Wading in new water…constantly!

14 years into this homeschooling career, and I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing sometimes.

My oldest son graduated without the benefit of a physics class.  It doesn’t seem to have permanently damaged him (for that matter, I graduated public school without the benefit of a physics class and have never suffered from it).

But my children have never been satisfied to be just like a sibling.  I know that’s something worth celebrating, but doggone it makes me tired!  So I find myself in the positition of researching physics curriculums.  Weighing options and feeling highly inadequate to the task.  I’ve been in this position before…pretty frequently actually.  I know in the end we’ll all come out wiser, and that this is part of the commitment I made to homeschool my children.  I will consider and research every option to give them the best possible education.

I expect my children to learn new things each year.  I can expect no less of myself.

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My answer to the high school question

Yesterday I shared a question from a homeschooler who is nervous about beginning high school with her 1st child.  She wondered about things like curriculum choices, but more important about character matters.  How to develop self-discipline and Biblical grounding and a servant’s heart in her child-soon-to-be-adult.  Below is how I answered her.

(BTW, we share a common faith, both being members of the church of Christ.  The book I recommend at the end can be read and agreed with by folks of most denominations, but I see several worship practices mentioned which do not conform to the Biblical standards.  It’s not the topic of this post, but I’d be happy to discuss and explain that further if anyone is curious.  I’ve had all 3 of my kids read the book and feel like we benefitted from it.)

How exciting for you!  I remember the anticipation (and nerves) when my first little boy started high school.  I was so nervous about it that we actually toured a public charter school, but he begged us not to enroll him, and we are so glad that we didn’t. 🙂

My oldest is now in college, with one in the middle of high school, and one in the same place as yours – on the verge of high school.

I think that in high school it’s important to start giving the kids more control, more choices.  Start developing their own vision for their lives, their own passions.  This is a time of transition to when they move out and take complete control, so it’s important that they learn to make decisions and make mistakes, that they learn to deal with consequences of their own choices while still at home with you to guide them and support them.

Have you talked with him yet about what he wants to accomplish during high school?  About what he’ll need to get where he’s going?  If college is in his future, start checking college websites to give him an overview of what he’ll need to study during high school to get there.  If he deams of a particular career, start finding ways to give him a taste of it (field trips, job shadowing, competitions where he competes using those skills).  Once he starts getting a taste, he’ll either develop a deeper interest, or he’ll find a new direction.

When my oldest was entering high school, he thought he wanted to be an engineer.  We helped start a robotics club and he got to help design and build a robot.  I’d never run a club before and knew nothing about robots, but I was able to find mentors and talk enough people into joining us.  Turns out my son hated it.  But in that club, he made a new friend who was interested in drama and, particularly, musical theatre.  So we joined (and eventually ran) a 4-H drama club.  Besides our own small productions, he also ended up spending countless hours at the community theatre, acting, singing, volunteering, building, painting, and using power tools.  We put him with people who were actually doing and producing what he was interested in.  His senior year, he spearheaded a full scale production of Beowulf.  He learned leadership, delegation, how to write grant applications, how to build a sturdy table, how to choreograph a fight scene, how to place each person in the best position for their own strengths and for who they got along with.  Lots of practical skills and lots of interpersonal communication skills.  That real life, in-depth study of how people work together and how personalities mesh (or clash!) led him to choose physchology as a major in college, which is he pursuing right now. 

My point isn’t to brag about what he accomplished – it’s just to demonstrate the benefits of DOING something and ACCOMPLISHING something. Don’t be scared to try new things, to take on big projects, to let your child start taking the lead.  And don’t be scared to ask others to try out a new adventure with you.  Maybe the project that excites him now won’t be what he ends up being excited about later.  That’s okay, too. 🙂  If you try something and don’t like it, it’s not a failure.  It’s an opportunity to learn something about yourself and maybe open a door to something new.  And every project will force him to learn all kinds of related (and maybe seemingly unrelated) skills because real life isn’t separated into neat boxes by subject. 

HIgh school (IMHO) shouldn’t be about just studying books.  My kids, at least, develop self-discipline when they have a goal that they’ve set for themselves and truly, truly desire to reach.  Yes, often that goal include studying books, such as when the goal is to earn college credits early.  But not always. Sometimes it pushes them to do things they aren’t normally comfortable with (like negotiating with strangers, or getting up really early in the morning, or learning to get along with clashing personalities) or that they wouldn’t do unless truly driven by internal motivation (studying and practicing harder).

Also, in our experience, the best way to develop a servant’s heart is by searching for the opportunities to serve within the field of whatever they’re excited about and doing.  For my son, that meant spending volunteer hours assisting at the non-profit community theatre and mentoring younger kids.  For my daughter who loves to bake and loves little children, that has been totally different.  She bakes birthday cakes each month to take to the local homesless shelter and children’s home for kids who normally wouldn’t have a birthday celebration.  I just have to constantly ask, “How can this skill/this talent/this passion be used to serve others?”  The same daughter enjoys photography and shopping.  Those don’t seem like “servants heart” kind of hobbies, do they?  Except that right now we’ve found an event for her to be a part of where she can do just that to help others.  An annual fashion show is held here to raise money for CASA (an organization which helps abused kids).  She gets to do photo shoots and put together outfits as part of the fundraiser, and then she will take some of the money raised to shop for things that the abused children need.  Again, I tell this story simply to illustrate that any interest or hobby can be used as an opportunity to serve others.  And again, these group activities lead to more opportunities to share the gospel.   

I recommend a book called Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.  I recommend it with reservations – it’s written from a decidedly denominational perspective.  It should be read together with you and your child so you can point out the Biblical error.  But it’s a great book for helping teens develop a vision for actually accomplishing something – for finding a focus and purpose for their studies and for developing self-discipline toward reaching goals. 

The next four years

I think the beginning of high school is a moment of truth for all homeschoolers.  High school is big.  It’s official.  It’s intimidating territory.  It seems to be a moment when we all go through the re-evaluation of our goals and commitment.  Is this really what I want to do?  Can I do it? Is it what’s best for my child?

I waffled and agonized.  In hindsight, the choice seems obvious, but nothing was obvious at the time.

Today, I read an email from a fellow homeschool adventurer.  It read like this:

It is hard to believe that my little boy will be starting High School this fall, that he is on the downward slope of his learning at home, yet it is the hardest. I want to spend the next four years with him learning and enjoying this time.  High school was not a good time for me, and I’m very thankful to be blessed with being able to home school my children.

 I have to admit that I’m scared. I want to end well. I want my son to not be excited about being done just so he can be done with school and home.

 What I’m asking is this….

She went on to ask about subjects to choose, and how to guide character development, and how to set priorities with eternity in mind.

As hard as the decision is, “Should I homeschool through high school?”, I think the agonizing is helathy.  The planning, the questioning, the evaluating every aspect…it’s all part of the process as we express our burning desire to give our kids the best possible life.  It forces us to reach out to others, seeking what advice on what works and what doesn’t.  It’s an initiation of sorts.

Having come out on the other side, I feel more confident that I’ve considered my options and made an informed decision.