Lots of churning and change in the grade 8 and grade 9 years — said a homeschool conference speaker.
I didn’t need someone to say that out loud — I have personal experience. (Obviously, because I have a few kids, and also, I was a kid.)
I thought these years were turbulent because they were tough times for my parents. In hindsight, with a little parenting experience under my belt, I can see that these are turbulent years no matter what our circumstance.
Besides surviving this turbulent time in our children’s lives, there are other skills that will help kiddos this age prep for their future, said the conference speaker.
Help them learn to digitize their work (uploading and emailing).
I had to giggle at this suggestion — is there a teenager out there that doesn’t email or upload stuff? Or teach their parents how to do online stuff?
Enable keyboard skills.
If only they could Snapchat their essays. Goofy smiles and emoticons included.
Learn presentation skills.
Standing in front of a crowd, learning Prezi software or just old-fashioned performances, with violins or choirs, theatre or speeches. This all contributes to their public confidence.
Encourage them to independently engage teachers.
Or other significant adults in their world. Allow them to engage their adult worlds in an adult way, independently.
What do we parents need to do in relationship to these kiddos?
Don’t be judgmental, be realistic.
Perish the thought. Who would judge a teenager? So many things to judge: Don’t talk to your friend that way? Do you know that your undergarment is showing? I think that’s too much eyeliner.
Get them to reflect on schoolwork.
From my unschooling mindset, this is my default setting. Think about each activity and do it with intention. Are you scheduling your time well? Is there a different framework in which you could think through this topic? What do you think of the theme of this book?
Help them work through schedules.
Funny that some kids love schedules and create them independently; and others prefer to rise with lunch and assume the world is on their timeline.
Don’t encourage perfectionism.
As a first born woman married to a first born man, this is tough advice for us. But it has helped me to learn that perfectionism is the bane of happiness. I have learned that letting go of perfect is a requirement, and accepting good enough, both for my kids and for me.
I’m learning this for myself still. When I make a mistake, I prefer getting out the boxing gloves to beat myself up. On the other hand, what would I say to a friend? Not to get out the boxing gloves. Learn from your mistake. Then move on in the expectation that you’ll learn what you need when you need to learn it.
Share opinions in respectful ways.
It’s taken me years to learn that in teaching them to share their opinions in respectful ways, I also had to learn to speak mine respectfully. Yelling, “be kind to your sister already,” doesn’t work. (Well, sometimes it seems to at first glance, but long term, it does not.)
Practice empathy — not black and white thinking.
The one thing I didn’t realize I was doing to help my kids was to bear more children. Yes, this makes for a busy household. And no doubt it’s more expensive. Certainly it’s more work. But there are so many opportunities to learn empathy, kindness, gentleness, and respectfully sharing opinions when there are more people to practice these skills with.
Gradually pass over the reigns to your children.
When once I thought I must eventually choose to pass the reigns to my child, I have been challenged by my child and allow her as much independence as she can responsibly handle.
At the end of the conference seminar, the speaker encouraged me not to be judgmental, to remember that my kids are watching and listening, to admit my mistakes, to keep teaching my kids empathy and to breathe and pray all the way.