It’s hard enough for adults to navigate the complexities of filing taxes, let alone teens. But the truth is, teens should get into the habit of filing their taxes as early and as often as possible.
Teens, Taxes, and Guidance
With the right guidance, your teens can approach their tax filing with newfound confidence, which can give them the tools they need to start managing their finances independently.
In this article, we’ll share important tips to help set up teens for successful tax filing experiences, so they can stay compliant, defend against potential audits, and ensure their returns are accurate and free of errors. With the right strategies and guidance, you can give your teens the financial independence they need to make informed decisions in the future.
Teach Your Teens to File their Taxes
I don’t know about yall, but I didn’t file my own taxes until I was married and we were on our own. We had a MILLION W-2s and mileage deduction and car depreciation. It’s amazing how we really did live on both of us working $8 an hour almost full-time jobs, but we definitely couldn’t afford the luxuries, like Walmart tax professionals. So that became my part-time job at home – as it took WEEKS to get our taxes filed the first time.
Thankfully, years of practice have made this much easier to handle. We want that same confidence for our teens, so as soon as they start getting a W-2, we have them start filing their taxes. Here’s a quick guide to talk through with your kids as they begin their own filing system for important paperwork
WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TO
We knew that our almost 16-year-old son didn’t need to file his taxes, as he only made a little under $2000 last year, but we want him to get into the practice of using his tax filing muscle now. Also, he is our investor kid and LOVES the fact that he can contribute up to the amount he made last year in an IRA Roth to start setting himself up for retirement. So, that’s his financial goal this year.
With this being his first year, I had him sit with me and tell me the information on the form, and I typed it in. We file online most years, and this was the case for him this year.
WHEN IT’S TIME FOR THEM TO DO THEIR OWN
Next was our daughter. I’ve been helping her file her taxes since she was 16, and this year, at 18, she was ready to go solo. This year, she sat at her own computer and filed her own taxes.
You guys, I am so happy for her. This is an act of maturational freedom for her. This is building her confidence that will transfer to other adult tasks, which she’ll also take charge of and master!
WHEN YOU SHOULD ASK FOR HELP
Lastly, sometimes, help is the best option. We are helping a precious 21-year-old learn all kinds of skills for independent living. She had some W-2s, Student Loan forms, and a few other variables to work through. So, we had her head up to her local H&R Block office and have them sort through the documents. She was in and out in 30 minutes, and we all had peace of mind that all the details were taken care of.
All this is our way of helping our teens continue to be more prepared than we were for the next step in launching as competent adults. Filing taxes is just one more way they can know that they’ve got this.
Personal Finance and Economics are often overlooked but super important life skills for kids. Our live online classes are gamified, turning challenging real-world skills into fun and engaging lessons that will inspire your kids and prepare them for a successful launch!
Will Homeschooling Ruin My Kids? What are the unbelievable risks of homeschooling your kids? It’s a question that gets asked by many new homeschoolers.
I like definitions, so let’s start there.
To ruin means to destroy or cause to disintegrate.
And since I’m assuming you are not a violent criminal posing as a homeschooler, let’s just take that off the table. So, the short answer is, “No,” you won’t ruin your kids by homeschooling them.
But even beyond that, homeschooling can have countless positive benefits.
For one thing, the individualized attention your child receives and the ability to tailor the curriculum to fit their interests and learning styles is unmatched. Add to that the flexibility of homeschooling, and you’ve got a recipe for success that would be hard to replicate in any other setting.
Plus, homeschooling creates opportunities to learn in any setting. You can take field trips and visit museums and libraries with greater frequency. You can also customize the entire learning experience to suit the way your child learns best. This allows kids to receive the education they need while simultaneously investing in their emotional and social development.
So, no, homeschooling won’t ruin your kids – on the contrary, it could very well open up a world of learning experiences that they may not have been able to access while in a conventional school setting.
You will mold and shape them. And like all human interaction, it could go one of three ways.
Combo of really well and poorly
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but homeschooling is just a method of intentional education and parenting. It’s not a perfect method, it’s not foolproof or failsafe. We are imperfect, passionate people who are raising imperfect, passionate people, so the room for wild success and failure is vast.
But, like many things, there are things that you can do to ensure a more positive than negative outcome.
The key is to be intentional in creating a learning plan that’s specific to your child’s needs, interests, and goals.
Take the time to delve into how your child learns best and how to apply those principles in day-to-day education. Additionally, it’s important to find a balance between educational elements and self-care, such as rest, relaxation, and recreation.
Finally, remember to be patient and flexible — like with most things in parenting, there will be missteps, but with a supportive and intentional environment, there will be many more successes.
You can choose an educational pedagogy that has been successful throughout the ages- not all education is created equal.
You can choose quality literature, movies, and music – the old Sunday School song that admonishes, “Be Careful little eyes what you see, etc.” is so appropriate for child-rearing.
You can choose to study- really study and wrestle and run after- your faith with your children.
You can pray.
You can partner with other like-minded people going in the same direction educationally and in life. True North, baby.
Will Homeschooling Ruin My Kids? I hear you, still asking and wondering!
But look. Even if you do all the “right” things -whatever that means- like you never get sick, discouraged, have financial difficulties or in-laws who undermine you or a bad hair day- your kids and you might will make mistakes, be oppositional or go in the wrong direction. Maybe just slightly off track and maybe so off base, you wonder if either one of you will survive.
Us Mommas have a tough time with these kids living their own lives.
They are our hearts, walking around outside of our bodies, and we love them so. And when they suffer, we suffer. And homeschooling allows us to get to know each other really well, our strengths and our weaknesses, our joys, and our sufferings.
And maybe that all sounds discouraging, but it’s just messy. Because people are messy. Your kids need an education. Who better to provide that education than their loving parents? It’s Biblical.
It’s the way of the wealthy, educated elite: providing private, individualized instruction. And you have an investment in your kids in a way no one else will.
Maybe you are not as equipped as you feel that you need to be, but honestly, that is easy to remedy by the following:
Find a great educational pedagogy and the resources YOUR family needs to succeed*
Find a tribe of like-minded travelers*
Do the work homeschooling requires
Have FUN and enjoy the fabulous journey that homeschooling can provide you and your precious children
Will homeschooling ruin your kids? The short easy answer is No.
Will Homeschooling Ruin My Kids? The more complex, realistic answer is you will struggle, work, cry, and experience joy. It is worth it.
Coaching Your Cyber Scholar for Academic With with Online Curriculum
Online learning is like no other schooling option and is a viable option to public school. Online homeschool courses with a virtual classroom can benefit your child’s education. It provides a powerful path to help students achieve their greatest potential, unleashing educational opportunities galore.
The key to maximizing this unique platform is mastering the parent role in supporting cyber students. As a mom to two former online learners in online schools, I know the Mom-Teacher dance well! It is a beautiful, gracefully executed tango of push and pull, correct and commend, encroach and encourage. For thirteen years, from middle school through college years, I was a learning coach to my digital-generation brood. I have been on both sides of the computer – as a parent and as a teacher. Defining a parent’s role in supporting online learners can be challenging, but here are six tips that will help!
Attack the Day; build a daily schedule and stick to it.
Online Homeschool Classes: One of the great benefits of online courses and homeschooling is flexibility.
Schooling outside walls, rather than in-person classes, allows us to explore wonderful learning opportunities within our communities. But are you sacrificing productivity and learning with an unpredictable schedule? Children love a set schedule. They feel more in control if there are few surprises during the day. They know what to expect! Teens need a set schedule and learn to be responsible for their own time. They have yet to master self-control and goal-setting that will motivate and shape their behaviors. Their brains are simply not developed enough to think about the long-term implications of low grades and missed classes. When my Digi-cubs began online learning, we used the same basic schedule for school work that their friends used for traditional school during the school year.
8:00-8:30 – Up, dressed, and eating breakfast
8:30-9:00 – Morning meeting with Mom
9:00-10:00 – First online class
10:00-10:45 – Offline work
10:45-11:00 – Break
11:00-12:00 – Second class
12:00-1:00 – Lunch/Outside!
1:00-1:10 – Afternoon meeting with Mom
1:10-2:00 – Offline work, Independent Work
2:00-3:00 – Third class
3:00-3:30 – Review with Mom and plan for tomorrow
We implemented a block schedule for our live classes, and Fridays were used for finishing up whatever was left incomplete from the week. We were usually done on Fridays by midday! Many days, my cyber learners asked to have a “working lunch” in order to finish even sooner! Sure, there were times that appointments or fun opportunities popped up that warranted a schedule adjustment, but those were the exception…not the norm. No matter the age, we all have schedules to keep. Several college students fail because they have not learned how to set and manage a schedule; what a great opportunity to teach this life skill before earning their high school diploma.
Coach for organization and designate a workspace.
If you have ever stepped foot in a young person’s room, you know they need help with organization! Successful online learners are well situated, with all the necessary school supplies readily available. They can quickly locate textbooks, lesson plans, handouts, materials, completed work, and work in progress. Help your cyber scholars effectively use a calendar to mark assignment due dates and to plan their work. In this techno-world we live in, we default to electronic reminders, but students need to see the BIG picture – not just day-to-day digital notifications. Use a large, printed calendar showing a month at a time. Write down when that research paper is due! Having a visual of exactly how many days are left to complete a project helps with planning for it, and marking it off when it is done, can be a huge motivator for students!
Not all of us have enough space for a school room, but we can still designate a learning area complete with storage and an appropriate work table or desk. What’s a good place for you? Let’s face it – sitting on a bed or couch feels far different from working at a table or desk. One says, “I’m casually chilling,” while the other indicates, “This is serious beeswax!” Our environment affects our state of mind and our approach to the task. Many of today’s students struggle with staying focused, and a designated learning space can be free from the distractions that delay our learning. It is also great to put school away and leave the designated learning space for the evenings and the weekends while honoring their need to move at their own pace. Determine what works best for your family’s needs.
Plan a Great Experience: Know the learning management platform playbook.
We each have different skill levels regarding technology, and often our students know more than we do! Don’t let that stop you from becoming a knowledgeable user of the online learning system! This is the e-campus! The best homeschool programs for live homeschool classes will have a virtual campus. Get in there and understand how to use the platform effectively. Be willing to step into problem-solving. Through parent accounts, you can access all of your student’s teachers, assignments, grades, scheduling, class information, important communications, and more! Do not be uninformed or miss important communications because you might be a little intimidated by the cyber school’s learning management system (LMS). Your students are relying on YOU to help troubleshoot tech issues!
Huddle up for multiple daily check-ins every step of the way.
Hold your online students accountable. Remember: online learners are still home learners. They meet with a school teacher for only one or two hours per week. YOU are their learning coach and home teacher! You get them 24/7! Do not leave it to online learners to be totally independent and self-directed. Help them stay on track with multiple check-ins throughout the day. A morning meeting before learning begins is a great opportunity to map out the day’s work and other activities. Be specific and clear in your expectations of what your student should be doing in the amount of time before the next check-in. Discover the class format and individual courses they are responsible for at their grade level. Always finish the day with a final check on what was accomplished and what must be done for homework or worked into the next day’s learning.
Ask your children, “Where are we in language arts, social studies, and math?” Stay on top of core subjects and specific subjects you’re participating in. Younger students through high schoolers are still homeschooled students, they need their parents, even with an online homeschool curriculum.
Parental Involvement: Communicate with course teachers.
Teachers and parents working together to accomplish educational goals for students is a Win-Win scenario! No one knows your child better than you do. Teachers rely on you to immediately communicate any concerns or problems you notice with your child’s learning. This is perhaps even more crucial to success in an online learning environment and as they become high school students. Most questions or concerns can be addressed through messaging, but others are a little more complex. Never hesitate to request a phone call or a Zoom meeting. Teachers are your best resource and want to help; they want your child to succeed in their class! The best online homeschool programs are the ones that you, as a parent, become involved in. Parental involvement is key!
Celebrate successes in online learning.
Every week, every day, every minute – celebrate your students’ successes – BIG or small! They achieved that A on the assignment they worked so hard on – WooHoo! They could attend an entire class without getting kicked out because of internet issues – Yay! They finished everything on today’s To Do list – Wow! They worked hard and completely focused on their assignment for a solid hour – Excellent! Do a touchdown celebration dance! Focusing on the negative and what is wrong or not working is easy. Have fun! Remember that learning is a journey! Integrate joy and a love for learning that will fuel your cyber students for a lifetime. Celebrating small accomplishments gives us the confidence to reach even higher. Focusing on what we have done well allows us to be a little more open to what we can do better. And while you’re at it, remember to celebrate YOUR successes! This Homeschool Teacher-Mom thing is not easy to tackle, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Remember: we all are doing the best we can for our children, and after all…tomorrow is another day!
True North Homeschool Academy’s Live Online Classes for Homeschoolers
If you’re looking for live online classes that are high-quality True North Homeschool Academy’s homeschooling program might be a good fit. With small class sizes, teachers who are masters in their subject areas, and a course catalog that covers Kindergarten through 12th grade, including special needs, they are a true partner in your child’s education. Discover True North Homeschool Academy today.
True North Homeschool Academy Teacher
Mrs. Purcell loves helping to shape young minds, partnering with others to create positive change in education, and crafting expression through written words. She believes we are each uniquely designed with special talents and abilities and that we are responsible for utilizing all that we have been gifted fully!
No, we haven’t leapfrogged Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this is the time of year when many homeschooling families start thinking about curriculum and often make a change in Spring. They are feeling the homeschool overwhelm. So, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about how to beat homeschool overwhelm.
It usually starts with a feeling that something is a little off. We start asking ourselves those questions:
What’s wrong with me? I can’t get motivated to do this homeschool thing.
Where did my kids’ motivation go? Getting them to pay attention to their lessons is like pulling teeth!
I feel so cut off from everyone. I could use a homeschool friend! Maybe my kids feel that way, too! Maybe the naysayers were right about socialization after all!
Homeschooling shouldn’t be this hard. Look how easy it is for other moms. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this.
Honestly, these feelings are totally normal.
Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint.
So, how do we handle burnout, overwhelm, and lack of motivation in our homeschools?
The high school years can be challenging, so learn to focus on the important things. If you’re homeschooling a child with learning differences, having a support system in place makes all the difference.
If you, or your kids, are struggling with knowing what to do when, how to get started, or feel overwhelmed with processes, this may be a real issue in your homeschool. Understanding how to handle executive functioning issues with workable strategies can bring relief.
You don’t have to DIY homeschooling. Period. Post-2020, we look at socialization differently and can be selective and intentional about how and why we connect with others. But it’s not a rule that you must do it alone.
Homeschooling asks a lot of us as parents. Especially when it comes to time management. Having a flow or rhythm to your homeschool day can go a long way to giving you peace and confidence. And what homeschooling parent couldn’t use that?
Let’s start at the top and look at where we are.
Curriculum ordered? Check.
School supplies? Check, check.
Homeschool sanity? Help!
From the outside, especially if you’re new to homeschooling, it can look as easy as ordering our curriculum and school supplies. Throw in a pretty, functional planner, and we should be good, right? In a perfect world, yes – these are the functional ingredients. But, let’s face it, life happens.
Children have to be fed, washed, and managed. Kids get sick. Spouses travel. Things happen. And without some basic and flexible structure to your homeschool, you find yourself quickly overwhelmed, maybe even on the verge of quitting. Don’t give up! Get real! Use these quick tips to give yourself the breathing room necessary to succeed long-term!
5 Quick Tips for Homeschool Balance
Think big picture.
What is the natural rhythm in our home? Do we have early risers? Are we night owls?
What are the ages of the children?
What are the things I must take care of to take care of my home? (Dishes, cooking, laundry, etc.)
Am I using Smart Goals to keep us on track?
What’s my current planning system?
Grab a Notebook or Journal to Get Started
Thinking of these questions above, sit down with a cup of coffee and do a brain dump. Give yourself space and permission to write out all the things you find yourself doing, including those areas that are a struggle. There’s no format for a brain dump, so write your heart out. Your list can be as long as you need it to be. The next section, we’ll use our five quick tips to help you get to your homeschool flow!
5 Quick Tips for Homeschool Balance
When establishing a flow, there’s a priority to planning that can make your life easier. It’s simple but will go a long way to relieving stress. We’ll use that method in our quick tips!
Quick Tip #1: The Role of Responsibilities
When creating balance in your homeschool, establishing jurisdiction is the first order of business. If you’re saying, “huh?” just hang with me. Jurisdiction simply means that each person has responsibilities within the flow of your homeschool day that, when not attended, cause your homeschool to feel like it’s spiraling out of control. The good news here? You’re the homeschool manager, and you get to establish those areas if you have older teens sign off on.
For example, you may be responsible for cooking breakfast, but if cleaning dinner dishes from the night before is someone else’s responsibility and they aren’t done = disruption! Or, you may need to work on phonics with your five-year-old, but to have the time to sit down with her, your ten your old needs to be self-directed with her library book time. If she’s coming to you asking what she should read, how long she has to read, etc. = disruption!
Okay, let’s move to our next quick tip, handling disruptions.
Quick Tip #2: Plan for Disruption
Okay, we’ve made our list of responsibilities, identified who should be doing what, and now we’re going to brainstorm ways to head off disruptions. Planning ahead for those homeschool speed bumps can give you the tools you need to maintain the flow. They are a huge time saver because you’ve already thought them through. So, how do we do this?
Take a good look at that brain dump and highlighted responsibilities list.
Think through your priorities. What’s most important to accomplish each month, week, and day?
Now, plan for your disruptions. Where do responsibilities overlap? What are your dependencies, and if/then? (If a isn’t done, we can’t do b.)
Write out what you expect to hear from your children when it comes to holding them accountable. How do you plan to hold yourself accountable for the responsibilities that belong to you?
Determine what you need to have done for your day to feel good to you. What can you do to avoid disruption?
Consider your natural God-given energy flows throughout the month. As women, this can be very helpful!
Before moving on to the next quick tip, ask yourself if you’ve given enough thought to disruptions. Have you considered social media scrolling, texting, and phone calls? I’m not saying don’t have these. I’m saying plan for them.
This quick tip will set you up for success, so don’t be afraid to be detailed!
Quick Tip #3: Give Yourself a Break
This quick tip will help you homeschool from a place of rest rather than hurried overwhelm. Plan your schedule to include a day off. Depending on your homeschooling goals, this can look different for everyone, but these suggestions for a day off will inspire you to try it!
Use a single day to focus on bigger household chores, such as laundry, deep cleaning, etc. Involve the kids and reward them a fun and easy lunch!
Schedule a library day.
Plan to visit the park.
Do a day in reverse! Declare a pajama day and let everyone work on their free-reading list. Have breakfast for dinner (aka silly supper).
If finances allow, employ a sitter (or willing grandparent) for a day or two per month and run errands alone.
Have a prep day each week to evaluate what worked last week and what you’d like to address moving forward.
You can rotate these ideas or add one of your own.
Quick Tip #4: Give Grace
Understand the principle of the dropping ball. You can plan everything, prepare for disruption, and find momentum in your homeschool, and suddenly, you’ve dropped the ball. The tip here? Give yourself grace. And give grace to those around you. Balls will drop. Revisit your plan, evaluate your flow, and move on.
Quick Tip #5: Equip Yourself for Success
The last quick tip is about utilizing the right tools for your homeschool. Ask yourself questions to see if you’re using the best tools for you and your family!
Am I buying paper planners I never use? Maybe a digital planner would work better, or vice versa.
Do I over-plan our actual homeschool tasks? Lightening the load or using a loop planner would give you more freedom.
Can I plan for meals and shopping more efficiently? Think of 10 meals your family loves that you can put on repeat. This will simplify your shopping and meal prep and free up your brain!
Do I refuse help because I feel that homeschooling is my responsibility or someone else couldn’t manage all the tasks? Let your spouse or grandparent surprise you!
Do I use an After Action in my homeschool to reflect on what’s working and set up realistic expectations?
What do you do with an undecided homeschool student?
Many use the terms work, job, career, and vocation interchangeably. While it’s true that each involves working and a wage, having a career and vocation means more than just a paycheck. They describe a type of work where your passion, purpose, skills, and the marketplace collide. In the words of theologian Frederick Buechner, “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”
While some students seem destined for a particular vocation at an early age, it is common for today’s students to near high school graduation without a plan. Parents can encourage informed early-career-direction decisions. It starts with helping teens identify who God made them be, supporting them as they explore occupations, and finally, helping them develop goals and create an action plan. By partnering with and encouraging them in this important decision, they can graduate high school with a vision for their future.
Help an Undecided Student Build Identity
Nothing is more foundational than being rooted in Christ. Assisting teens in forging strong, positive identities is one way to help them form true convictions and stand firm in them regardless of what everyone else does. Google “Who I am in Christ.” Print and review as a family. Emphasize that work is part of God’s plan and that He designed them for a purpose.
Be generous with your praise, affirming skills, and natural abilities you have observed.
Ask questions that help identify likes and dislikes and what is important: What kinds of interactions energize you or drain you? Do you like to work with facts and data, or prefer people-oriented activities? Are your decisions objective and logic-based, or are your decisions based on how they may impact others? Do you like to discuss your ideas, or do you prefer time alone to make decisions?
Encourage busy teens to enjoy downtime, strengthening their creativity and problem-solving skills. Schedule time to pursue hobbies and to invest in electives, sports, and other team activities that build skills and reveal interests.
Explore Career Options for the Undecided Homeschool Student
A better motto than “You can be anything you want to be” is “Be all you can be!”
Researching careers online will help teens better understand occupational profiles that match their interests and personalities. Set a goal for how many careers to research. Information should include primary duties, the education or skills needed for working in that field, the work environment, and the median wage. Discuss the findings. Check out CareerOneStop.org.
Utilizing a career assessment tool at age 16 may further identify vocations that match God-given interests. Informal assessments are readily available on the web.
These are self-interpreted and can lack reliability, so they are best used to generate discussion. Fee-based or formal assessments are more comprehensive and statistically validated. A trained career counselor can interpret the results to identify best-fit careers and college options. Look for a comprehensive assessment that covers the four components of vocational design: personality, interests, skills and abilities, and values. Check out CareerDirect.org.
Good Career Planning
Good career planning includes building curiosity and excitement toward participating in the marketplace. Use your networks to introduce people in occupations that interest them and match their vocational design. Thinking about a career sector rather than a specific occupation will generate a bigger list of options that match their interests. Encourage them to prepare a list of questions by Googling “informational interview.” Practice interview skills to improve their confidence level.
Take advantage of the flexible schedule of homeschooling. Facilitate opportunities to learn outside of the classroom through part-time work, volunteering, and job shadowing. This will help confirm interests and build a resume with skills that employers value.
Set Goals and Take Action with Your Undecided Student
By integrating the gathered information and identifying the education, training, and skills needed for the career sectors, plans and goals can be determined. Don’t worry about choosing one specific occupation at this stage. Goals can be categorized into five pathways: four-year STEM-related college degree; four-year liberal arts college degree; two-year vocational degree or certificate; apprenticeship training, military, or workforce; and gap year or travel.
Teens with a healthy and productive level of parental guidance and support have a much better chance of making good college and career choices. Here are some questions: Which post-secondary institutions offer the programs needed? What is the cost for completion? How will it be funded? Can affordable or free college credits be earned in high school? What are the prerequisites or admission requirements? What courses should be completed during high school? Besides education, what experiences or skills would be valued? Together, you can develop a plan for high school, aligning them to support post-graduation goals.
Many students are more motivated when they have a defined purpose and set personal goals. Those who write down their goals are 50% more likely to achieve them. Work to break down their goals into specific, manageable tasks with timelines for completion. Change is constant, so capitalize on preparations for success after high school, no matter their choice.
Cheri Frame is a homeschool parent of three graduates, a certified Career Direct® Consultant, and the author of Credits Before College: A Comprehensive High School to Graduation Guide. She advises parents and students on how to earn affordable college credits in high school, choose a career, and graduate college debt free. Cheri and her husband live in suburban Minneapolis.