into the kitchen and into the yard, into the office and onto the farm - children didn’t learn many of the basic skills required to become an adult. ~ Janet Newberry (Education by Design, Not Default)

Because we are homeschooling we have the opportunity to guide our children into adulthood - I’m noticing that we are skipping a lot of the “teenager” behavior that I simply assumed would occur.

It’s Not “All About Me”

Again, because we are homeschooling, my children see life day in and day out. Life is messy and difficult. Life is also joyful and wonderful.

Because my children have had to experience everything with us at home they know that life isn’t all about them. In a school the focus is all on the children - at home our kids have to sometimes take a backseat for one another or other members of the family.

This is a GOOD thing.

25 Benefits of #Homeschooling Your Teen

Housework

Selfishly, it’s nice to have some help around the house! Many hands make light work.

Additionally, the skills children learn because they are helping around the house from a young age are invaluable. We can incorporate cooking, cleaning, yard work, and so many other household chores into our school day.

More Time for Real Life

We don’t have the wasted time of waiting in line, changing classes, going to and from school, and just all of the TIME spent doing nothing in traditional school.

This gives us more time for REAL LIFE.

Enough said.

Increased Independence (with the right motivation)

When we homeschool our children we can give them opportunities to be independent. Things like doing laundry, cooking meals - and working jobs as they get older - help our children become independent.

Some children become independent because they are FORCED to do so - but I would like to think that my homeschool teens have become independent because I have inspired them to do so. They see the fruits of their labor and are looking forward to adulthood.

They aren’t simply being independent because mom isn’t home to help them. Mom is THERE, coming alongside them in love, to inspire them towards independence.

(Yes, I’m including some pictures of my homeschoolers in this post — love my kiddos!)

25 Benefits of #Homeschooling Your Teen

College Readiness

This goes back to the independence I think. As our teens become more independent (socially and academically), they are readying themselves for college.

I’ve heard time and again that homeschoolers are a college professor’s dream because they are self-starters and go above and beyond what is expected of them. They haven’t been box checkers in their homeschooling career, so they aren’t wondering what boxes need to be checked to receive a certain grade in college.

Homeschoolers are used to working for MASTERY not a reward.

This is huge.

Better Social Skills

Ironic, isn’t it? Homeschoolers have better social skills.

I have watched homeschoolers carefully and they generally know how to interact with a wide variety of people quite successfully. Their language is more sophisticated (because they haven’t been around teen speak all day every day) and they are able to relate to people of ALL ages because this is what they know.

Honestly, I am SO THANKFUL my children don’t have the social skills I have seen in some traditional teens. I’m not trying to put other teens down, I am just telling you the truth of why we homeschool.

It’s Less Expensive than Traditional School

Yes, we have to pay for all of our own supplies and classes, etc… Stick with me, however.

Have you seen how much a marching band trip in the public schools costs these days? Are you aware of how much money traditional school children spend on the prom?

How about the clothes kids feel they need to have to keep up with others?

I think you get my point here.

At the very least I feel better about how we invest our dollars in our homeschool than I would if my child were in a traditional school.

It Nurtures Introverts & Extroverts

I have one of each in my house.

We can set our homeschool up for the success of both my introvert and my extrovert.

Our teens need to feel loved and secure. They need to feel they can be who they are and not have to conform to everyone else.

God created our children in the image of HIM, yet uniquely gifted as well. Our children’s true identity is in Christ, not who the world says they are. Introverts and extroverts have very different needs, and I am thankful to be able to cater to those through homeschooling.

Increased Academic Opportunities

If you are willing to do your research and plug into your community there are an abundance of academic opportunities for our teens.

Just a couple of weeks ago we were at a Robotics Open House at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I am quite certain this motivated a lot of the teens in our group!

There are so many classes, curricula, and groups for our teens. This is perhaps the most exciting thing about homeschooling a teen right now. The world is your oyster!

More Opportunities to Fail

You read that right: more opportunities to fail.

Because we aren’t worried about checking off boxes or working towards a grade (or worse still achievement on a standardized test) we can let our students fail and then learn from those failures.

Failure is the BEST way for our teens to learn. Our teens need to make mistakes, humble themselves, seek forgiveness, and receive grace. That cycle will repeat itself again and again my children’s lives, and it never ceases to amaze me the learning that takes place.

My home is the safest place for my children to fail. They can make some of their biggest mistakes under my roof. When they are out on their own they will hopefully look back on those failures and remember the value in admitting the mistake and seeking forgiveness - and then taking ownership.

They Mature Earlier, Yet Stay Younger Longer

Think about this: our homeschoolers mature earlier, yet stay younger longer.

Increased independence leads to maturation.

If we are successful in “sheltering” our children from so many of the evils of this world, they will stay younger for longer.

Many people mistake maturity for worldliness… I want my teens to be mature but not worldly. There is a HUGE difference.

I also believe that because many of our homeschoolers have younger siblings they are forced to stay younger for longer. I know that my own children interact with many children who are younger and it is such a blessing!

Close Sibling Relationships

Homeschool teens need their siblings. Siblings will be around much longer than traditional school friends (in most cases), and we have a unique opportunity to foster that relationship.

Our culture now is suffering from the effects of so many fractured families. Hopefully homeschool parents are doing their part to create strong families and close siblings!

Freedom to Pursue Their Relationship with God

We are able to bring God into EVERYTHING when we homeschool.

Our teens are in such a time of faith formation. They can be free to see His presence (or even question His presence).

The teen years mark the beginning of the dialectic, and our children are created to question and seek. We have such a chance to guide them in their faith through all of the time we enjoy with them at home!

25 Reasons to #Homeschool Your Teen

Working and Saving Money

From a very practical standpoint, our homeschool teens can have jobs and begin to save money from a younger age.

I know so many homeschool teens (my own 17 year old included) who work a job - or two - , go to school, and participate in other activities. In days gone by our teens were expected to work and pull their weight.

Many people now simply hand their children “opportunities” and don’t feel they need to burden them with a job. Parents, one of the best things you can do for your children is to make them WORK. The satisfaction that comes from buying their own clothes, filling their own gas tank, and purchasing their own incidentals is immense.

And, with the rising price of secondary education, these kids need to pull their weight!

25 Reasons to #Homeschool Your Teen

Quality of Friendships

My children have had many of the same friends for a LONG time.

Homeschoolers generally tend to value friendships (because they aren’t as readily available as they would be in traditional school) and cultivate those friendships.

I watch the friendships of school children come and go - based on who is the most popular, or who is dating whom at the present time. It’s all so shallow and sets the kids up for heartbreak - not to mention they never learn how to TRULY be a good friend.

Young People Who Are Leaders, NOT Followers

Our teens have greater confidence to lead when they are certain of their identity - and certain they are loved.

They will not look for affirmation through following a group.

This also goes along with maturing earlier and staying younger longer. Our teens grow in grace and naturally will bring others along with them!

Courage to Pursue Nontraditional Paths After High School

College isn’t for everyone. Increasingly, nontraditional paths after high school are starting to become more financially and emotionally rewarding.

Because our homeschoolers have been off the beaten path in their homeschool journey they have the courage to continue after high school.

Community Service

Our teens, when they are homeschooled, have a chance to participate in community service because they WANT to - not because it is required for a resume or transcript.

It makes me so sad to see high schoolers checking getting in their “volunteer hours” just so they look good on an application.

As we, their parents, participate in community service, we can naturally encourage our children to serve with us (not keeping track of the hours!), and hopefully this will lead our teens to love and crave more service.

We are also in a beautiful position to help our neighbors and those closest to us because we are at home and have the time to see and respond to their needs.

Safety

Yes, I’m going there.

With all of the shootings and violence in our public schools, I am thankful to be able to keep my children in a more protected environment.

Homeschooling our children (especially our teens) is a safer option. They are at less risk for violence, exposure to drugs, and a myriad of other things that plague today’s schools.

Our Children Can Become “Persons”

So often in a traditional school our children are simply “test scores to be ranked and marketed, instead of persons to be raised, nourished, known, and valued.” (Janet Newberry)

I am so clearly witnessing my children becoming persons - the person God intended them to be.

There are so many competing agendas in the world of education today, and I don’t want my children to be pawns in the system.

The most gratifying part of my homeschooling journey has been watching my children (now 14 and 17) mature into the young people God desires them to be. I know they have a long way to go, but I am honored to have taken them this far!



I’d love to know if you have any other compelling reasons to homeschool our teens! I’m sure we can come up with quite a long list!

Leave me a comment and let me know!