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Homeschooling Teens:
The Whys and the Must-Haves

Isabel Shaw  

The idea of homeschooling through high school can be scary. Parents tell me, "I could never homeschool my teen – I barely got through some of my own high school classes!" But homeschool advocates are discovering there's a better way for teens to learn, and homeschooling your high-schooler may be easier than you think.

Why Homeschool?

It's not uncommon for homeschooled teens to complete four years of traditional high-school studies in 24 months or less. How can that be? Teens who learn at home are able to focus their energy and resources on the task at hand. With no distractions, it's amazing how efficiently kids learn. This principle is illustrated by the requirements for schooled kids who are unable to attend classes due to illness. Most schools require 1-1/2 to 5 hours of at-home instruction for each week of missed classroom learning.

Cafi Cohen – author of And What About College? How Homeschooling Leads to Admission to the Best Colleges and Universities – spent two full days observing public school classes. During those days, she kept track of administrative time versus on-task time. On-task time is roughly defined as students really doing something – reading, writing, listening to lectures, etc. Cohen discovered that less than one hour out of each six-hour school day was spent on-task. The bulk of the day was spent on administrative duties: taking attendance, collecting homework and reports, making announcements, passing out supplies, preparing for activities, cleaning up, and discipline – perhaps the biggest time-waster of all.

Many teens are also overwhelmed by the prospect of spending an hour or more a day on the school bus getting to and from school, only to be faced with three or more hours of homework in the evening. In the teen group I facilitate, teens stress wasted time as a major reason for homeschooling, along with problems in the school environment: peer pressure, negative influences (drugs and sex), bullying, and even threats to personal safety.

Can Anyone Homeschool?

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. Many states have no specific requirements regarding the educational background of parents who homeschool. Studies have shown that homeschooled students repeatedly outperform their schooled peers on standardized tests, regardless of their parent's level of formal education.

With a little planning, a little cooperation from your teen, (yes, sometimes they actually do cooperate!), and creative record keeping, you'll be packing your homeschooled kids off to college – or wherever life's path will take them – before you know it!

How Do I Start?

Investigate your homeschooling options, and then set up a workable plan with your teen. This should be an individualized program, based on your teen's strengths and weaknesses, passions, and learning style. Successful homeschoolers are those who break away from the "one-size-fits-all" curriculum that most of us remember. Aim for a course of study that allows your kids the freedom to pursue their interests, cover the basics, and become a lifelong learner. The following books will show you exactly how to do this.

Must-Have Books for Homeschooling Teens

  • Homeschooling: The Teen Years – Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 13- to 18-Year-Old by Cafi Cohen. If you can buy only one homeschooling book, this is it.
  • Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook – Preparing 12- to 18-Year-Olds for Success in the College of Their Choice by Cafi Cohen. For kids with college in their future, Cohen provides valuable information and resources for both parents and teens.
  • The Teenage Liberation Handbook (a classic among homeschool families) and Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go to School, both by Grace Llewellyn. These books will inspire and guide your teen with real stories about kids who learn in freedom.
  • The Big Book of Home Learning: Junior High Through College by Mary Pride. An enormous collection of resources and advice from a homechooling veteran.
  • The Homeschooling Book of Answers: The 88 Most Important Questions Answered by Homeschooling's Most Respected Voices by Linda Dobson. The best book for those new to homeschooling. Intelligent answers to just about every homeschooling question.
  • The Homeschooler's Guide to Portfolios and Transcripts by Loretta Heuer. Covers the most difficult aspect of homeschooling teens: maintaining accurate records.

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