A Homeschool Tempest in a Teapot

So the press has found some dissatisfied homeschooled adults. This must make them so happy. Nothing like a little controversy to boost your website traffic.

It makes sense that there will be some homeschooled adults who are dissatisfied with how they were raised. Just looking at the populace at large, what percentage are unhappy with the way they were raised? Probably a good portion, judging from the number of self-help titles published over the years for readers trying to get past their problematic childhoods. Why should homeschoolers be any different?

In this particular case the focus is on a certain type of homeschooling family, known collectively as Quiverfull, according to the article. (That name stems from a book very popular among Christian homeschoolers in the 1990s.) This has been a trainwreck in the making for some time. I knew several families like those described in the article; given their strict beliefs, particularly as they applied them to their daughters, rebellion was inevitable. After all, once your girls get out into the world and discover that there are options in addition to marriage and motherhood, some of them are going to want more choices.

When my first book (Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers) was published, I had trouble getting a booth at a certain homeschool conference to sell it. I couldn’t even get a response from those running the conference. I was later told by someone in the know that the problem with my book is that it encourages girls as well as boys to become independent adults. The families running the conference didn’t want their girls to get any ideas, I guess.

Now, I don’t agree with their mindset and my husband doesn’t either. We homeschooled all our children, daughters and sons, with the intent of helping them be all that they could be. Personally I think we can trust God to lead each child to the right career; those that think all girls should be trained only to be wives and mothers ought to give some thought to how God used Corrie ten Boom and Amy Carmichael.

But just because I disagree with families who raise their daughters to be only wives and mothers doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing. There is no agenda-free schooling anywhere. There’s an agenda in public school and private school just as there is in any homeschool. Parents are free to choose how to educate their children, and children are free to embrace or reject their upbringing when they become adults. The article I cited at the start of this post is merely an attempt to foment controversy, so don’t let it bother you too much.

The irony in all this is that many of the young women quoted in the article will someday change their minds. They’ll end up being stricter than their folks. I’ve seen it happen before. Some of the biggest rebels eventually turn into the strictest parents. People are funny, aren’t they?

Homeschooling to Prevent Rebellion

One of the many reasons I wanted to homeschool is that I didn’t want rebellious teenagers.

The homeschool magazine I read back then (before there were many homeschool magazines at all) was great for keeping me enthused and inspired about homeschooling before I was even doing it. The articles in it assured me that as long as my kids were homeschooled in a Christian home where God’s Word was taught, there would be no rebellion. In fact, more than one writer insisted that teen rebellion is not only unbiblical, but is also a product of our society, unique to our modern times.

I bought that argument completely. Besides, I was so busy keeping up with my growing family that I didn’t have time to consider the biblical stories of the Prodigal Son (rebellion) and the behavior of the Israelites in the desert (repeated rebellion). All I knew is that I didn’t want my kids to become the self-absorbed teens I’d seen in our extended family, our church and our neighborhood.

Fast-forward to 2004. I’m one of the veteran homeschoolers in my support group, where I meet homeschooling newbies who love their adorable little ones so much, who enjoy their innocence to such an extent, that they fear what will happen when their children hit their teens. One recently told me, “I can’t bear the thought that they will change into people I don’t like!”

This presents me with a dilemma. I can whitewash my response so the newbies can stay in their comfort zone, or I can be honest and risk a “shoot the messenger” situation. So if you, dear reader, want to stay in your comfort zone, I suggest you click over to another page of this site. You’re not going to like the rest of this article, because the truth is, even when you’re Christian, even when you homeschool and study the Bible together and pray together, and even when you do all those things and Dad works at home and is involved in your children’s lives on a daily basis, you will still have rebellious teenagers.

Maybe.

The thing is, it depends on the teen. I’ve seen homeschooled teens sail through those years as calmly as though nothing had changed. I’ve also seen kids from wonderful Christian families turn into scary-looking, sullen people. I’ve even seen both of these happen in my own home.

The word “seen” is important, though, when it comes to teens, because what you see may or may not be what you get. Inside the young lady with the ever-changing hair color and pierced eyebrow may beat the heart of someone who is passionate about the unborn and has a sincere concern for the underprivileged of this world. Conversely, inside the young lady wearing the flowered jumper and no makeup may beat the heart of someone who is just biding her time until she is old enough to jump ship and live life her way, no matter how unbiblical her way may be.

What’s a parent to do? It’s scary to think that the loving, sweet-natured six-year-old who lives in your house may turn into someone you don’t like eight or ten years from now. What will you do if that happens?

The answer is to love that child anyway. Love is a verb, you know. No matter what you feel inside when you see your formerly winsome child with a snarl, or funny-looking hair, or even a face covered with zits, you love them with your words and with your actions (which include discipline, but that’s another article in itself). You love them even when you don’t feel very loving towards them. It’s not easy. I don’t think it can even be done without lots of prayer. But it must be done.

Because the rebellion, the strange clothes and behavior, the gangly appearance-these things will pass. For some kids, rebellion is part of the process of separating from the family. We parents know we are here to work ourselves out of a job by raising kids who grow into independent adults. Some kids can make that transition smoothly, while others have to fight their way to independence. And even the kids who sail through their teen years often surprise you with a few rebellious issues when they reach young adulthood and are out of your reach. Still, as the saying goes, this too will pass. They come through on the other side as mature versions of the little people you once knew, but this time without the dependency on Mom and Dad.

So if you’re homeschooling because you don’t want rebellious teens, I’m sorry to tell you there are no guarantees. But if you’re homeschooling because you love your kids, then you’re on the right track, because practice in loving your kids can only help. You may have to face a time where you discover that despite your best efforts, despite years of homeschooling and a loving Christian home environment, your child has turned into someone you don’t always like very much. But hang in there and keep loving that “someone” anyway, because the best is yet to come.

“….he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV).

Note: If you are struggling with a rebellious teen, I highly recommend the book Prodigals and Those Who Love Them: Words of Encouragement for Those Who Wait by Ruth Bell Graham.

Excerpted from Stages of Homeschooling: Letting Go (Book 3), available HERE.

Spider Web by Earlene Fowler

One of the things I promised myself I would do after I finished homeschooling is to start reading more fiction again.

I once was an avid fiction reader. In fact, I used to read Gone with the Wind annually. But over the years of homeschooling, time for myself dwindled to the point where I rarely had time to read fiction. (I shouldn’t just blame homeschooling; my discovery of the Internet is equally responsible, I must admit!) When I did make time to read a book, it was usually Earlene Fowler’s latest Benni Harper mystery.

Now that I have the time to read fiction, I’m doing just that. Last night I finished the newest entry in the Benni Harper series, Spider Web, and really enjoyed it. The character of Benni is a woman who is intrigued by mystery and who happens to be married to a handsome police chief. Each book’s theme is related to the name of a quilt pattern; being a quilter, I appreciate that. I especially love that Ms. Fowler includes Benni’s Christian faith in every book.

And now I have yet another reason to love these books. In Spider Web, Ms. Fowler introduces a new character who will apparently turn up in the next book, and she has Down syndrome. How cool is that? I can’t wait for the next book!

An Ordinary Girl

The last day of 2009…..wow, where did the year go?

When 2009 began, I had no idea that we’d be living where we are right now.  We knew we’d probably be moving in August, but didn’t know where. And right up until the week we moved, nothing was definite. In my youth, I wouldn’t have been able to take such uncertainty. But God’s grace does what we can’t do.

How about you? Was it a good year for you? Or are you eagerly awaiting 2010, hoping things will improve?

I look forward to 2010. We have some big plans for Cardamom Publishers, starting with a great sale (stay tuned) to celebrate the beginning of a new year. God willing, we’ll also publish a few new titles for homeschoolers in 2010 (again, stay tuned!) And of course we’ll keep plugging away at homeschooling our youngest son (yes, both Mom and Dad are homeschooling now!)

In the meantime, I want to share with you a lovely story about a self-described “ordinary girl” who has lived 102 years, so far. I especially appreciate how she begins each day:

“Each day I get up in the morning and say Lord, tell me what you want me to do and whatever comes to me, I do.”

An amazing story of a Christian woman, and in the Chicago Tribune, of all places. Enjoy!

P.S. Happy New Year!

Why Frugality?

Lately I’ve been sharing some of the ways I try to be a frugal homemaker. Frugality is coming back in style now that the economy’s in bad shape again.

Yet I’ve heard criticism of frugality from some surprising sources, even from a few Christians who believe that being frugal ignores the reality that God is very generous to us, and that “there’s more where that came from,” so why try to make things last longer?

Most frugal people will tell you that while they do want to “stretch a buck,” being frugal is also something they do on principle. I guess my frugal streak comes from both principle and background:

I think being a good steward of your resources means letting nothing go to waste, if possible, and using what you have wisely instead of wasting it.

I’ve seen how hard my husband has worked all these years, and tried to make his pay last instead of spending it frivolously on things we didn’t need. Besides, six people living on one income is in itself a motivating factor!

I was raised by parents who grew up during the Depression. We weren’t poor, but we didn’t have any extra money lying around. I learned to maximize what I had and not to waste anything.

How about you? If you’re frugal, why? And if you’re opposed to frugality, why? I’d love to know how other people feel about it.