Millennials Having Trouble Leaving the Nest?

Here’s yet another story about the current crop of young people and their inability to live on their own. The lousy economy is surely a factor, but you have to wonder how much helicopter parenting has contributed to this problem. So many modern parents are unwilling to help their teens achieve independence by transferring responsibilities to them as they approach 18 (which used to be the age of independence).

We didn’t raise our kids that way. Once they finished homeschooling, they could either go to college or go to work, but if they chose work, they also had to start paying rent. We didn’t charge that much, though I do recall one of them accusing us of wanting to get rich off of them, LOL. But today they’re all self-supporting, independent, hard-working adults despite being part of the millennial generation.

I can’t help but worry that many of the young folks featured in the article will never successfully make it on their own. I sure hope I’m wrong.

Saying Goodbye to Your Adult Child

There once was a single mom whose son joined the military. She missed him terribly, and greatly enjoyed his brief, rare visits home whenever he could get a weekend pass. He was stationed in Florida, so driving home to Chicago and back took up much of the weekend, giving this mom only a few precious hours with her son.

Then one weekend he came home just long enough to say that he was going out with a girl he’d been writing to. Leaving his bag of dirty laundry in the foyer, he shaved and changed into a new suit, then flew out the door.

Late that night, after dropping his date off at her house, he arrived home to see his dirty laundry scattered across the front yard. Some of it was hanging from the trees. He had just enough time to gather up his clothes and head back to Florida, leaving one very angry mom in his wake.

That’s a true story. I often heard both sides of it, because the mom was my grandmother, the son was my dad, and his date was my mom. Whenever my dad told the story, he always laughed about it. But when my grandma told it, anyone could see that she hadn’t completely gotten over her anger.

It wasn’t just the dirty laundry that he expected her to wash, of course. It was the idea that she was no longer his priority when he came home. The many sacrifices she’d made for him and his siblings no longer seemed to matter. All he cared about was some girl he’d met, at least as far as my grandma was concerned.

Another true story that happened to a friend of mine, who is a mom of many children: one of her middle children was the first to go away to college. He was the family clown whose sunny disposition was a bright spot in her life. But whenever he came home for the weekend, he was so busy with his friends that she hardly got to see him. Needless to say, she was very excited that he would be home for the summer, working a summer job to earn money for the coming school year.

Imagine her disappointment when he called to say that he was able to borrow a lot more than he expected in student loans, so he would be spending the summer touring Europe with friends. She barely saw him at all that summer; by the time he came home from Europe, he had to pack up and leave for the fall semester of college.

I felt sorry for my friend when that happened, just as I felt sorry for my grandma when she talked about throwing my dad’s dirty laundry out of the window in anger. But it wasn’t until I had to let go of my own kids that I truly understood how my friend and my grandma felt. It hurts, a lot, and the kids don’t notice because they’re too busy taking on their future.

That said, what’s the alternative? Do you really want to lock up that adult child and keep them close, preventing them from leaving home, finding work, finding love? A common Internet meme is the 30-year-old living in Mom’s basement playing video games and trolling forums. Is that how you hoped your child would turn out? I doubt it.

No, we have to let our kids go. It’s OK to acknowledge the hurt, and to move on (which can be even more difficult than the original letting go). But it has to be done, so that your child can become the person God intends them to become. It also frees you to embrace the next stage of your own life (which is a whole ‘nother topic.)

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?

Preparing for Adulthood Without College

I loved college. I loved the campus, I loved the dorms, and I loved the challenging classes (well, most of them). College was a great experience for me, and once I began having children, it was something I wanted for them, too. I assumed they would feel the same way. But as my oldest reached her mid-teens, she decided that college was not for her.

At first I thought she would change her mind, and so I geared her work toward college preparatory subjects, and required her to take the PSAT and ACT. She scored above average on both tests. Soon college brochures and catalogs filled our mailbox, but none of them changed her mind.

Her dream was to work and be on her own. She felt that going to college was a way of delaying adulthood, and she was eager to be an adult. She had dreams of travel, and eventually getting her own place to live. She had been very independent, even as a small child, and that trait grew stronger as she approached her late teens.

I kept thinking that maybe we should just sign her up somewhere. I thought if she went away to school and lived with other girls her age, she would change her mind and enjoy her surroundings. But my husband felt that there was no point in sending an unmotivated student.

As I grew to accept the inevitability of the situation, teaching only college preparatory subjects felt all wrong. Why study subjects she had no interest in, like a foreign language or chemistry, if she wasn’t going to need them for college? All she could talk about was how she was going to move to this city or that city. Some of her plans were very impractical because she had no idea of what it would cost to live on her own. Her naive talk started to make me a little nervous.

I closely studied my large collection of homeschool catalogs, hoping to find resources we could use for her last year of homeschooling. But it seemed like most products were geared toward the college-bound student, and those that remained focused on cooking and sewing. She already knew how to cook and sew. I was more concerned about how she would handle credit cards and whether she really understood how much it would cost her to feed and house herself. If she didn’t want a degree, she would likely have to live on a modest income. (How times have changed!)

I decided to design sensible projects for her. So, in addition to Math Review, Shakespeare, Bible, History and Expository Writing, each week she had to research different aspects of living on her own. She compared rents in different cities, and interviewed insurance agents, landlords and utility companies. She asked many questions and got many answers.

Soon we branched out to subjects she would need to know about before she got her first full-time job. She learned about health insurance (a must, as our health insurance would not cover her once she turned 19 unless she attended college full-time). She learned about taxes and withholding, budgeting and even mortgages. She educated herself about every aspect of buying a car, and the pros and cons of car loans.

I noticed that as she completed the projects*, her naive plans slowly turned into more logical ones. By the time she finished homeschooling, I felt that she was well-prepared for independence. She started studying different cities on her own. She researched and bought her first car, for which she paid cash, because she understood just how much interest a car loan would have cost her. And she didn’t move out as soon as she turned 18, as she’d always said she would, because now she really understood that she couldn’t afford it.

Instead, she saved up a portion of her pay, and she now has a good-sized savings account. She is nearly 20, and will soon move into a city apartment with two other young women. We will miss her, but we see how excited she is about living on her own, and we are thankful that she is prepared for it.

Walking through the preparation process with her taught me a lot, too. I learned to listen to what she was really saying instead of expecting her to want what I wanted for her. I saw how prepared she could become with the right training. And now I get to see her try her wings as she leaves the nest.

Author note: Since I wrote this article almost ten years ago, my daughter has lived in three large Midwestern cities. She now owns two Internet businesses and, unlike many of her peers, is enjoying the debt-free life.

* The projects are in my book Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers.

Nobody Told Me That I’d Get the Independent Kids I Wanted, and I Wouldn’t Always Like It!

I first learned about homeschooling from reading Home-Grown Kids by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. That was when I was a new parent, so I had time to do some research before making the decision to homeschool. I did a lot of reading; one of my prime influences was John Holt.

Holt was a teacher whose school experiences taught him that when given freedom to make choices and explore their world, children learn on their own. Reading his books was an eye-opening experience for me. It helped me assess my own childhood school years and why I’d been so dissatisfied with them.

For many years, John Holt published a wonderful newsletter called “Growing Without Schooling” that was a great encouragement to homeschooling parents. I inhaled each issue, and decided that encouraging my children’s desire for independent learning would be part of their home education.

This was fine in theory. Continue reading