Lori started her conversation with me discouraged. “I didn’t think it would be this hard. I thought, by now, I wouldn’t have to defend our decision to homeschool.” For her 9th grade son, there was a pull to not just play on the high school sports team, but to feel a complete part of the team by attending public school. This was creating friction in their home.
High school presents another chapter in the decision to homeschool. While it can be a starting point for some, more often than not, it is a time when parents evaluate their options and question what the best educational choice is for their student. This question often stems from a student who feels he will somehow miss out by being homeschooled in high school.
Teens are wired to want to grow their independence and find their identity outside of the nuclear family structure. Up until now, their identity has been chosen for them as “John and May’s youngest son”, or “part of the 4-H horse bowl team”. They’ve attended park events that we’ve arranged, taken classes that we have signed them up for, and invested time in activities and with the people we have surrounded them with.
Everyone wants to be part of something larger than just him or herself. In search of their identity, acceptance and belonging, teens may question who and what they have identified with in the past. They may also be challenged to defend their identity in ways that no other generation before them has been challenged. If our teens are not able to give a clear answer as to their choices and associations, it can lead to a sense of insecurity and a need to belong.
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that the devil works to create confusion and undermine the identity we can proclaim as sons and daughters of the living King. There are truths, power, and promises we can be sure of. The first defense against this confusion is to help your student understand and claim his identity in Christ. Many students between 18 – 22 stop attending church. Don’t wait until your student seeks independence before encouraging him to consider his choices and act according to his own beliefs. Encourage him to be a leader, to think critically about his decisions, and continue to seek your guidance and counsel. Students who feel equipped and encouraged to grow into the shoes of an adult will have less desire to be part of a flock of followers.
The second defense against identity theft is to help your student develop a vision for himself beyond the temporary status of being a student. Prepare your student for his role in society by creating a connection between high school and the career of his dreams. Each year, discuss the life skills (home repair, CPR, personal financial management) and career skills he wants to be intentional in developing. Together, brainstorm ideas for how these will be cultivated. Outside of home teaching, encourage him to get connected in the community with groups of his own, internships, volunteering, and a part-time job. Remind him that as a homeschooler, he is in control of his time, which allows him the freedom to develop a special talent, delve into an interest or hobby, create lasting relationships with grandparents, enjoy traveling, or even start his own business.
When your student’s strengths emerge and that vision of his future self is forming, help him find labels with which he can identify (runner, guitarist, graphic designer). We all use labels to describe and define our identity – stay-at-home mom, attorney, blogger. These labels become the fabric, and even talking points, of our identity. They help us feel a sense of belonging. As we identify who God us made us to be and the gifts He bestowed on us, ultimately, these labels point towards our true identity – sons and daughters of the King.
Copyright © 2016 Credits Before College LLC.
This article was written and printed with permission in the Paper MACHE, April 2016. Cheri is a workshop presenter for the 2016 MACHE Homeschool Conference.