I’m always thinking about teenagers these days. Yes, I have two of them, but more than that, helping teens and parents of teens has become a big part of my day job via LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com. So, I’m always on social networking sites exploring what teens and their parents are talking about. Most of the time, as I travel through Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest, I’m smiling as I go.
But then, I get to Twitter.
Twitter is where teens really get honest. Brutally honest. And if you want to really know what your teen is going through, you would follow their Twitter account. But chances are, you will never find it. Teens are absolute Twitter ninjas – – they will create a username and profile that you wouldn’t be able to find if your life depended on it.
But I see them.
And while I see plenty of teens making wishes to homeschool, this past week I came across possibly one of the saddest tweets I’ve ever read – – and that’s saying a LOT. I’m going to share it with you, on condition of anonymity, (I’ve blurred out the profile pic and username of the Tweeter) because I believe that every single parent of a teen needs to understand the true magnitude of what your son or daughter may be going through at their school.
While this tweet was one part sarcasm, it seems two parts desperation, doesn’t it?**
I know that you hear a lot of complaining from your teen on a daily basis. And it’s part of the human condition to express our dissatisfaction with the status quo. But has that ongoing complaining potentially caused you to tune out a true cry for help? Is it possible that the daily barrage of school gripings that you are hearing could include, even below the surface, a clue that your child is desperately unhappy?
Since you can’t usually peek in on their Twitter conversations, how can you know that your son or daughter is more than normally overwhelmed by school?
Does he or she often cry when relaying school experiences?
Has your student been absent due to illness more than usual?
Has your child complained of bullying more than usual?
Does he or she often create excuses to not participate in extracurricular activities?
Has your teen asked – – even jokingly – – about your willingness to homeschool him or her?
If any of these sound familiar, then it’s time to sit down and have a real talk with your teen. The kind of talk where you explain – – from the beginning – – that you really want to hear their true feelings about school, and that you are willing to even take action to change things if you feel their concerns are valid. And then…you must follow through! Really, really listen…even when the complaints sound petty. And resist the urge to “explain away” their feelings. This is just a time for hearing without judgment, and then taking some time to think over what your teen has shared with you.
If your teen is honest with you, and really shares their true feelings about their school situation, then maybe that’s as far as it goes. Maybe you quickly realize that everything he or she is frustrated about is just part of the growing up process, and part of being involved in the educational system. Your decision at that point may be to simply set aside more times where your child can vent, safely, and know that you are there to listen without judgment. Sometimes, that’s truly all we need to keep moving forward through the trials and growing pains of life.
But what if you heard more? A tone of desperation. Tears of ongoing frustration. A complaint of persistent bullying. Or an expression of readiness to give up. In those cases, it may be time to weigh your options about your teen’s schooling. And the good news is that there are many!
If your teen’s issues seem completely wrapped up in the current school attended, then fixing the problem may be as simple as exploring other high schools in your local area where he or she would feel more comfortable, or that would fit his or her needs better
However, it may be that your teen has become so distraught with school in general that he or she needs a true break from the everyday strife and struggle – – even if it’s only for a semester or so. In those cases, parents may want to explore the option to use an online charter school, often called a “virtual school” if available in your state. This schooling option allows students to remain as part of their local school system, but the location of their learning simply transitions to their home environment.
A third option, especially if your state doesn’t provide a virtual schooling option, or if your child seems to need a longer – – or even permanent – – break from traditional schooling, is to homeschool him or her. And as daunting as that option may seem, the truth is that homeschooling can be one of the most positive choices a family ever makes. With the support of sites like LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com, and the multitude of online and offline curriculum options, parents and students often find the transition to homeschooling to be much easier and smoother than they expected.
The truth is, that a teen should never, EVER have to weigh their options between staying in an unhappy school situation and staying alive. Education is a TOOL, and there are many valid and nurturing ways to achieve one’s educational goals. If you feel like your teen would benefit from homeschooling, please check out our Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling High School, and then follow up by talking with other parents in our Parents Forum. We want to help you help your teen. Period.
**Note: I attempted to reach out to this teen via Twitter, and never heard back from them. I desperately hope that this young person talked with someone about how difficult life at school had become for them.. I certainly would have given anything to have been able to share the Tweet with the teen’s parents.