Homeschooling Benefits for Adolescence ~
Written by contributor Heather Bruggeman of Beauty That Moves
In the spring I shared a post with you about Middle School Resources and Materials. In that article I referenced Maria Montessori’s thoughts on the middle school years; how she viewed that fleeting time is best spent.
It generated quite a bit of interest – for many of you there was a very real modern day understanding of Ms. Montessori’s century old words.
For today, I thought we could dig a little deeper in that direction. Let’s bring the spirit of those Montessori ideas home, and think about the benefits and gifts an adolescent might experience when homeschooled.
For the purpose of this article, when referring to “middle school,” I am writing about seventh and eighth grade. There is a particular explosion of development during these years, and some people, like Maria Montessori, feel this age group is better off with an alternative experience to the status quo.
Perhaps a good way to start would be to consider the three areas that form the whole child.
Homeschooling Benefits for Adolescence
1. The Body
Photo by bo.peep.baby
Aside from the years of infancy and early childhood, there is no other point in human development where greater physiological transformation takes place than during adolescence. Pair that with the added pressures from media, social expectations, and just plain trying to figure it all out; and you have a very challenging period to be human.
The body needs peace and breathing room during this time.
It certainly isn’t all bad, goodness no. Being a young teen is fun! With a fairly modest level of obligation in their lives, this age group is still eager and free to play, explore, read for hours, discover new music and interests, try out hobbies, meet new people, so many wonderful things.
But they need time and space. They need the gentle yet firm patience of a good, constant support system to find their way through it all. Who better to provide this than family?
Also, they need to move! Whether it be a fifteen minute dance break, a bike ride after lunch, or shooting hoops between science and math – the desire to engage the physical body does not end at age twelve. At home, there is plenty of time for such activity.
Let’s not forget about sleep. Boy do they need a lot of sleep! With no early school bus to catch, homeschoolers can sleep for a full and proper night’s rest.
It’s easier to keep kids well fed at home too. Growing homeschool teens can eat freely and often more nutritiously throughout the day.
Good rest, good food, physical activity, and breathing room; rather nice foundation to build the day on.
2. The Mind
“How do we discern our children’s gifts, talents, and motivational interests? By presenting opportunities where their innate graces can surface.” – Debra Bell
I have yet to meet a person who’s innate graces surfaced while sitting at a hard desk taking a standardized test, or during three hours of homework following the completion of a six plus hour school day.
The goal should be to foster the mind and its natural love for learning, not extinguish it.
As homeschoolers, we have a 24/7 (so to speak) opportunity to notice the intellectual ques and clues our children give us. We have a heightened awareness of their mind’s direction. Throughout the day we look for and create moments that spark new terrain for them to explore.
Learning at home (or in the wide open world) affords us the freedom to tap into our children’s interests at most any given time of the day. We expose them to new ideas and experiences in order to help cultivate their minds and help them discover their passion.
And we follow their lead, a lot.
A teenager who has identified their passion, and has the opportunity to live out that passion, has far better chance at “succeeding,” or more importantly, feeling successful, than one who does not. It is rare to find a person who cares more about discovering a child’s interest than their own parents. Outside influences may care; parents usually care more.
3. The Spirit
Self-esteem, confidence, behavior, body image, new social territory, fitting in, gossip, peer pressure… the list goes on, doesn’t it? A person’s spirit, their true essence, is affected (perhaps permanently) by these things.
Homeschooling parents have greater awareness around what their children are exposed to, as well as more time in the day to discuss situations as they come up and reinforce your family’s beliefs and values in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere.
The middle school years are a particularly vulnerable time for our kids. The adolescent brain is not the same as a fully developed adult brain. Teens make decisions differently, they feel things differently, and they are influenced differently. PBS ran a very interesting program called Inside the Teenage Brain that you can view online.
In many ways, these years are the turning of the tide. Homeschooling can be a wonderful way to keep the family close and our children feeling secure, well-nurtured, and healthy.
What do you feel are some of the other homeschooling benefits for adolescence?
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Thank you for this timely and well written post. My daughter is going into seventh grade and will be homeschooling. This was encouraging to read.
Dawn’s latest post: Wedding in Snohomish
Hello…. So i just started homeschooling grade 7 my daughter.
Email me firstname.lastname@example.org we can encourage eachother….
Thank you I am at a crossroads. This was eye opening! Seeing the benefits of homeschooling.
Jennifer @ Natural Parents Network
It is great to hear more about homeschooling older children. Often I see blogs for homeschooling younger, but they seem to fade into other options as they get older. I can’t wait to watch the PBS program, I always love looking into how the brain works.
I have to chuckle when so my many people we meet say: “Are you still homeschooling?” My oldest is almost fourteen and I have to say those early years of homeschooling may have been all about discovery and learning and exploration… and FUN!!! And none of that changes but it gets a lot better!!! The transition from primary to high school wasn’t really noticed!!! But his work has significantly changed to follow his passions… We still spend the same amount of time on school and he has extra-murals of his own where he goes off and hangs with teens and learns and has fun… I guess what changes is it is no longer ALL directed by me, but a whole lot more about: Should we find out about “X” and go off and explore it… or “I really liked that book on Economics can I do a course it?” Yes, my son… And for family time it is unbeatable!!! If he was in school he wouldn’t even see his littlest siblings but he is home and they are best friends and spend hours playing alongside each other…
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I think this was a great post. I agree, it is nice to read about homeschooling in the older years. We are just in the very very early stages of pre-school type learning here. Exciting things to come 🙂
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I started a small private school out of my home last year, and as we move into year two the connections between homeschool, Montessori and HoneyFern have become increasingly clear. I love that we get all the benefits of a homeschool environment (listed above!), and I still get to teach other students, who basically have me as a private tutor (we will never have more than 8 students, and I expect 5 this year, total, grades 6-12). It’s like a one-room schoolhouse, except we go on a ton of field trips, kids can eat when they want, take a break when they want and have an actual voice in what they learn.
It has been a revelation, finally getting out of public school (where I taught for 11 years), and the only regret I have is that I waited so long. Mentioned this blog on my Ning this morning; http://honeyfern.ning.com.
I would love to get more information from you about your private school–I have long dreamed of doing something like this and would appreciate any ideas. Thanks!
Great article Heather. I agree with you on all accounts. I consider a child lucky who gets to have school at home.
Thank you! I so enjoy posts about older homeschoolers, it seems I can’t find as many posts for this age group. I loved this article and agree whole-heartedly. What beautiful, sensitive, vulnerable brains these children have, especially right now. I homeschool my two young teens and am constantly looking for more who do as well!
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Great post! So many people think that at this point students should be moving towards a public school, but it’s so important to understand the points you make here.
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I Live in an Antbed
This is SUCH a critical time in the lives of our kids. I am actually still homeschooling four of our seven and they are right in this age range. There is so much “self-discovery” that takes place during this season of their lives and homeschooling provides a safe environment nurture that process. We are interested more in their character than their academics, and as we see different things emerge, we can help them understand what it all means in the context of our worldview as Christians. The Lord has gifted them specifically and uniquely and we want to encourage them to develop all of their talents and abilities in ways that will bring Him Glory, while helping them navigate the minefields of adolescence that can be so harmful to kids if left to find their self worth based on a peer group.
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I love watching my girls during this time of their lives. I feel like I am starting get glimpses of the adults that they are becoming. Each has their own personal interests that they are pursuing, and the fact that they can do it in a safe and supportive place has really let them do so without judgement.
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Great post Heather. My children are not even close to this age yet (though they will be soon enough!) but as an ex-high school teacher I can certainly attest to the importance of having dedicated individuals working with young people at this time. It is crucial and defining, so much of what happens now will shape the next decade of their lives. I have no doubt that your daughter will become a fine individual that all will be proud to know. Much like her mother.
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Thank you for this post. It helped me breathe a sigh of relief. We are just beginning our venture into homeschooling and I am suddenly overwhelmed by fear and doubt. Posts like this one remind me that there are more important things to focus on than just designing the perfect curriculum.
You are right! I have a daughter that is doing homeschooling with her 3 girls. She has your same fears and I think it is all natural. Specially that you are doing something that is different. Dont pánic it is ok. I am a teacher myself and wish I would have done it with my children. CONGRATULATIONS! Your children Will thank you for this.
Thanks for the great post.
While our children are still young my brother has three homeschooled teens and talking with them about their passions is exciting. They have been able to pursue things that they would not have had much access to if they were in regular school. I am happy to have them as an example of what the middle/high school homeschool years can look like.
The pre/teen years are such a wonderful time to step outside of the box and try things on for size. I feel this process is much easier for a child who is in an open minded environment. Most homeschool families we have met are beyond accepting of differences…
One of my best friends when I was a seventh grader was homeschooled. We met in girl scouts just as I entered that 7th grade year. I remember being in awe at her getting to learn Russian and guitar. I envied her for not having to face bullies every day on both the bus and in the classroom as I did. I felt so at home at her house and her mom took me in as one of her own every time I visited. I learned how to weave on a giant loom and how to spin wool (kind of anyway). I learned a few Russian phrases and fell in love with American Girl Dolls. My own home was great – supportive parents, needs all met, lots of love – but still I envied my friend. I decided then I would homeschool my own children one day. This year we start our first year with a pre-k program and I can’t wait for what’s to come!
Rachel at Stitched in Color
There is this pressure from society that surely you won’t continue homeschooling through middle/high school. Thank-you for planting some seeds in my mind for why I WOULD continue!
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Living the Balanced Life
Great post! My kids are all grown now, but I homeschooled 3 of them for 8 years, and middle school was at home for all of them (eventually younger 2 went to high school). I love that they have time and space to become the person they are supposed to be without quite as much outside pressure. My kids acted in community theater, took ballet, art, my daughter rode horses, my son took a class in architectural drawing, we traveled, we went to historic sites and museums. They were able to sleep in. We read lots of great books aloud together. Those who don’t homeschool don’t realize how awesome it is to read to your children, but it doesn’t end when they learn to read!
Enjoy this time!
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Beautiful! I have been so sad to see how many homeschool moms are doing nothing more than trying to re-create public school in their own kitchens. For our children to really benefit from homeschooling, we need to back up a little and see the big picture. We need to really SEE THEM. The teenage years are the time for them to learn about the world and discover passions and talents that would never be seen if they were in a public school. Let’s not waste these precious years!
Magic and Mayhem
I have two middle schoolers now and this fits in with how we homeschool. I also have to say I love the cross-stitch saying! 🙂
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I am looking into the possibility of homeschooling my 12 year old son. The thing is, both his father and I work to make a living. I am self-employed however, and have a flexible schedule. Anyone out there homeschooling their kid while working? Or is it really only suitable for stay at home parents? Thanks.
Alyssa Marie Thys
Thanks for these thoughts! The teenage years are a great time to be homeschooled! It’s great when a young person can have all their physical, educational, and emotional needs met. The traditional school environment does so little to meet those needs. I was in public school until the end of middle school but I had the great blessing of being homeschooled in high school. I got to be an environment where I had the freedom to work through everything I needed to work through at that time in my life. I learned so much about things public school could never have taught me. I also got to discover my passion for missions and ministry. I often said that had I stayed in public school, I never would have chosen a career or life path where I had to be around people all the time because of how embittered I was from school. Middle school is a hard time for anybody and I totally agree that it’s a time best spent at home!
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We are getting closer to this age with my oldest (he is in 6th this year). Thank you for the heads up. I feel like I am entering uncharted waters here sometimes.
As for me, the most exciting part of homeschooling is that you get to see the best parts of your kids as they grow and learn. 🙂
Grade 7 Newbie
Thanks so much for this post. I’ve just started junior high and it’s really hard and nerve racking , especially being in an honours class. I’m trying to convince my mom about homeschooling me so I can have more room to think and get away from all the drama. Now I have a bunch of really great reasons, and some even convinced me more!! Thanks so much again. ????
I’m so glad and I hope it works out beautifully for you!
I hs’ed when my kids were young and experienced a complete burn out and debilitating anxiety. Had to send them to school. Now that they are in grades 5, 5 and 7, I am considering hs’ing again. But I am, frankly, terrified b/c of what happened to me last time we did this. It’s like my heart wants to hs but my rational mind gets fearful. This was a wonderful post about these years. I know I have precious little time with them before they are ready to fly. Perhaps I can do this…. a scared wannabe-homeschooler.
This was a great read! I love how you mentioned that the goal is to foster the mind by exposing them to new experiences.