Sunday 19 April 2015

"The Vision Thing" -- Part 3 of Transitioning Your Teen to Secondary (Home)School

This is the third post in a series about transitioning your teens to secondary (home)school. It is the second of two parts about teens and routine, the one that is going to focus on choices in academics and how routine fits in with that.

Let's Do The Vision Thing

However, before getting stuck in to a discussion about books and hours of study and methods, I think it’s important to cover what your vision is for your child. That way, you can better tease out the details that will work for your family.

I think a decision-tree here would be helpful, so you can see how this series is being organised.

According to this schema, today’s blog post is the top line of the green level: “Your visions/aims” of the academic-side of your child’s home education.

I’m a vision-kind of person, so this is always in the back of my mind when I make decisions about any of my four children’s education. Even if you’re not into “the vision-thing”, I think it’s crucial that you stop for just a short while to think about your vision and aims, or you will find it difficult to settle into the kind of routine for your teen that will achieve results you can be happy with.

Here’s a quick check-list for you. I want you to rank the statements in order of most important to least important (from 1 to 14, with 1 being the most), as a way of helping you clarify your vision.

For me, a chart like this is tough. Do I really want my teenager to keep doors open to the future more than I want her to have good morals? Of course not! However, I am likely to put the academic success ahead of character training if I don’t think through my vision beforehand.

Let’s now just look at two extremes of responses to the check list. You can imagine that parents who seek their child’s happiness, social life, and extra-curricular activities is going to seek an entirely different programme from someone who is emphasising exams, academics, and university entry.

Would someone really put a child’s happiness behind some of the other issues on the list? Of course – I’m sure you see it all the time. It can be argued that many people do this when they send their children to school rather than home educate, because they think the child needs the education more than they need to be happy (especially as it’s likely their happiness ebbs and flows anyway). 

Or when, as some homeschoolers do, parents force a dry and boring workbook-style curriculum on their little dears, from which they require six hours of toil for five days every week. Or, make them play the violin, or enrol them in knitting classes, or take on a paper round.

I do it, too! My son says he doesn’t like swimming, and yet, four days a week, we have him plying up and down the swimming pool. My reasons? I value things over his happiness – partly, it’s the only sport we have time for him to do, and I want him to do a sport, ergo …. Partly, I think there is a chance to build his character through it. Partly, I’m hoping he will come to his senses and see how good he could be. A little success, I’m sure, will see him suddenly enjoy it and be glad he toiled for so many years. Who knows? On balance, swimming is better than no swimming, so I have decided that he will continue to do it.

Am I wrong for valuing these other things over his happiness? One day, I might think so, but for now, this is my vision, and this is how I make choices for my own children.

Some kids go, some kids stay --
You know your own child best!

Equally, I would not try to judge the decisions that you make for your children. You know them better than anyone, and you know how certain values and aims will suit your children. I’m just wanting to help you clarify what might be otherwise a vague idea, because you will be in a better position to help your teens transition to secondary (home)school that way.

Once you have ranked the 14 statements, you should get a fairly good idea about the kind of thing you’re putting the highest value on. If it’s academics, then you will want to pursue a more strenuous approach to your child’s studies. If it’s more about personality and well-being, then you will want to open up opportunities and activities that will probably be less focused on books and such.

In the next post, I’m going to suggest ways of transferring your vision into practical application, so that you can get the best out of your teen while still going “up a level” for secondary (home)school. If you want to make sure you get notified when the next post is available, then please subscribe via the various options in the sidebar to the right.

Dr Kat Patrick is a veteran homeschooler of 12 years. She grew up in Texas in the USA, taught at American university and then at secondary schools in Oxford, England. She is an examiner for the prestigious Cambridge board of exams at both GCSE and A-level, as well as founder of Dreaming Spires Home Learning, online tutorials for homeschooled secondary students all over the world.

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Suggestions, ideas, tweaks, or maybe you're just a happy Dreaming Spires student who wants to leave some encouraging words! Thanks for posting! Kat