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.


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.

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.