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.

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.

Don’t Be Intimidated by Homeschooling for High School (Part 2)

One question I’m often asked is how involved you should be with your teen in their daily work; my answer is that it depends on the teen, but that your goal should be to work towards independent study by the end of high school. This is good for your teen, but it’s also good for you, especially if you’re homeschooling younger children at the same time. If your child is college-bound, you’ll cripple her if you don’t send her off to school accustomed to independent study. And even if she’s not going to college, being able to work independently is a valued skill in any employee.

When I homeschooled my teens, I gave them increased independence each year, so that by senior year, I was giving them assignments on Monday morning and not working with them again until Friday afternoon, when we went over everything. This didn’t mean I was unavailable to them during the week. But I encouraged them to research things for themselves before coming to me with questions. This worked well for us.

On the other hand, my third child is an auditory/kinesthetic learner, so some of the advanced reading assignments I gave her during 11th and 12th grades were too hard for her to learn from based only on her reading of them. But we found that if I read the hardest books aloud to her while she knitted, she absorbed much more of the material, so that’s what we did. I had the time to do this because I was only homeschooling one other child besides her. Interestingly, once she went to college, she no longer needed my help in this way.

In addition to your teens’ daily assignments at home, you may find it desirable or even necessary to enroll them in outside classes. My son took a homeschool chemistry class at a local Christian college, primarily because I didn’t have the time or the inclination to teach him chemistry at home. He also took Spanish at a community college because Spanish is best learned in a group environment where conversation is emphasized. Several years later, after we had moved to another state, his younger sister took graphic design classes at a tech college near our town. We found that having our teens take a few community college classes during high school gave them classroom experience as well as college credits, and I recommend this to other homeschooling parents of teens.

As your teens get older, you’ll find that they won’t need help filling their days. When given the freedom to pursue opportunities that interest them, they do so. Our eldest daughter started a weekly Christian coffeehouse/concert series in our town after writing dozens of pastors asking for a place to hold Christian concerts. Our son joined the youth board at our church and participated in several mission trips. Our younger daughter started a small business selling her stuffed animal creations online and at the farmer’s market of the tourist town we lived in during her teen years. None of these activities had anything to do with my husband and me, other than the use of our car. Our teens pursued these things on their own, with our approval. These activities gave them self-confidence and showed them that they’re capable of following their interests and dreams. For homeschooled teens, living in the real world offers far more challenges and joys than the unreal world of football games and proms that public school teens live in.

Part of that real world living is having responsibilities. Homeschooled teens (especially younger ones who don’t have part-time jobs yet) can help with cooking, cleaning and childcare of younger siblings. Those years are also prime time for learning homemaking and mechanical skills that they’ll need when they’re on their own. It’s important to raise young people who can fix things, cook things and make things. Believe me, such people are a joy to have around the house!

(Excerpted from Stages of Homeschooling: Letting Go (Book 3), now just $2.99. Learn more HERE.)