As they get older, it is wise to include our teens in the homeschool high school planning process. They deserve a say in what they do, especially since we want them to become more independent in preparation for college.
In this episode we discuss all the areas that the teen can give input, as well as what to do when they’re not giving you much of anything. LOL.
Always remember the bigger picture, which is that the relationship trumps all. But for the specifics of how to make that happen when planning high school, listen to the episode!
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This episode is sponsored by Voyage – a life skills course for teens
The transition from high school to adult life is a major one. How can you make sure that your student is well prepared for the leap? By accessing the right resources!
Voyage is an interactive, online program that walks high school students through key skills they need to transition into adulthood well. Whether they are trying to figure out a career, exploring a college path, or simply seeking to learn adult life skills, Voyage has the tools and lessons to help equip them for their journey.
With five interactive modules covering personal development, career planning, college planning, financial responsibility, and everyday life skills, Voyage is designed for self-paced, independent learning, and it’s an affordable course at only $60 for all 5 modules!
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Episode 61: How to Involve Your Teen in the Homeschool High School Planning Process
Hi, this is Ann Karako, and you’re listening to Episode 61 of the It’s Not that Hard to Homeschool High School podcast.
Life is not static. I get to thinking that the way something is right now is the way it’s going to be for the rest of my life. And no, that’s not the case. Even tomorrow, things might be different than they are today.
Welcome to another episode of It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people. So you can confidently, competently, and even contentedly provide the high school education that best fits your teen and your family — and live to tell about it. I’m your host, Ann Karako, from Annie and Everything.com.
Hello and welcome. Today we are going to be talking about the planning process again. Last episode we talked about it in terms of what do you do when you need to change the plan? What are some of the situations where that might need to occur?
Today we’re talking about how to involve your teen in the planning process, which should at this point be a thing. And, you know, I don’t use that “should” word very often at all. And this is one of those times where I’m going to highly recommend that you allow your teen into the planning process. Maybe not initially, but after you’ve been going at it for a little while and you’re beginning to want to tweak things, then I think it’s a good idea — a very good idea. Maybe a very ultimately very, very, very good idea to dialogue with your teen about the planning process, or about the plan, I should say. So let’s dive into that.
And let me start by bringing into light or reminding us of the big picture. Sometimes we get bogged down in the details and we forget the big picture. So, in this case, I think the big picture is probably more important than the details. So let’s remind ourselves that the big picture is not the plan. The big picture is not the plan. The plan is a tool to use to get us to the big picture — the big picture being, yes, we want them to graduate and we want them to graduate with the relationship intact, without having caused a lot of stress and tension and frustration that we then have to go back and kind of build the relationship back up, or build our teen back up to somebody who feels like they’re worthwhile, or just recover from the amount of stress that has been induced.
That’s not what we’re after. And so if you are finding that homeschooling high school is involving a lot of stress, even if the relationship is going okay, that’s a great time to reevaluate the plan. I don’t think I mentioned that in the last episode, but that’s a great time to do so. The plan is just a tool. It is not the be all and end all.
And yeah, you know what? I will take just a second here, because I have the opportunity, to say that if you haven’t made an overall plan yet — especially if you are getting ready to start ninth grade, and you have not made an overall plan yet — then get to my website annieandeverything.com and click on Shop and look at Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School, a Step-by-Step Handbook for Research and Planning. Long title, but it will walk you, as it says, step by step through the planning process, through the initial planning process, the one that requires the research into your state home school law, and what colleges require, and how to make the decisions that you need to make to figure out what your requirements are going to be for your high school and then to put them into a roadmap to make that happen. Very important to do that.
And during that part of the process, you probably won’t be involving your teen very much, because before ninth grade, which teen knows what they want to do, anyway? They don’t know whether they want to go to college for sure yet; they probably think they want to, but they might not know for sure. You probably want them to, and so your going to set things up so that you’re meeting college requirements, but that may change down the line. But initially you’re probably going to have 95 to 100% of the say of what the original initial homeschool high school plan looks like as far as which credits, when they’re going to happen. And maybe even the initial curriculum that might happen as you begin ninth grade.
Ninth grade is really the year to just kind of get used to the idea of homeschooling high school. And so as many decisions as you can make ahead of time, without trying to figure things out as you go, it’s going to be a good idea. So yeah, buy that Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School; walk through it before you start ninth grade, and you will feel much more confident about getting started.
So what we’re talking about here is probably more like when you’re getting ready to plan for 10th grade, or you’re making some changes in midcourse — like large changes, not just curriculum changes, although they’ll come into this discussion too, with your teen — but the larger changes midcourse and the desire to not railroad your teen or cause them to feel so unmotivated because they’re doing everything that YOU want them to do, that’s on YOUR agenda, and their own desires are being overlooked. That’s not what going for here. So let’s talk about it.
So that’s the reminder; the plan is just a tool. It’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s not the big picture. The big picture is graduating from high school, with what they need to go to where they’re going next and maintaining the relationship in the process. Okay. So with that in mind, let’s talk about the different ways that the teen is going to be involved as you move forward through the homeschooling high school years.
First of all, they’re the ones who are going to have the ultimate say in what their career direction ends up looking like. You can have ideas about what you think they would be good at, and you are certainly welcome to share them, but that doesn’t mean you can force those ideas upon them.
You know, I had no counsel about this, absolutely none, when I was at this stage. And I really wish I had. So yes; give your teen counsel for sure. But they’re the ones that are going to make the final decision, and that needs to be okay. And if they’re able to make those decisions, or maybe at least have a general direction while you’re still in high school, then that’s obviously going to have input on what the goals are, what the requirements are to graduate from high school, what the requirements are going to be to be ready for whatever is coming next.
And you know what, if they decide they are not ready for college, honor that. Do not place your desire for them to go to college as the ultimate authority. You might be thinking that you don’t want them to miss out on something, or you don’t want them to regret something later. But college is a) expensive and b) it’s a lot of work and c) they need to be ready for it. They need to be motivated for it. Otherwise they’re just going to end up feeling worse than they already do, as they’re telling you they don’t think they’re ready.
So don’t make that the hill that you die on; it’s not a good one to die on. That does not maintain the relationship. RIght now, we’re just trying to graduate high school with what they need. And if that means that you do have to put your foot down about some of your requirements in high school, that’s better than putting your foot down about forcing them to continue on to college. You can get them ready for college in high school, but that doesn’t mean that that’s necessarily what’s going to happen afterwards. And if they do decide, “hey, I don’t think I’m ready,” well, that does open up the possibility for a lot of the requirements that you thought they had to have to maybe go away or at least to be adapted.
So yeah, their future desires about what they want do after high school are definitely going to come into play when it comes to planning. And those thoughts of theirs should be considered very carefully and very strongly, as far as what you decide is required of them during high school, and the types of curriculum that they’re going to use — all of that.
Another thing that’s going to come into play that they should be allowed to have serious input about is their learning style. You know, maybe they don’t do academics. Well, maybe they don’t do sitting at a desk well. Maybe they’re more hands-on. Maybe they’re more visual. Maybe they’re more audio. Maybe they’re more kinesthetic. Maybe they really need to be outside part of the day. There’s any number of things about learning style that could come into play here, and if you are ignoring that — and what your teen is saying about that — then you do that probably to both of your detriment.
So huge caution; don’t ignore it when they are expressing preferences about how they want to learn. Remember, they’re not saying they don’t want to learn at all. They’re just saying, “hey, I don’t like learning this way.” So then take that into consideration. That’s involving them in the planning process.
And so then as you’re looking at curriculum, you can say, “okay, this one’s a bit more hands on; this one has videos instead of textbooks,” –whatever it is that is accommodating those needs from your teen to learn the way they learn best. It’s not always going to be the way you learn best. In fact, it may not be it all the way you learn best. The way you learn best isn’t the only way to learn; it’s not the only way to learn well. So take their individuality into account as you are making plans, making credit requirements, choosing curriculum — all of that is involving them in the planning process.
Their interests are obviously also going to have a play here. One really concrete way that I liked to involve my teens in the planning process was with electives — not as much in determining which core courses they were going to take, but determining their electives, you know what, let them have almost free reign here. They want to learn about astronomy. Great; find some way they can learn about astronomy. They want to learn about horses. Great; figure it out. They want to learn about basket weaving. Yes. Why not? If it’s an elective it’s fair game for almost whatever they want. And as long as you can find a way that they can learn it and learn it well enough to be considered a high school credit, then why not?
So ask them what their interests are and what they want to learn about for sure. Dialogue about that every semester. Have at least one or two electives in the plan for every semester. And then there’s always at least one or two credits where they are knowing they’re studying what they asked to study. And that’s huge. So definitely make it a regular part of the plan.
But don’t plan those out too far ahead of time. So you’re not going to want to plan out junior and senior year electives when you’re still working on ninth grade and 10th grade. I highly suggest you ask them — enough before the semester starts for you to be able to do the research and find the curriculum or however they’re going to learn it — ask them what type of things they’re interested in now, that they want to learn more about.
And it could be the same as what they’ve already learned about, and you’ve got to go to a higher level, but it could be something completely different — because teens change, hello. They change moment to moment, week by week, semester to semester. So what they thought they were so gung-ho about last semester may be something that they are completely “meh” about this semester. So ask them each and every semester what it is they’re still interested in, what they want to learn more about, what’s new that they want to learn about. That is a great, concrete way to involve them in the planning process for electives and their interests. And you never know, but one of these interests might turn into their career interest. So keep that in mind.
Hey, I’m going to take a minute to jump in here and tell you that I am super excited to say that this episode is sponsored by the Voyage Course — and I am really intrigued by this; it looks amazing. Let me tell you about it. The transition from high school to adult life is a major one. How can you make sure that your student is well-prepared for the leap? By accessing the right resources. Voyage is an interactive, online program that walks high school students through key skills they need to transition into adulthood well. Whether they are trying to figure out a career, explore a college path, or are simply seeking to learn adult life skills, Voyage has the tools and lessons to help equip them for their journey.
With five interactive modules covering personal development, career planning, college planning, financial responsibility, and everyday life skills, Voyage is designed for self-paced, independent learning. And it’s an affordable course at only $60 for all five modules. And yeah, doesn’t that sound amazing, and all for only $60. So head to VoyageCourse.com to take it look.
Another way to involve your teen very concretely in the planning process is when it comes down to curriculum choice. Now, again, maybe not necessarily for ninth grade; I can totally get on board with mom or whoever is doing the homeschool planning as you enter high school, to plan ninth grade out in its entirety, based on what mom or the parents think should happen in ninth grade — what is important to them through ninth grade. After that point though, now you’ve all had a chance to test the waters. And I believe the kids should have a say in curriculum choice, as well as some of the other things we’ve already talked about. So even when it’s coming to math or English or history or science, the core courses, let your kid have a say in curriculum.
Now, what does that mean practically? It doesn’t necessarily mean — unless you’re totally comfortable with this; and if you’re one of those families who believes in exploring in all ways, you know, interest-led learning, then you might be comfortable with this. I’m saying I was not comfortable with it, but what am I even talking about? So I’m talking about letting your kid do the research about all the different curriculums out there, curricula out there, and letting you know which one they want to use. That’s a huge responsibility to put on the teenager, but some teens are up for it, and you might think that they could learn a lot by doing that.
My problem is I didn’t want my hands off that far. I had certain things that I wanted to make sure were part of any given curriculum for any given subject.I might’ve been a little bit more picky for math since I used to be a math teacher, but I was a little, I had some considerations that needed to be in place for all of the subjects. And so I would not have been comfortable with letting my kid 100% decide their own.
But so then how do you let them have a say when you still have certain requirements that you think the curriculum ought to meet? Well, here’s the way to handle that: you do the research; you find two or three options for each of those subjects that you are comfortable with. Preferably some that are different in the sense of learning style. So maybe this one’s a textbook, this one’s video based, this one is project-based — whatever that may be, if you can find some differing ones that still meet your minimum requirements, and then you present those options to the kid before you buy.
So you have a sit down with them, you know, the computer is on your lap, maybe you’re both sitting side by side on the sofa. I’ve done this numerous times; you’ve got the laptop on your laps, and you’re going to each website and you’re pointing out each curriculum and their pros and cons to each for the kid. And so you’re showing them curriculum option A — this is what’s good about it; this is what I’m a little concerned about, but you know, it should be fine. Here’s option B, same things. Here’s option C; here’s how they compare to one another. And it’s a great chance for dialogue. The teen is asking questions, you’re answering questions, and then guess what? You let them pick.
Remember, you’ve already vetted these curriculums yourself as any one of these three or two (if you can only find two) are going to be okay with me; then you let them 100% pick. And you might even have a preference, the one that you wish they would pick; if they ask you for that, you’re welcome to say it — but still give them the ultimate pick on this. It’s huge.
When you let them pick this, then six weeks from now, when they are hating it, you just say, “But that wasn’t my choice.” Which I guess really, now that I’m saying it, sounds like an “I told you so,” but it’s not really an “I told you so.” It’s more like you picked it, so now we’re living with it. This is the one you picked. But they can’t blame YOU that they don’t like it, because they picked it.
And so, yes, at that point, if they still hate it, there are ways to adapt a given curriculum, but it does just give you a stronger leg to stand on. But also, it motivates them from the beginning of starting that curriculum to do it and do it well. Because they don’t want to be in that spot where you do say that — “But I didn’t pick this; you did.” They don’t want to be in that spot. They want this to work out. They’re invested in it because they picked it ,and you gave them 100% of the right to choose it. So this is a great way to get teens involved in the planning process.
The parent card
I do want to take a second — I alluded to this a little earlier; I’m just going to take a second to explore this a little bit now — I am fully supportive that there are going to be some things that are not negotiable, that you believe that you have the right to choose 100% by yourself. Whether it’s curriculum, whether it’s credit requirements, whatever it might be — you can, as the parent, the administrator, reserve the right that there are some things that the teen gets no “say” in. But the caveat there and the caution there is to keep those to an absolute minimum. Do not make these the majority of the aspects of the kid’s day. Please keep that to a minimum.
Try to meet the teen at least halfway as often as you can. Because this does help that relationship, and it does keep their motivation better than when you are legislating everything. But we are the parents, we are the administrators, and sometimes we do know best. These are teens we’re talking about; they’re not full grown adults, they don’t always see the ramifications of their decisions like we do, and there might be some decisions that we have to make for them when it comes to planning. And I do totally get that.
In our case, even the homeschooling high school itself, that was probably our only non-negotiable. But if it was non-negotiable, and I wrote a blog article about that, and I can link to that in the show notes. We did not dialogue with them about the option of not homeschooling through high school. Okay — we dialogued with them about why that was not an option, but it never was a negotiable item for us.
However, just about everything else was negotiable. I think really when it comes down to it, the only thing that we would not have compromised on was that they needed to meet college admittance requirements. So they needed to have so many credits of English, so many credits of math, so many credits of history, so many credits of science, and a foreign language, if necessary to get into the colleges that they wanted to get into — or any colleges. You know, not all of my kids went straight to college after high school, but they all met the requirements to do so if they had wanted to.
And so, now that I’m verbally processing this, that was our only other non-negotiable. But how we got there, and if it turned out that one core course requirement that we thought was necessary turned out not to be necessary — that was all up for negotiation. And we did drop things; even senior year, we dropped some things that turned out not to be necessary because now they were already accepted into a college that didn’t have that as a requirement, anyway. So, okay, let’s make senior year easier; let’s drop this particular one.
So that’s where we stood on negotiables versus non-negotiables; but curriculum and credit requirements — as far as electives, and activities, and just so many other things — were completely negotiable. And I think that’s extremely important so that the kid feels like they’re being listened to and heard.
It’s funny though. Sometimes you’re like, “I tried to meet you halfway,” and then they come back and say, “Well, I wish you had held me more accountable. I wish you’d been more strict. I thought that I would be farther ahead in life” or something. And you’re like, “That’s not how that went down. We made the best decisions we could at the time. And the relationship was always more important than trying to nag you to get these certain things done. And so that’s the way it is.”
So sometimes you feel like you can’t win, but I always felt like yes, long-term goals are important, but not at the expense of even short-term relationship. So that’s, again, something you have to weigh for yourself.
When they don’t have any input
Sometimes you’ve done this. You’ve been like, “I want to dialogue with my student. So I’m asking them these questions, these diagnostic questions — how they feel about that, what’s their learning style, what are their interests, what electives do they want to do, what curriculum out of these ones do they wanna pick? And they just look at you, and they say, “I dunno.” Okay, obviously I’m using my acting chops there, but it’s true that sometimes they have no idea. They have no input, or maybe they’re feeling sullen that day and they don’t feel like giving input. So what do you do about that?
So sometimes if the discussion can wait, now you’ve at least brought it up to their attention that you’re thinking about these things, and maybe they just need time to process and think about them, too. So maybe say, “Okay, why don’t you think about that for a few days, and we’ll come back to this.” That’s always one of the best ways to handle it, because sometimes we spring these questions on them and they haven’t thought about them at all. And it’s not really fair to expect the answer that’s going to make all these decisions, going to affect all these decisions. They want time to think about it, too; and they don’t really know what they think yet, when they consider the ramifications of the fact that if they say this, then it’s going to mean for the next year they have to abide by that. Well, they’re just not ready, so give them a few days, circle back around. That’s one way to look at that.
If you do that, and they still haven’t really thought about it, then maybe there’s some other more specific questions you can ask. So instead of “How do you like to learn best?” “I dunno.” “Okay. So do you like watching videos? How do you feel about watching videos? Has that worked well for you? Do you tend to lose focus? Do you enjoy being on the computer that much?” See, so now you’re delving into some specifics about those things, and usually they can answer the more specific questions; so that you can use those specific answers to build the data set to help you determine: okay, no, videos maybe aren’t a great idea, or, yeah, they’re fine with videos. Maybe they’re not super enthusiastic about them, but they’re okay with them. So a lot of times just delving in with some more specific questions rather than the open-ended questions can help get that input that you are trying to get.
Eventually, if they are just neglecting to give input, then it’s a good idea to just make the statement, “Okay. We have tried on this to get some specifics from you about what you like and don’t like. And since you’re not really giving me any, then let’s try this” — whatever it might be that you’ve come up with. Or if you haven’t come up with anything yet, then “How about we do this?” Or “How about I look into this further and make a decision?”
And then you do look into it further, and you come up with something, and you bring it back to them maybe for a yay or nay, or you’re just like, I’ve already done that. So I’m going to make the final call. Sometimes it’s necessary for you to make the final call if you’re not getting enough of the detailed information that you need from them. You know what — that’s okay. That is okay. So then you make the final call, and you live with the final call — and maybe next time you start to ask them about stuff, maybe now they’re like, “Okay, last time I didn’t say anything, and this is what happened. And I really wished later that I had said something, because I didn’t like what happened, or it wasn’t really my cup of tea — so this time I’m going to say something.”
Remember that none of this is static. My husband has to tell me this all the time. Life is not static. I get to thinking that the way something is right now is the way it’s going to be for the rest of my life. And no, that’s not the case. Even tomorrow things might be different than they are today. You just never know. So just because you’re making the final call on something now, and you might even be slightly frustrated about it because they were being resistant to letting you know what they were thinking — if they were thinking anything at all, and then you’re like, “Do you ever think about anything?”
You know what? Sometimes they’re just not. Especially if it’s a guy — which it’s astounding to me, but I’ve been told from both my husband and my son that guys have the capacity to literally think about nothing. Literally they can think about nothing; there can be a complete and utter blank up there. It can be that straight ZZZZZZZZZ where there’s nothing going on. And I can’t relate to that at all, but anyway — don’t worry about it if you end up making the final call, even though you were pressing for some more information. That may change, that later on they’re able to dialogue with you better about that. That’s a growth thing; that’s a maturity thing. So no worries about that.
So hopefully this has given you some ideas about how to involve your teen in the process of planning your homeschool high school thing, both with credits, with goals, with requirements, and with curriculum. Mostly, it’s just an opportunity to open dialogue, to see what they say, and then make decisions, taking that into consideration going forward. And trying to meet them halfway, at least halfway, as often as you can. And that’s going to help all of the years go more smoothly for everyone.
You know, this also applies to their schedule for the day. When do they work best? Do they work best in the morning? Do they best in the afternoon? Do they need to sleep in? Do they prefer to be woken up? You know, what do you like for breakfast? What sets you up for the day? All of these things. What kind of pencil do you like? What kind of pen do you like? Do you prefer a binder? Do you prefer spiral notebooks? All of this stuff should be open for them to have input.
Little of all of those little details should be legislated by you, because you’re preparing them for adulthood. They need to start learning what these things are about themselves. They need to be able to have a safe environment to express those opinions. They literally are just opinions, their preferences. If they do it differently than you think they should, that means absolutely nothing. They’re not rejecting you in any way, shape, or form. They are learning how to stretch their wings and try to do things their way. And it may turn out great. It may not work so well. And then you can say, “Well, why don’t we try it this way instead?” Or “Maybe now you’re willing to try what I said you should try in the first place” — whatever, doesn’t matter. This is all dialogue, and this is building relationship. And the more you can respect their input, the better that relationship will be.
Teens are very keyed up about being respected. They don’t always deserve to be respected — that’s okay. We can give grace. We don’t always deserve to be respected either, right? It’s a two way street, as always.
Okay. So at the end there, I got kind of worked up. Hopefully this has been helpful to you. I thought we were done, and then we weren’t done anymore. So have a great day.
In July, I forget what I’m — I always say this — the second podcast episode of the month, I haven’t looked forward to… Actually, this is July’s episode … so I haven’t looked forward to August yet to see what that’s going to look like. Just come on back and find out.
Thanks for being here. You know that for the show notes, you want to go to Annieandeverything.com, click on Podcast, find Episode 61, and there are all the show notes. All the links to any related resources will be there, including that link I told you about earlier, Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School. And please always remember: it may not be always easy to homeschool high school, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. Alrighty. See you next time.
- Episode 91: Unschooling Teens — My Experience and Advice (with Julie Polanco) - November 18, 2022
- Episode 90: Are You Giving Grace to Your Teen? - November 4, 2022
- Episode 89: Kristin Moon’s Homeschool Experience — Do’s and Don’ts for High School - October 21, 2022