How you view the term adolescence will determine how you answer the question posed. Did you know the word “teenager” did not exist before the 1920’s? Compare the entries in Webster’s Second (1934) and Third (1961) editions; only after World War 2 does the adjective “teen-age” become the noun, “teenager.” Before child labor and compulsory education laws, teen boys and girls were referred to as “young men” and “young ladies.” Before the Industrial Revolution and urbanization over a century ago, you were either a child or an adult. The Bible never referred to young David or Daniel as a teenager. Moses was a child until he became a young man.
In America, the adolescent years look very different than they do in other countries around the world. According to Epstein in his revolutionary book, The Case Against Adolescence, “For most of human history, young people worked alongside adults as soon as they were able. Shortly after puberty, young people would gain all the rights and responsibilities of adulthood as they transitioned into these roles.” Some of you might be thinking, there is no way my sixteen-year-old son is responsible enough to get a real job or my fifteen-year-old daughter can’t even decide what she wants to wear today much less what she wants to do with the rest of her life!” Yet in countries around the world, youth in their teens are starting their own businesses, raising their own families, mastering needed skills to make a living all while supporting themselves and their immediate families. Epstein’s book revolutionized the way I viewed adolescence and my own teens’ capabilities as they transitioned from childhood to adulthood. The pages of this book are littered with research studies and real-world experiences of how teens in other countries successfully shoulder important tasks and responsibilities and do it without teenage rebellion, addiction epidemics, climbing suicide rates and social media overload.
What makes the American teen different? Dare I say it is society’s (and our own) expectations of them! My son and I are presently reading Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris. The book was written by the twin teens after sparking a Rebelution online with their blog. This book challenges teens to do hard things, to move out of their comfort zone, and to rebel against society’s low expectations of “teenagers.” In the first part of the book, the teen authors share the teen years of George Washington, Clara Barton, and David Farragut. Each had done extraordinary, courageous, responsible and hard things before the age of 19! Then they compared a typical mom’s modern day expectation of her teenager: keep a clean room, do at least one chore a day, and keep the gas tank full. Ouch! David Farragut was commanding a naval ship and keeping an enemy captain under his control at age fourteen. My fifteen year old son’s closet is currently vomiting a mess of clean, dirty, and not so sure what they are clothes from out of its doors!
What’s the difference? What has changed? Dare I say it again: Perhaps it is our expectations of teens! Society expects them to goof off at this age. Society views the teenage years as prep for the real world without giving them the opportunity to live and work in the real world. “Helicopter parents” swoop in to fix every problem their children face. Many parents reason their teens are too young and immature to handle certain responsibilities. Epstein argues teens can’t handle the responsibilities because we have taken responsibilities away from them (2006). Brett and Alex Harris argue teens don’t rise up because we don’t expect them too (2016)!
God has called our teens to a life of purpose (Ps 139: 14). He created them to do mighty things in the kingdom of God (Ephesians 2:10). 1 Timothy 4:12 should be our teen’s battle cry: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” Homeschooling through the high school years offers opportunities that traditional schools do not. Even if your teen aspires to attend the most prestigious of colleges, don’t try to “do school at home” during the high school years. Take advantage of the time God has given you with your teen-age son or daughter. Take this time to fuel their passions. Expect greatness. Press them to do hard things. Push them out of their comfort zone. Set them up for success but let them fail!
Why can’t your teenage son head up a local governor’s election campaign like the Brett brother’s did? Why not help your teenage daughter start her own non-profit organization like Julia Schemmer did? Why not encourage your teen to travel or do missionary work at the ripe old age of 14? As my son and I were reading, Do Hard Things, he said, “You know mom. Even if I wanted to be like George Washington, I can’t now a days. You won’t let me wander around the wilderness practicing my shooting aim. You’re afraid I will get hurt. My friends can’t skip school to work with their uncle who’s a lawyer to learn paralegal skills because the law requires them to be in school all day. Even when I volunteer at a Sunday school, I don’t get to teach. I just pass out papers. They don’t trust me enough to plan, prep and teach kids like Laura Ingalls Wilder did. Didn’t you say she was a full fledge teacher by age 16?” My boy has a point! Even if we expect more responsibilities from our teens, we need to be able to move out of our comfort zone to allow them to do hard things!
Homeschooling the high school years should be more than Biology with a lab and AP Geometry classes. Yes, make sure you follow your state’s graduation requirements, but the beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility of meeting those requirements while meeting the needs of your teen and fueling their the passions. Why not read their way through history or intern or volunteer at local campaign headquarters for US Civics. Learn business math and personal finance by starting their own business (or taking over part of your family’s business). Work at a animal shelter or train to be a docent at the local aquarium for Biology. Travel with groups like People to People or World Strides or go on mission trips with your church to learn about history and geography. Give them time (and expect them) to compose original music, create video games (instead of play them), write and film movies, or maintain their own youtube channel. Make them take a few college classes and/or work a full time job. Encourage them to start their own teen bible study. Why not? Think out of the box. Do hard things. Expect more!
Remove the word teenager and all of its negative connotations and societal expectations from your vernacular and remove it from your homeschool “curriculum.” Dare to skip the teenage years and help your child transition straight into adulthood. I purposefully homeschooled a young lady not a typical teenage girl. I may have a boy with a teenage appetite, but I refuse to homeschool a typical “teenage” boy. I am looking forward to homeschooling (and mentoring) a young man; a man who is after God’s own heart. So go ahead. Kick those teenagers out of your house and to the curb! Then welcome into your home the young man and young woman God has given you to raise, educate, guide and mentor. Trust me, the expectations might be high but the rewards will be even greater!
***If you are interested in meeting several young men and women who were homeschooled through high school and who not only did hard things but exceeded the high expectations they put on themselves during high school, come to our 2019 Mom’s Weekend Event in March. This year our homeschooling high school session will be on Friday evening from 6:30-9:30. Our panel will be homeschool graduates who are moms, small business entrepreneurs, speakers, world travelers, and successful college students. They will share with the moms (and dads) how they creatively (and traditionally) met the CA requirements for graduation, what they did in high school to fuel their passions and how they have been successful in college and in the work force since graduating. For more information on our Mom Event March 29th and 30th, 2019 go to “Upcoming Events“. Registration begins in January!