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Mentoring Your Homeschool Student

The best advice that I received from a veteran homeschool mom when I started

homeschooling my junior high son was very simple. She said, “You must mentor

your son”. As she explained, we just assume that our children know how to

communicate or navigate the world by watching us. In reality, our children often

need more explicit guidance.

Talk to your children about how to function in the world. When my son started to

get involved in more outside activities and organizations, we had a long discussion

on how to communicate. I thought back to the advice given to me by my mentors

when I first started practicing law. First and foremost, return calls, texts and

emails the same day in which they are received. This advice sounds so simple but

it is seldom done. It is certainly easy enough to try to avoid an unpleasant email. It

is also important to respond even is there is no clear answer yet. Believe it or not,

the compliment that I have heard most over the years about my son is that he

responses quickly and professionally. The complaint that I hear the most from my

now college-aged son is how his classmates don’t timely respond making it hard

to do projects and research. When age appropriate, it is important for children to

learn how to conduct their own business under your guidance.

It is also important that our children learn the importance of “showing up”. Not

only is it important to show up but to show up on time. Children need to learn

that when you commit, it is important to follow through. Even if it becomes

inconvenient, it is their responsibility to show up. This sounds like simple advice

but is becoming increasingly difficult to count on people to follow through on

commitments. I have witnessed homeschoolers who have been able to set

themselves apart just because they are responsible. Several years ago, my friend’s

homeschooled son started film school in California. He quickly found himself in

demand as a freshman for senior film projects because he was reliable and

communicated. Even though he didn’t have as much experience as some other

students, his professors and other students knew that he was a man of his word.

Nonparent, adult mentors can also be invaluable in teaching your child

communication skills. It is important that children learn how to interact with

other adults. Because my son was involved in outside activities and was often the

only child in these organizations, we had many conversations over the years on

how to interact with adults as a child. First and foremost, if he wanted to be

treated with respect by adults, he needed to act professionally and treat adults

with respect. We also stressed that it is important to learn from experienced

adults especially in areas of interest. Adults often want to share their knowledge

with the next generation. Unfortunately, I have heard from adults that many

students lack curiosity and are dismissive of adults. My son and many other

homeschoolers have found the value of learning from adults.

Involvement in outside organizations and projects when age appropriate can be

very effective in teaching children communication and leadership skills. By

becoming involved in adult organizations, a child can learn how to deal with and

be accountable to other people. My son became involved with our local Audubon

chapter while in junior high. Over the years, he held leadership roles that involved

organizing public outreach events and rehabilitating a wetlands property. As a

result, my son had to meet real-life deadlines, learn to navigate board meetings,

do public presentations and obtain grants for his pet projects. Along the way, we

were able to discuss how to handle certain situations, especially navigating board

meetings. I watched as adults in the chapter mentored my son and his friends

who joined in on projects. An unexpected benefit of the mentoring was invaluable

networking resulting in internships and jobs. Good adult mentors can change a

child’s life.

Homeschooling provides the opportunity to actively mentor your child before

they navigate in the world on their own. The simplest habits are often the most

valuable and will benefit your child for a lifetime.

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