Tips for Motivating and Teaching Teenagers

Homeschooling a high schooler can be intimidating. Motivating a high schooler who does not want to learn makes it worse. If you are having difficulty with your high schooler, or if you are considering homeschooling your high schooler for the first time, here are some tips that may help.

If your teenager neglects his studies and you know he can do better, try to find the underlying reason for his attitude. Give him a chance to explain. As a young adult, he should be able to express himself fairly well. He may have some valid points; perhaps he does not like the curriculum, or maybe he does not see “the point” in it all, or maybe he just misses the social aspect of high school.

There are a number of ways to tackle all of these problems.

Join or start a co-op

A co-op will expose your teen to other teaching styles, relieve some of the burden from your shoulders, and provide time with peers. Knowing they must share with others in the class provides both motivation and accountability. For parents who feel their teenagers do not take them seriously as a teacher, a co-op may be the answer. Also, it may make a good transition from public school to homeschool by offering weekly classes in group settings while maintaining the parental control of education.

An added benefit of co-op for our family has been the friends and opportunities for socialization that our teenagers have found through co-op. Since some high school homeschoolers sometimes feel they are missing the high school experience, a co-op may fill in the gaps for your child. To us, the co-op has combined the best of homeschooling with the best of a private school.

Check local support groups for possible co-ops. At the very least, consider starting a small one with one or two other families. Focus on one subject to start off. Our co-op started with four families getting together weekly to do Apologia's general science. Now we have 20 different classes for preschool through high school.

Consider dual enrollment

Dual enrollment refers to a high school student enrolled in a college class that counts for both high school credit and college credit. Perhaps your student needs a little more independence and a chance to learn from someone besides you. A benefit to dual enrollment will be getting a head start on college!

Many colleges accept homeschoolers for dual enrollment classes once they have become sophomores or juniors. Contact your local colleges or universities or check their web sites for information about dual enrollment.

Let your student take over his education

Perhaps the curriculum is at fault. Set aside his current books and let him pick new ones or help you pick them out. Better yet, let him design his own plan of study. He just may get excited about school again!

To provide accountability, schedule deadlines for completing various goals he has set and periodic "checkups" to discuss with him how well he is staying on track. Alternatively, ask a friend or relative to serve as his "accountability partner," an outsider who holds him accountable for his work and serves as his cheerleader. This may relieve some of the tension between you and your teen.

Look for an apprenticeship or internship

Perhaps your student needs a break from the books for a while. Investigate apprenticeships. Through an apprenticeship, a student learns under a master in the trade, skill, or career in which he is interested and at which he is talented. Many teenagers start off volunteering in an internship in their chosen field and then move on to paid part-time or full-time positions.

If he does not see the point of his education, try an "apprenticeship class." One mom in our homeschool group found this method successful with her son. What you do is have him list three or four careers he is interested in, then have him spend two weeks on each career. Part of the process would include researching each career field, interviewing someone in that position, arranging a field day to get an idea of what each person actually does, and writing a report on why he would pursue this career or not.

If he questions the reason for his education, this project will illustrate why education is important to achieve his goals. Plus, it may help him establish a career goal and inspire him to reach it.

Focus on others

If you feel your teenager is just becoming lazy and self-serving, then cut out school for three or four weeks and have him volunteer to read to the elderly at a nursing home, deliver food to the homebound, help build a home for Habitat for Humanity, or go on a mission trip. One mother in our homeschool group found that getting her son to serve others in some way not only brought about the necessary attitude adjustment but also significantly reduced the stress in their family.

Get a mentor

Sometimes the personality clash and respect issue are just too much. A mom in our homeschool group turns over her teenage children to their father’s direct influence, authority and discipline as soon as they turn 13. This may be particularly necessary for boys. Just as your daughters have a good female role model and authority figure in you, your sons need a good male role model and authority figure in their dad. If dad is not available to take over their education, perhaps another responsible adult will serve as a mentor and accountability partner, such as an uncle, grandfather, pastor or close family friend.

Take the GED and move on

Another mom in our homeschool group informed her son that if he was not going to do the work she assigned and if he refused to go back to school, then he had to take the GED and start college or start working full time. He passed the GED very easily and has begun the admission process at a local college for the next semester.

Expand their social activities

Socialization is often the main reason stipulated by many high schoolers for returning to school. Your homeschooler will be socialized as she runs errands with you, goes to church, and participates in any extracurricular activities (soccer, basketball, chess, horseback riding, fencing, archery, drama, art, dance, etc.). However, as a homeschooler you will have to make some effort that you did not have to do when she went to school. At school, she was with kids her own age all day and had access to various school clubs. Now you have to find local clubs and take her to club meetings and to friends' houses.

Although you should let her continue to see her friends from school, it is imperative that she make new homeschool friends as soon as possible. Why? Her school friends will only tell her the good things about school that she is missing out on. The “bad” things will not be mentioned, and eventually she will forget how bad they really were. This happens all the time!

As a result, you should join a homeschool support group or two. Most group feature regular meetings, field trips, holiday parties and clubs. If your high schooler has a particular interest, find a club to match. If you see a need for a new club, start one! If your child is interested, then there must be other teenagers who are too and whose parents will help you get started.

Be committed

Commitment is an important factor in successful homeschooling. Homeschooling is a lifestyle. Transitioning from public or private school to homeschool will be a big adjustment to your teens and to you as well. You need to decide that homeschooling is the way you will go and nothing will get you to change your mind. Completely forget the options of public or private school; if you have to, pretend they are not even available. This attitude will help you face obstacles as challenges to overcome and you will be less likely to give up.

Pray for guidance, talk with your spouse, then sit down with your student and "lay down the law." Perhaps he needs to see that both his parents are committed to homeschooling, that both of you are in agreement that his education comes first and that he must obey.

Make sure your teenager does not think that homeschooling means he can hang out and have a lot of free time. Homeschooling is a commitment from him too; it's not an "easy" way out. Perhaps have a "Responsibility Agreement" that you and he will sign, where you both specify what is expected and what the consequences will be if expectations are not met.

Basically, homeschooling is not a magic solution, and some homeschooling families do find obedience and rebellion a problem in their teenagers. However, homeschooling can be successful for all ages and grades, and it is flexible enough to adapt to any homeschooler's needs, even a teenager! Just remember, if the Lord has led you to homeschool, then He will equip you to do so successfully. Perhaps some of these ideas will help you do just that.

Carren W. Joye is the author of Homeschooling More Than One Child: A Practical Guide for Families (ISBN 0-595-34259-0), Alabama State History Curriculum for grades K-9, and A Stay-at-Home Mom’s Complete Guide to Playgroups (ISBN 0-595-14684-8). A homeschooling mom of four children, she has founded four successful playgroups, a homeschool support group, homeschool co-op and homeschool covering. For more information on her books and state history curriculum, visit her web site at

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