Disclaimer: Lest you lump me with the mom of a 6 week old giving baby advice: I have 3 teenagers as of this writing, 19 1/2, 17, and 14. So I’m still in the thick of that stage of parenting. This is my life! However my older two have graduated from homeschool, and that means I got two down, two to go and their homeschool journey is fresh in my mind to talk about. My two older kids have turned out to be pretty amazing people and are successful in what they are pursuing as young adults. So hopefully they would agree with me on all these counts 🙂
So this is what has been important in my family as I homeschool my teens. Almost all of which I learned as I went, given that I hadn’t raised teenagers before, right? You can read and prepare but ultimately you will be learning along with them, as in all parenting and homeschool endeavors! Enjoy the ride.
Keep the future in mind and work backwards.
When it comes to building a custom high school education, it is best to start by thinking of where your child wants to be after high school. Do they want to pursue a 4 year degree at a competitive college? Do you they want to go to junior college til they figure it out? Maybe the military? Would they rather head straight into the workforce? If so, what will help them prepare to jump into that path easily?
If your child has no clear direction or goals, then prioritize giving them a variety of experiences, jobs, and academics to help them find a path, even if it’s broad. What lights them up? What are they good at? What do you (and your child) really see them doing as an adult, and how can they best prepare for that now?
P.S. The more your child is committed to a path, the more willing he will be to do the work to get there. If a path is not his choice or preference, it will be a harder road for both of you. Pray continually that God will show you the same path so you can partner with your child in pursuing it! (And then there are the kids who change their minds and that’s okay too. You can pivot anytime.)
Let them specialize.
High school is a great time to be able to specialize! Let them get better at what they’re good at. I believe that God gives our kids special gifts for them to develop and share with the world! If your child already has something that they love to do, figure out how that can become a part of their post high-school/adult plan. Letting your child pursue his passions will give them something to get out of bed for in the morning and get through their less fun responsibilities and activities. Going really deep in one area actually helps them become better learners than being shallow in everything. Deep is good, encourage it. (Plug: my daughter’s passion was all things reading and writing, which led her to self-publish her own books and start a book review blog as a teenager.)
Actual work experience, paid or unpaid, is such a crucial part of the teen years. Think back to other times and cultures and teenagers were perfectly capable of contributing to the family economy, learning a trade, and doing highly skilled work. They’re often way more capable than we give them credit for lol. Teenagers have a ton of energy and no better way to use it than productive work.Working for pay also gives them the opportunity to learn the value of a dollar and how to manage their own money.
Not only does working help them learn new skills, but they also start to figure out what kind of work it is that they like to do and it can help them decide a path for their future. Often on-the-job, hands-on experience is a better teacher than formal courses. Try to find as many opportunities for them to work and use their abilities to benefit someone else. Their real life work experience is the stuff they will remember long after high school is over!
There is no reason any person should start adulting at 18. If your kids start taking on adult responsibilities as a teenager, the transition to real adulthood will be so much smoother. Give them every opportunity to manage their own affairs, everything from laundry, shopping, food prep, budgeting, filling out forms (is there any worse adulting task???), making actual phone calls (have your noticed this generation lacks experience here?) Have them be a part of your household tasks: how you dispute a cell phone bill, how you shop for insurance policies, take care of household repairs, car maintenance.
Unfortunately, the list of adult responsibilities is too long to list here. So start ‘em young, there’s a lot to learn! Ideally this will make your household run smoother and your teen will gain confidence in their ability to fly in the real world without you
Let them take ownership of their faith.
All kids raised in a Christian home have to eventually move from, “This is what mom and dad taught me” to “This is what I believe/don’t believe”. Allow open dialogue and honest questions and be real with your teens about your own faith journey. Encourage your kids to question what they hear in church and read on the internet. What did you think about that and why? Is that true? How do you know? I’d rather them wrestle with their doubts and ask the hard questions when they are under our roof than be avalanched with disbelief when they leave our home. I never want my kids to have an un-examined faith that they have simply inherited.
Teens have great logical thinking skills and they often love to debate and slice apart arguments. Introduce them to apologetics so they can study all the ways Christianity is logically sound and how the Bible holds up against scrutiny. Encourage them to develop relationships with solid youth leaders and other godly adults so that they can hear the truth from different perspectives. Let them hear and see all different life experiences that have led people to a relationship with God.
Continue to diligently pray with your teens and for them. Sometimes it’s all we can do. Be real with your own struggles and sins. There’s no one secret to ensuring that your kids choose a relationship with Jesus. Because ultimately it really is their choice and not something we can force on them. But we can love them through the process and be a living example of a life surrendered to Christ.