Homeschool Hacks for Parents of Teenagers

Homeschool hacks for teens


Do you have kids aged 12-19 in your home? Are you looking for some simple homeschool hacks to make the day go smoother? 

While the teen years can seem to start so suddenly, most parents are equipped to deal with the changes simply by virtue of knowing your child. Homeschoolers have a unique advantage since they may spend more time with their kids than other parents. Here are some homeschool hacks I've picked up over the years to help you deal with the challenges that only a parent of teens would understand!


Why the teen years can be more difficult


First, I'm not a fan of categorizing teens as particularly more difficult than other ages. I've had six kids, and each has come with their own "wonder years" including big leaps in personal, emotional, and physical growth. These periods of growth also come with growing pains, confusion, a struggle for identity, and  other difficulties. But this can happen when you start homeschooling at age 8 just as easily as at age 18. 

Before using any homeschool hacks, you should know that the teen years are usually when peer approval becomes most important. There's also a struggle to be independent, even at the expense of being rebellious. This can happen with even "good kids," who simply want to choose their bedtime or whether they eat a healthy breakfast. It shows up in how they use social media and what they talk about with their friends. 

So, how can parents help via homeschool? While homeschool can be viewed as an additional burden, I see homeschooling as part of the solution for kids who are having a hard time in the teen years.


Homeschool Hacks for Teens


1. Let them choose more things.

Should you let your kid stay up until 3 am because they can't stop doom-scrolling on Twitter? Probably not. Is it OK to give them an extra 30 minutes at night to draw, read, or listen to music? That may make more sense.

If your child wants to have input in things like meals, bedtime, clothes, or extracurriculars, allow some of it. If they don't seem to want to choose, ask, anyway. Some kids won't want to appear difficult but may have strong preferences, anyway.


2. Understand their "flow."

Each kid has a natural schedule or flow that they work best in. This can be a kid who is a night owl or who has considerably more energy in the morning. Colleges and jobs won't allow your kids to simply live by their own preferences, but you, the parent can work within these natural bumps in energy and focus to help them get more done in less time.

If your kid is happy and alert from 3-6 pm every day, use those hours to do hard math or deal with that science project they've been putting off. This will help them recognize their flow when they grow up, so they can maximize that time at a job or with future family.

It may take a year of homeschool to fully get their “flow.”


3. Ask them how they are doing.

It's a common TV trope for public school teens to come home after school, drop their bookbag on the floor, ask for a snack. The parent would ask "how was your day?" and the child would grunt or reply with "OK." But what happens in real life? 

As homeschool parents, we often take for granted that we know how our kids are doing. We see them all the time. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't ask.

Take time every day to check in with your teen, even if it's just for a few minutes. Step inside their room (or your homeschool room), catch up with them next to the coffee maker, or sit with them for a bit before bed.

While they may have nothing to say today, setting this expectation will make it easier for them to open up when they do need to. Knowing that there is a window for expression helps them plan out the appropriate time to share feelings, even those that may be awkward. (While not one of the quick homeschool hacks, it may be the most important.)

homeschool hacks for teens


4. Avoid "countdown" syndrome.

There will come a point in your homeschool life when you'll start counting down the years until they leave, longing for the days when they were young and you did all those read alouds! This may bring on panic. Instead of searching for the perfect set of literature titles for a lifetime of enjoyment, you'll be figuring out how to squeeze 3 years of math into 2 years of school.

While this counting down of the years is necessary for you to check all the boxes needed for college or career, it can be extremely stressful for teens and can cause them to hate talking about anything to do with the future. Try to avoid talking about everything in terms of filling in gaps or counting down the years. Let them enjoy where they are, even if you are internally freaking out about how you'll fit it all in.

5. Assign work within your child's own time units.

While the previous four tips deal mostly with feelings and relationships and perspective, you may simply struggle with getting it all done. Most parents of teens say they spend a large part of their homeschool day reminding teens to "do your work." It's a constant battle to nudge them toward productivity when they are home with their games and siblings and fridge.

You know your teen well, and you know how much rope you can give them to get work done. Some kids will need their day carefully scheduled out, hour by hour, until they can be trusted to work within less strict parameters. The goal is to not have to do this forever, as colleges won't be checking up on your teen to see that they did their science lab from noon to 1 pm.

Set the goal of giving them all their work for a week, with the outcome of them budgeting their time in a way that they do get it all done -- on their own terms -- with minimal input from you. This saves you time in planning out their day-to-day.

You can start this in the junior high school years, giving them blocks of work for a morning, then an afternoon. Work up to handing them an entire day's work, and saying that it all must be done before they play games or chat with friends in the evening.

Instead of lesson planning, give older kids a week's worth of work and mark half as "to be done before Wednesday afternoon" and the other half "to be done before Sunday Night Football." Work up to giving them flexibility, and you'll no longer be poking your head into their bedroom door 13 times a day to get them "back to work."

(Note: When you get your kids to where they can be trusted with a week's worth of assignments and homework, don't take your foot off the pedal. One of the most essential homeschool hacks is to keep checking in, especially in high school.

If they sense you aren't looking, the less motivated children may start falling back into old, bad habits. Cheer them on when they do well, and keep those expectations in check. It’s one of many life skills they need to know.)

Looking for more great ideas for homeschooling teens? Whether you need help with organizing school supplies or want to know if your current learning activities are appropriate for the age, you can find all kinds of tips from myself and other veteran homeschool moms in my new book

Homeschool Hacks: How to Give your Kids a Great Education without Losing Your Job or Your Mind, available now!


Homeschool hacks for teens