[Today’s post “Transitioning from Homeschooling Middle School to High School” was written by contributor Michelle Habrych.]
Transitioning from Homeschooling Middle School to High School
When I started homeschooling a decade ago, my husband and I agreed that I would try it for a year and see how things went. My son was almost 5, and things were simple. We did nature walks, completed unit studies, read books, and played games. Then my husband and I attended our first homeschool convention a few months later. After listening to one speaker, my husband announced that we would be homeschooling through high school. What?!
Flash forward—today I am homeschooling my sophomore and eighth grader. We have had some bumps along the way, but the plan still is to homeschool all the way through to high school graduation. In my time with other moms at our homeschool group, I noticed that there tends to be a significant shift in the middle-school years to more accountability for and greater expectations on students, followed by more difficult subjects and increased workload in high school years. Add in the physical and emotional roller coaster that is the teen years, and you may find yourself in need of guidance or encouragement. Let me share some of the things I’ve learned in the past few years.
Give your student a planner. Our first planner was a simple assignment notebook I purchased in a back-to-school sale at the local retailer. I wrote down assignments that I expected my son to complete on his own during that week. He could also use it to write down any homework he was given from his homeschool group classes. This was one way I intended for him to take responsibility. I won’t lie—it did not often work out the way it was supposed to. But it was a start. The trick is to keep at it. Build the habit.
From the early paper planner, we have evolved to an online system. We now use Homeschool Tracker in our homeschool for several reasons. It helps me to plan work for multiple students and keeps track of what we’ve done, making transcripts much easier. For my teens, it allows them the freedom to log in to the webpage, see their assignments, add assignments from homeschool group classes, and mark them complete as they do them. In turn, I can see what they have finished and still need to finish, without having to grab their planners. Once I mark a test taken, I can record the grade and Homeschool Tracker tallies it throughout the school year. It’s an all-in-one that works well for us. I am sure there are other programs available that may have similar functions; this is just the one that was recommended to me and that we’ve used for over a year.
In middle school, subjects begin getting more difficult. My main advice here is to not overwhelm your student. Slowly bring in the harder work. Choose one or two classes in which to increase the expectations. For example, this year my daughter is in eighth grade. Her difficult subjects are a writing class, taught at our homeschool group; science, taught as a class in our home with other homeschoolers; and pre-algebra, taught at home on an individual basis. This was slowly increased from last year’s schedule. By next year, as a freshman, I will expect her to be able to take more difficult courses at our homeschool group, and she will have had practice this year in learning to balance her increased workload.
Ways to Deal With Stress
Emotional outbursts are par for the course during this time. My suggestions to help keep the schoolwork going include taking breaks as needed, offering reassuring hugs, and trying to remember your reason for homeschooling. Pray a lot, together and on your own. Laugh when you are able. I have tried to talk my emotional student through the lessons, to make sure everything is understood, before leaving her on her own to complete the work. I try to reassure her with encouragement when she laments how difficult everything is. It doesn’t always work in the moment, but I have seen it build. Once she even thanked me for teaching her math, which is her most difficult and emotional subject.
Get your student involved. We discuss class options and scheduling before taking on new commitments. I ask them what they want to learn. Sometimes my students have choices; other times my husband and I choose for them. But as they mature, we feel they should be permitted to help make these decisions for their educations.
Homeschooling the teen years can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be hard. These suggestions can help ease the transitional period for both you and your student.
Michelle Habrych has been homeschooling her two kids for a decade. She enjoys being able to share her experiences so they can be helpful to others.
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