View Full Version : Helping my teen find direction?

03-08-2011, 03:57 PM
I'm trying to rethink my 14 yo's school, esp for next year, and i am looking for some help with ideas.

Background: he is atypical bipolar (mostly a TON of anxiety), pdd-nos (very mild autism), tourettes, and some processing issues which seem to mostly slow him down in math. He's also very bright (was in the gifted program in grade school), but has no ability to analyze, and panics at any sort of challenge.

Orion was in public school through 7th grade. His grades were usually pretty good (except in the stand-alone gifted program), but he was in specail ed classes the last 3 years, so he wasnt really learning that much. He loves science, but just doesnt have the analytical ability or careful, detail orientation which I think he would need for a sceince-related career. He has occasionally pursued hobbies: sewing (he is thinking of trying to start a business making teddy bears, tho the bears he made for holiday gifts often looked like aliens); woodworking (he hasnt worked on that since he needed stitches last year); music - he took some guitar lessons, then left the guitar at gramma's for a long time, and has had a hard time getting back in to it. He wanted to play the saxaphone, but i've put off making that investment in time and money, hoping he would work in teh guitar more first).

Currently we are doing a fairly academic program:

Math: singapore New Syllabus, currently pulling teeth through early algebra
English: MCT full voyage level. He does well, but is resisting more and more. he has made great improvements in his writing, tho
History: we are working through Usborne w his brother, and Orion has additional readings in "A Little History of the World" and Asimov's chronology. we supplement w videos.
Science: Orion is reading through The Story of Science - i'm reading it too, but we arent really discussing much. He suggested reading some from his bio text, but then balked when i added it to the schedule
Martail arts
Fiction reading - required, but i'll let him choose books, or i'll suggest if he cant find anything
French - was supposed to be doing independently w/ Tell me More - but he's been blowing it off, and working through Khan academy instead

My thoughts for next year:

English - a fiction program which includes a boy-oriented writing club i would have to organize
math - continue
science - maybe singapore chem, which i already bought
history - not sure, maybe intellego presidents

The thing is, I feel like i'm not sure exactly why we are doing what we are doing, nor is he. Now, the problem is, he's not much of a self-directed guy - never has been. He's always been the 'i'm bored' - his siblings will come up w games for him to play, but he rarely did on his own.

I am starting to think ahead - i keep thinking he would make a really good computer tech/help desk guy. He's really good w computers and electronics, but NOT analytical enough to be a programmer. I keep thinking he should take some classes along those lines, not next year, but the year after, when he can drive.

But meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out what HE wants, how to motivate him. I am thinking there should be some sort of excersises we can go through to help him identify what he wants. But i'm drawing a blank. I remember taking those career quizzes and feeling like they took a lot of time and told me nothing. I'm not very good at discussing things with him - i lose patience and start getting negative, which i know isnt helpful. My husband is even worse, and his biodad is totally useless. Really - he's living on SSI and contacts Orion . . . maybe ever 2-3 months? All visits have to be set up between me and his sister. the man is totally useless.

So, any ideas or suggestions? Do you think the teen liberation handbook could be in any way useful? Are there any sort of writing assignments to help a teen figure out who he is - when he's not naturally that reflective or motivated?

Stella M
03-08-2011, 04:24 PM
Cara, this doesn't really answer your question - but my first thought on reading your post was that 14 is an age where your brain is still pretty much a work in progress and that it's a hard age to be figuring out who you are and what you want and coming up with an answer.

I personally would follow a child's lead. If he was expressing a clear idea of what he wanted to do, I'd follow that. Otherwise, I'd be good with a few more years of interest-led or exploratory learning.

I think exposure is a key to working out who you are and what you want - a bit unschooly - sort of strewing experiences in your child's life. I bet he isn't the only 14 yr old who hasn't a clue what he wants :)

But I hope someone has something more valuable to offer you re motivation.

Maybe some real life work ? I don't know - helping out a charity or something with their computers ?

03-08-2011, 04:29 PM
Does he like writing? A technical writer, science journalist, or a popular science writer can get away without the analytics which you correctly observe are requisite for a career in the sciences. You have to understand the sciences and be able to explain them to the layman, but that's a far cry from developing new theories or from needing huge amounts of math.

Stella M
03-08-2011, 04:40 PM
Thinking some more about this over breakfast.

At this age I would work with his aimlessness rather than directing it, and model how to deal with it. Feeling aimless and unmotivated are pretty normal parts of life - just talking about how you deal with it in your own life might make more of an impression on him.

I would also think about whether he is an intrinsically or externally motivated person and use that to guide me.

03-08-2011, 04:58 PM
Archi, he is a pretty good writer - he's getting much better as I work with him with the MCT program, and as I said, I hope to do some fiction writing with him next year. He has a great vocabulary, but is just often lazy - writing as little as possible and using cliches - but I think this is because of how little was demanded from him while he was in school.

Melissa, you are right, most kids are pretty unfocussed at this age. His sister, who was always more focussed, figured out what she wanted by the end of 10th grade. Orion has clearly stated that he does NOT want to be unschooled. Part of our problem, of course, is the strong computer addicition we all share in my home! They kids are off electronics during 'school', but i keep that tightly scheduled, because otherwise Orion will often get bored and beg to play video games. I'm toying w some game-free unscheduled time, but i'm struggling. The boys are both so challenging that usually, by the time we are done w our scheduled work, i'm beat and _I_ want to go bury my nose in MY computer!

Stella M
03-08-2011, 05:06 PM
Fair enough.

Maybe you could load his program with things that are his strengths, rather than his interests. Working with what you do well is pretty motivating. Wasn't there a guy who came here to spruik his writing program ? - it sounded like a good 'boy' fit and something like that might give you a good spine for a writing group.

03-08-2011, 05:42 PM
I have the opposite issue here but the solution may be surprisingly similar. At least the attempt at a solution. My DD wanted to be a "balloon seller" when she was 5. She came to me out of the blue with a whole plan. She was going to charge 50 cents for each balloon, keep 25 for herself, and the other 25 cents to buy another balloon to sell. She was so serious hahah it came from out of the blue and it was adorable coming out of her little mouth and brain. When she turned 7 she wanted to be a dolphin trainer. I did not know a 7 year old could find so much information about the topic on their own. When she turned 9 She adamantly decided she wanted to be a marine biologist. She will be 14 this year and she is dead set on it still.
Here is the kicker though... if she hasnt considered anything else, she may be in for a huge surprise.
There is only one reason I am a little more calm about it all now. Last August I started thinking well... hmmmm... and then I just kind of decided that every week I would bring up a new topic (read future job idea). Say the week was zoology (my dd IS science minded hard core wired that way from birth i think...) I spent the whole week talk about what zoologists do, whats interesting with both hands on work, and with the research happening. There was a week about hollywood producers too ... we talked about all kinds of things... playwright ... actors... even the sound guys. As the end of december rolled around I kind of started lagging off on it because she still seems set in her mind.

I dont know you or your DS personally so I cant say how EXACTLY you should go about it but maybe just say to him "lets figure out what you MIGHT like to be in the future", and then casually do a weekly exposure to different things. If you see a huge interest in a topic(job)..expand with it to things that are similar.

It could be something that turns out fun for both or you.... or it could turn into something overly stressful? Thats all Ive got in the advice dept though ... wish I could be more help. <3

ETA: have you ever considered asked for an old computer that doesnt work for free on craigs list... and then let him take it apart and put it back together>>?? all in his own free time? (with the caveat that if he can get it working properly he can use it at will?)

03-08-2011, 05:44 PM
Is some of your anxiety because he has challenges so you feel like any career or direction he takes in life may require you to do lots of extra prep work? In other words, you feel like you need to get moving now (whether that's true or not...)?

One thought I had was that I've known a lot of kids who had trouble getting over that hump from interest in a topic to analytical thinking in a topic, but even some kids who I thought had such challenges that they would never be able to do it did - it just took them longer. So, it may be that he'll never be a critical thinker or it may be that he will or will start to make connections in deeper ways and think more analytically. I'm just saying, you know him and you know what he can do, but his brain's still developing at its own pace - give him support with that skill set and maybe it'll go somewhere.

Agreed that teens don't usually know where they're going - but it's nice for them to have a goal and try to go down that path. What about a short term internship project? We used to do these with 8th graders when I was teaching and it was always really rewarding. The kids would go off for a week, shadow an artist or a blacksmith or a computer programmer or veterinarian or whatever and come back with all these ideas and thoughts about it. Sometimes, in the big presentation they had to give, they would say that they learned they did NOT want to do this job, which was always funny, but clearly educational.

Does he do any goal setting as part of your homeschooling? Even if it were just setting a goal for the day or the week or setting a goal for gaming or sewing teddy bears or whatever, then that's a good life skills practice to get into that might could be applied to bigger things once he got into the habit.

03-08-2011, 06:12 PM
My opinion, since he likes science I would try to keep that interest going, even if you think that he may not be a good analytical thinker. When I was in high school I hated science, thought it was soooo boring. I went to college studying to be a Med Tech but then took an interest in chemistry and my prof encouraged me to consider majoring in it since I was doing well in the class. He told me how many options I would have - work in a lab, teach, go to med school, etc. Well, that is what I ended up doing and concentrated in polymers/coatings through a scholarship program and ended up with a great job out of college as a paint/coatings chemist that was so much fun.

Since he clearly is very smart I would try to go the science route and maybe you can find some local science classes for homeschoolers or maybe you could try to let him do some experiments at home to keep him interested and find out what branches of science most interest him.

03-08-2011, 07:20 PM
Farrar, I like the idea about short-term internships - i dont suppose you have any specific ideas about how to find willing people, tho? He doesnt do much goal setting in school, but I do discuss the plans for the year with him, and get his feedback.

So far, he hasnt shown much interest in the hands-on science we've done thats anywhere near his level (he kinda liked the 101 experiments by Jan whats-her-name, but those were really more Raven's level). He complained so much I quit doing microscope work with him - he flat out refused to take any responsibility for that, other than storing and retrieving the slides. He balked after the 2nd time we were supposed to take apart and put back together a DNA model. However, he IS generally willing to read, and he always did well with school curriculum. So i will keep planning science for him, since he seems to like that.

I think Farrar has part of it - that i think we need to be on top of this since he has so many specail needs. But also, I think part of it is that I dont feel he is always engaged in his school work. He generally likes science, and I will NOT quit on math, because I think its very important. And although I really like the work we are doing with MCT, I am hoping creative writing will help encourage him.

I guess part of it is that, as long as neither he nor I like unschooling, and he isnt taking any responsibility, I will have to push through his little fits of 'I hate this' - which is usually accompanied by loud tics . . . which i sometimes wonder could be faked. Usually if I stand touching him and get him to start writing down what he is supposed to do - like the firs word or problem - he can continue.

Oh, as for him taking some resonsibility - only to complete his reading assignments which are on the calendar. He does a decent amount of chores, and I feel like pushing too much more could backfire. He is awfully immature.


03-08-2011, 07:37 PM
I did State research for the boys, they divided the US into 26 States and I came up with a template to fill out on each State, they learned a lot and only had to do 1 State per day.
We did it last year and I think for 2011-2012 year they will be doing each others States so each boy will have done all 50. We skipped it this year because I was trying to avoid repetition.
Anyone who wants the template, I can email you a copy(I think...Hubby might have to help me) but it went over good on another homeschooling forum.

And I think next year we will also have a notebook where twice a week Mom will give them some random thing to research and write the answer. My youngest son gave me this idea today.... he asked why pounds use the LB abbreviation when the word pound has no L or B in it. I said look it up online.
CLICK, BOING,(my brain kicking into idea gear!) IDEA!!! So, I will spend summer coming up with random WHY? questions and they can choose from a jar on the day scheduled and then research and write about it.
Enhances writing skills, research skills and they learn random stuff!LOL

My oldest will be in 9th grade in the Fall and we are sticking with homeschooling. He has ADHD and I think that what we have corrected being homeschooled will revert if put back in PS. Yongest will be in 8th grade in the Fall and I always have to come up with new stuff.

03-08-2011, 08:30 PM
I oversaw those 8th grade mini-internships one year and most of them were gotten through personal connections - in many cases, it was a matter of family connections or me hooking one student up with the parent, relative or close friend of another student. But also, there was a fair number of them gotten just by cold calling places. One kid got an internship with a blacksmith that way. Another got an internship with a dog trainer by calling half a dozen places. Another kid (and this one will sound nearly unbelievable, but I'm pretty sure he did it without knowing anyone) wanted to make movies and he managed to call someone up and shadow some low level tech guys on a TV show and he ended up traveling down to NC for a split family vacation and 8th grade internship project week (the show was One Tree Hill, if I recall - it was pretty hilarious - he was a huge geek and could not care less about the show, but all the girls in the class were falling all over themselves to get him to talk about how he glimpsed Chad Michael Murray on the set). I remember a girl who wanted to do fashion so she took a sewing class and then got hooking up with a seamstress through that and shadowed her. So connections weren't the only thing. Kids had to do a presentation and also write up about their experiences. They were supposed to keep a journal as they went. Many kids didn't spend five straight 8 hour days shadowing someone though - they broke it up, or they did a few hours a day or they shadowed a couple different people in the same field for single days.

03-08-2011, 09:12 PM
I'm not saying this against you, just an out loud thought, but why do we see the need to have our kids at 14, knowing what they want to do with the rest of lives? Heck I'm 37 and I still don't know what I want to do with my life!!!

Having plans for today, this week, this month and this year yes but is it really that important to have a career mapped out? I know some kids will know what they want to do and that's great!

Sometime ago I stumbled across a site that championed project based learning for this age group (he may be at the higher end of that now though) I lost that link when my computer died and I haven't been able to find it again. But something possibly worth looking into.

I remember at around his age having to pick my senior years subjects based in what degree I wanted to do based on what my chosen career was....heck I had no idea and there was soooo much pressure, I felt like I was going to stuff up my whole life if I didn't choose those subjects wisely. Looking back I can now see what a load of nonsense that all is and what some kids are put through to make these decisions is awful.

03-08-2011, 09:35 PM
I remember at around his age having to pick my senior years subjects based in what degree I wanted to do based on what my chosen career was....heck I had no idea and there was soooo much pressure, I felt like I was going to stuff up my whole life if I didn't choose those subjects wisely. Looking back I can now see what a load of nonsense that all is and what some kids are put through to make these decisions is awful.

See, I think it's important to start thinking about this at a younger age and 14 is good because you can start thinking about college prep type course work or more general courses depending on the kid's interests. I didn't really know what I wanted to do in high school either but nobody ever sat down with me and explored options and I wish I would have had more guidance as to what was available....different types of jobs, education required, typical salaries, etc. I'm hoping to better prepare my kids.

03-08-2011, 09:49 PM
I think it's good to think about it - as long as you aren't locked in - either literally by rules or psychologically by thinking that once you start down a path you have to go that way. I also think there can be too much pressure to decide what you want to do early on. But I think it's also good to have aspirations and an idea of how to achieve them. A balance - as always. If you don't think ahead and explore the eventual places you might like to end up in life, I think you can end up bitter as an adult that you missed out on taking steps to get somewhere that might have made you happy.

03-08-2011, 10:23 PM
Oh yes and I do agree with both of you Lynne and Farrar....I guess it is balance and to not have that pressure that one has to choose right here and now what you will do with your life!!

03-08-2011, 11:18 PM
I'm the first to say that its NEVER too late to change your carreer. I just want him to find something to focus on in his life - other than video games. Well, to be honest, he is trying to come up w ways to make (quick and easy) money to buy MORE games. Recently this included trying to convince Raven to buy Orion's i-pod touch from him . . . and now he wants to sell some of his old toys on ebay. My husband came down pretty hard on the ebay idea, but i pointed out we really need to let him fail on his own, rather than just telling him 'no' when he has questionable ideas. It really is hard because Orion seems to have the heart of an entreprenauer (ok, i cant spell that word) - he is always trying to come up w business ideas he could start. DH and i are totally not like that - never had a lemonaide stand, never baby sat (except when my parents made me, for their freinds), nothing.

The other problem, of course, is even when he does come up w something he wants to do, and I convince dh to support him, and i get off my rear and do it . . . in the end, he decides he'd rather play video games than do whatever it is.

So, yes, i'm not really wanting him to find a career - i want him to start being inspired by the possiblities of his own life, and see a connection between school work and his future. OTOH .. . .neither dh nor i are particularly inspired by OUR own lives, so we arent exactly being very good role models.

so much going on here!!! Why cant life just be easier!!

03-09-2011, 01:43 AM
Oh gosh why can't it be easier lol!! I tend agree, where isn't going to be a monumental failure and something that could really hurt him or others I think he should be allowed to learn from his mistake...heck he might just find his calling.

My dh is a bit of an entre....yeah that word too....he's always got new ideas happening, even though he already operates a successful small business....lately he's been on at the kids to grow that part of their minds.

He'll play games with them like, if you had a bag of sugar what could you do with it to produce an income? That sort of stuff. I get uncomformtable about it though because for me (and I know prolly just being negative) I see the whole, turning them into , money hungry little vegemites thing happening and that scares the heck out of me!

But it does get them thinking some!

Stella M
03-09-2011, 02:22 AM
Is there some possibility that might inspire both of you ? So that he can model on your interest ?
Could you get him some biographies of famous business people/ can't spell it either, just tried 5 times!

03-09-2011, 04:01 AM
Lol nice to see others that won't win the SHS Spelling Bee hehehehehe

03-09-2011, 09:57 AM
He sounds really entrepreneurial. Could you maybe help him start a business? Maybe selling stuff on ebay or sewing stuff to sell on etsy. You could make it a whole project and learn about business models, promotion, keeping the books, spending money to make money... you know, I obviously don't know much about businesses and probably sound very silly, but I think the idea is sound. A kid I taught briefly ended up starting a HUGE business in high school refurbishing computers. He was a kid I couldn't believe got it together to do this because he was so scattered and disorganized, but the money really drove him and apparently helped him get pretty organized.

03-09-2011, 10:35 AM
Yeah, last year i actually let him read 2 books on how teenagers can start businesses, for socail studies, but he didnt get anywhere from it and, in fact, had forgotten that he'd read them. I"m thinking I should get him together with some local small business owners. I cant explain how much I hate the idea. I mean, i'm just shy and nervous and dont like doing anything independent like that at all. My mom is very money-driven, so maybe he comes by it honest at least. He did actually try to start a pet-sitting business, but only got one call and she ended up not using him. oh, and the one neighber who's dog he has sat before - last time they were away, apparently they had jewelry stolen. The religious home-schoolers next to them had watched the dog most of the week, we only covered 1 day when the homeschoolers were out of town also, but we still had the cops here. That can make things akward.

03-09-2011, 10:50 AM
Have you let him design video games?
My oldest (who is now a senior at UTD majoring in Arts and Technology) loved the summer camps that he went to that were video game making courses. They offer them all over the place around here. His focus in his degree is computer animation....which is NOT programming. He uses a lot of Maya, Photoshop, photography and art.
My 10 year old loves to make games on Scratch and Alice.
SMU has a graduate degree in making video games.

Another thought....with all of his diagnoses, does he qualify for Vocational Counseling services through your state Rehabilitation department? They could really help with some of those job placement internships for him. They also pay for educational training for people who qualify.

03-09-2011, 03:09 PM
My son went to some of the summer computer camps, but seemed to have a hard time being creative. He just copied other peoples stuff. there was one game-creating site he liked, but I think my husband declared it not secure enough. I should check out Scratch - i have heard of it. I sent my husband a link recently to approve/dissaprove, but i neer heard back.

I did ask on a local group about transition services, and someone gave me a contact for that. I also want to get him registered with Socail Security before he's 18 - we made too much to get support for him now, but his bio dad is on SSI. But i do think 14 is slightly young for that - plus, part of me wonders if I could do it as well, anyways.

Now that he has a computer again, i should consider some of that stuff. Its hard to get him to do more than the basics, tho. which goes back to inspiration . . .

03-09-2011, 05:17 PM
I worked for ECI (early childhood intervention) in the Dallas area for ten years. I had infants and toddlers that I helped to qualify for SSI. He is not too young. He has to show that he has a disability that affects his life and makes it difficult to do the things that ordinary kids would do (like go to school). So he is not too young.
Scratch is made by MIT and Alice is Carnegie Mellon. Both are downloadable....he doesn't have to work online.

03-09-2011, 08:11 PM
Hurricane uses Scratch from time to time, as well. Seems like a good gateway programming system, although I know nothing about computer programming.

03-09-2011, 08:19 PM
I see you mentioning that you think he would be good at computers and also that he loves video games. In addition to keeping with the basics that he will need for college what about having him learn to make video games? I checked Amazon.com and there were several books that popped up when I searched 'kids video game design' that might be useful to you. It would strengthen his computer skills and you may even be able to tie in some of the other subjects like math and reading.

****I missed the fact that I was only on the second page of responses and just realized this was already suggested...sorry for repeating.