It's back-to-school (or not-back-to-school, if you prefer) time around the country, and I wanted to take a moment to offer homeschooling moms with teenagers some encouragement.
Moms? You have permission...
1. When well-meaning (or not) friends, strangers, and/or extended family members question your decision to homeschool your teens, you have permission to reply, "I understand and thank you for your concerns. However, these are my kids and I am raising them and educating them in the way I feel is best for them. If you're genuinely interested in learning more, I'd be happy to point you to the numerous studies and literature that support both the academic and social benefits of homeschooling all the way through high school. If you want to talk about your objections further, we can do so, in private, away from them. I would never dream of undermining your authority in front of your children and I ask you to grant me the same respect."
2. You have permission to shorten the above answer to, "Tim Tebow."
3. You have permission to not just love your teenage daughters, but to like them as well. I was appalled a few years ago when I saw an ad for the television show, "I Hate My Teenage Daughter." Don't get me wrong. I get it! I know it's not that the moms in this show really hate their daughters or the other way around. We're supposed to get out of it that while they can't relate at all and don't understand one another at all, deep down, they really, really love each other.
No. Just no. Moms? Our teenage daughters need us while they go through the pangs of growing up, maybe even more than they needed us when they were taking their first steps or learning their ABCs. We've been there and done that and while most of us haven't ever wrote the book on it, we do still remember what it was like to be 16. Long before they turn to their peers for (highly questionable) advice, they should be coming to us. Homeschooling allows us the wonderful opportunity to build strong relationships with our daughters. We can relate with and understand our daughters and they can do the same with us.
4. You have permission to not just love your teenage sons, but to like them, too. And I don't mean with a click on Facebook! ;) Sure, they'll probably go to their dads more for help and advice now, but that doesn't mean they don't still need us, just like their sisters do. Homeschooling gives us the time to really get to know the young men our boys are becoming, and to build lasting, healthy relationships with them. Teenage boys don't have to be surly, unresponsive mysteries to their parents. They can be awesome young adults with a lot to contribute to their families.
This, to me, has been the true, lasting benefit to homeschooling in our family. Because you know what? At the end of the day, if my kids forget what years the Korean War took place, confuse a line from Hamlet with something from Macbeth, or grab a calculator to compute 281 x 59, rather than work it out in their heads or on paper? That's okay. Their lives and futures are not completely ruined. What really matters is that right now? They aren't always rolling their eyes at me. We aren't engaging in shouting matches. They aren't slamming doors, ignoring me, or doing everything they can to avoid my presence. We laugh so much at dinner, sometimes our food gets cold before we can even finish it.
I don't hate my teenagers. I don't even dislike them. They're really fantastic people. Homeschooling gave me the opportunity to discover this about them and for that alone, it has all been more than worth it.
5. You have permission to take ten minutes in the middle of the day to sit down and drink a cup of tea, away from your computer, cell phone, lesson plans, and other distractions.
6. You have permission to say, "I have no idea. To the internet!" any time your kids ask you something you cannot answer. One of the most common criticisms of homeschooling in the later years is: "No one can be an expert in every field children need to learn." True. But seriously, that's not as big of a deal as some people believe. I had *plenty* of teachers in middle school and high school that were far from experts themselves. And one of them? Was one of the best teachers I ever had. The first day of school, she came into the classroom, sat down at her desk and confessed, "I was hired to coach girls' volleyball and teach American History. This morning, I was told, 'Oh. We made a mistake. We need you to teach World History 1.' I am completely unprepared and have no idea what I'm doing, but that's all right. We are going to do this together."
The class was fun, engaging, and interesting. When our teacher was unsure of something, she readily admitted it and sent one of us to the library for the answer. (Oh, those pre-internet days!) One of the best lessons I got from that class was that grown-ups don't have to have all the answers, and that it's okay to say so and go out and find them.
7. You have permission to play hooky every now and then. I don't know why, but it seems to me that in many homeschooling families, once the children age past field trips to the petting farm, school becomes School: Now We Really Mean It! Yes, your kids' studies are very important, but if the weather is great and you've been working hard for several weeks, take the day off! Call it an in-service day. Remember those? Get out and enjoy being a family. (Refer back to #3 & 4 here.)
8. You have permission to not be perfect.
9. You have permission to believe in yourself.
10. You have permission to homeschool your teenagers. Just like when they were younger. Because whether they are 5 or 15, it's still legal to homeschool them in all 50 states. As long as you are following the laws that govern homeschooling where you are, you really don't have to answer to anyone else. Not rabid homeschool critics. Not well-meaning friends. Not random store clerks who can't imagine why you would deny your children the social "opportunities" your local school provides.
Love them. Like them. Cherish them. These are your children.
Who am I to be giving out all this permission? I'm nobody. But I do know moms. We are our own worst critics. Sometimes, I think it's hard to give ourselves permission for things that in truth, don't actually require anyone's express permission at all. So, while I've said it, it's not really about permission. It's just a reminder of things you already know, but sometimes forget. You can do this, Moms.
Have a great homeschooling year!