Homeschooling Teens ~ Written by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
A year ago, I became the mom to a houseful of teens. My baby turned 13 and my oldest was 19 with a 15 year old sandwiched in the middle. Y’all, I thought parenting babies and toddlers was hard, but teens? They present a whole new reason for sleepless nights. And don’t even get me started on their meltdowns and temper tantrums.
Don’t misunderstand. Teens are really awesome people. Society and the media have given them a bad rap. The majority of the teens I know are thoughtful, respectful, amazing individuals who have some incredible insight to offer if you’ll take the time to listen to them.
That doesn’t mean that homeschooling – or parenting – them is a breeze, though.
Last year I had a very rude awakening. I discovered that homeschooling is not a panacea for all things teen. Homeschooling doesn’t guarantee teens who don’t talk back, make poor choices, push boundaries, or rebel.
Note: Grammar Nazis be warned, I will be using the pronoun “they” to refer to a single person. This is designed to protect my teens’ identity and privacy, not drive you insane.
One evening last year, I walked in on one teen Skyping a complete stranger of the opposite gender. It appeared to be an innocent conversation – other than the fact that it completely broke a few of our rules for Skyping.
A discussion ensued and all seemed well. Until it happened again. And, we discovered that the two were texting as well.
This resulted in loss of privileges, the person being removed from Skype, and daily monitoring of Skype and phone accounts (once the teen had access to those things again).
Photo by Hernan Piñera
It also resulted in the, well, the stuff hitting the fan at our home. School was completely derailed on the day that all this came to light – a day on which my husband happened to be off work, thankfully.
School was also completely derailed the following day when my husband felt so strongly about what was going on that he left work to come home and deal with it.
Because it wasn’t just pushing boundaries and breaking rules.
It brought to light a crisis of faith. That, to me, was a bigger issue than everything else. My teen telling me that he/she didn’t really believe all that Christianity stuff and was just going through the motions. We weren’t sure if this was a matter of said teen trying to hurt us or if they were really questioning their faith.
After much prayer, many sleepless nights, and the counsel of good, Christian friends, my husband and I came to the conclusion that this crisis of faith was normal. Our kids can’t live life on our faith. It has to be theirs. They have to wrestle it out on their own and sometimes you can’t do that without some deep questioning.
I told my teen that as long as they live in my house, they will attend church, we’ll pray together as a family, we’ll do Bible study, and we’ll memorize Scripture. When they become an adult, they will say one of two things: “My mom shoved that Christianity crap down my throat all my life” or “I’m so glad my mom didn’t give up on me.”
I told my teen that I hoped it would the latter, but even if it wound up being the former, I hope that they would understand that if I believe what I say I believe – and I do – that my love for them would allow me no other choice than to continue to share my faith with them.
You think that was enough for one year? I sure did. Apparently it wasn’t, though. A week later, another teen came to me with another serious issue. And, the week after that, it was something with the third. Yeah, three kids in three weeks.
I don’t think I can discuss the other two issues in detail without risking some privacy issues, so I’ll just say this: homeschooled teens – even those from “good Christian homes” – are not immune from things like:
- Experimentation with drugs and alcohol
- Eating disorders
- Sneaking out
- Breaking rules
The list could go on and on. And here’s a scary thought: All that stuff you did as a teen? Your teen is not immune. Even when you homeschool.
The issues we dealt with were enough to drive a person to drink, despite the fact that they were probably fairly mild in light of what some parents of teens are facing. In my case, it was enough to drive me to my knees.
Looking back, I can honestly say that a lot of good came out of a very difficult season. My faith was strengthened. Family relationships were strengthened and now there is much more open communication about even the hard topics. My kids know that they can come to my husband and me with whatever they’re dealing with and we’ll listen without flipping out (too much).
My kids’ faith was strengthened, too. All three of my teens went through a crisis of faith period. Two seem to have worked out their faith struggles. One is still wrestling a bit and I’m still praying a lot.
One of the biggest things that helped me through all this – apart from my faith – was opening up to some trusted friends and discovering that my family wasn’t alone. I was often surprised at who among my friends has dealt with certain issues because I never would have guessed.
That was a big deal because it showed me two things:
1) We all want the world to see only our best side and not our struggles and…
2) Good families with good kids go through these things.
It wasn’t a failure on my part. My kids aren’t bad kids. It is all just part of them testing their independence and their boundaries. It is all just part of growing up.
It made me very thankful that we homeschool, as well. We were able to deal with each of these issues as they arose, rather than being forced to push them aside until we were all home together.
So, parents of teens, I want you to know, whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone.
What would you say to parents suffering from teen-induced insomnia?
This post is part of our Hardest Part of my Homeschool Year series.
What’s Your Homeschool Mom Personality? Take Jamie’s quiz now and receive a free personality report to help you organize your homeschool based on what your personality type needs most!