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Discussion Starter #1
I'm getting more and more frustrated as time goes by.

I'm not new to homeschooling, as I homeschooled at various times in the past. But I'm new to parenting a teenage boy, and I'm not doing a great job at figuring out his unique learning style and following through with it. I feel like I'm out of options because the public school completely failed him, but I don't feel like I'm necessarily doing a great job with him right now either. Which is a far cry from how I felt when I was first homeschooling Hannah, when she'd spend hours reading, and I could add some historical fiction to her pile of fantasy books and feel like she was covering the bases.

Hannah learns the way I do, so I found it easy to encourage her learning. Leah's brain just happens to coincide with the way schools are designed to teach, so she always did well in schools- and the year I had her at home, she learned well enough from the textbooks we had.

But I'm at a loss with this boy. I know how to fit bras and talk about options for dealing with menstrual flow, but what do I do with this child who's taller than I am and stomps around in shoes bigger than my own brother wears? He keeps losing male role models. First my father passed away when he was in 3rd grade. Now my ex husband is dying of cancer, in a hospice an hour's drive away. He's not Jack's biological father, but he's called him "Daddy" since he was old enough to talk and has no memory of his bio dad at all.

It's nice that we're not dealing with school schedules or piles of homework when we want to go visit Ben in hospice. It was nice to have the flexibility when we were in the throes of Bar Mitzvah preparation this fall.

But his Bar Mitzvah was a month and a half ago, and we're still not on any kind of a "good schedule." He's up all night and sleeps all day. When he is awake in the evenings, half the time he holes up in his room playing computer games and the other half we're watching TV as a family. What he's not doing is any of the online curriculum he's supposed to be doing. I just don't see how he's learning much of anything.

My own health has been fragile, and we discussed that fact before the school year began. The plan was to use the online curriculum so that the basics would be covered even if I was having a "bad day" or even a "bad week." He was supposed to do a minimum number of these on his own, without nagging, and then I'd add in fun stuff when I had the energy. The reality is that he's not doing the work without significan nagging on my part, and I simply have not had the energy to do so.
It drains too much of me to "play alarm clock" and get him up if he won't do it himself. Without the exterior threat of going to school (or the school officials calling CPS if he won't go) he's simply NOT getting up. And he's not learning. Not that he was learning anything in school last year either, but I'm at the end of my rope.

I can't figure out how his mind works or teach in ways that he learns. I'm fed up with his lack of cooperation. I just want to let somebody else take over this responsibility so that I don't have to- I have too much on my plate already and I do not know what to do with this adolescent.

Whatever happened to that sweet baby boy who nursed until he was 4? How can I connect with him again?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It's right in my signature line. He's 13. The girls are 18 and 20.
 

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The signatures don't show up in the mobile version of the website, just fyi.

I wish I had something to suggest right off the top. It sounds like a tough situation you're in. My own path with my teenaged son was pretty much an unschooling one, but that's not for everyone and it requires a pretty radical mindset shift for the parent, especially at this age.

Does he want to be homeschooling? What would he like his homeschooling to look like? His life? Maybe he can't really answer right now. I can imagine that this must be a very difficult time for him. Being 13 is hard enough, without your dad being in hospice and far away. But I still think it's worth asking him those things.

Something that might help both of you would be to frame up a "project" in the style of Project-Based Homeschooling. In a way it's like circumscribed semi-goal-directed unschooling. He decides on something he's interested in (tae kwon do? python programming? photoshop? performance motorcycles? anything!) and together you decide that he will devote a certain time per week to project-oriented learning. An hour twice a week, one morning, three mornings, whatever you think makes sense. And you start talking about how he could do that learning, about what resources would be helpful, what the results of his project, whether tangible or intangible, might look like. Your job is to support and facilitate. His job is to direct his learning.

What often happens with PBH is that parents see how engaged their kids can become by learning when they're in charge of it, and the kids get energized by feeling empowered and successful. And even if you continue to do more adult- or curriculum-directed learning in parallel, the tone and productivity of the traditional homeschooling may benefit from the spill-over good vibes.

I have a tween daughter who has done four projects over the past year and a half: photography, cooking, survival skills and psychology. She didn't always know what her goals were at the outset, or what the project would ultimately look like, or when it would be done, but just committing to those projects, and having a bit of support in sticking to what she had decided to do, helped make it all work out.

Photography, for instance. She said at the outset that she "wanted to learn how to take cool pictures." Fine. She set out with her iPod camera and tried to take one photo a day that she liked. She started following people on Instagram and Flickr, and noticing terminology about exposure compensation and aperture and soon she was reading articles on the internet and signing books out of the library, and begging to use our nice Sony camera. And she set up her own online portfolio ... and started to experiment with using manual settings on the Sony. Then I saw a blurb in a community newsletter about a photography workshop and asked if she wanted to attend. She was keen, so she spent the day with a bunch of adults learning how to set white balance and optimize depth of field and all sorts of cool things. She also got pretty slick with post production and digital editing using Photoshop and other tools. Eventually her interests moved elsewhere, but we worked together to tweak her on-line portfolio into a small collection which we're getting printed up as a photo book.

She's just started out with psychology. So far it's been nothing more than her watching MCAT test-prep videos at Khan Academy on a variety of social psychology topics, taking notes about the videos and building a glossary of terms. She's also spent a fair bit of time reading about Myers-Briggs personality types and having her friends take on-line quizzes to discern whether their type is what she had predicted. No idea where this "project" will go, but I'm giving her little nudges now and then that she should do some work on her psych project, suggesting resources, reminding her to jot down what she's read / watched / done.

Maybe this idea might help get you two "unstuck"?

Miranda
 

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I'm sorry to hear you are having troubles. :( I'm not any help probably because we parent differently.

My children have never been allowed to stay up past a certain time at night. We have always had a set bedtime with all of them. I just wouldn't allow them to sleep past a certain time in the morning. I don't like wasting daylight. I'm divorced now but their father never would have allowed it either, especially with our son. Our son has been taught the man/father traits from a young age as far as how to be the provider, work hard, play hard too of course but to know that whether he marries one day or not that he needs to be the man. And I'm not putting down your choice to allow your child to behave the way he does, I'm just saying that we all do things differently and that's what makes the world go round. But right now I have a 19 yr old son that works all day in a job he loves and does his own laundry, cooks for himself, etc. because we raised him that way from a young age. And again, I realize everyone parents differently. I'm in no way criticizing anyone with my post. I suggest maybe finding something your son is interested in and going with that. Find out what he likes doing most and see how it might be incorporated in to a future for him whether it be through college or going to work right out of high school.
 

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I second the project-based learning. However, sometimes it is hard to motivate a child who has no interest in anything at the moment. In that case, I would see if I could find a "skills" type learning environment (or volunteer opportunity )for him to try out. See if there is a local welder or mechanic or whatever that would let him hang out and learn a bit. If he seems to get interested in that, turn it into a project. In our area, my husband just took a welding class from a local welder. It turns out that he has mentored some local kids and has helped them turn an interest into a trade.

At the same time, I would most definitly get him on some sort of schedule. I don't think it should be your job to wake him in the morning, but I would do so for now. I would let him know that he needed to be up by 8:00 and ready to go by 9:00 (or whenever). I would let him know that if I had to wake him up, it wouldn't be pleasant. I would put him in charge of lunch (or dinner) a couple times a week. I would also require that he was ready for bed by 10. He would be free to read in bed after that, but I would confiscate electonic gadgets. I think that many children really benefit from a predictable routine even past the toddler and childhood stages.

I hope that something starts to work for you. I hate feeling like I am not doing it right.

Amy
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I was not aware that the signatures didn't show up in the mobile version. Heck, I didn't even know Mothering HAD a mobile version! I'll bear that in mind for the future, and include relevent age information in the body of the posts, just as I used to do before the signature lines were available. (When I first started going on parenting forums, it was with toilet training questions for the daughter who's now 18. So 15 years ago?)

He definitely wants to be homeschooling. He was absolutely miserable in school last year. They weren't teaching in a way that he learned, so he was struggling and still learning very little. He hated school enough that telling him "if things don't change, you'll have to go to public school next year" motivates him.

I'm really an unschooler at heart, but for a variety of reasons I have an actual curriculum for him that I want him to use. I don't trust him or me, in the current situation, to do enough natural learning to cover all the basics that the state requires me to report to the school district. But I also don't make him spend hours a day on formal school work. I think the time4learning is a good balance- if he actually did something else productive the rest of the time! Unless, of course, you count "checking youtube videos of xbox games" and "completing all of GTA, even the side missions" to be productive. In that case, he's been doing plenty!

That project idea is a good one. I'll suggest it to him later. Getting the household on a more normal schedule is a much bigger production, since the household currently includes a very depressed 18 year old who's neither in work nor school, and who will often keep him company in the wee hours of the morning. She's sat down and helped him write stories at 3:00 AM!

I am working on getting us all into therapy, but with our insurance, these things take time.
 

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Oh my. I think that, given what's going on with his Dad, I would pick the bare minimum of what you feel absolutely must be done, and make sure that gets done on the days you are well enough to help him. I don't think he would get more learning done than that if you sent him to school-- his plate is very full right now.

I understand that you had a deal with him that he would do this work without nagging, but I think it's too much to expect of him considering his age and everything else that's going on. FWIW, it's actually pretty normal for 13 year olds to go through a phase where it's almost impossible to get them to do anything, even without the extra stress your son is enduring. The phase ends. Try not to let it drive you nuts. I think they need the downtime-- their bodies are changing a lot and they are on the cusp of adulthood. They've got a lot to process.

((Hugs)) to you in this difficult time.

I also like the idea of finding a mentor or a coop for him-- he might do better with in-person interactions than the online classes.
 

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A couple thoughts, I have a 14 yr old who has essentially flipped days and nights. I don't care when he is up and when he sleeps- its not a battle I choose to fight. DS did online learning for several years and while he enjoyed the program, online classes take a bit of getting used to and not all kids like the format.
My kiddo spent all last year taking a 'gap year', he learned plenty on video games, library time, legos and whatnot.

Is there any reason your ds needs to keep up right now, let him take some time and process whats going on with your ex, there probably isnt a reason he can't get back on grade level in the next year or 2... working over the summer, doubling up on projects etc.

How does ds feel about field trips? clubs? things like that. Is he able to take the bus/subway to activities? Check out 'meetup.com' for groups in your area.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Is there any reason your ds needs to keep up right now, let him take some time and process whats going on with your ex, there probably isnt a reason he can't get back on grade level in the next year or 2... working over the summer, doubling up on projects etc.
We live in New York State. 4 times a year, I need to submit a quarterly report to the school district outlining what he's learned this quarter. At the end of the year, I'll need to administer some kind of "end of year evaluation" such as a standardized test, and he needs to be able to pass on grade-level (or at least show improvement over last year, when he barely passed 6th grade in public school.)

I do intend to keep working with him over the summer, but I don't have the freedom to "let him take a gap year" the way NYS laws are currently written. I mean, I guess I could do that when he turns 16 and is too old for "compulsory education" but I can't do that with a 13 year old.

Where we live on Long Island, the bus system isn't great. The one stop near our house only comes once an hour. My daughters can take 2 buses to the community college, or one bus to the mall, but many of the places where there are homeschool activities aren't easily accessible by public transportation. He needs to be driven to activities.

I am a member of a couple of local homeschool groups, and one of them has regular "teen meetups". At least they did before the holidays- for various reasons we have yet to meet up with the teen group, but the next event is next Thursday morning.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Zebra15- I've actually been thinking a lot about your advice. While we do need to do a certain minimal amount to satisfy the state requirements, most families do way more than that. We don't have to.
 

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Sorry, im going to be blunt here. You arent homeschooling him. And not because you aren't having him follow a strict structured curriculum. But because you aren't playing any active role in it or finding someone else who can in your place. You cannot expect a 13 year old to teach themselves and have the discipline and initiative to follow a public school curriculum. If you are unable to function then how can you expect him to fulfill your role and his when he is dealing with many of the same difficulties right now AND is only a child?

At the very least, you could set up weekly projects/challenges for him to complete, that he would find interesting, that involve the skills necessary for him to learn at his age. Start with unplugging his pc, unscrewing the components and challenging him to figure out how to rebuild it, access information offline and use a fuse box LOL.

You do not need to be hovering over him all day, but you need to be interested in his work, and consider it priority (over tv time for example). If you don't care enough to turn off the tv for a night and look over his weekly lessons with him then why would he?

Unplug the electronics at night. Not to punish him. But because no one can sleep with a pc and tv sitting next to them. He can play on the pc one he finishes x goal for the day. If he finishes in one hour, he can play the rest of the day. After 10, you flick the switch.

Also, look into mental health/medical exemptions for schooling. You may have options there if he needs a break, now or in the future.
 

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Blue99, I think as new member I think you need to get to know our comunity a bit better before being so blunt and casting a judgement statement on anyone's approach to homeschooling. Ruthla may be doing things quite differently than you might but she seems fully aware of what is necessary to meet her state's requirements. Your suggestions may be helpful but you'd do better to offer them i a better, kinder way and with a good measure of compassion for the specific things that led her to post to seek input from others. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #14
We're starting to settle into a new routine. Two or three weeks ago, I told Jack he needed to do 2 TFL activities a day, 6 days a week. (TFL= "time for learning"- the website we use for his curriculum.) That's basically Sunday through Friday, but if he doesn't do it Friday morning, he has to work Saturday night instead. Last week, he ended up not doing any schoolwork until Thursday, but then he did 6 activities each on Thursday and Friday, so he still got the 12 done per week I wanted him to do. I'd also taken him to a homeschool activity on Thursday morning, and I was pretty impressed with him for being so efficient on Thursday afternoon/evening and Friday morning. So we've officially changed it from "2 activities a day, 6 days a week" to "12 activities a week." I've given him a little more control over how to manage his own time, but I will start nagging by Thursday if he's not doing the work. I've also given up, for now, on telling him precisely how many of each subject to do each week. He's got 4 subjects, and if he's doing a total of 12 lessons each week, he should cover all of them reasonably evenly. It's not worth my mental energy to worry about those details too much. These learning activities are online and fully interactive. They're less fun than video games but they're designed for children to do them independently. It's not like I'm saddling him with textbooks and no instruction.

I also want him to do at least one activity per week beyond the online curriculum. Two weeks ago I took him to a museum. Last week he had the maker's lab where he built a "friendship light". This week I have a movie out of the library, historical fiction that lines up with where he's supposed to be in social studies. I joined a facebook group called "Homeschooling with Netflix" and I've found it to be a great resource for identifying movies that I can use to supplement his curriculum.

I also need to get him writing every week. So far, he's done a teeny tiny amount of creative writing, but not nearly as much as I want him to be doing. Ditto on reading- we need to find time to either read out loud as a family or have him listen to audiobooks by himself, because he will not sit and read a book on his own. The last book he actually read by himself was the newest Wimpy Kid book, which is far below the reading level of The Fault In Our Stars, which he understood perfectly when we listened to the audiobook. There's something going on with him and reading- I don't have the tools to get him an official diagnosis, but audiobooks work for him and are readily available.

If I had more energy, we'd be going on activities every week, plus watching documentaries and/or historical fiction several times a week, plus doing science experiments. We could be spending more time on homeschooling activities than his peers spend in school. But we're not. Neither one of us is willing or able to do that right now.

So what is he doing? He's covering the basic 7th grade curriculum in history, language arts, and math, plus "earth and space science." He's doing some reading. At least once a week, (but not 5+ times a week) we're doing *something* for enrichment.

And I'm not about to start unscrewing his PC. He did that by himself a few weeks ago, dusted it out, and put it back together. Then, after I'd gone to bed for the night, he did the same to my computer- in the process upsetting my stacks of paper and messing them up so I couldn't find anything. Plus he forgot to plug my monitor back in. ;) He wants to build himself a gaming computer and give me his Dell computer when my computer (older than his) breaks. Some of the time he's been "wasting on the computer" has been spent watching youtube videos of people building computers.
 

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My thoughts: your son sounds like a curious, interesting young man. Does your district have requirements that you must fill weekly?

My thought is, do you HAVE to follow this curriculum? Could you let it go, and let him follow his interests?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
My district just requires that I follow NYS guidelines- which means a set number of hours per quarter in core subjects (math, ELA, science, social studies). While I'm sure his experimentation with computers could be written up in "educationalese" as science, I'm not convinced he'd ever cover the other 3 subjects without some prodding from me. I'm also not entirely certain that the district would be OK with me changing his science in the middle of the year, since the paperwork in the beginning of the year outlined my planned curriculum, which is the "earth and space science" unit at Time4Learning.

Another factor is that I'm not financially independent right now. My Mom helps cover our living expenses (by doing things like not charging us rent and outright paying for groceries if I can't) so she DOES have a say in how I educate my child. She's not comfortable with the idea of "unschooling" and she's the one paying for the time4learning access and any homeschooling activities I take him to. Of course, she'd also be the one paying for field trips and school supplies if he was attending public school. She wants to see him following some sort of official curriculum.

Jack generally does better with weekly goals than he does with shorter or longer term goals. Daily goals turn into chores, and allow little flexibility. Monthly goals often get forgotten until the last minute,and he may end up with no time or energy to complete them.

Last night we watched half of The Patriot and we plan to watch the rest later today. I'll follow that up with some follow-up material about what the movie got right about history and what they got wrong. I'm not sure I'm willing to totally let go of the history part of the curriculum, but this is certainly helping history come alive for him in away that the dry curriculum couldn't. The opening scene showed all the kids getting excited when a mail carrier (on horseback) rode into town with a few letters, and we discussed how rarely they must get mail if this is an "event." Compare that with skype and texting!
 

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A few quick thoughts; I didn't get notifications and this thread got away from me.

Is he into any kind of sport or activity? I really think a major factor in us having smooth sailing so far is a ton of physical activity, and I bet that goes double for boys. Dd's passion is full contact battle games-about 15 hours a week- and we can see a major attitude shift south when she doesn't have that physical outlet. Even walking or running if he doesn't want to do organized sports.

FWIW, and I hope this doesn't offend, we care for my Mom here and she helps with bills, but I don't think that gives her the right to make the final call on the kids' education. That said, when she gets antsy about something they "should" be learning (we delay formal academics longer than most) I invite her to go ahead and teach it if she wants. It's worked out well so far; mostly the girls go along because they enjoy time with Grandma but if they don't she usually sees that they perhaps weren't really ready for that yet and backs down gracefully. Usually. ;)
If your Mom lives with you or close by maybe she could pitch in with him? Or how about his sister helping out since she's not in school? Sometimes "someone, anyone! who isn't Mom" can get through when I can't.
 

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Hi... I have also been thinking about this. One thing that lets me off the hook regarding "curriculum requirements" is that, frankly, in a bricks and mortar school, a lot of kids phone in a lot of stuff. The AVERAGE grade is a C. Not "mastery" by any means. So. On things that I think are important, that my kids are not interested in, I actually just look for ANY sort of engagement, and count that a win. Canadian history (I am in Canada), is like this for me. What I decided to do for my kids was simply set up a series of radio lectures that play in the background while they do other things. The lectures are interesting interviews with real life people. We talk about stuff that occurs to them, and they buy in this way... exposure, with little pressure.

One thing that might be worthwhile for you to read is the Brave Writer book "The Jungle Writer" - it talks about the writing process and how writing works. What it looks like to me is that you are feeling immense pressure to do this perfectly... and, well... reality is, "perfection" requires a level of control you will never have. But what you CAN get is a level of buy in... "bought and paid for" with YOUR curiosity and interest in him and his endeavours. AND expectations that are realistic of YOUR child (NOT of "general children in high school"). It is okay if your child doesn't learn everything all at once. It is okay if he is better at some things and not at others, if his interests are all STEM related and not at all literary. If you have to do a curriculum, do the curriculum, by all means, but take the outcomes out of it. Meanwhile engage heavily in the things he wants to learn, and make sure he knows that the things he IS doing are of interest to you. And, the things that are of interest to you but not him are the things that you are willing to facilitate the most. If that means readalouds... so be it. If it means orally defending a position rather than writing it down... so be it. He may not get an A in that subject area on a standardized test... but, the bulk of kids are at a C.
 
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