“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
Photo by Jace Turner
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!
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.
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.
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?