Blast from the Past: Temperamental Teens

Once in a while, I stumble on one of those articles written for homeschoolers suggesting that there’s really no such thing as a teen.

The author usually goes on to say that the concept of a teen is a relatively recent development stemming from our modern culture, and that once upon a time children were able to transition into adulthood with little if any difficulty.

My reaction to this? Beans!

We’re on our third and fourth teenagers, and the journey of raising them from birth to adulthood has been nothing if not fascinating. All four differed tremendously in temperament, and yet all four definitely showed signs of becoming teens at the usual time.

Did we raise them all the same? No. It’s not possible. We’re not even the same parents today that we were ten or fifteen years ago, and we don’t do things the same way we used to. I like to think we’ve learned at least a couple of things in the process, and that they’re reflected in our parenting skills.

So we have four very different children, all homeschooled all the way through, and all from the same two parents. Yet each one exhibited signs of difficulty as they made that transition to adulthood.

There were the usual physical signs, of course—the whole puberty issue—and that’s normal. But it brings with it many emotional issues that are also normal, so when people write that there doesn’t need to be any turmoil during the teen years, I have to laugh. Hormones are dramatically changing, the body’s changes cause emotional responses…..how can there not be turmoil? As a woman of a certain age (ahem), I’m more aware than ever of how much damage hormones and physical changes can do to your peace of mind.

Then there’s the idea that it’s not normal for teens to rebel. I’m sorry, but it’s normal for humans of any age to rebel. It’s the result of sin in the world. God’s children, the Israelites, rebelled against Him repeatedly, as noted in the Old Testament of the Bible. If even God’s children rebel against Him, why would we be exempt from experiencing the rebellion of our own children?

I’m not saying that rebellion is good, but I do think writers who suggest teen rebellion is not natural are being a bit Pollyanna-ish, to say the least. Those who go one step farther by suggesting that homeschooling will prevent rebellion are naïve at best.

So what is the homeschooling parent to do when her once-adorable offspring reaches the age of 10 or 12 or 14 (it varies) and becomes an emotional powder keg? I offer some tips in my free special report, “Ten Tips for Coping with Temperamental Teens,” but my best advice is to avoid panic. No, you’re not a bad parent, and your child is not a bad seed. Some emotional upheaval is normal when a child begins that transition to adulthood. Just avoid over-reaction to your preteen or teen’s occasional odd behavior, and pray as hard as needed. My own experience has been that no matter what they were like as teens, they eventually become adults of whom you can be proud….even though they gave you some gray hair along the way.

(Originally posted 1/15/09. My kids are now in their 20s and 30s so their teen years are just memories now.)

Homeschool High School’s Most Essential Subject

What subjects should you include when homeschooling your teen through high school? Answering this question can and does fill entire books. Personally, I think at least some of the subjects should be related to your teen’s interests as much as anything else. But there’s one subject that should be mandatory: personal finance.

With unemployment and underemployment becoming more common, it’s imperative that we send our kids out into the world with some financial savvy so they can wisely manage what money they’re able to earn. And we have the resources to do the job.

As parents, we put the “why” behind the “how.” It’s one thing to say that teens should set some money aside every month and save it for a rainy day. It’s quite another to tell the story of how your dad and his siblings saved almost every nickel they made as teenagers so they could help their single mom buy the family’s first house. That was a real-life situation I shared with my teens; I’m sure you have your own. (Sometimes true stories don’t have a happy ending…..every family these days knows someone with a cautionary financial story to tell.)

We also have great resources available to use with our teens. For example, we don’t need textbook charts showing how credit card interest is calculated. We likely have the credit card bills that show how little a minimum payment is required for the purchases we’ve made each month. We can show the high rate of interest charged on balances, the equivalent of paying a 22% (or greater) premium on everything we buy…..thus saving us 22% when we pay off the bill each month. (Even if you’re not a credit card user, the reason for that decision should certainly be shared with your teens, if you haven’t done so already.)

Textbooks might also include case studies of make-believe families with examples of income and expenses. However, we can place a month’s worth of real paycheck stubs on one side of the table and a month’s worth of bill stubs on the other (utilities, mortgage payment or rent, car payments, etc.) and let our teens do the math. Real life has much more impact than case studies of strangers.

Today’s economy offers many sad stories of those who relied on credit to make up the difference between their income and their desires…. to their detriment. Go over some of these stories in your newspapers and online and discuss them with your teen. Use them as examples of why it’s so important to live within your means.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to teach your teen your view of personal finance. I designed similar projects for my teens* that they worked on, and I included them on their high school transcripts with the title Life Prep (Personal Finance). No one questioned it, and it certainly didn’t prevent my kids from being admitted to college.

You might be hesitant about sharing your personal financial information with your teens. If so, consider that what you teach them about this subject will greatly affect them for their entire lives. Making smart financial decisions when young can benefit a person for years. Unfortunately, messing up because of financial ignorance can hurt a person for years.

Sharing information and opinions about personal finance is every parent’s job. It’s too important to leave out, especially in times like we’re living in right now. Homeschooling parents have the time and opportunity to do this. The time to begin is right now.

*found in Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers

Has Facebook Stolen Childhood?

 

I used to think that it was up to parents to prevent young kids from using cell phones and older kids from using Facebook, and that by doing so, they’d be able to keep their kids from getting sucked into these time wasters.

Of course, my kids are grown, so what did I know? It wasn’t until I learned that my little nephew was being left out of play dates and birthday parties because he didn’t have a phone to receive group texts on (apparently parents don’t “do” printed or phoned party invitations anymore) that I realized just how pervasive texting has become.

Then there’s Facebook. Supposedly off limits to children under 13, it’s a huge source of bullying among the preteen and young teen set. Some kids have been driven to suicide by online bullying; how tragic!

One might think the key to preventing trouble on Facebook is to limit your kids’ time on the Internet. I was able to do that with my crew, who only had access to a desktop computer in our main living area for years. But today’s kids, who have phones to text with so they won’t be left out of the social scene, can also access the Internet and therefore Facebook on those same phones.

Parents can’t possibly supervise kids on their phones 24/7. I suppose they could make their kids check their phones at the door when they come home, but I’m getting the impression that today it would be considered child abuse to do so. Besides, some moms are too busy on Twitter and Facebook themselves to monitor their children’s phone usage anyways.

Do I sound like a curmudgeon? I feel like one. I’m with the writer who recently said that Facebook has stolen childhood. I’m not sure how parents can recapture childhood for their kids once they’ve given them phones (and unlimited use of them), but it would be worth a try.

I spent much of my childhood playing and reading books. My kids did the same. Will they be the last generation to have done so?

Flashback Friday: Reading Aloud: Not Just for Toddlers!

I’d never heard of Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box, a novel so promising that its movie rights were sold six months’ prior to its publication. But apparently he’s the son of well-known novelist Stephen King. He chose to use his first and middle names as his pen name so that he could break into writing without riding on his father’s coat tails (or his mother’s—she’s writer Tabitha King). His younger brother is also a writer, and his older sister is at work on a non-fiction book. So, how did they all end up to be writers? According to an article I read:

The King children’s interest in books and writing took root early on. “It sounds very Victorian, but we would sit around and read aloud nightly, in the living room or on the porch,” Hill recalled. “This was something we kept on doing until I was in high school, at least.”

This is a good lesson for those of us homeschooling parents who think our older children and teens are too old for read-aloud family time: it obviously worked for the King family!

Originally posted 3/17/07

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.