I'm at my wit's end with my soon to be 14 year old son. He's extremely motivated to do orchestra, chamber and private instrument lessons, however, he believes the written work and studies his father and I ask expect him to do (Oak Meadow 8th grade) takes time away from what he really loves in life. That sounds all well and good and you may be wondering why we are asking him to do this.
Well, we have been homeschooling from the start and he has never been to school. He takes classes and when enrolled in one he enjoys, which are all of his choosing now (theatre, music, history, philosophy discussion, etc. or clubs) he is mindful of assignments to be turned in and keeps an online calendar. However, he intends to go to college for music, as he wants to study in the classical form and also study composition, which he does on his own at home with the computer.
The written work he is expected to do probably takes about 1 hour of his day to complete. It is basic Math (he's on 5th grade still because he refuses to just plow through it, even as he insists it's so easy.) He could honesty be on his grade level or above, but decides to do only a page or 2 per day, and that is if he remembers. The English, Physical Science and Civics component of Oak Meadow is really just reading and written response, with a few interpersonal or hands on projects interspersed. It's way less than required of most curriculums and definitely way less time intensive than what happens in school.
Any advice on getting him to be less self-centered in his goals and more disciplined about his responsibilities to his educational goals? He claims because he did not choose the Oak Meadow, that is why he doesn't apply his effort to it. I explained to him that in life, we cannot always expect to do things we like. There are some things that are necessary and beneficial, but may not be our preferred activities, such as washing dishes, exercise, brushing teeth, commuting to work, etc. I believe it is necessary for him to face these challenges to become more adaptable and ultimately successful in what he pursues in life, whether that be music or something else.
I refuse to just allow him to watch Minecraft tutorial videos on his ipod all day and hang out. That's really what happens if he does not enroll in outside classes. Advice? Suggestions? Please tell me this is common with teen boys. I have several mama friends who say the same things. But, none of them have any tips. Thanks!
With a curriculum of her choice and a schedule of her own making the difficulties disappeared in short order.
I really think choice is key for that age group. Would it be possible to give him more say in the materials?
At first I thought that this sentence didn't really make sense:
in that you want him to be less focused on his own [learning] goals, and instead be more disciplined about his educational goals. I wondered if by "his educational goals" in the second half of that sentence you really meant "his parents' educational goals for him." But maybe you're saying that he doesn't have the self-discipline necessary to make progress towards his own self-defined goals. Does he have math and language arts and science goals for himself? You said he didn't choose the curriculum. I think it's high time he was taking a role in that. Spending some time with him to really hear his ideas about what his goals are and how he would like to accomplish them is crucial and should be done on an ongoing basis. By age 14 you're not going to get mere "compliance" from an independent life-learner. You can't make him learn if he's not on-side, not with rewards and punishments, or exhortations or strong leadership or seriously-given advice. You need his buy-in or it's not going to work. Rather than expecting him to do what you think is good for him, help him have a serious think about what's good for himself, what goals he'd like to set, how he'd like to work through the not-necessarily-intrinsically-enjoyable parts of it, what support and structure he'd like and where he'd like to get it from.
I have a teenaged boy who chose to go to school full-time at age almost-15 because he recognized that he needed external structure in order to actually do the nitty-gritty parts of the work towards the goals he had set for himself. He had tried to manage his own goals and workload the previous year and recognized that he wasn't as successful as he had wanted. I think it can be a very common problem for adolescents: having grand ambitions and a good understanding of the necessary steps along the way, but lacking the self-management skills necessary to actually implement that plan. For my boy, school was the answer. For another kid, it might have been a mentorship type arrangement, or on-line courses with deadlines, or a tutoring system, or a particular type of independent-study curriculum. To figure out what the right solution is for your boy, you'll need to talk to him, and to really listen to what he says. Really listen, with an open mind, and be willing to give him some real autonomy as you work together on the same side to try to find solutions for him.
If you're new to this kind of collaborative approach, I'd suggest taking an affirmative approach rather than a critical one. Rather than saying "You're doing really badly with Oak Meadow and dad and I are at our wits' end, so can you suggest a better way?" come at it by pointing out the things you think he's succeeding at. "You are doing so well with your chamber music, and you're getting a lot out of the philosophy sessions, and your history assignments are always done by the deadlines. What is it that's making those areas so successful for you, and how can we apply those lessons to areas that are more of a struggle?"
I've always been amazed by the results when I give my kids real say in their lives. It's so easy to get caught in a pattern of parental expectations being opposed by a teenaged drive for autonomy. When I've managed to step aside from that oppositional relationship my kids have usually shown themselves to have much higher expectations *for themselves* than I'd ever guessed, and they just needed to feel they were being supported as they made their own way forward.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
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