I wrote this piece a few years ago for a group presentation. My teens are now adults, and I enjoy them more than ever. Hope you enjoy the read!
I delight in my teenagers. You can too. They become the most tremendous adults. Teach them and then trust them (in that order). Having great teenagers doesn’t just happen. They don’t fall from the sky that way. This is WORK. It takes time, patience, laughter, growth, and faith. I can’t think of anything I would rather do than watch them become who they were meant to be!
Pros to teaching them at home:
- can be less time consuming than giving the school permission to plan their life, more time=more options, i.e. dual enrollment, tutors, jobs, volunteer work, etc.
- curriculum more challenging and interesting
- long talks about real subjects=real conversations
- fascinating to watch specializations and opinions develop
- closer ties to family of all ages
- can be more flexible with curriculum if your teens are disciplined enough to set goals and then accomplish them
- often easier to include Dad in their lives
- they can help put together their curriculum to meet their personal educational goals
- allows time to teach more than just academics (life skills, values, decision-making)
Cons to teaching them at home:
- often need to outsource some things
- curriculum more challenging
- discipline more difficult if good habits are not firmly in place
- your time is required to assist in building a social network
- can be difficult to keep them home long enough to complete schoolwork if they have jobs, friends, and other interests
- curriculum can be intimidating
- long talks about everything-schoolwork, life, dating, work, family, religion and belief, you name it. This will take time- lots of it!
- not everyone else is doing it
Here are some things I learned about parenting and teaching teenagers:
Discipline is required- for both you and them. Chores must be done. Academics are more difficult but must be completed and then mom needs to take a look and check over their work.
You need to have a clear curriculum plan and goals which must be both focused and flexible. They need to have the opportunity to dig into subjects by which they are fascinated!
Allow them to dabble. And to be them. Delight in their quirks and goofiness (take lots of pictures!). They are not miniature adults. They don’t need to excel at everything, and not every project begun needs to be finished and submitted for inspection. Life does not work that way, and we are preparing them for life.
Teach them life skills along with their academics. My children left home with the ability to do their own laundry, balance a checkbook, speak with others, and cook a meal.
You are not to be their best friend right now. They need clear boundaries, guidance, and to know that someone else is there to help when they get in over their head because they will. They need a parent. I would rather have them make mistakes and learn to fix them in my home than send them out into the world expecting things to always go smoothly!
Encourage and facilitate good friendships. We have hosted dance dinners, parties, cookie-baking adventures, conversation areas, meals, and transportation among other things. I know my children’s friends. They know me. It is a great moment when their friends ask to come over “just to hang out and talk” and then spend some of that time with me in the kitchen. Love it!
Learn to under-react. They will do brainless things. Take a deep breath. Take five minutes to remember what you did as a teen. Now go talk with them. If they can trust you to be “adult” about things, they can learn how to do that themselves.
Be at the cross-roads of their lives. Send them off to their activities in person, and then be there when they get home- whether from classes or social gatherings. (This is not possible 100% of the time, but shoot for at least 80%.) Give them your time and they may just share a precious piece of themselves with you.
Find a phone buddy who also loves your children. Share the joys, and talk through the frustrations with them. Another voice may help you retain a clearer perspective when it gets rough, and it gives you a chance to brag a bit.
Expect great things and stupid mistakes. You won’t be disappointed.
Share memories about when you were a teenager. Be honest. You did brainless things. Knowing you recovered from your mistakes can help them trust both you and them. Help them see that everyone has fears, doubts, and silly moments. This is NOT meant to be a lecture! It is time to laugh, cry, share, and cherish each other.
Find tutors to assist in the academic areas where you feel weak. No one is expected to specialize in everything. There are often great teachers at the local high school and good courses on-line. There may be a teen or adult in your area who can help. Ask around.
“I don’t know” is an acceptable answer; it is not a place to stop. Learn together.
Do not raise your teens in a vacuum. Different is okay. Isolated is not!! Help them learn about various learning styles and personality types. Celebrate differences.
Teach them the art of argument. Teach tools to allow for self-expression in positive, acceptable ways. We need to raise leaders, not lemmings.
Time is short. Don’t waste time on things of little value.
Hopefully, self-discipline, good habits, character education, and academic basics have been covered in earlier years. If not, get to work on it. (You will need to keep a closer eye on schoolwork and goals.)
Laugh a lot. Enjoy the ride.