Wednesday 31 October 2012

HHSC - Nurturing Independence in High School

Now that I have two who have completed High School, I have conflicting thoughts on this topic. These thoughts have been running around in my head for a while now and I was not sure how to start this conversation with myself or whether to let you all into my not so perfect homeschool world, my fears and my struggles.

I confess that my expectation and reality were two very different things.  When we started homeschooling I had this romantic notion of surviving getting through the primary school years (now I am savouring every day of them with Sir N). I envisioned that when we reached the high school years life would be grand. Yes we would have these wonderful discussions and explorations of the wide world around us. The reality I discovered was one filled with a far different outcome. High school did not bear the fruit I had imagined it would and as a result I lived with a sense of failure and dissappointment. 

High school is an exciting time for students to discover themselves and branch out, it's also a frightening time for parents to let go and allow their students to discover who they are apart from the family while still being an active part of that family unit.

It's a delicate balancing act of letting go and holding on.  I remember well when my two each at the age of 16 approached Paul and I. One wanted to go flatting with friends and the other wanted to go to a different state in Australia and work.  It was a heart stopping moment and an exciting moment to look at my teens and know they were trying out their wings for the first time.  One came home pretty soon after moving out and another has embraced their independence wholeheartedly.  

  1. To what extent do your high schoolers collaborate in planning their studies?
    • There is great value in including high school students in deciding which subjects they want to pursue in the line of study. My only caution is at what age you choose to start this process.  Some students handle this choice well early on and for others it can cause hickups as you progress through the high school years. Remember that the earlier you grant this freedom the more potential you have for things going awry later on. Personally I now feel that the 16th year is a good age to start speaking about electives.
    • I had certain subjects that were not negotiable and I had reasons why. I think this is the most important thing. You need to know why you want your student to do a subject. Teenagers are excellent verbal manipulators lawyers. They have spent their whole lives at home with you they know exactly how to make you doubt your decisions and choices for them.
    • For example Maths (Algebra1, Algebra 2 & Geometry) was not negotiable.  I feel that this discipline is an excellent tool to develop the brains ability to reason and understand.
    • Once they were a little older 14 + we started discussing their passions and I gave them options for extra subjects to independently study. (example: Economics). A few years ago when Mr T was in the high school years there was not a lot available for home schoolers in the area of electives.
    • I have noticed that homeschoolers who volunteer for community service to learn new skills (Example: St Johns Ambulance) tend to find their feet a lot easier than those who stay home and do nothing.
    •  Now days there are a few options for electives coming onto the market as homeschool companies are starting to meet this need.
  2. How do you encourage your highschoolers to take the reins of their education?
    • This is a touchy subject for me because looking back I realise that my blanket approach was not the best approach for my children who were very different in their learning needs. 
    • Be aware that opportunities can put a spanner in the works of any well planned road to learning. For example while in the middle of Core 300 I was walking through our local mall I stumbled on an opportunity for Miss J to attend University to complete a Cert III in Children's Services. She was 15 at the time and we discussed the possibility of her enrolling and doing it part time. We both felt this would be a fantastic opportunity as this was one of her passions and something she had been talking about doing for over a year. However although this course was "part time" we soon discovered that yes attending the actual classes was one day a week the homework load plus the practical class load soon added up to a full time course of study. At this point Miss J was trying to do this,  continue with her Core 300 studies, and work around ten hours part time.  I looked at this situation and decided stop home school and focus on completing this course of study. A year later Miss J graduated and decided to work full time and find out for herself what she really wants to do with her life.  The experience of studying and doing the practical side of this course helped her realise that this was not an area she really wanted to pursue as what she envisioned child care to be and what the reality was were two very different things.
    • Thinking back over this journey with Miss J in the high school years I now feel I should have thought through the options a lot earlier and been a little more settled on what our expectations were for our children to 'complete' high school.  I was caught a little off guard that all of a sudden we were there and went with the flow. In hind sight I think we should have decided to take the year to complete the Cert III (or waited a couple more years), followed the next year by completing our Core 300 studies and the used the following year focus on three electives to complete. The moral of this story has taught me to be very definite on what you expect your teen to complete in order to graduate.
    • My son on the other hand has started one course changed his focus and after that found that it was not his calling and decided to stop.  He has in the middle of all this had to deal with some health issues and a back injury requiring surgery.  In hind sight the two of us have realised that changing curriculum for him was not the wisest choice and starting independent study happened too early, which in turn derailed some of his learning. I have learned from our journey together that home school is family school regardless of your students age.
    • Do not let what other people are doing set the standards for what you are doing in your home.  What works for them may not work for your children.
    • Moving your children to independent learning in a room on their own too soon is not the wisest option.  Your children have an entire life time of being adults and being independent they do not need to be totally independent at 14 or 16!
    • Know what your countries law / states individual requirements are in connection with completing school and use these guide lines to help you determine what your student needs to have completed in order to graduate. For example in Victoria Australia a Cert II is equivalent to completing year 12 in high school and a Cert III is considered your first year in tertiary education. 
    • My approach with Sir N will be to evaluate what I would like him to complete in order for him to graduate. For example (God willing) I would like to begin Mystery of History in the year he turns 13 and work through all four books.  In theory this should take until he is 17 at which time we will seek a course for him to complete either on line or at a tertiary institution. Once he has a Cert III he will graduate.  
  3. What tools do you use and how is this input communicated?
    • In one word: lists.  For example when I shifted my children onto independently working through their Teaching Textbooks maths work I made a list of the weeks of school with the lesson I expected to be completed each day. I then no longer daily checked their work but rather once a week monitored where they were at.
    • Now I would definitely use Pinterest to gather tools to use in future with Sir N.
    • I am planing on working through a very definite list of life skills for him to master before graduation. 
    • I would also do it in a very slow and controlled manner rather than handing over the reigns too soon. I now realise that the high school years come upon you a lot faster than you expect and this time I plan on being a little more prepared.
    • Plan Plan Plan and Plan some more.Start early - yes I mean while your children are in the primary school years. Know really well what you want your student to accomplish in order to graduate.  I was taken by surprise as all of a sudden we were there and I still thought we had years ahead of us to work it out and I didn't.  I recommend you take a look over at the first post on this carnival:  The Wide View where a few home school moms share their long term view of homeschooling high school.  

Some scriptures to consider:
  • Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. Proverbs 29:18 KJV. If you have no vision for the high school years your children will end up going astray and the process will be de-railed.
  • For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Luke 14:28 KJV If you don't plan, how will you know what you need or how much time you need in order to accomplish your goals ?  Planning involves sourcing information, sourcing curriculum and support.
  • [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides]. James 1:8 AMP If you don't plan you will hear all sorts of conflicting information that will have you chopping and changing your path making for an unhappy mommy and an unhappy high schooler.
Homeschooling High School on www
Final Thoughts
I have found this post to be confronting and enjoyable to write. I am greatful to Nadene (Practical Pages) and Jimmie (Jimmies Collage) who have shared a little of their struggles in the transition to high school, which in turn helped me to finally face this topic and put my thoughts on virtual paper.

I pray that your home school journey through the high school years will be one of many delightful discoveries and challenging but enjoyable moments.

This post is part of the Home school High School Carnival.  Don't forget to pop on over to Living Without School  to read what others are saying about this topic.

I would love to read your thoughts on Nurturing Independence in high school student please leave a link to your post below?


This post is featured at Carnival of Homeschooling hosted at Sprittibee.

Updated 8 November 2012

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  1. I've graduated three and my 4th is in 8th grade and I still fluctuate about this topic on a daily basis. It is soooooo hard to find a good balance.

    1. I agree Maureen. I think that's where a good support network is important and knowing what you want to accomplish. Love your blog looks great. :)

  2. Thanks so much Chareen for your post

    I am going to reread it when I am not so flat out...

    I realise that i am about to emerge from the High school era this year, much of my journey has been hit and miss too!

    I have 3 in High, 3 in oldest is graduating from Yr 13 this year! Milestone!

    I have one expectation that is... DO YEAR they do it is another question.....we choose as a Family really and lots of input....even my dad (ex deputy head) and counsellors at Open Access,they are great with pathways and course ideas etc...

    Don't you get excited about what the kids have in front of them now? I do school seems so different to what I did in high school.....I kinda think we have the World at our feet as Homeschoolers??? Am I weird?

    I guess that what drives me though, finding their niche, their destiny....

    One of my FUNDAMENTALS I guess was giving that WORLD VIEW, so before our kids left High School we travelled A LOT....Russia, UK, Scotland (all doing Tattoos and the Edinbugh Tattoo, which they missed 3 months of school) but this was LIFE EDUCATION.

    We also travelled to Manila and lived in a slum for 4 months, we realised that we wanted them to experience poverty, death and missions etc with US as a Family.....that was a COMPULSORY in my head. I had to snatch the opportunity before it passed by, they were settled working/uni/ married/ kids we jumped hard and fast for 5 years.....Manila was a LIFE Unit Study for was deliberate and calculated, it did bear fruit too, all my kids are confidant and bold in Faith, it changed the depth of their Christianity too. they all have gone or are going back to manila without us....that was an experiment that worked

    Some have not I may add......but if we are not changing, growing and adapting, I wonder

    Education is a malleable changeable changes with each of my kids.......if it does not i reckon we are doing it wrong somehow.

    Anyway thanks for listening to my rant!
    Love your encouraging blog

    1. Thank you Cathy. I loved your insight. Thank you for sharing and encouraging. I think I would like to take a leaf out of your book and send Sir N on a missions trip with our church youth one year.

  3. Chareen.
    Thank you so much for typing up, and sharing!!, this very thought filled blog.
    It's timely in my space as we (DH & I) prayerfully working out with our ds the intended pathway of study and elctives required for him to graduate.
    What works for our US educating-at-home friends does not always translate well into downunder reality :)
    I'll be popping back to this read this again!

    Blessings, dear friend.

    1. Hello Chelle.
      I agree with you. Our intentions can sometimes get rail roaded if we are not careful. It reminds of that scripture not to be double minded.

    2. Hi Chareen,
      I'm wondering if you are able to (want to ☺ )expound a little more on your scripture reference....I think I understand what you are meaning?
      (Something along the lines of ditching our chosen pathway to educate to gain a recognised educational document? Or am I way off?)

      TIA, either way.


    3. Hi Chelle.
      Yes I was thinking along those lines but also along the lines that if you don't know where you are heading and the reasons why you are doing what you are doint.

      Then every time you compare where you are to where you are going or when you listen to what other families are doing you will end up doubting your choices or changing things too many times eroding that which you have accomplished.

      Your question made me think of scriptures and why. Thanks. PS I've added some thoughts to my post :)

  4. I appreciate your reply so very much.
    More than you could probably realise.
    What you mentioned about comparing - then second guessing - is exactly what I don't want us (me!) to be doing.
    (Fortunately dh is a very steady/visionary styled man ☺ )

    Off to re-read your update.

    My thanks again, dear friend!

  5. This is a great post Chareen ... and thank you so much for sharing your time on the phone with me earlier this morning. You gave me something to think about in prep. for my post tonight. :)

    1. Thank you Catherine :) I felt encouraged by our chat too! I am looking forward to reading your thoughts.

  6. Thanks for sharing. We are just at the beginning of HS with a year 7er and I don't have a good plan set out for his highschool years yet.
    As much as I want to get him working independently, I don't think it's going to happen any time too soon - he enjoys working with his younger siblings in unit style studies. I think your post pointed out well that there are some advantages of not pushing independence and electives too early. I appreciate hearing your perspective as it's not something you hear too often in the general homeschooling community.


    1. Morning Missy.

      You are so right on that score. The general attitude in the homeschool community is to push for independent learning and that if we don't do that with our high schoolers we are somehow failing :( I have learned that that is not true. Take heart and enjoy having your year 7 student as an active member of your family and homeshcool.


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