By Lyn Saint
The following statement may be depressing for parents of small energetic children – life
is an emotional and exhausting roller-coaster ride for parents of teenagers and young adults. Small children are easy in comparison. We just have to pick them up and bandage their knees and show them how to do the million practical things they have to learn in life – not much emotion involved except for the odd tantrum on their part and the regular complete nervous breakdowns on our part.
With the teens and young adults though comes the tough emotional stuff – struggle with peer acceptance, personal appearance, first relationship, broken relationships and shattered confidences – things many of us are still coming to terms with ourselves and we now have to steer our young through this minefield with neither of us knowing where the mines are and it can be hell. One needs an excellent supply of red wine, chocolate and good friends to give us strength.
I haven’t quite worked out if homeschooled teens are worse in this sense than schooled kids or not. I feel that in many ways we are much better off as we know our kids so well and they in turn know us for better or worse. We have not been consigned to the generational rubbish heap as have parents of schooled kids and so they expect so much more guidance and support from us – which of course is exactly why we homeschooled in the first place isn’t it – to have a strong relationship with our kids. We know their every mood and I might add suffer it along with them and feel their every hurt much more so than parents who are more disconnected from their child, through full time work and school. I suspect it is better in the very long run to have been able to closely share this intense period of growing up with them – as long as we all come out alive in the end.
Most of us come un-prepared never having been the parent of another grown up before and the only experience we can fall back on are our own painful growing up years. What was I like at 14, 18 and 23 and how did I cope with bad skin, shyness, boy/girls, job hunting or big dreams. Trying to find the right words to see them through one crisis after another is a daunting task and most times the words fall on deaf, emotional ears. Every so often though, much to the surprise and relief of us both, the right words do come, the crisis is averted and peace reigns again for a time – usually about a week if we are lucky.
We can also fall back on the friendships we have with other people. We all have to support friends though hard times occasionally and we do this mainly by just being a good listener and compassionate friend. This recipe is as good as it gets for our kids as well. Make them a hot chocolate, hold them, take them out to a movie, go for a walk, just be a friend – simple things but often all that is required.
Emotional problems aside – the next step in helping your grown up child to take his or her place in the big wide world. Most of our kids have a general idea of what they want to do. Negotiating entrances into academic life or to the workplace is also on our list of parental requirements – just in case you haven’t read the fine print yet.
As homeschooling parents we are resourceful and committed to pursuing activities and classes that may hold interest for our children so negotiating places for them in further education or job placements should be a breeze. Fronting up to homeschooling challenged department heads though can be daunting – especially as most of us were trained to fear authority figures. Amazing how quickly that feeling can come rushing back by the mere smell of an institutional learning establishment!
Here are a couple of tips from those who have gone before:
- When enquiring about entry into a school/TAFE or University, being able to articulate clearly and confidently what your teenager is interested in and what their long term goals are usually makes a good impression on admitting officers or department heads. Do your research and know what you are talking about. If you feel you don’t have the confidence to do this then take a friend along who can speak on your behalf. If you don’t get satisfactory results from the initial contact, ask to talk to someone else.
- Open Universities open.edu.au is a less stressful option for pursuing entrance into tertiary education than VCE and can be done at home. There are plenty of subjects to choose from including bridging courses and Introduction to University studies. Undergraduate Level 1 courses don’t require pre-requisites and generally start off slowly. A willingness to study by the student helps a lot. Parental support during early units of study can help kids gain confidence as well. It is probably worth doing just one at a time to start with –so as to get a feel for what is expected of the student. Passes in 3 or 4 units is a good enter score and your child can then apply through VTAC for a commonwealth assisted places at Universities or other tertiary institutions to further pursue the course of their choice.
- A Centrelink requirement for Youth Allowance is full time enrolment in a full time accredited course or two Open University units at one time.
One hears all the time how resilient children are but I have to say here that parents are pretty resilient as well. No two days are the same and I guess you can say that about homeschooling days in general but more so with older kids. Emotions are constantly on the boil and heated discussions are more intense – you find yourself having to scale intellectual heights never before attempted just to prove a point – and most often you lose anyway. The day may end in a variety of ways either with you all snuggled up on the couch watching a favourite film or with the detritus of emotional fall-out of slammed doors, dog under the couch and a table full of half eaten dinners.
One day you realise quite suddenly you are no longer the great font of all knowledge you once were but a quaint relic from the past with quirky notions and an embarrassing taste in movies.
Finally the good news is that suddenly, almost overnight they become real people. Real people that you can actually converse with, go out for a quiet coffee with, discuss the state of the world with – as long as you agree with them at all times.
It is an amazing thing that even after all that, when they finally start moving away from us and begin to build their own lives, we are often reluctant to let them go – what perseverance! We finally have these great people whose company we enjoy being with and they no longer want to be around.
The time eventually comes when we have no choice but to dust off the “past life’ – (assuming we can find it) that has quietly resided in the cupboard these past years, check if it can be resurrected and if not go out and find a new one. This can be even more daunting than anything we have had to face yet – not being a homeshooling parent.
We have been out of sync for so long with the rest of the planet and so passionate about this alternative life path we have been on that for many of us it is going to take real effort to find another life as absorbing, unique, mentally stimulating, emotionally challenging, delightfully controversial and full of laughter and friendships as the life of a homechooling parent.
What to do? The house is quiet – you can hear your own thoughts all day long. Who is this person here with me. The free time drags on and on – what am I going to do with it all – it is suffocating!
Mmmm…..Where is that list I made out all those years ago ….things to do if only I had the time!
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