Homeschooled Kids and Rebellion

One of the most popular articles on my website is “Homeschooling to Prevent Rebellion.” I think I’ve received more email about that article than any other I’ve written.

Let’s face it: many of us choose to homeschool our children partly (mostly?) because we want them to turn out “right.” The craziness of the public school environment makes it obvious to us that sending our children there is a dangerous decision. But if we teach them at home, we can educate them more efficiently using the materials of our choice (as opposed to the materials chosen by our local school board) while also teaching them how to control their behavior so that they become happy, productive adults, at the very least. Ideally, if we have a faith tradition, we want to share that faith with our children, too.

This is all well and good, but sometimes the responsibility we take on for homeschooling our children, which can seem huge and all-encompassing, leads us to believe that our children’s proper development is completely up to us. That would work if our children were puppets. But they’re individuals given free will by God. This complicates things.

To make matters worse, some speakers and writers in the Christian homeschool community insist that the sole purpose for homeschooling is to raise Christians. They may be well-intentioned, but what they’re doing is loading down parents with a burden they weren’t intended to carry. Because while it’s our job to “raise up our children in the way they should go,” we don’t have the power to make them Christians, or even to make them good.

I really like how Tim Sanford put it in his book, Losing Control & Liking It:

“…embrace the reality that whatever you do as a parent, your teenager still has that gift of free will. You could do everything right and your teenager could still choose stupid. That part is not your fault, even if it breaks your heart.”

He mentions the father of the prodigal son and the pain he went through, and then adds:

“What is your job?

To validate and nurture.

What’s not your job?

To make your teenager turn out right.

Learn to be content with these realities, and your life as a parent will be a lot easier.”

I’m aware of a lot of bewildered homeschooling parents who are just now facing the difficulties of having a rebellious teen. I feel for them because I’ve been there. It’s a lonely place. And the pain doesn’t necessarily go away once the child hits 18. In fact, for some homeschooled kids, the outward rebellion doesn’t reach full strength until then.

There’s no easy way through this. If you crack down hard on your offspring, you’ll likely push them further away. Yet you can’t give up on your principles, because they’re part of raising your children “in the way they should go.” What you can do is pray for yourself and your child. And never forget that God loves your children even more than you do.