Friday, November 19, 2010

I Can’t Teach My High Schooler!!

PWM and I have generally been pretty confident about our ability to educate our kids at home.  Unfortunately, part of that confidence has been because we were unimpressed with the academic achievement of so many kids coming out of the public schools.  In any case, we always figured that if we could potty train toddlers, we could certainly teach them academic stuff.

But, then came high school.  Overall, PWM and I have remained confident of our ability to teach our kids, even with most high school topics.  After all, between the two of us, we have three bachelor’s degrees and a doctoral degree!  In this second year of Rosie Girl’s high school years, I think I’m learning as much as she is – and not just academics.

Lots of parents teach their kids at home until high school and then have them attend a public or private school.  Other families work to make sure that their kids can teach themselves during the high school years so that the student can learn things that the parent may not know.  I leaned toward the self-teaching concept.  But, I’m starting to re-think this position – or at least the idea that teens should be able to self-teach anything.

Rosie Girl is a visual learner and a great reader.  She learns things like History and Biology very well from textbooks.  We are finding, though, that she is having real trouble with Chemistry because she doesn’t need to learn a set of facts, but a set of skills.  No problem.  I’ve taken lots of Chemistry classes over the years, so I figured I’d just teach her.  Unfortunately, knowing Chemistry doesn’t translate into being able to TEACH Chemistry!  PWM, though, is a great teacher.  He can figure out where a student is struggling and explain that particular section until the student understands.  So, I worked all the end-of-chapter problems step by step and gave it to Rosie Girl.  When she still didn’t understand something, she and PWM would use the textbook and the worked out problems to work on it together.  And now she understands the sections that were giving her trouble.

From my vast experience of one high school student and one middle school student (along with lots of reading), I have learned some lessons for parents who are going to homeschool their teens.

1. Don’t expect to have to teach your teen everything, but also don’t expect them to be able to learn everything on their own.

2. Help your student learn how to learn.  Rosie Girl did a study skills workbook last year which has helped her figure out the ways that she learns best.  Since she’s a visual learner, reading tends to be her best bet.  Wild Man is very much an auditory learner, so he may do better with online or DVD lectures instead of/in addition to textbooks for subjects like History.  Remember that there are tons of resources available online or at the library.  Rosie Girl has used Khan Academy on YouTube to get a different perspective on some Chemistry topics.

3. When your teen is learning something that you (the parent) don’t know, help them find ways to learn it.  Rosie Girl wants to learn Japanese, but I have not the first clue about it!  Another parent clued me in to the BYU online courses.  Rosie Girl is getting her 2 credits of foreign language with my involvement being to just check in to make sure she’s keeping up.

4. When it comes to learning skills, your teen may need some one-on-one help.  This can be particularly true in Math and sciences like Chemistry and Physics.  In our case, we’re quite fortunate that PWM is an excellent teacher of things related to Math.  Other families may find that signing a student up for a course at the local high school or community college or even an online course with real-time interaction is the answer.  Rosie Girl is learning quite a bit at her Art class at the local high school that she would never have gotten to learn from a book (or from her parents!).

No, I can’t really teach my high schooler, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t learn successfully at home.  We just have to figure out what works for her.  And she’ll be that much ahead when she gets to college.


No comments: