When your kids are young, homeschooling is difficult because they have all that energy.  But it is much easier because the topics are easy for the parent, and because they usually will respond well to structure and positive reinforcement.  Once your children get into their teenage years, this becomes more difficult in some ways. This is a guide to help you get more learning out of your teen and keep your sanity.

First, I want to prefix this with an important point.  If your teen student is a senior or in college, it is going to be difficult to do more than mild coaching and encouragement.  Many seniors already know they will graduate, and they are annoyed they cannot spend time with friends, go to prom, etc.  It is not ideal to start homeschooling a child 15 and up unless they are struggling with school or the school environment and they want it.

If you have students who are younger, read this guide for homeschooling elementary age kids.

With that in mind, let’s dive into some things that can help you help your student.

Don’t Stress and Understand Their Stress

For teens, school is often fun and social.  If it were all learning, many would be less interested in going.  In fact, it is not hard to graduate from school a year or two early.  But it is rarely pursued because teens like being with their friends.  So, when they are suddenly forced to be homeschooled, the stress level becomes extremely high for the teens.

For the parent, understanding that most likely the good stuff have been taken away is a start.  Neither of you wanted to start homeschooling at this age.

So, the tip here is to not stress. Don’t nag them about doing homework and homeschooling.  Try to help them set clear goals for the day and to accomplish them early in the day.  No one ever says, “The more I get yelled at, the more I want to do something.”

Of course, at this point they are their own person.  Some will thrive under the new pressure and some will slack off and it will hurt be a setback.  You will need to adjust your expectations and strategy to their demeanor. 

One Day in the Grand Scheme

One of the first things to remember is that any given day is just one day and in the grand scheme of things, it does not make a huge different.  If they are having 90% good days, do not get upset about the occasional bad day.  This is true even when they are in school, but you do not see it so you probably do not get upset, or even know it happened.  Do not stress about an occasional bad day.  Worry if it is a long-term trend of bad days.

Compromise on Wakeup Time

Teens are often going to take every opportunity to sleep in when they can.  The last thing you want to do if you can avoid it, is get into fights about the wake-up time.  They do not have to get ready and get to school, so at a minimum they can probably sleep an extra hour.  Let them. Being better rested might improve mood and performance in their homeschooling.

Do Hard Stuff First Thing

Depending on how your homeschool classes are being delivered, try to front load the harder stuff in the morning, about an hour after they have been awake.  Studies show that people perform technical and academic things better early in the day and creative things better later in the day.  Plus, getting the harder stuff done first takes some serious stress off the day.

Agree to Frequent Breaks of Set Amounts of Time

If you don’t want your teen half learning and having one eye on the phone all the time, compromise with frequent breaks between learning goals that allow them to chat, snap and laugh with their friends.

Look Outside of School for Goals

Teens probably know that grading and graduation requirements in 2020 will most likely be eased, which could result in them being less motivated.  What has not changed are things like ACT and SAT tests.  A good goal is to get a certain score on one of these and use text prep books, practice tests and resources like Khan Academy to fill in gaps and pull up the score.

If your teen is not college bound, consider working on a certification that could help their job prospects in the future.  Many of these can be studied for online and sometime testing is done online.

Praise Effort

This one works so well with the younger kids, but it works with everyone in the world when done properly.  Simply look for opportunities to praise their effort.  Do not say they are smart.  Say things like the following:

  • I am so happy that you are keeping up with everything.  It is great.
  • I am impressed with your effort.  I bet some kids are slacking. You are doing so well.
  • Wow, you got xyz out of the way already?  That is great.  The rest of the day will be much easier.
  • You seem to be good at studying stuff and learning what you need to learn.  Nice.

Ask Them to Teach You

One of the best ways for someone to learn something is to need to teach it.  Ask them to explain something they are learning to you.  This will help them clarify the idea for themselves as they explain it to you.  And if it turns out there is one spot they don’t know, it is valuable because that is what they go study.

Teach Soft Skills Softly

With your teen stuck at home more, it might be time to teach some soft skills they will need but are not offered in school.  Yes, chores like laundry.  But also cooking, car repair, gardening, sewing, and many other things are good to know at minimum the basics.

Learn Lost Arts

There are additional things that many people over 40 remember fondly but younger people are often not aware of.  For example, playing poker with real cards and chips.  Or Solitaire with cards, not on the computer.  Baking bread.  Making jewelry.  The list goes on and on.  While these things do not help them score well on a college entrance exam, they do make them more well rounded and can help them be better critical thinkers.  It is also a creative way to break up learning periods. 

Let Them Dive Deeper on Positive Hobbies

Which leads us to their hobbies.  Teens usually already have a defined group of interests.  This can be a good time to have them dive deeper into those hobbies.  For example, if they love music as them to learn garage band.  Or they could learn special effects and video editing.  Fashion design. Entrepreneurship.  Any hobby they have can be ramped up to teach them more in depth skills that are valuable. 

Some of these items are probably not the hard academic push you are more accustomed to, but that is the exact reason that some parents choose to homeschool.  They want a diversity of experience.  2020 is definitely the year where some kids are going to become broader in skills and interests because they have had the time and the solitude to explore things more deeply.