Getting comfortable with high school freedom


Written by contributor Cheryl of the 2:1 conference and CherylPitt.com.

“Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.” Moshe Dayan

What happened to our love of learning? Where did the fun go? Why am I always frustrated? Worse, why are the boys always frustrated? This can’t be all there is.

These are questions I asked myself in January. I was stretched to my limit; some might say I was burnt out. You see, I homeschool high schoolers, three high schoolers. Mine are all boys – boys about to be men.

I’ve found teens to be fun but curious creatures. When they’re young, mom is their hero. When they’re older, she’s an impediment to adulthood. Even in the most respectful of teens, a natural separation – a gap between dependence and independence – begins to take place and that can be a difficult river to navigate.

It was for me.

The Root of the Problem

I had high school tunnel vision. I was so focused on the fact that my teens would soon be leaving, I didn’t leave room for living.

Days were filled with an effort to cram, stuff and force as much information as possible into their heads. It was fear based schooling. I was allowing the quickening of the clock to skew the heart of our homeschool. My good intentions were perceived as micromanaging and stifling.

The result? Boredom. Predictability. Frustration. Resentment. On all sides.

Does it sound familiar? Are you burning out? Are you dealing with angry or resentful teens? It could be they’re not actually angry or resentful. They could simply be frustrated and unable to articulate their feelings.

The root of the “problem” is that teens are pre-wired to start making the transition to independent adulthood, but don’t always have a clear path to get there. As parents, it’s our job to make a path. High school is the perfect time, the designated time, to usher our children into a secure independence.

Letting them do school work on their own schedule isn’t enough. We need to allow our children room to flex muscles they haven’t fully used, muscles of independence and leadership. As parents, we need to let them lift the load.

“Education does not mean teaching people what they do not know. It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.” John Ruskin

Ideas For Building Independence

DrivingTeenPhoto by Jace Turner

Working

I believe, when they’ve reached a certain level of maturity, teens need to work outside the home. Having a set schedule to follow, new work to accomplish, answering to additional authority and earning their own income helps instill a sense of independence.

If your teen can’t find an official job, set up a “worker exchange program” within your homeschool community. Teens can also volunteer or intern!

Driving

Even if you’re not comfortable with your teen driving regularly, or long distances, it could be a good idea for them to have their license or learner’s permit. I witnessed a boost in my son’s attitude when he received his license.

Even though he wasn’t able to drive often at first, this new perception of freedom was exciting for him. The fact that he studied hard for something he wanted (rather than for a test mom said he had to take) bolstered his confidence as well.

Errands

Sending your teen on an errand is a two fold blessing. It saves time for you and, and effectively tells your teen you trust them enough to give them this responsibility.

It doesn’t have to be a big, multi-step production. Start small. Can they drop something off at the post office for you, deliver a meal to a neighbor or fill the car with gas?

A checkbook or debit card

Society says teens are narcissistic. I say they just haven’t had enough life experience. Teaching them to handle money responsibly is important. Giving them the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned (before they leave home) solidifies the lessons.

This is a grace period, if you will, to guide them through areas of concern or confusion.

Community College

Two of my teens will be seniors next year. The plan is for them to attend several classes at our community college.

In addition to earning credit for both high school graduation and college, this experience will let them spread their wings while still having the “safety net” of home.

The Other Side

I’m happy to report, as my teens have been given room to safely flex their independence muscles, I haven’t been disappointed. I’m seeing improved attitudes and better communication. They feel they’re being heard, and understood.

They feel more useful. More valued. That they have something worthy to contribute. Don’t get me wrong; my kids already knew they’re valued and worthy, but there is something deeply gratifying about accomplishing what you’re made to do.

My Point – U Turns Are Allowed

My point is that it’s not too late. U turns are allowed. If what you’ve been doing isn’t working – reevaluate and change it! The old saying is true “the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes”.

We grow, we age, we change. What worked last year or last week may not work today. The beauty of homeschool is that we can change with it. We’re not chained to a specific schedule or curriculum.

You, homeschool mom, have your own independence muscles. Don’t be afraid to flex them!

How have you given your high schoolers more freedom at home?

About Cheryl Pitt

Cheryl has been homeschooling since 2001; she home educates 5 children from baby to teen. She is a brand consultant and avid social media user. Her heart for strong family values and the companies that promote them, led her to found the 2:1 Conference - the only conference for homeschooling parents active in social media. You can find Cheryl at her blog Cheryl Pitt.

Comments

  1. Hannah says:

    Thank you This was helpful as my oldest is entering high school in the fall.

  2. Great post!
    Tammy Darling’s latest post: Homeschool Rally at the Statehouse – SC

  3. Amy Caroline says:

    I have a daughter who just entered college and two more teen daughters in the high school years. I also have a passel more, but those are just my high schoolers. I could not agree with you more. So it is the same for girls! The only difference is I couldn’t get my two oldest to drive. I wish they would! My 14 year ld wants to and is ready but she is too young!
    Anyway, I was amazed at what a little freedom did for them. Loosening up all my “plans” led to great learning opportunities. My teens actually read classics for… Are you ready for it… Fun! Watch foreign films and love to talk about Shakespeare. They do spend quite a lot of time watching reruns of Adventure Time and Star Trek, browse Pintertest, and Facebook too. I honestly think, however, that when I loosened up a bit they actually started to learn more. It really helps teens to have a say in their learning process.

    • Cheryl Pitt says:

      Thanks for sharing Amy Caroline. It’s good to know others have conquered the same season. One of my 17 year olds still doesn’t have his license. We have him practice with his learner’s permit, but he’s nervous. So we don’t push too hard – we want him to be comfortable when he starts driving solo.
      Cheryl Pitt’s latest post: Fostering Freedom in Teens

  4. Faigie says:

    It’s amazing how you home schoolers do it. Each year its a NEW preparation of a new grade. Even if its stuff the kids learn on their own, most teacher do one basic age level and that’s it. You guys really must be supermoms

    • Cheryl Pitt says:

      Faigie, you’re too kind. Homeschooling isn’t always easy, but we’re not exactly supermoms :-) Homeschooling quickly becomes part of our lifestyle and an extension of daily life. But I’ll take the superhero cape if you want to give me one ;-)
      Cheryl Pitt’s latest post: Fostering Freedom in Teens

    • Bobbiann says:

      I don’t know about all homeschoolers, but I tend to get curriculum that my children can do on their own as much as possible. There are many options that need no advance preparation and only need to be marked after the work is done, and some computer-based curriculum even does that for you.

  5. Moe says:

    Thanks for this article, I needed to hear this. Our only child is turning 13 in July.
    I plan on putting a link to your article on my blog tomorrow. I think my readers would love to come on over for a visit.
    Moe’s latest post: READY OR NOT, HERE IT COMES!

  6. Thank you for sharing! I have my son entering high school! He is a great young man, but the fear that I am not going to be able to cram everything into the next 4 years is scaring me! Thanks for the encouragement to not school by fear again!
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Menu for the week

  7. This is spot on with our experiences, too, Cheryl. Our first 3 are boys- two of them graduated. Watching them make poor choices (spending gas money on a band t-shirt) is hard but needed. Sometimes I think I’m just white noise in their lives, so experience tends to be the far better teacher. But then, I learn better from experience, too.
    Kendra Fletcher’s latest post: Ten of Our Favorite Family Foods (and Recipes!)

  8. I thought of a question I had for you….what was the best high school history that you found to use?
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Menu for the week

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