Focus on relationships.
The teen years can get a bad rap when it comes to relationships. You say high school, I say drama! High school, drama! And so on. Yes, the drama in the teen years may be inevitable, even if you homeschool lol. But one of the biggest things your kids need to learn in high school is how to develop healthy relationships. Learning how to be a friend, how to apologize and forgive, how to be trustworthy, how to pick friends wisely. All those “socialization” skills that everyone is worried about – it really comes down to relationships.
Developing strong relationships starts with having healthy relationships within the family. That’s the first priority. Getting along with your parents. Learning to deal with your siblings -and if you’re homeschooling, it can be sibling overload. 😂 But I believe if you can learn to get along with your siblings you can learn to get along with anybody. There’s so much “real world” in those relationships that stay with you for life. We tell our kids, siblings are preparation for marriage. 😃
Whether you’re homeschooling or not, teenagers need relationships with adults if they are to become adults. They need models of good behavior and healthy relationships. Those kind of skills are often caught and not taught. And this is where my passion for marriage and education intersect. I truly believe having parents with a healthy marriage benefits our kids in so many ways and sets them up for all kinds of success in their future. It’s one of the biggest advatanges we can give them.
Practice managing real money.
Teens should learn how to work hard and pay for their own stuff. But the only real way to learn that is to actually work, and then have to pay for their own stuff. That’s the first step.
The next step is to watch how adults handle their money, namely mom and dad. They pick up our attitudes about money, how we spend, what we save, how much we give. We’ve always been transparent with our kids about our budget so they can see that every time we say “yes” to one thing, we say “no” to something else.
The Bible is so full of money references because money matters are often spiritual in nature. How we handle money reveals our character and our priorities. Teach your kids by example what honoring God with your money looks like. How to give cheerfully. Why the Bible warns against debt.
We try to give our teens as much financial independence as possible and have them cover their own expenses (devices, cell phone bills, cars, insurance, eating out, clothing, entertainment, trips, etc). At first, it’s frustrating when they see their hard-earned money disappear so easily (ha, that’s life!) but as they get older, they have feeling of accomplishment being able to say, “I can take care of that myself.” (or even better, Mom, let me pay for you this time.)
Not to mention, having our kids cover their own expenses has been a significant help in keeping our own budget balanced, so that the main cost in raising teens has just been food!! #somuchfood
And in the end, that has been what motivated them to work so hard. Sometimes we have felt like unfair parents nickel and diming our kids on every little thing. But it has paid off because as young adults now they understand how much it actually costs to live and how to make their money stretch. Like the parable of the talents, they are responsible to God with how they steward whatever they have. Oh, and it is the perfect motivation to improve math skills. Math mistakes with money are the worst!
Produce not just consume!
Many times we fall for the image of a student as blank slate or an empty cup, and all we need to do to educate is just pour information into a child. Sharing information and teaching is important- but I believe it is only half of the equation if the student can’t pour back into others. If they can’t do something with what they know.
The teen years are a great time to use the knowledge they have taken in and the talents God has given them and do something with it! Develop. Formulate. Make. Theorize. Compose. Create. Express. Act. Do something and put it out there. Teenagers are such a cool creatures and it is such a joy to see what interesting ideas flow from them and to watch them lead. Give them opportunities to create and contribute and start something, education is not passive!
Although homeschooling is a great way to learn independence and self-motivation, there should also be some accountability in their lives to someone else besides the parent. When they are young, mom’s approval is all that matters, buuuuut as they move into their teen years our cool factor drops down a few notches.
Other adults’ opinions of them are important too. Accountability can found in a variety of places: taking an outside class, whether through a school, college, co-op, or online class. It can be a job, a volunteer opportunity, an extra-curricular, any setting where they can show others how they work and what they are doing. It can help motivate them and given them a sense of accomplishment when others can comment on their character and work ethic. Teens still need their mom and dad’s approval and feedback, for sure! But there’s something special about other adults affirming that they are on the right track and occasionally calling them out on their junk. (PS These are also the people that will likely be their references on job and college applications!)
Partner with them.
By the time your kids are teenagers, they have begun to take ownership of their lives. They have chosen their friends, their interests, their schedule, their many opinions. I tell my kids “this is your life, not mine” meaning, what they put into their education will benefit their future, not mine! They have to have skin in the game. Give them some choice in what they study and how they study it. Your teen will be more likely to follow through with a chosen course when they had a part in choosing it and it lines up with their goals.
And as teenagers start to pull away from their parents and test their authority, “because I said so” doesn’t hold much sway in their lives, LOL. So I like to reserve that for special occasions. As parents we still have a great opportunity to come alongside them and help them reach their educational goals. Partnership is empowerment: I believe so much in where you are going that I want to help you get there!