Covering 'English' in a Natural Learning Way During the 'High School' Years
by Beverley Paine
A friend recently expressed worry that her unschooling teenage son wasn't doing enough reading or writing to satisfy the educational authorities.
For parents considering home educating teenagers I recommend reading Grace Llewellyn's The Teenage Liberation Handbook as a starting point. It is hard to get
hold of, but you might find a copy in the library through interlibrary loan. I
love the way it expands the concept of education.
From a learning naturally point of view, for a teen I would start focusing on
adult related language tasks. As adults we need to navigate our way through lots
of paperwork. Get him involved in that side of family life. I knew a mum whose
nine year old filled out the tax form. Anything is possible! Our son managed our
phone and internet connections/bills in his late teens. Give your son
responsible task and help him learn how to manage and do them.
Current affairs - listening, viewing and reading - offer great scope for
fantastic conversations that often cover many topics across the curriculum. We
purchased a weekly science magazine while our children were in their teens. The
kids remembered and understood way more than we did from their occasional
dipping into this magazine. Newspapers (if you can tolerate them) are also
great. I remember spending Saturday afternoon as a teenager reading the paper
from front to back. Only did it for a few months but I learned a lot about
journalism and world politics!
Writing - the internet seems to be the place young people write and communicate.
Perhaps a blog about his projects? Thomas started taking photographs of the
different stages of his projects. His aim was to write 'tutorials' that would
show others how he did them. This could be the foundation to a later career as a
writer of 'how to' books - the most enduring of publications. He began his own
forum - www.offroadingsubarus.com - which he continues to manage and to which he
regularly adds articles, photos and videos (another way of recording and
If you've used and are a fan of living books (and who wouldn't be?!) continue
with that tradition. Share great books with your children. I read Lord of the
Rings to Roger and Thomas when they were teenagers - people of any age enjoy
storytelling, it is in our DNA.
In fact, share what you read with your son - read the paper or the magazine
article aloud. Talk about what you hear on the radio. Debate and discuss topics.
Writing, reading, listening and speaking are simply aspects of communicating.
Children and teens love to communicate what they think and are doing and have
done to us - if only we'd stop to listen and pay attention! We can show them
different ways of communicating. For example, we spent four days at the Adelaide
Arts Festival and Fringe wandering around installations and exhibits, talking
about what the artists intended to communicate via their work. My children
didn't turn into artists but they certainly appreciate the art and craft of
others and can relate to the works in a personal way.
Be a hands on parent and stay interested and involved in your son's projects. I
became a racing car enthusiast for half a dozen years to help me understand more
about motor mechanics and vehicles. I followed racing car driver careers because
I'm interested in people, not cars. My interest was real and my children
In short, don't worry too much about 'covering the curriculum' the way schools
would - live a busy productive life and keep talking and sharing and
communicating the way normal people - adults - do. The teenage years are a
wonderful transition from happy-go-lucky childhood to responsible citizen -
there are plenty of things our children need to learn in order to be able to
take care of themselves responsibly. Just focus on those!
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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