Dealing with wobbles over home educating teens.

I popped over to Rachel’s home education blog (here) recently and felt such empathy for her wobbles!

Meet Rachel over on her blog

We all get them – I did too – even though when writing about home education I always try and herald the positive.

However, it’s not entirely accurate to consider wobbles a down side of home education, because wobbles are a down side of any educational route, school or otherwise. And if the kids were in school there’d be just as many concerns. Actually – there were – as ours went a while.

And wobbles are in fact a down side of parenting, for, whatever style you adopt, whatever sort of person you are, anxieties about the children are ever present. Wobbles are a natural part of family life and not exclusive to home education. The up side is; it’s because we care. We’re caring parents and caring parents worry.

However, we have to keep that in perspective and one of the techniques I used regularly and one that many parents are bad at is self-care. We have to look after ourselves to home educate (and parent) long term. (This post explains)

The other thing that sometimes worries us about home educating longer term is that you can feel as the children get older it gets more serious and that ‘time is running out’.

I’ve put that in inverted commas to identify the fact that it’s not true. Time is not running out. You can take as long as you like (or the kids like) with their education. They don’t have to be finished, polished, qualified by the time they’re 16. It’s not law. There are variations that work just as well. And the whole point of home education is that you do whatever suits the needs of your child.

Inevitably we compare our kids with those in schools. And that always gives us wobblitus! Best to forget what schools are doing and stick to your principles to educate to suit your child’s needs, rather than the system’s needs.

And as for serious; thinking back to when the children were little I imagine that you took quite a lightweight, inspirational, almost playful approach to their learning life. Well, just because the children are teens does not mean it has to be any different. Whatever you do as part of their education can still be done with a light touch.

Children’s education in schools, between the ages of 14 and 16 suddenly becomes a heavy slog of GCSEs with little other inspiration. If left up to the school, the more GCSEs they can pile on a youngster the better they tell us it is. It’s not! They do this not for the good of the child, but for the good of the stats of the school – I heard that from a head. Large numbers of GCSE qualifications has nothing to do with the personal educational development of a child, unless it’s their choice.

The educational development of children between the ages of 13-16 can feel like a plateau. This is what both myself and friends who were HEing at the time felt like. It is already a physiological difficult time for them; their neural pathways are changing which up-skittles their personalities, their thought processes, their sleep patterns, as well as their bodies. What a terrible time for them to be doing exams anyway. (Some useful info here)

It’s also a time they begin to challenge their dependency – sometimes in less than pleasant ways for us. We have much to tolerate. But understanding that they mostly can’t help it, and maintaining as much mutual respect as possible, will help.

So it’s a tricky time whether parenting or educating. The youngsters do literally lose their way a bit, unless they’re incredibly lucky to have found a course they’re passionate about.  Otherwise they can become extremely unmotivated sofa-sloths who want to do little other than game.

Parents I knew tried various strategies to push them on past this inertia, usually in the form of continued dialogue about what they might do, why they might do it, what they’d like to do, what’s good to do both personally and health wise. And what they might need educationally in order to progress. As well as suggesting stimulating activities other than gaming! Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.

But I’d like to reassure you that all those gaming, sofa loving sloths have gone on to do something. Some did GCSEs at home, over a space of several years, some post 16. Some went to FE colleges when they discovered courses they might like or to do qualifications there. None I know did more than the statutory Uni entrance requirement of 5 or 6 yet, despite competing against others with ten or more, still were interviewed, awarded places, or jobs. They all found a way forward.

On the Home Education UK Facebook group (you have to ask to join this one) there is an inspirational document about autonomously home educated youngsters who are grown up and what they’re doing now which is reassuring reading.

It is very much a question of trust.

Kids want to get out into the adult world, with adult possessions and have a crack at gaining the adult income that goes with it. I’d guess that you’ve educated yours to the degree of intelligence that, with your guidance, will help them find ways to do that.

Educating teens is the same as parenting teens – education being very much influenced by parenting whether they’re in school or not. It requires tolerance, empathy, compromise, confidence (you had the confidence to HE, after all), and trust.

Trust in yourself as a parent.

Trust in them as intelligent young people who will go for what they need when they need it, whatever form it takes, despite the odd plateau.

So wobble not!

Look after yourself. Be patient. Personal development doesn’t happen to order. Education is life long. It’s never too late and we don’t have to do it like sheep! That’s what you home educated for in the first place, wasn’t it?

(You might like to look out for my new book especially to help both new and longer term home educators with the wobbly bits – coming later this year. Pop over to the publisher’s website and sign up for their newsletter, so you’ll get first news of when it’s available).

17 thoughts on “Dealing with wobbles over home educating teens.

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for reminding me to trust in my children; this was always my philosophy while my daughter was growing up as a home educated child and now she is at uni and a wonderful human being! Although this was before computers and gaming! I have found it more difficult to trust with my 11 and 12 year old son’s who both love to game, I find it a constant battle! Thank you again so much for reminding me how important it is to trust in my children’s wonderful ability to learn, discover and follow their own interests, even if their interests don’t resonate with me! Computers….Aaagh! 🙂 xx

    • What a super comment Theresa, thanks so much. It’s delightful to know my post was of help. Yeah – the lure of the Web and the Games are a constant challenge to balance aren’t they? I think most parents find this. In fact there’s a piece about it in my forthcoming book about wobbles quoting one mum who advises going with the flow, showing an interest, but keeping a constant dialogue going about doing other things as well – there – a sneak preview! if you sign up to the publishers newsletter you’ll get to know when it’s available. All the best and thanks again.

      • Thanks very much Ross. I’ve just signed up for the newsletter; really looking forward to reading your book! Take care.

  2. I am so grateful to have found your blog and this post especially. I’m homeschooling a 14 year old and possible looming GCSEs have sent us into a bit of a tailspin. The reminder to trust is brilliant. Thank you.

    • That’s great to know, thanks for telling me Rachel. There are so many ways to become an educated person, and no time limits to it either. Try and relax and know that you can break out of any of those traditional boundaries – that’s the beauty of home schooling!

  3. Thank you thank you thank you! Thank you for reminding me of how I used to home educate! You are so right about trust; I completely trusted my daughter (well most of the time anyway) to learn as she wanted to and she decided for herself to take gcse’s and now she is at University. My two boys are 11 and 13 and I struggle to have that same trust; partly because we now have gaming interests, which I have very little understanding of, and also the constant outside pressure and new laws about needing maths and English gcse’s before getting on to to any college course. Thank you for reminding me to trust my boys as I did my daughter! I am very grateful to have read your inspiring blog.

    • That’s so delightful to know. So thank you too for taking the time to comment here. It’s sometimes so difficult to remain true to what you believe when it seems to be the opposite to everyone else – I remember that feeling! But just because it’s opposite doesn’t mean it’s wrong – something else for us to try and hang onto! Wishing you all the very best. x

  4. Thank you for writing about teenagers. I have two 13 year olds and I am starting to panic about GCSEs . Every one is asking ‘what about GCSEs ‘ What career path have they chosen ? They are only 13 still learning about the world and their changing selves . There seems such pressure to get GCSEs.Please write more about the older home Ed kids, It is very reassuring and much needed . Most HE stuff is focused on the decision to HE and then the younger child .
    Thanks again x

    • Thanks for your comment Nicky, I’m delighted to know it’s helped. And I’ll take on board what you say about HE posts for older children. I suppose I don’t write so much about that because it is mostly the newbies who want advice and reassurance as the people with teens have often been doing it so long they’re finding their own individual path. But I see there is perhaps a need for reassurance here too! Thanks again. x

      • ross, i am a home edding newbie, and my boy is 13. it’s so helpful, heartening and reassuring to read this kind of post. i know that what we’re doing is right, but i wobble regularly, almost always as a result of my own schooly conditioning. please write more! – i imagine there will be a fair few others in my position over the coming months/years, as the pressure on teens is increased.

      • Thank you for your kind words – it’s heartening for me too, to know my work is helping! I’ve been working on a new book for those wobbly times with stories like these to reassure which is hopefully to be published in the next month or so. So do pop back and you’ll find out when, or sign up for the publishers newsletter over here All the best and enjoy your home learning.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you! My son turns 13 next week, has never been to school and yet I’m suddenly having serious wobbles about what he should and should not be doing with himself! I even subjected him to a mother son ‘chat’ the other day where I tried to steer him down unnecessary paths of potential interest and enthusiasm in a bid to break the cycle of continuous sofa ensconsement! Your posting has just reminded me why we’re home educating and to try and remember to take deep breaths and trust in him to guide himself. Thank you!

  6. Great post Ross. I sometimes feel like the wobbles are a permanent state so will be looking forward to your new book with interest! X

  7. And that, dear Ross, is one of the reasons why you are so fabulous! I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience and wisdom – it has helped me to stop and focus and unpick some of the assumptions that I was sub-consciously holding on to. I have felt a bit intimidated by the thought of education and parenting a teen, but your words are fast becoming my new mantra to replace the wobbles: “There is no difference; we are still learning and growing together, and he will develop as he is ready” Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. 🙂 xx

    • You are very kind to tell me – thank you Rachel. I’m very moved. May I share one more thing with you; I found the teens absolutely fabulous, an intriguing and inspiring phase of our parenting life. And as they grow further that just gets better and better. It’s not all roses obviously. But growing up young people, whatever stage they’re at, are vibrant and inspiring. You’ve got all that to look forward to! 🙂 Enjoy. x

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