In a few weeks, I’m starting high school – for the 5th and final time. The first time in the ’80s as a student, but this time marks my fourth time as the teacher. Later, I’ll reflect on the profound impact our decision to homeschool made on the ENTIRE course of our married life, but today, I’m reflecting on 3 pieces of advice given to me early on that really made high school manageable for us.
(1) Parents feel peer pressure, too.
The high school years for a homeschool family are a little different because, in addition to extra record keeping, we’re about to send our kids into the world – the ultimate test of OUR ability. High school is scary because WE are about to be judged!
It reminds us of the questions we faced when we proudly announced to the world that we would be homeschooling instead of sending our kids to preschool, and kindergarten, and first grade. Were the nay-sayers right to question us? Is the result what we hoped? What will I post on Facebook? How will it look?
There is no advice or wisdom that makes this any less true- peer pressure is real and people are judgy. I can only offer you what has helped me, and that is to not measure success (or failure) in terms of straight academics. When my sons are generous to our elderly neighbor or put in extra effort at work, act ethically and solve a really challenging problem, it overshadows whether or not they also can remember the Pythagorean Theorem. In the same breath, I’m holding back my prideful boast – I really want to tell you about my son who received a perfect score on his standardized test…. but I won’t, because he also failed one of his college courses this term. Sigh.
The big picture: The next time you’re asked what your teen’s plans are after high school, resist the urge to be too proud or too shy about their plans for fear of how it will “look.” Academics are only one metric.
(2) You are your child’s best guidance counselor.
It’s wise to seek advice from those further along the journey than us, but no one has the investment in your child’s outcome the same way the parents do.
Though I’ve answered emails about selecting a good math program or CLEP prep book, my context is very black-and-white. I haven’t any idea about their young man’s learning style, struggles, accomplishments, or enthusiasm for math. I don’t know if he responds best to challenging problems, or if he’s on the brink of throwing in the towel.
You’ll get a lot of good -and bad- advice regarding high school, college, student loans, and other topics you might feel ill-prepared to refute. If you’ve never been to college, you might even feel intimidated by the “experts” and allow yourself to be manipulated by the process. Each expert, in their own little world of expertise, can help you come up with a solution for one thing, but never feel like you give away your place as head of the household or leaders of your family. They are your advisors, nothing more.
The big picture: Seek information from those you trust. Your family, advisors, counselors, teachers, mentors, pastors, community, and your peers. But continue to filter that information through your own very astute lens so you can keep doing what’s best for your teen. If advice feels wrong, it certainly is.
(3) Develop a routine
We entered our first day of high school with a “new” plan. I’d read some important book, written by very smart people, and our problem (they said) was a lack of structure! If I wanted a successful high school program and make sure my kids didn’t end up homeless in the gutter, we needed structure! Armed with a rigid schedule (typed) into 30-minute increments, everyone was up and dressed and fed and we were starting high school! (My kids remember it being 7am… that might be true.)
Our second day was a disaster. As were days 3 through whenever. My style isn’t structured to the minute, it’s routine by the day. When my oldest entered high school, I had 3 younger kids to care for. As my youngest enters high school, I’m almost an empty nester! Life changes – situations change, finances change and, of course, we want to aim for positive change. High school is a good time to tighten your routine a little, but aiming for consistency helps you accomplish big things. Doing work every day is important because it gives us a predictable routine and assures we will make progress. I was told once that the brand of my math curriculum didn’t matter as much as long as we sat down and DID math every day. She was right!
The big picture: Missing math because you have a dental appointment is an event. Missing math because you don’t feel like it can become a bad habit. Develop good habits so events won’t derail your successes.
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