Homeschooling a difficult teen through high school can be a perfect option. I have served as academic advisor for homeschool teens and families for decades, so have walked through the process with lots of difficult teens. I’d like to share some things we have learned together.
First off: What is a difficult teen? *Difficult* is a pretty broad term, but YOU know if your teen is difficult. Here are some types of difficult teens that I have helped guide through homeschooling high school:
- Teens with strong-wills
- Teens with ADHD
- Teens on the autism spectrum
- Teens with learning disabilities (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory processing issues, non-verbal learning disabilities)
- Teens suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues
- Teens with oppositional-defiant or other behavioral disorders
That’s a lot of categories! What is your teen experiencing? Sometimes it is hard to figure out.
Sometimes when I work with parents, they complain that their teens had never had academic problems until high school. Then in 9th grade, they started *being ornery* or *rebellious*. Sometimes teens ARE simply doing the teenage stubbornness, but sometimes underlying learning disabilities or ADHD are revealed at high school level because the academics have become more intense and more difficult to compensate for. A struggling teen might feel lost and embarrassed and cover that up with irritable behaviors.
Sometimes teens who are on the mild end of the autism spectrum (Asperger’s) have to learn to manage their uniquenesses while they learn to do the high-powered academics of high school. That’s a lot to work on. Learning to understand themselves and how they experience the world and the high school education process is just as important as their core academics. Sometimes they like working with a coach or learning self-awareness from other young people (like the Asperger Experts).
Sometimes I have worked with teens that appeared to be difficult, but then we discovered there was an underlying issue such as depression or anxiety. These issues make focus and motivation very difficult. These young people appear to simply not care or carrying a bad attitude or chip on their shoulders. When the issues were addressed, the *strong will* got better.
Sometimes parents realize that their teen is experiencing a challenging behavioral disorder such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Homeschooling a teen with ODD is difficult, and sometimes impossible. Make sure you have prayed through. You will probably need outside support with therapy for your teen (and maybe yourself). Keep the academics simple, choose your battles, keep the home orderly and routine as much as possible, do the best you can to concentrate on self-care such as drinking water, eating balanced diet, LOTS of exercise, adequate sleep at healthy time frames (count it toward health credits).
13 Steps to Homeschooling a Difficult Teen
Whether your teen has a *push-back* personality or there is an underlying issue, here are some steps to help with homeschooling high school with difficult teens.
Step 1: Be aware of your own stuff. How does homeschooling a difficult teen make you feel? Do you feel like a failure or angry or afraid? As you have noticed from homeschooling the younger grades, God has a sense of humor (or justice, or something) because educating our kids is just as much about our character development as it is their growth. No matter WHAT kind of teen you have, you’ll do some personal growth through the high school years.
Step 2: Set clear goals. The beauty of homeschooling is the YOU get to decide what the goals will be. Is dealing with underlying issues more important than college prep? You go, girl! Set some goals that deal with those areas and set more average academic goals. Either way, set goals. (As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.)
Step 3: Include teen in the process. You’ll get better buy-in…and decision making experience is prep for adulting.
Step 4: When planning, take requirements and expectations down to a minimum. Choose your battles. Where necessary, go for minimum graduation requirements. They have the rest of their lives to develop interests and talents.
Step 5: Include service. Volunteering is good for everyone and is research-proven to help with things like social anxiety and depression. It also builds good character (and looks good on a transcript).
Step 6: Teach self-care for health class. Log hours in personal hygiene development and self-care skills if this is a weak area.
Step 7: Build a support system. Look for friendly co-ops or group classes of some sort where possible. Find some mom-friends for yourself. Online friends count.
Step 8: Plan fun. Daily laughter helps learning and overall health.
Step 9: Manage addictions. Teens who are struggling sometimes find ways to self-medicate through gaming, YouTube, food, etc. If you need help, try a good counselor.
Step 10: Build interests. Get out of the house. Explore new activities, go on field trips, go for nature walks, try new things.
Step 11: Concentrate on strengths. Every teen has a strength. When you find it, help them develop it where possible.
Step 12: Keep boundaries, but choose them wisely. Choose your battles. Don’t draw a line in the sand for something that doesn’t matter.
Step 13: Allow for grace. We all need it. Give yourself grace and your teen grace.
Homeschooling high school is not for the lazy or faint of heart; but if God called you to do it, you can do it! For many teens, home education allows them to grow and become the person God created them to be. I’ve seen it many times.
Vicki Tillman is one of the sisters at 7SistersHomeschool.com and the Homeschool Highschool Podcast. Besides homeschooling her 5 kids all the way through high school, she has served as a homeschool academic advisor, mental health counselor and life/career coach for many years.
This article is part of the I Homeschool Because . . . series. Click here to read other articles in this series, download the free eBook, You Can Do It, Too: 25 homeschool families share their stories, and enter a giveaway from Kiwi Crate valued at more than $200.