There are no two ways about it: High school can be very stressful. If you think back to your own high school experiences, you might remember some stress around tasks like choosing a college, passing your classes, and dealing with your friends. Today, however, school can be a much more daunting endeavor for children and teens of all ages. Parents of teens with anxiety might wonder whether homeschooling is a possible solution. It is true that many teens are successful with homeschooling and that many of the stressors associated with public school are eliminated when a family homeschools. However, there are also considerations that might make homeschooling the wrong answer for your family. In this article, we discuss different types of anxiety that your teen may be experiencing, and whether homeschooling is a good option for teens with anxiety.
When School Is Causing the Anxiety
As a parent, you might wonder why your teen is finding school to be so stressful. After all, you went to high school and were able to get your work done without too much stress. Keep in mind that today’s teachers are under a lot of pressure to ensure that their students are passing tests in accordance with federal and state requirements, and some teachers pass that pressure onto their students. For some students, the pace required can provoke anxiety. Many teens find themselves doing hours of homework each night. When combined with part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and family obligations, the amount and scope of work required to pass their classes can cause a lot of anxiety in some teens.
Benefits of Homeschooling for Teens with Anxiety Caused by School
For teens who homeschool, the pace, as well as the scope, of each class can be determined by the student and his or her parents. While homeschooled teens should get roughly the same credits as their public-schooled peers, the work often takes less time, because it’s geared toward the adolescent’s individual learning style. Also, many homeschooling families choose to create an alternate schedule that can work better than the typical “seven subjects per day, five days per week” schedule that is common in many schools.
When the Anxiety Is Affecting School Success
Sometimes the problem is not that school is causing anxiety, but rather than anxiety is causing your teen to not succeed in school. For a teenager who is having trouble controlling his or her anxiety, getting poor grades can cause even more anxiety, which perpetuates the cycle.
Benefits of Homeschooling for Teens with an Anxiety Disorder
For these teens, homeschooling can allow them the time needed to focus on coping with their mental health condition and easing into a good academic routine.
When Social Anxiety Is the Problem
A small percentage of teens suffer from social anxiety, which is not the same thing as shyness. While shyness is a personality trait that can cause a teen to be quiet or slow to warm up to strangers, social anxiety can be debilitating and can cause a teen to withdraw from social interactions, refuse to participate in extracurricular activities, and have a hard time making friends. A teen with social anxiety should be referred for counseling and, in some cases, might take medication to make social interactions easier.
Benefits of Homeschooling for Teens with Social Anxiety
Homeschooling can allow a teen with social anxiety the time and space to deal with the issue and seek treatment. It’s important not to allow teens with social anxiety to completely isolate themselves, however, and that is something that could potentially happen with homeschooling. If you are considering homeschooling your socially anxious teen, talk to his or her mental health provider to find out how you can encourage your child to expand his or her social skills by interacting with others at homeschool group functions or in the community.
Making Homeschooling Work for Your Anxious Teen
It’s important to work with your teen so you can come up with a homeschooling plan that will not only keep him or her caught up with the appropriate school track, but also allow your teen to work on coping with their anxiety. Having a plan can help curb some of the uncertainty that can go along with homeschooling, particularly if you and your child have never done it before.
Find out if there is a homeschool liaison at the high school or with the school district who can help by explaining your state’s homeschool law to you and giving you the right forms. Also, look into the various methods of homeschooling. Your teen might need a period of time to deschool and decompress from his or her current experience. After that, you might choose to use a virtual homeschool program, textbooks, a homeschool co-op, or even unschooling. You can try different approaches and settle on what works best for your family.
When Homeschooling Isn’t the Answer
There are, of course, some times when homeschooling is not a good solution for teens with anxiety. First, keep in mind that homeschooling is not a substitute for therapy when it comes to managing your teen’s anxiety. While eliminating the stress of public school might reduce your teen’s anxiety, he or she still needs to learn the coping skills required to deal with anxiety as it comes up throughout the rest of your teen’s life.
If the thought of homeschooling makes your teenager more anxious, it might not be the right solution. It’s often worth the trouble to address common concerns, however. Your teen might think that he or she will have no friends, for example, and that simply isn’t true of homeschooled teens in general. Or they might think that the work will be too easy or too hard; again, this is not necessarily the case. You and your child can make homeschooling what you want it to be.
A teenager who is not self-motivated can find homeschooling to be boring and ineffective. This is particularly true if there is not a parent at home during the day to keep him or her on track. If there is no adult home and your teen is not likely to get his or her work done as agreed, then homeschooling might not be the right solution. Co-ops or hiring a tutor might be options that would work, however.
Making the decision to homeschool teens with anxiety should not be taken lightly, but it’s also not an end-all-be-all decision. Keep in mind that you can switch back to public school if needed in most cases. Talk to your teen’s guidance counselor and mental health care provider to come up with the plan that suits your family best.