I don’t know many parents who are homeschooling teenagers; most of my homeschooling friends and online acquaintances are homeschooling younger children. So when I am faced with the challenges of homeschooling my 15-year-old daughter, many times I am stumped.
Until very recently, I was struggling with putting together her homeschooling plan for 10th Grade (we had started the school year last June). I am always looking out for what is better, what is new and improved, what will bring the best out of my daughter. While it adds dynamism and flexibility, this approach to homeschooling seems to be giving my daughter a feeling of instability and insecurity.
I wanted a more open, less structured approach because I believed it would be a better way to enhance her obvious artistic talent and inclination. She wanted to follow curriculum that is simple and clear-cut. I wanted her to spend more time in the living room or in the den with me, her father and her brother. She preferred to stay in her bedroom. I wanted her to enjoy homeschooling with me and her brother. She had more fun learning in a center with her friends. I wanted her to like me, to not mind being with me. But I believed that, like most teenagers, she preferred friends to parents, and that is just how it is.
I started to realize that this wasn’t just about finding the right approach and curriculum or materials for my teenage daughter’s homeschooling. Homeschooling is part of my parenting. And it felt like I was in the middle of a small parenting crisis.
Thanks to some homeschool support groups on Facebook, I came across two wonderful blog posts about parenting teenagers. “Why Teenagers are Amazing” by Rachel talked about slowing down, listening to them, valuing them. Rather than fight against them, we should fight for them, fight for their hearts. And her most important reminder – “Start seeing the good first.”
I was blown away by this blog post “When Did I Last Wash Your Hair?” by Hannah Keeley. First, what happened to her daughter happened to mine in (how uncanny is that?). My daughter was also playing goalkeeper during football training when she blocked a ball and fractured her wrist while doing so. She also needed a cast for about 6 weeks. And during those weeks, I had to help her bathe and get dressed. It was also a strange yet familiar feeling of being needed by my daughter again. Aside from that, what really struck me in her post was her parenting motto: “Make sure they remember joy yesterday, experience joy today, and anticipate joy tomorrow.”
These mothers and their words helped me realize that if I focus on being a loving mother to my daughter, if I look after her heart and help her find her joy, if I see the good in her first rather than the bad or the difficult, our relationship will be alright. And our homeschooling will follow suit.
Even though she is already a teenager who seems to need me less and less, I reminded myself that she is still my daughter whom I love unconditionally. I started with small gestures – kissing her goodbye as I dropped her off at the learning center, giving her a good night hug before bedtime and telling her that I love her. I listened to her stories about her friends and about football. I tried to nag her less and to let her be.
Nowadays, it feels like my relationship with my daughter is in a good place. We’re not best friends, but I don’t expect us to be. It’s not perfect, but what relationship is? But now, there is less silence and more laughter. In homeschooling, there is less tension and ambition, more cooperation and compromise. And I know that before homeschooler or teacher, I am first my daughter’s mother.