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Wednesday, September 6

Top 5 Ways to Engage Tweens / Teens

The teen years.......did you just shudder?  Before this homeschooling life, I worked with eighth, ninth, and tenth graders...and loved it!  Teens are so exciting.  They are old enough to have a real, heavy conversation with (and it's really fun to explore the basis for their opinions!), but young enough to still need and want guidance (even if they won't admit it).

From those years of experience, my experiences with my own children, and just the sheer memory of being a teen myself....here are five suggestions for getting your kid out of the 'school is dumb and useless' mindset.

For those of you who've been through the teen years with your own children, feel free to weigh in on the suggestions below.  Leave your own tips and tricks!
  1. Let them choose what they want to learn.
    • "Do a job you love, and you'll never work a day in your life."  Allow your child to choose the coursework he's interested in, and he'll enjoy his school day.  Granted, you can't let him choose every single thing, but electives are an easy way to give him that freedom.  
    • Once he finds something he loves to learn about, you might find that he works harder at the basics so that he can get to electives!   Check out Home Sweet Life's post for more info on Homeschool Electives.
  2. Allow them to have more control over their day (scheduling).
    • One of the reasons teens give us attitude is because they are floundering between being an adult and being a child.  They want to be the adult, but they still need you to be the parent.  It can turn into a real power struggle.
    • Similar to allowing him to choose his electives, allow him to structure his day.  We use responsibility charts - the boys know what work must be accomplished each day.  While there are a few things that must be done at certain times, they have a lot of freedom about structuring their own day.  Math typically is shoved aside until last, but occasionally one of them will do it first, saying "I just want to get the bad stuff done with."  Lessons being learned...
  3. Tell them why they need to learn it.
    • How many times have you heard "this is pointless," or "I'll never need to know this," from your child?  If he's old enough to have some career interests, use that to explain why he needs the subject.  
    • Here's an example from Kym at KymPossible :
      • He wanted to be a sports journalist, so I was able to convince him that he would need strong writing skills, which he could learn by doing the grammar and composition assignments I gave him. One example. Algebra was harder. LOL But that came down to - you need this many math credits; at least one has to be algebra; to get the credit you need a passing grade, which is 70% (or whatever it would be); so that's why you have to do algebra. That worked for him. And I had to be willing to let him get just the passing grade rather than the A+ I knew he was capable of, if that's what he was going to settle for.
  4. Work on life skills.
    • Remember all that jazz about wanting to be an adult, but not being ready yet?  Take the opportunity to work life skills into your school day.  As a homeschooler, you have the unique opportunity (well, unique in that public school can't do it) to be able to practice these skills in real-world time.
    • Kelly at God's Writer Girl does this with her son all the time!  We also work on daily living skills: balancing a checkbook, managing money, laundry, cooking, personal hygiene, etc. These are skills he will need all throughout life. He wants responsibility, he has to earn it. I've told my son that if he wants to learn to drive a car, then he needs to prove that he can be responsible with his lessons and that he knows how to make good decisions.
  5. Let them become the teacher.
    • Let him teach, whenever possible. Not only does he learn the information, but he'll retain it better. It also allows him to try on that adult role, and shows him that you value his ideas and opinions, while trusting his ability to teach the information correctly.  If you have littles, let him teach them.  If you don't, let him give you a lesson.  My oldest is always teaching us about Greek Mythology....or playing Myth-O-Jeopardy (oh yes, it's a real game in this house!). 
San Gabriel Farm has a four-step process, based on the above principles, for getting her teens to step up!
  1. Tell them what they need to cover, and get their input on how to meet those credits.  Eg - You must take English, and they chose to focus on a year of Lord of the Rings for their reading and writing.
  2. Let them choose their own research paper topics.  If they can't think of one, assign one that you know will interest them (even if you have zero interest in it).  If they enjoy the topic, they'll try harder!
  3. Tell them your expectations, and then don't remind them.  If they miss a deadline, there should be consequences, just like in the real world.
  4. Give them flexibility to work independently and learn how to pace themselves, but check in with them periodically to let them know you are available and to help them learn to take the responsibility.

For more tricks on generally parenting teens, check out T is for Teenagers!
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