When Your Teen Hates School

When Your Teen Hates School ... and anything that seems educational

What do you do when your teen hates school

...and anything that seems even a little bit "educational?

In this episode of the Unschooling Mom2Mom Podcast, Sue Patterson shares how and why the unschooling approach is perfect for this!

Podcast Transcript

Hi Everyone! It’s time we talk about teens again! I’ll share a message I received just today about a family that’s wondering how to do this. So instead of answering her and sending her some resources, I thought I’d put it in the podcast!

If we haven’t met or this is your first time listening, I’m Sue Patterson, and this is the Unschooling Mom2Mom podcast.
Each week, I offer you 5-10 minutes of an unschooling peptalk.
- Something to help you see that your connection with your kid matters most.
- Something that can show you how it’s OK to do something unconventional more than ok!
Actually a really good idea!

My own unschooled now-grown kids are 33, 31, and 28. They all took different paths - and they were and are prepared for their young adult lives. They got into college, conservatories, trade schools, own homes and businesses, started families - all things! AND they had awesome childhoods.

And we didn’t duplicate school
- not even in the teen years!

I want to show you how.

After 25 years in this community, I have so many resources to help you - whether you want to dip your toes in the water, or dive on in. I’ll put links in the shownotes for you.
My New Unschooler course, Jumping Into Unschooling is discounted this month - because this is the month many of us are deciding what to do. It’s only $99 and I PROMISE it will save you so much money. You don’t have to buy that expensive curriculum. Take the course and you’ll see what I mean!
(Use Discount Code: JULY to save $50!)

I was halfway through a couple of other podcasts - one about Parental Peer Pressure, and another about that Guilt.  You know that guilty feeling we have when our kids are off playing, and we’re puttering around wondering what we should be doing? But you’ll have to tune into future weeks to get these! I talk to parents everyday - and I hear what’s worrying them. And I’ve BEEN there, I know what this feels like. So… more on those in August.
I’m also going to do another annual Not Back to School free webinar next month - so watch for the details on that.

That’s a lot going on!
And if we’re going to make it with the 10-minute goal, let’s get back to this talk about teens!

I’m going to dive into the specifics of this person that wrote to me TODAY. Because I know a LOT of people are in this same boat.

This Mom asked:

How do you start unschooling kids who don’t like any form of schooling? I have a 16 year old who hates everything school related. I want to unschool all my school aged kids ( 16,14,11 and 8) but I can’t get out of the public school mindset and away from worry they won’t be doing anything at all. Please help!

I can feel the panic - can’t you? We can all relate to her! She has that same fear we all have when we're just starting out on this journey.
- You don’t really have any idea what it will look like.
- You don’t know what obstacles you’ll actually face.
So your brain kicks in and wants you to find the safe road. And sometimes, that means scaring the heck out of you so you get back in line. That fearful part of your brain is getting way to much of a say over your decision making.

Reminders for Conquering This Fear


One of the ways to wrestle the power away from it is to remind yourself of a few things:
🔸 You don’t really know how your kids will respond to this kind of partnership with you - they’ve never really gotten to experience it.

🔸 Decisions are not in stone. You can try some things, see how they work, and then make the adjustments.

🔸 You’re still thinking in the I-have-to-run-everything-0r-it-will-all-fall-apart-mode, right? And it might, if you just walked away and said,

Good luck kids! You can do it! Sue said so!

But that’s not at all what you’ll be doing.  Unschooling is a way more connected way to parent.

🔸 And then, from an educational standpoint, you’re still thinking in school terms - that teacher-driven approach. Instead of recognizing that real life brings all the subjects with them - in some form or fashion. It’s up to us to notice when that’s happening.

And when we remember these things, we can breathe a little easier.
Our own anxiety about it all can decrease a little.

Back to the 16 Year Old Who Hates School

OK, back to the 16 year old that hates all things school-related. Kind of understandable. It’s not a super kid-friendly environment. And they’be been at it for over 10 years, right? That’s a lot of being told to be quiet, wait until the teacher lets them speak, all the kudos for those who conform, and some pretty heavy doses of shame and humiliation for those who don’t.

Since this is the Unschooling Mom2Mom Podcast, I’m not going to sugar coat it.

Kids who resist all that pressure and coercion are the independent thinkers of the world! And that’s a good thing! But they may also have to do some healing from all of that. That’s usually where the anger comes from. The system leaves very little room for an individual to grow and blossom!
But that’s not the case any more. You're removing them from the school approach.

So I’d tell your teen that. I’d say,

“We’re not duplicating school.
No subjects, no tests, no grades.
We’re going to dive into our lives and learn what we need as we go.
Let’s live like it’s Saturday. Or summer time forever.”


I can feel all the “yeah, but…” comments out there! Stay with me.

One of the big reasons that kids reject the school approach is that they don’t get to have any say in what’s going on - at all. No one listens to them. No one says,

“that’s a good idea, let’s try it.” or “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

School is more of one-right-answer kind of place.  Bells ring, it’s time to move on. Doesn’t matter if you were into it or not. Time to move to The Next Thing.  Ready or not, here we come!

So YOUR new approach is ALL about listening. And observing. And moving at a pace that is so much slower. There’s not rush. No desperate need to cover things for the test. Because there’s no finish line. And anything they want to know is at their fingertips on Google or YouTube. They no longer have to wait for someone to pour the knowledge into them. They can move in the direction of their interests and learn when they get to some part they need more information or more skill. Just like we do as adults. Just like they did when they were little and hadn’t gone off to school. No one quizzed them about walking or talking or learning to eat. They wanted the end result, so they kept trying until they got it.
And that’s how unschooling works. That’s why it’s successful. Humans WANT to explore - but they want to choose the topics. You don’t learn something because that’s what all 31 year olds are learning. When you help kids explore their interests, one thing really will lead to another.

So let’s get into what your role as an unschooling parent is.

Because while they’re doing all that, you’re watching them. You’re noticing how they like to move around in their day. You’re seeing the rhythm that fits them right now. Lots of teens are actually sleep deprived. From a growth and developmental standpoint, they need more sleep. So it’s ok if that’s what’s happening a lot… they’ll move out of that stage.

Your New Role as an Unschooling Parent

So let’s get into what your role as an unschooling parent is.

Because while they’re exploring...

  • You’re watching them.
  • You’re noticing how they like to move around in their day. You’re seeing the rhythm that fits them right now.
    Lots of teens are actually sleep deprived. From a growth and developmental standpoint, they need more sleep. So it’s ok if that’s what’s happening a lot… they’ll move out of that stage.
  • You’re having conversations about real life - not “how are we going to cover math?”
  • You’re talking about things happening in your house, groceries, meals, pets, what you and they are seeing on the news, what they’re watching online.
  • You’re available to talk with them when they come to you - and yes, that’s off later at night when the day has begun to fade away. If you need to nap a little earlier in the day so you can do this, that’s ok too!
  • And you’re reading about unschooling and deschooling and how it works. A LOT of your question is really about deschooling, so you’ll definitely want to dive into all the resources I have for that.
  • You’re going to get to see how YOU learn best too.
    If you love to read, the PDFs may be perfect.
    If you’re more of a listener, podcasts like this. I have a lot about getting comfortable with unschooling.
    If you’re more visual, you can tune into the Unschooling Mom2Mom You Tube videos.
    Or maybe you’re more of a people person and you need to surround yourself with other parents figuring out how to unschool - join my membership group! That would be super helpful if you feel you keep falling back to the schoolish way of thinking! I can help you!

Get the Brainstorming Guide

Another awesome tool to use is the Brainstorming Guide. It helps you shift your brain to all the options that are out there - that aren’t all about academics! Lots of families use it as a Planning Guide with their kids.
Things like…
What community activities are available that interest interest your family - festivals, restaurants, bowling, golfing, theater,, community service, hikes.
What things around the house are interesting?
What movies would be fun to watch? What foods do you want to fix - or recipes you want to try?
Or maybe you’ll binge in various Netflix or Hulu series together.
Maybe it’s trying new self-care ideas? Or learning ways to decrease stress?
This Guide will walk you through how to shift away from curriculum-driven approaches.

And if you’re worried about what their lives will look like without school, I interviewed 75 young people who shared specifics about it all in my book Homeschooled Teens. It’s linked here at the Unschooling Mom2Mom website and also at Amazon. This has been so reassuring to hear directly from these kids who lived this lifestyle!

Read how these young people describe their lives without school - they'll answer all your questions! Digital or Hard-Copy formats available

So that’s a good starting place if you have teens, right?
If they’re not happy in school, they aren’t learning much.
And what they are learning, isn’t that great.

So why duplicate school?? Just because it’s familiar.

I have other podcasts about teens too:  #41. And #21 focuses on college readiness - because that’s a lot of people’s concern at the beginning too.

Podcast:  Unschooling Your Teens                  Podcast: Can Unschoolers Get Into College?


I can always hop on a coaching call with you
even just for 30 minutes to get some questions answered and help you stop panicking!


So if you have teens resisting school, I’ll be blunt:
Get’em out of there. Do something different with them. They will be so much better off!

And I think that’s a good stopping place!
I’ll talk with you all again next week!