Homeschooling Teenagers After Public School…….The Honest and Hard Truth

My two teens, D.J. and Casey.  They are the light of my life, but they can give me a fit too!

My two teens, D.J. and Casey, are the light of my life, but they can give me a fit too!

I love Christian homeschooling blogs, especially blogs that are run by large families. Everyone who loves these types of families as much as I do, certainly knows about the Duggars and the Bates……but there are also loads of other families who homeschool to follow Christ and have many children. My family is working on getting bigger, as we have two teens, D.J. age 17 and Casey age 15, and then two little foster children who are 2 and 3. I get much encouragement and advice from other blogs, as it is much more difficult to homeschool four than it is to teach two!

Sherry writes my most favorite blog about large Christian families who follow Christ even though it is a hard road.  You can read her blog at www.largefamilymothering.com

Sherry writes my most favorite blog about large Christian families who follow Christ even though it is a hard road. You can read her blog at http://www.largefamilymothering.com

My teens know how much I glean from these blogs, because I am always trying to put different tips and tricks into practice…….with them as the guinea pigs :-). They try to do well with each new plan and each fresh idea. Whether its a more productive schedule or a chore chart that might prove affective, we are diligently trying it all……well, at first anyways. When I took the oldest ones out of public school (after I felt that God was calling me to do so), I had such high hopes that I could reverse some of the damage that the public schools had done, and in our ignorance and laziness, what we ourselves had inflicted on our children. I just knew that if I worked really hard and kept trying to find the right approaches and techniques, that my kids would bounce back and be like the kids that I was reading about in these blogs. Sadly, it turned out that I was deluded and I was wrong.

It is not enough to take an adolescent out of a school environment where they are allowed to say whatever they want, think whatever they want, and do whatever they want. Sure, they will likely get detention or suspended for doing big things like mouthing off to a teacher, refusing to do their work or blowing up a locker. However, what about all the things that they don’t get caught doing? Like obsessing about dating boys or girls, swearing, talking about or having sex (or even kissing), talking about or doing drugs or drinking, etc. They learn quickly that even though they can be accountable for their actions, doesn’t mean that they will be held accountable. Don’t want to do a homework assignment……well, what’s the worst that could happen? Mom said not to get on the internet on the home computer………well, she didn’t say not to look for another way to get on the internet, like my PS3 or an IPod. Our kids begin to play a very dangerous game, with themselves and with us.

Some say that you reap what you sow.  I agree, and advise parents to sow seeds of kindness, like the seeds that Casey is so joyfully spreading in our garden

Some say that you reap what you sow. I agree, and advise parents to sow seeds of kindness, like the seeds that Casey is so joyfully spreading in our garden

My kids were actually pretty tame compared to their school mates. Tame pertaining to public school kids, however, as a few of the things that they have done in the past would probably curl the toes of some of the homeschool mothers that I have met. Yet even still, my kids were and are pretty great. Their childhood was steeped in our faith in God. They knew right from wrong, they knew what it meant to honor their parents, and they knew how to be gracious and generous. All was well until middle school……..until the ugliness started to creep its vaporous temptations and rebellion into my children. Why so dramatic? If you have ever had your kids in public school, and at the same time have fought diligently to raise those children as followers of Christ….with morals…..with a conscience….then you know that what I speak of and describe is not meant to be theatrical……but is the work of the Devil.

Slowly, these children whom my husband and I had cared for and nurtured and had given the Word of God to, started to turn away from us. More importantly, as they transitioned into pre-teens and teenagers, they began to turn away from God. We watched in horror as my son and daughter seemed to lose their inner moral compass, and ultimately lose their way. Perhaps there are parents out there that hold the key to keeping their children grounded in their faith and away from worldliness, all while sending them out everyday into our society’s school system……but Dave and I didn’t have that key and nor do we possess it now. We did try, albeit not hard enough, but we gave it everything that we could at the time (or so we thought). Although many of the kids in our children’s classes were just as lost as ours, there were a few who seemed to be doing well despite the odds. Why couldn’t ours? What were we doing wrong?

If parents are not diligent in tending their children's spiritual gardens, all they will be left with is stinky manure.  Like the manure I am posing with in my vegetable garden.....ew.

If parents are not diligent in tending their children’s spiritual gardens, all they will be left with is stinky manure. Like the manure I am posing with in my vegetable garden…..ew.

So, we took back our kids and began homeschooling them. We purchased Christian curriculum, had Bible studies, and surrounded ourselves with other Christian homeschoolers (many of those people turned out to have the exact same problems that we were having, and some with worse). We talked and talked and talked with our budding hormonal cherubs, yet they were not getting on board with this new lifestyle as quickly as I would have liked. My oldest daughter and I took to wearing skirts to be ‘modest’, we adopted a ‘three-strike’ policy on all of the movies, TV and music that we watched and listened to, we even muddled through very awkward sessions of ‘family devotions’ until we found our groove. But still, we were not like the Duggars (I had gotten it into my head that we would somehow morph into the 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th member of the Duggar family). After three years, my kids could not recite the zillion Bible verses I was requiring them to memorize, they could not write a research paper at the age of 12 that was worthy of a college professor, they were not ‘best friends’ with each other, and they still could not accomplish everything on their school schedule in a given day.

Casey making her 'Mad Face'

Casey making her ‘Mad Face’. Be careful not to let anger hurt the relationships that you have with your children.

Not long after my second child began her 15th year on this earth, I began to understand what was wrong. With hormones raging, she yelled at me, “I am so tired of you comparing us to these ‘perfect homeschool children’ that you read about on the internet. D.J. and I will never be the studious or unfailingly obedient children like the Duggar kids are, even though we really want to be in theory. You will never be Michelle Duggar……you are loud and goofy by nature, even though we are so proud of you for even trying. We lived like other kids in public school for a long time, and it’s going to take a long time to change the way we are into what you want us to become. Yet, we haven’t done drugs, haven’t dishonored God or ourselves with physical relationships, we don’t drink and we love God and want to obey Him. Please Mama, why can’t we just be us…….are we so bad?”

Cue the many tears and the many heartfelt talks that my family had after Casey’s outburst. It came out that my husband felt that he could never live up to Jim Bob Duggar’s example……even though he thought that it was a great example……but, he felt beat down and discouraged whenever he measured himself against this man. My son felt like an outcast for having the desire to date and have girlfriends. In trying to cram us into a “Good Christian Homeschool Family”, I had neglected to see that I already had a good Christian homeschool family, that was filled with exceptional people. Here is a real and true picture of my kids:

D.J. says, "Ta-Da!  I'm the perfect kid now......I'm homeschooled!"

D.J. says, “Ta-Da! I’m the perfect kid now……I’m homeschooled!” My sweet son, no one is perfect except for Jesus……and He loves you no matter what, just like your Dad and I do”

1. They were not unspoiled like most kids who have been homeschooled from the beginning, and who are not exposed to unsavory things in public school……but they had enough strength from God to remain untouched and pure for marriage, then and now.

2. They have enough obedience to us (as their parents), and to God (as their Savior) to diligently try to reclaim themselves from the world. They do not always win the battle against the Devil and themselves, but they walk up to the plate and swing that bat again and again. We have recently gone on a 30-Day Challenge to refrain from all television, movies and music that does not directly glorify God……..and they didn’t run away or stage a riot! PROGRESS!

Look Ma!  I'm in school......get it?  I'm a fish?  I'm in a school of fish?  Aw, forget it!

“Look Ma! I’m in school……get it? I’m a fish? I’m in a school of fish? Aw, forget it!” It’s ok to be silly and playful…..you are only a child for a short while. There is plenty of time to be serious when your homeschooling your own children! 🙂

3. They have finished several subjects in almost four years…..whoo-hoo! I gotta tell ya, homeschooling is hard. It’s even harder when the teacher/mom has ADHD. Science is boring…..well let’s just skip it and watch a movie! Don’t understand math……we will just try again next week, who wants to go to the beach! It might not be as bad as that, but wrangling two teens who swear that they know more that you, that a particular subject is pointless, and who takes so many bathroom breaks that you threaten to tie them to their chairs……is back-breaking and mind-numbing work. Don’t let anyone fool you!

Sorry, I sort of ranted there for a minute, back to the point…….the kids have finally gotten the swing of things and they are finishing their school work and progressing each year to the next level as appropriate. We are still working on the schedule that I have implemented into our day after reading, “Managers of Their Homes” by Teri Maxwell. I still feel like a drill sergeant blowing his whistle every time I announce, “It’s time to change classes!”, but it comes with the territory. You can learn about this book here: http://www.titus2.com/managers-of-their-homes.html

My Christmas Welcome Wagon......Santa and Rudolph (they are such idiots!)

My Christmas Welcome Wagon……Casey and D.J. as Santa and Rudolph (they are such idiots!)

4. They are sweet and kind and loving and generous. They always have been. Often times, I would come home utterly exhausted from a very hard day of painting, and they had surprised me with a clean house and dinner on the table…….and they were only 11 and 12 at the time. Other times, they would surprise us with funny or thoughtful situations to make a hard day better. Once they dressed up as Santa Claus and Rudolf, met us at the door when we arrived home from work and led us into a winter wonderland that they had created, complete with tons of paper snowflakes and decorations. Another time, they staged a French restaurant in our house, with a hostess station, menus, a candlelit dinner table, and a delicious homecooked meal made by Chef Casey (our oldest daughter)……..it was beautiful! They do the same sort of things for their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. All who know them, know them to be such giving kids…….makes a Mamma proud!

Help me please......I am in a house ALL DAY with two teenagers who I'm trying to homeschool......SAVE ME!

Help me please……I am in a house ALL DAY with two teenagers who I’m trying to homeschool……SAVE ME!

5. They are working on their attitudes. Let me just warn all of those parents out there who have kids that have been exposed to worldly things…….even if you are doing your best to undo all of that worldly damage……THE AGE OF 15 IS HORRIBLE!! At least it was for my family. Perhaps if terrible attitudes in your children do not develop at the age of 15, then watch out for the age of 16, or the age of 17 or well, you get the picture. In all seriousness, I think that a huge surge of hormones erupt in teens around this age, and if you have not taught them how to be quiet and calm from a young age (like Michelle Duggar and her kids….God bless them), then you are going to be hard pressed to get them to react quietly and calmly to the new-found emotions that emerge around adolescence. My son went through it first (and I thought I would go insane) and then a year later, my daughter is currently holding the honor (and I am definitely teetering on insanity…..as girls are much more vocal than boys!). Again, they are working on these attitudes, and I am working on not yelling at them when they give me said attitudes 🙂

Keeping Our Children's Hearts, by Steve and Teri Maxwell is a must-read.  Their website is www.titus2.com

Keeping Our Children’s Hearts, by Steve and Teri Maxwell is a must-read. Their website is http://www.titus2.com

When Casey had her major meltdown, it made me realize that I needed major help in dealing with the teen years. I was still tackling the “Meek and Quiet Spirit” that Michelle Duggar and Kelly Bates have so graciously displayed on their respective shows (and I am still attempting to be meek and quiet), but I needed a more laid-out-for-me approach. I found it in Steve and Teri Maxwell’s book, “Keeping Our Children’s Hearts” which was a Godsend. If you need help with turning your children’s hearts back to you and your spouse, no matter the age of the child, then this is a must read. You can find it here: http://www.titus2.com/keeping-our-childrens-hearts.html

6. They are striving to be more diligent in their chores. At present, I will not lie, they are driving me crazy with this. How many more chore reminders, rewards and schedules can one mother come up with? Any tips, tricks, or prayers would be most welcomed! I even clipped “Chore Packs” onto these almost-grown-teenagers in my desperate attempt to tame these unruly beasts……but to no avail. For those that don’t know, Chore Packs are a tool that Teri Maxwell uses to help younger children learn about chores. She wrote about it in her book, “Managers of Their Chores”, and she would probably get a big laugh about the fact that I am using it on my hardheaded teens. You can read about her awesome book here: http://www.titus2.com/managers-of-their-chores.html

My St. Patrick's Day baby.......

My St. Patrick’s Day baby…….He is such a blessing to us. It is so sweet to watch him assist his sister with her ‘Terrible 15’s”, now that he is finally over that awful stage. I love you sweet boy!

7. They are committed to ‘Dating with a Purpose’, instead of dating. This is a tough one, as we have not found a network of like-minded people. I find my kids different things to get involved in, so that they can be with other homeschool teens their age. However, that does not mean that they have found many others who believe in no physical relationships before marriage or people who do not participate in casual dating. This is probably their biggest trial, as they yearn for companionship with peers…..not in a physical sense (although, I’m sure they are dreaming of their life mate as well) but in a “I’m-not-the-only-homeschooler-who-is-struggling-with-this” way. Please send up some prayers for us, that we find a church home soon.

8. Finally, they have become best friends. I had purchased a book entitled, “Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends” by Sarah, Harold and Stephen Mally. They are sweet homeschoolers who have it all figured out when it comes to getting along with your siblings. Funny thing is…….I never got a chance to read it, because miraculously my two oldest children figured this one out on their own! They still snip at each other, and will rise to the shouting occasion if baited, but for the most part they have become friends……who knew!

Casey and I have always been very close, but the teen years have been a test for both of us.  No relationship can survive without God's help.....or love

Casey and I have always been very close, but the teen years have been a test for both of us. No relationship can survive without God’s help…..or love. I love you baby girl!

If you are like my family, a Christian homeschool family that prays they are making a difference in their teen’s lives and spiritual well-being, then please reach out to others like us. If you have a blog…..write about it and share your ideas and experiences. If you have homeschooling friends with teens, then talk about it openly and honestly. My daughter is convinced that other families are having these problems, but just don’t want to come out and say it. If your family has homeschooled for a while, and these problems are not present in your teenager’s lives……then share your tips on your child-rearing, as we desperately want to learn from your success. There is no shame in humbly correcting past mistakes…….Jesus forgives us of everything in our past and blesses us as we go forward in His name.

Feeling judged by fellow homeschoolers who seem to be doing it better than you? Don’t be. They are probably unaware that you feel judged, and they would most certainly put your mind to rest if they knew. Take heart in this verse:

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Dave and D.J. have worked hard on their relationship.  Both are stubborn and are quick to anger, but through Jesus' gracious example, this father and son bond is stronger than ever!

Dave and D.J. have worked hard on their relationship. Both are stubborn and are quick to anger. Through Jesus’ gracious example, the father and son bond is as strong as ever!

My husband and I learned a very important thing in our foster care training. For as many years as a child has been ignored or abused, that is how many years it will take to undo the effects of that harm. We did not abuse or neglect our children, yet we were negligent in raising them completely and utterly for Christ. Instead, we went with the mainstream, and raised them as mainstream Christians…….justifying certain behaviors and making up our own rules of following Christ (as long as it didn’t put a crimp in our style). If the foster care training proves true, then Casey was right. We must give our two teens as much time to turn their thinking and their path to righteous living around, as we gave ourselves as parents in leading our children down the wrong path. Rock on kids……you are doing a great job, we love you, and let God do the driving!

Steve and Teri Maxwell.  Thanks for all of your awesome advice Maxwell Family.....God Bless!

Steve and Teri Maxwell. Thanks for all of your awesome advice Maxwell Family…..God Bless!

** A Special Note** I have recommended a lot of materials written by Steve and Teri Maxwell, and their website http://www.titus2.com

I do not receive any compensation at the present for referring these awesome books and great people. They have just seriously helped my family and I get straight on our homeschooling journey. They are real, and they are willing to give it to us straight.

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8 responses to “Homeschooling Teenagers After Public School…….The Honest and Hard Truth

  1. Hi! I really admire your family’s commitment to striving to serve Christ! You’re not the only ones, I was homeschooled and had attitudes and took one too many breaks. It feels weird at first coming out of regular school and not having that schedule or environment but it turns out to be such a blessing. Your family’s doing the right things!

  2. I took my son out of public school last January and have had massive problems with him.He is almost 14 but the hormones are raging already so I know what you mean about trying to teach them anything. He also is high yield autistic with severe anxiety issues.We have not attended church for a number of years because of his stranger phobia’s.Some days we get nothing done because of melt downs but I’m learning to see the signs and now have added fun days into our curriculum. I’m seeing small signs of change and thank the Lord for every little bit of progress we make.It took a year to realize we are not and never will be your normal homeschooling family but that’s O.K. We just have to trust in God and he will show us the way.

    • Bless your heart…..I have been where you are, and it can be daunting to say the very least. There were many days when I didn’t want to even get out of bed, because I knew that dealing with my son would be so hard!

      It sounds has if you have your head on right, in letting God have the lead. I will be praying for you and your son, and just know that in the end, he will realize that your homeschooling him was a gift 🙂

  3. Man, this is some good stuff. I’m having just the opposite concerns. We’ve homeschooled our 14yo since the start, but feel led to place her in a Christian highschool this coming year (I’ll leave it at that, because it’s a long story.) Anyway, in the back of my mind is the realization that it may not work out, that we may have to bring her home again…and then what? Does she resent coming home? Do we find “our way” again? Your post has encouraged me to put down my rose colored glasses (a la “I love Michelle and Kelly, too, but I’ll never BE them”), and to continue to trust in the Lord as we test new waters.

  4. Wow! I felt like I was reading my own column! I can’t believe how alike we are! Even to the comment Casey made about not being able to live up to the duggar standards. My daughter told me the same thing! Thank you, thank you for your words of encouragement. It is so comforting to know we are not alone on this journey. I will be in prayer for your beautiful family.

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