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Is Anyone Unschooling Teenagers?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Most of the people I've seen on this thread seem to have grade school children. My school aged children are 17 and 14.


I was wondering if anyone had any concerns about their child not learning anything? My son (the 14yo) spends a lot of time on the computer. Our family is basically homeless. The girls and I (I have a 19 yo as well) are staying in two travel trailers in my sil's back yard and ds is staying in her house.


I try to make him do some formal schooling because of the state requirements. I made the mistake of commiserating with an older couple who were very, very supportive of him going to a local charter school. I talked to him about it and he said, No way! When the man came to talk to me later, I told him I'd talked to ds about it and ds wasn't interested. He told me that I was the parent and it was up to me and not ds. I just shrugged it off and made a mental note not to express my concerns around anyone mainstream because, in our particular family - yes, it is up to dc whether or not to go to ps (including a charter school).


I expect no one can really help us solve anything. It will get much better once I find a place to live that I can afford. But knowing that others have btdt would be very comforting.


post #2 of 10

Me! wave.gif  Well, sorta. Our situations are kind of similar. My son is 19 and my daughter is 17. I got divorced in 2008, and in that long nasty process lost my home (and my mind lol). It's a much longer story, but I am basically homeless as well. (Though, in some ways it's almost the best thing that's ever happened to me... that's another post for another time lol.) My fiance and I live in an old, stationary motorhome on his parents property.


My kids have rented an apt with a friend and co-worker of my son's and my Dd is going to college. We consider unschooling to be a life long gig, so we're all unschoolers forever.


 My son was and is a full on computer guy. He plays WOW and a hundred other things whenever he can from the time he was about 9 on. He did take a break from WOW for a  year or so tho. He learned so much from the games!  What do your kids like to do on the PC? It's such an incredibly valuable tool.

post #3 of 10

Wow, sounds like you've got a lot of challenges. It's tough when you turn to someone for a shoulder to lean on and a benevolent ear and you end up getting back judgment and/or "advice" that undermines your comfort and confidence. I can't imagine being uprooted and essentially homeless. I hope you find some affordable housing soon! 


I've got a 17yo and a 14yo (as well as a 12yo and an 8yo). My eldest goes to school part-time in order to use the local school's independent study lab and its courseware. She's an achiever -- always on her own terms, but an achiever nonetheless, and I've learned to mostly just get out of her way. She's got a lovely future mapped out for herself and I don't really have those "not learning anything" panic attacks about her. I did when she was 10/11/12/13, but she's been very driven since about age 14.


My 14yo is a boy and he spends more time on the computer than I'd like. Sometimes I worry about whether he's learning much. He plays viola, and sings tenor in a fabulous choir, and does amazing things on the computer ... but sometimes there's not much else. He is a perfectionist and an introvert and has a fair bit of achievement anxiety (meaning when he's in a situation where he or others are hoping/expecting him to accomplish something specific, he tends to get very anxious and shuts down or bails on whatever it is). We've gradually come to realize that he does need a bit of pushing / active support to get him to stick with things when they first become challenging. For instance this year he decided to do some formal study in math and science and signed up for 10th grade academic courses in those areas through the local homeschool program. He started out okay but when it came to doing quizzes and assignments he had trouble working through his anxiety and developed a distaste for these looming requirements. He put them off, and off, and off, stalled about 10% of the way through his courses.


Over the past two weeks with his blessing we've sat down together for an hour or so a day to go over his coursework -- reviewing, organizing, discussing, moving ahead -- and he's finally feeling confident again, having got past a few hurdles. He wrote the math midterm on Thursday and totally aced it! 


We talk about all this stuff, including what role he would like me to play in structuring his learning, in "learning conversations" that we hold every month or two, beginning with a major one in the late summer or early fall. We, too, are bound by some academic requirements, and that's where we collaboratively figure out ways of coping with those, as well as brainstorming our way through learning interests, resources and supports that the kids want to develop or procure. It really helps us feel like we're on the same side when it comes to dealing with 'requirements' or to living happily together and trying to prepare for the future. I don't know if this idea would be helpful for you and your ds.


Best wishes!




post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Unschoonma, Ha! Well, I'm also homeless because I got divorced. Second marriage. It was "his" house and I let him keep it.

My son has ideas of moving out and living elsewhere but I don't think he's mature enough and I'm legally responsible for him (he wants to live with people who will let him live his own life as if he's on his own). If he were 17, like your youngest, I might consider it.

Yes, we are lifelong unschoolers. My mother taught me, by her example, that education/learning are vitally important but school is optional. I think she was learning something new up until the day she died. And she's probably still learning.

When I have brought up concerns about being on the computer so much, my son tells me that he's learning something. I don't know all he's doing since he's staying in the house. He does come out occasionally and I go in (more often) and we have conversations. Where we lived before, he had a homeschooling friend who was teaching him how to build computers and I do know that they are keeping in touch via internet, so maybe he's learning something.

I kind of wonder if I'm just overly paranoid because of the married couple I mentioned, as well as the fact that the people in the house don't see him studiously spending 6 hours a day in front of books (that would drive him to distraction - he has a hands-on learning style).

My daughter is no problem. She involves herself in health, exercise, learning Japanese, writing blogs, drawing, painting (watercolors) and, yesterday, brought a load of books in to show me the different subjects she's studying. And she is reading Tom Sawyer to her brother because he refuses to read it, but said he'd listen if someone read it to him.

moominmamma, yes, it's stressful and it's so nice to finally have you unschooling mothers to talk to.

I'll try your idea of having "learning conversations". My son knows that there are certain subjects I have to teach him. He also knows of the pressure of having people around. They are gone a lot during the day, so they don't really know everything he does - and he's in the bedroom most of the time, so they don't know if he's spending his time doing schooling with books or some other way. Yes, I'll definitely talk to him like that. He's plenty old enough to plan all of his own curriculum, but I think I'll want him to keep doing the books as long as we are at my sil's (that sounds so controlling, I know). I have told him my concerns, but if the discussion is more of a "we're in this together" discussion instead of "Mom's freaking out about what others might be thinking" discussion, I think we'll get farther.

Thank you so much for your help and support.

post #5 of 10


She will be 19 before she steps foot in a college as a fully enrolled student, as she is taking a gap year to travel & work.  She is putting together her portfolio and checking off the items that need to be done for the colleges to which she is applying.  She also took the SAT (but not the PSAT as she was not interested in that hoop at that time).  She was never interested in academic community college classes, although she has taken many and varied art classes (some teen level, some continuing ed classes). 



Edited by UUMom - 3/8/11 at 7:21pm
post #6 of 10

UUMom! joy.gifluxlove.gif


Didn't you used to worry about her writing skills? And now she's earned an A in an advanced writing class...


Rain (18 last month) is taking college algebra (community college) this semester. This is her first time ever taking a math class, other than playing around with ALEKS for a couple of months and some dabbling with Key to and a GED prep book. She's doing just fine... actually, every week she seems more confident. She still wants to sit with me while she does her homework, but whereas in the beginning she would check with me after every step and ask if that was right, now she generally talks through most of it herself and then says, "Okay, I see how to do the rest of it, I'll finish it myself" and then goes to the next problem.


I've never "made her" do academics, but I have let her know what is out there, and what is possible. I think this is an important part of unschooling, too. She works hard because goal is something that she wants. A lot of the academic stuff she's picked up, she's learned because she needed to know it in order to do something else that she wanted to do. She's pretty thrilled by the idea of full-time college right now - 15 hours a week of languages and literature and social science and arts sounds great to her, because she loves those things. She's only applied to colleges with good study abroad programs, because she wants to live overseas again. She's even willing to take a couple math and science classes, if they insist...


I'm even more impressed by her ability to navigate life... navigating academics is comparatively easy, I think. A good friend of ours passed away suddenly last Thursday, leaving behind her three young children. Rain had been babysitting her youngest (just turned 3) all day on Fridays since August. She - we- have been there for the family, but she particularly has been there for this little boy. He's spent a lot of time these past few days with her, in her arms, and she's been responding to his comments about his mama so lovingly and calmly. I love that she's a good, caring person who can negotiate life's tragedies with grace and compassion.


post #7 of 10

Hey, Dar! I sure did!  It's still an area where she has to work very hard. It's not natural to her, even though she is a voracious reader.  I find that interesting.  It turns out she is a very organized student with good 'study habits'.  Funny how that worked. :)   She's a pretty wonderful young woman, and I am so glad she had all those years at home.

post #8 of 10

My oldest two are 16yo DS and 14yo DD and they have never been to school.

They both work part time and so have their own money. The 16yo bought himself a Macbook last year and spends a lot of time on it. He doens't play games but he's into all sorts of other things and loves to write. Yet he was such a relactunt writer for years.

He now wants to get his spelling and grammar right :shock:

He's planning an overseas mission trip, all on his own account. And he's looking into SAT.

We're not in the US, so this will be an interesting exercise ;)


My 14yo still struggles with reading but being on Facebook and wanting to write to her friends has helped inmprove her reading and writing!

She's my arty one, who loves to create all sorts of things and she plays the guitar.

post #9 of 10

Dar, I am so sorry about the loss of your friend!  Rain is such a together person.  I am so proud of  all of us. :)  We've been traveling such a divergent path for so long.  It's  so good.  :)

post #10 of 10

Yep, Jake is turning 14 in April. He's been through some "wanting to do nothing" phases but we always managed to find something he is interested in. He reads a lot and is addicted to the discovery channel (I know, I know TV. But come on it's educational). He also writes fanfiction and does activities on edheads.org a lot. The only class he attends is martial arts.


He isn't interested in any academic classes right now and that's fine with me. He has been exposed to German and Hawaiian since birth since my kids are 25% of each. He also knows some very basic Latin, French and Spanish from free online lessons and library books. He occasionally brings up the idea of studying one of them seriously, but that hasn't happen yet. It's all up to him. Oh and he also enjoys paint by numbers.


So we're all good here. I do admit, occasionally he has phases of...nochalance. While he certainly CAN spend three or four hours watching TV, listening to music or plaything guitar hero, he usually doesn't do it all day. There is something productive even in his very unproductive days. But then again I started worrying about him doing "what he is supposed to do" years ago.


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