What Matters the Most
- 2008 11 Jul
As homeschooling parents, we want to do what is best for our children. Through the years, some of us have used a very structured approach for teaching our kids. Others have followed an unschooling path, while the vast majority of us probably fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Yet, no matter what methods and materials we have used along the way, we have all tried to give our children the best education possible.
Now we have reached the high school years. Now the stakes seem so much higher. Now we begin to wonder.
Have we given them what they need to succeed in the future? And just what is success, anyway? Have we prepared them for a meaningful life in the real world? Meaningful to whom? Have we exposed them to enough, but not to too much; emphasized the important and ditched the trivial; focused on their strengths but encouraged them in their weaknesses?
As the last few years we have with our teenagers tick by unrelentingly, we often feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with doubt, with regret, with frustration, with confusion. Yes, there are times when we know something has worked. There are many wonderful moments when we feel proud and happy as we watch our teens emerge into independent young adulthood.
But there are also the days when we cannot imagine why we ever thought we could do this thing called homeschool high school. There are the hours that seem so hard and long, when we struggle with personality conflicts, academic roadblocks, messy rooms, and those unpredictable, migraine-inducing teenage hormones. There are the minutes we just want to run away from the pressure—though of course, we never would. Well, not for more than an afternoon.
Despite our qualms, the truth always remains: except for God, no one can love these kids more than we do. No one knows them better than we do. No one wants them to find joy and fulfillment in their lives as much as we do. Our commitment to homeschooling through high school can remain strong if we remind ourselves of these facts regularly—as well as the fact that the Lord has promised to work everything together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
As we continue on our high school homeschooling journey, we need to reevaluate our goals. Not only do our children need an academic plan that will pave their way to college and/or a career. Not only should we be teaching them to handle a budget, change a tire, and cook decent meals. Not only must we demonstrate proper table manners, show them how to iron, and bravely suffer as they learn to drive.
No, we must set our standards higher than these necessary but limited goals. We must remember that the two things that matter most in our children’s lives are their relationship with God and their relationship with their family. Those two key elements lay the foundation for how our children will live in the years to come. How will they handle the sometimes-daunting experiences that will invade their lives? How will they interact with the wide variety of people they meet as they travel through their days? How will their faith hold up under fire? How will they maintain the courage, the strength, and the determination necessary to make a real difference in this world?
Again I say, amidst everything else we teach and do with them, it is first our young people’s relationship with God and secondly, their relationship with their family that truly matters the most. Homeschool parents should remember not to “sacrifice the important on the altar of the urgent.” Yes, academics are a significant part of our teens’ days. So are other things at times, such as work, music, volunteering, friends, and hobbies. All of these things can be good and helpful, but they can also become stumbling blocks if we are not careful to keep them in their rightful places.
Let us never forget what should have first priority in our children’s lives, as well as in our own lives—knowing, serving, and bringing glory to God. Let us also never forget what should have second priority in our lives—our relationships with each other. It is only when these two factors are solid and deep that our children will be able to step out from a platform of strength, confidence, and peace to reach toward others in need of help.
So stop for a moment and ask yourselves these questions along with me: Are we encouraging our teens to know God, serve God, and bring glory to God? How exactly are we encouraging them to experience this type of personal relationship with God? How are we enabling our teens to pursue their spiritual lives? Have we provided them with Bible study materials, and have we ever joined them in such studies? Do we have regular discussions with them about the difficult aspects of faith—those hard questions that we all have to face? Have we researched various outreach programs with them and then given them our blessing as they go out and serve the Lord by serving others? Have we allowed (no, freely given) our teens the time to devote to such non-academic activities?
If we truly desire a strong relationship with our young people, here are some other questions that we must ask ourselves.
Do they know we will always listen to them?
Really? Do they? Even if it’s something they’re sure we won’t like when we hear about it? We must make sure our high schoolers understand that there is nothing they can say that will change how we feel about them. They need to know that we are always ready to be their sounding board. When they talk to us, we need to give them our full and focused attention. We also need to guard against the urge to downplay their issues. What seems earth-shattering to them may seem insignificant to us, but if it means so much to our children, that makes it important and worthy of our respect. Remember, if we aren’t there to listen to them, they may find someone else who is.
Do they know we will always support them?
Or do they perhaps feel that our support is conditional? Do we only offer our help and encouragement to them when they are involved with something that is important to us? If they choose to follow a career path that is totally alien to our interests and gifts, we should not attempt to sway them to another course. Rather, we should express our confidence in them and cheer them on their way.
What about the times our teens struggle with breaking a bad habit? We shouldn’t nag and point out their failures, and we should never speak of their weaknesses in public. Instead, we need to share with others the many ways our children have blessed us so that our teens will realize how thankful we are for them. They should have no doubt that we believe they can accomplish whatever they set their hearts and minds to if they are committed to following God’s leading.
Do they know we will always pray for them?
Or do they only hear us pray at mealtimes? Are they completely unaware of the fact that we uphold them before the Father daily? Think how much it means to us when we know others are praying for us. Don’t we want our own children to experience the power of prayer? Our teens need to know that we keep a running list of their needs, their problems, their hopes, and their dreams—and that we regularly take them to the Lord in prayer. Of course, this means that we actually have to spend this focused time in prayer. And do we ever discuss our own prayer requests with our high schoolers? If they haven’t yet learned the habit of prayer (and the peace and strength it brings), it is imperative that they do so before they head off to their own independent lives.
Do they know we will always forgive them?
Or might they be afraid to come to us when they have made a mistake? What if it’s a big mistake? Can they count on us to forgive as God forgives? If our teens have a bad attitude, disobey us, or simply choose to do something they understand is wrong, they have sinned. However, if they come to us with a repentant spirit, if they confess and are ready to try again to do right, it is our responsibility to forgive them completely. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” It is not our right to hold grudges or to bring up our children’s past sins when we are upset. Our goal should be to demonstrate the beautiful kind of forgiveness the Father has shown all of us.
Do they know we will always like them?
Or do we find that the problem is we really don’t like them? Oh, we love them. But like them? Perhaps we find this the hardest question of all. We might have a teen whose personality or particular ways just annoy us. Maybe these are teens who are just too much like us, and their weaknesses are a constant reminder of our own failings. It might be that we have never had any common interests with one of our teens, so we feel there is no basis for affection and camaraderie between us. In all of these cases, we may believe that love will have to be enough—but that would be a dangerous assumption.
It is our duty as parents to like our children as well as love them. If we currently have a problem with this issue, we need to pray that God will give us this liking, and we need to concentrate on all the ways these teens do please us, all the good points they have that are unique to them. Until the feeling of affection comes, we need to act as if it were there—in other words, fake it! So many times in life, when we act as we should despite the lack of feeling behind our behavior, the feelings will follow.
Do they know we will always love them?
Or do they worry that our love might be dependent on their actions? Do our teens realize that our love for them comes from God and is not going to fade if they disappoint us in some way? Do we express our love to them consistently and understandably? Most of us are familiar with the idea that different people perceive love in different ways. Have we researched these “love languages” and figured out the ideal ways to reach our various children with our love?
Most of our high school kids still need consistent physical love from both parents—our girls need lots of hugging and arm-in-arm walking, and our tall manly boys need shoulder rubs from Mom, wrestling with Dad, and yes, even occasional hugs. Some teens will need us to talk about our love for them in specific detail; others will understand our love best through what we do with them—but the main point is clear. At this critical time in their lives, our teens need to be absolutely certain of our love. Otherwise, they might be tempted to go looking for such affirmation and caring elsewhere.
So let us set the standard high. We need to make our teens’ relationship with God and our relationship with them our two highest priorities. We only have a few years left with our children. Why not make them really count for eternity?
Kim Lundberg is the busy mom of 9 great kids. She and her family have been homeschooling for 16 years, and they make their home in beautiful northern California. Kim enjoys teaching drama, writing, and world history classes, as well as reading mysteries, baking goodies, camping, and listening to her kids talk, sing, and make music.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2008 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Visit http://homeschoolenrichment.com/ to request a FREE sample issue today!