Welcome to the month-long series “Homeschool HIGH SCHOOL Made Easy,” a follow-up to the popular “Homeschool Made Easy” series (now published on kindle). I’m sharing tips from my experience as a homeschool graduate and homeschool mother, showing YOU how easy and enjoyable these high school years can be for you and your teen. Be sure to sign up for the entire series so you don’t miss a thing!
It may seem unusual that our series on homeschooling high school is spending so much time on these non-academic issues like family relationships and friendships and now dating. But if we step away from the transcripts a minute and look at what we’re really doing here, we can’t avoid talking about these areas. Homeschooling is about training our teens for adult life, preparing them for the relationships and responsibilities that define who God created them to be. So we cannot neglect these areas. In fact, we must prioritize them.
This includes their growing relationships with the opposite gender. Our teens, whether we like it or not, whether we are ready for it or not, whether we have strong feelings about it or not, have “noticed” boys and girls. They have a God-given urge to seek out a mate and enjoy the blessings of intimacy. They want love. And it’s a good thing, God says.
But obviously, like every other privilege God has given us, this comes with responsibility: the responsibility of purity, of purpose, of discernment, of honor. And it’s our job as parents to prepare our young people for what will be the most important decision they every make, besides their decision to follow Christ.
Homeschooling is about training our teens for adult life, preparing them for the relationships and responsibilities that define who God created them to be.
But first, I want to tell you to relax: I’m not going to get into a courtship vs. dating debate. I’m not going to prescribe a formula to follow. I’m not going to cast judgment on all the “wrong” ways to teach these principles to our young people. Instead, I hope to show you how my husband and I discuss this issue with our teens. And whatever you call the process of learning about the opposite gender, making friends with boys and girls, and seeking God’s will for a mate, we’re going to call it all “dating” just for the sake of expediency. Perhaps we can take some of the fear and panic out of the issue and help you intentionally pass along your values to your teens.
Because this is the heart of homeschooling, passing on your beliefs and values to your next generation. Hopefully, when you set down your homeschool why, you didn’t list specific salaries or titles or external measures of behavior as your primary homeschool purpose. No matter what your most important homeschool values, I am fairly certain you are after changed hearts and minds. Right?
How We Talk To Our Teens About Dating
We don’t have a one-time conversation with our teens, a sit-down in which we lay out all the rules and expectations and have them sign a contract. It doesn’t happen like that. Though it does in some families (don’t ask me how I know). Instead of a list of “thou shalt not’s,” we want to encourage our young people to seek God’s will for their lives through their relationship with Him and others. That goes back to our family why.
Have continual conversations.
From the time they are young, we talk often about their future lives. We dream with them about how God might be using them, the ways He is already preparing them, the fun and exciting times ahead of them. And of course that includes their future families. And all the grandbabies they will give me. We can’t leave that out!
Yes, they know that marriage is not always God’s plan. But it is His norm. (I Cor. 7) So it’s what we expect for them until God reveals otherwise. Talking about their future families is a natural part of conversation.
Respect God’s standards.
From toddlerhood on, we are teaching our children about how to treat others, what God’s rules are for showing love and care to those around us: be kind, be obedient, be respectful, be sharing, be honest, etc. This includes issues of appropriateness. We teach them how to be modest. We teach them who to trust with personal information. We teach them appropriate levels of affection for family, friends, and strangers.
So this just continues for teens. We have one level of physical and emotional affection for friends, and another for close family members. Until someone has moved beyond friendship closer to family status, those levels of intimacy aren’t appropriate.
Of course, this applies to marital intimacy. There is a level of affection, emotional attachment, and physical bonding that is only appropriate in a marital commitment. When teens recognize this as a growth of the family relationship, it’s something both precious to protect and exciting to anticipate.
Of course, when things get serious, it’s time for a very specific conversation. When a teen or young adult begins dating, it’s time to talk about exactly what purity means, what the house rules are, and what are the far-reaching physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences if inappropriate actions.
Give plenty of information.
We homeschool because we want to be our teen’s primary source of education. Whatever our homeschool why, we have purposed to take on daily discipling and educating of this person. So we can’t be stingy. It’s time to generously inform our teens about sexuality and relationships.
I’m glad that my teens come to me with questions about sexual health, birth control, abortion, and the opposite gender. I want to give them all the information I have. And I’m happy to point them in the direction of more information if they need it. Their father and I are training them to take on responsibility for this aspect of their lives just as much as everything else, so we welcome the opportunity to think through these issues with them.
And my daughter called me out for missing an opportunity last month. She needed a quick check up for our foster care forms, proof that she was healthy and up-to-date on her own immunizations. And she did request that I stay in the room with her for her check up. When she asked her pediatrician if she needed more shots, he told her that she was all up to date. “Except for Gardasil,” he said offhandedly. “But you probably don’t want that one.”
“Yeah, we don’t need that, thanks,” I replied.
“Wait a minute,” her brow furrowed. “You didn’t tell me about that. Why can’t I get it? What’s it for?”
I blushed, realizing my mistake in speaking for her without explanation. The doctor pulled out the fact-sheet and handed it to me, and I passed it immediately to her. And then I explained why I felt she didn’t need it, but that she was welcome to request it if she disagreed. She glanced at the sheet and asked the doctor a question, then declined it for the same reasons I expected. But she made an informed choice for herself. And that was far more important than my dictating her sexual health choices.
Make a difference between choice and rules.
As our teens have grown, as my husband and I have wrestled with their growing independence and our limited control, as we’ve worked through the growing pains of launching young adults, we’ve come to an important realization: we give them rules when they are home, but our young people must choose the adult they will become.
We can’t — and should not — dictate their adult choices. We cannot — and should not — choose their mate, their occupation, their beliefs, their lives. We can disciple them, we can demonstrate love to them, we can teach them. And while they are in our home, they must abide by the house rules. But very, very quickly they are out of the house and must choose who they really are.
If we are honest with our teens, we can build a trusting relationship.
And that’s what we remind them. How they date, how they behave, how they work, how they play, how they live is not just what they do but really who they are. So when they decide to pursue a relationship, when they wonder if they have met their match, when they consider how far they will or won’t go before marriage, they are really defining who they are before God and man. Are they pure? Are they principled? Are they holy? Are they loving others? Are they selfish? Are they honorable?
Years ago, a pastor advised my husband and me to never tell our teens how we got married (we eloped). We have not followed that bad advice.
Instead, we have answered our teens’ questions openly and honestly about our past, both good choices and bad mistakes. We’ve told them how and why we got married in a courthouse away from family and friends, and why they don’t have to start their adult lives alone and unsupported like that.
If we are honest with our teens, we can build a trusting relationship. We want them to come to us with their problems, to openly admit their mistakes, to let us help them face the difficult consequences. That will only be possible if we are humble and honest with them.
Be the parent.
It’s still, though, my job to ask questions. It’s still dad’s job to set the curfew. It’s our job to enforce our standards and to set the expectation of family behavior.
So we do need to draw the line. And we have had the tough talks. They need to know where the protective fence is and what happens when they try to climb over it.
But more than that, our teens must know how to make life decisions. And there’s no better opportunity for us to train them how to live for God and love others than during these exciting dating relationships.
Point them to biblical truth.
Too many dating and courtship resources attempt to twist Scripture to support their view. And when teens wrestle through their own faith issues as they become adults, this can harm their view of Christianity, maybe even hinder their walk with God.
So we are very careful to lift up God’s standards for love and marriage while remaining respectful of the diverse ways God works in human affairs. Yes, God miraculously led Abraham’s servant to find Isaac’s wife. And He beautifully created Eve to perfectly complement Adam. But Jesus Christ’s earthly family also included a harlot, David’s wife after an illicit affair, pagan foreign spouses, and other seemingly less-than-ideal pairings.
God never provided one simple way to find the ideal spouse. Instead, He chose to make the entire process fun, exciting, a little dangerous, and very romantic. And each one, He promised to redeem for His purpose.
I am the luckiest girl in the world, married for two decades to a hot Latino who spoils me every day. We’ve had our loud fights, our financial woes, and our sleepless nights, but I wouldn’t trade my life with him for anything in the world.
And my prayer every day for my children is that they, too, will be married happily ever after.
It’s God’s will.
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