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!
All homeschool parents know that adulthood is the entire purpose of our teaching. We are working really hard to put ourselves out of a job. If we do this right, they’ll leave and never (or rarely) come back, right?
Yet it’s too easy to forget that goal in the thick of homeschooling. We can get buried in classes and tests, workbooks and transcripts and completely lose sight of the end game: responsible adulthood.
That’s where work and ministry come in. By making responsibility and service a part of our teen’s high school years, we set the stage for the rest of his life. And when we help him transition into both, we find valuable opportunities to train him for a lifetime of serving and giving.
How to Teach Your Teen to Work and to Serve
When we looked at what our teen does year by year in high school, we listed milestones like working a job and serving in ministry right alongside academics and social development. That’s because working and serving are important skills our teen can begin developing if we are intentional during these high school years.
Learning to Work
Your teen has likely been working his whole life . . . right here at home. You likely gave him chores and responsibilities from the time he could walk, so he already knows about responsibility. High school is the perfect time to build on this understanding.
While life outside the house is becoming increasingly attractive and busy, it is easy for teens to start slacking off in the usual chores at home. This is the time to renew room inspection each morning, reminding teens they need to pick up the laundry, clear off the dresser, and make the bed each day. And that goes for mom, too! Be sure he has other chores, too: yard work, vacuuming, bathroom duty, and/or dishes.
Perhaps during the middle school years, your child may have begun
finding odd jobs for spare cash. But if not, now is the perfect time to start instigating that behavior. It’s not your job as the parent to find him a job. Instead, it’s your job to create the need for a job. Your goal is to make him want to work so badly that he gets the job himself.
How do you create this need? By cutting off the gravy train. Don’t give spending money, petty cash, or small trinkets. Don’t purchase expensive electronics, phones, or game subscriptions. We don’t even buy our teens more than the bare minimum clothing items. Make the default answer to “can I have . . . ” be always “when you buy it.” Very quickly, your teen will want the money to provide himself with what he desires.
Does this sound cruel and unusual? It shouldn’t. As parents, we work hard — very hard — to provide the necessities of food, clothing, shelter, and love to our family. And as homeschoolers, we’ve sacrificed even more to personally pass on education, training, and experiences that shape the incredible young people they are. Now, they are not likely wise enough to rise up and call us blessed yet, but one day, maybe.
Until then, the gravy is their responsibility. The answer to all of these questions in our house is the same:
- Can I have a car?
- May I get a phone?
- Can I go shopping?
- Will you buy me a souvenir?
- May I go to the fair?
- How will I pay for college?
The answer? “Get a job and save your money.” After a while, they get tired of hearing the same thing all the time, so we don’t get asked much anymore.
Letting them take the initiative
Each of our teens has found their own jobs when they got desperate enough. It was really hard when they were younger because many businesses won’t hire young people before age fifteen or sixteen. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” the proverb says, so if we allow our teens to do without for long enough, they will find a way.
Our teens have worked as referees (after getting licensed), babysitters, yard workers, pet sitters, and paper trimmers. They have worked for family, friends, neighbors, and church members. They’ve found their neighborhood the best place to drum up work, and they’ve learned the value of a good reputation for securing new business.
So with the privilege of working, then, follows the responsibilities of managing expectations. Young employees and entrepreneurs in our home do have some guidelines to help them build healthy work habits:
- School work and household chores always come first.
- Interviews and all work-related communication are handled by the teen alone; mom and dad never get involved.
- Transportation is tricky, but it’s also the teen’s responsibility. If he needs a ride from parents, he asks each time and doesn’t assume. His work transportation needs don’t interfere with his parents’ responsibilities.
- If his work transportation becomes a burden, he can find a way to compensate.
It may sound harsh, but our teens basically pay for their work transportation. One son realized that refereeing games an hour away would cost too much gas money for his parents, so he declined them. He takes games he can bike to, instead, so he can keep all his earnings. Our daughter’s job is twenty minutes away, and she needs a ride to and from work, so she does extra household chores and cooking that day to free up my time.
By the junior year of high school, a regular part-time job is tremendously beneficial. No matter how menial, how boring, or how grueling, a job teaches teens a valuable perspective they need before entering adulthood:
- work is hard
- employees are difficult sometimes
- jobs are valuable
- character and work ethic are rare
- bills are difficult to pay, and luxuries are not always worth the extra effort
Learning to Serve
The teen years are notoriously self-centered. There’s just something about this stage of life that renders young people unduly ego-centric and selfish. We should anticipate this to some extent, but our job is to help them mature beyond this. We want to see our teens grow into compassionate, caring, serving adults who demonstrate Christlike, servent leadership in their personal relationships.
This is why it is imperative we keep our young people serving God. They need to recognize the needs outside their interests, the people outside their circle of friends and reach out in love. How do we instill a love of service in our teens?
We can’t pass onto our teens a habit we don’t practice. It’s true of our personal walk with the Lord, and it’s true of Christian service. The first step in getting our teens involved is making sure we are serving the Lord in our churches and communities:
- get involved in a ministry or two at church
- instead of saying “someone should,” take the lead and do it!
- volunteer in the community, as well, for causes you care about
- get involved as a family — do it together!
Ideas for family service
Maybe you are in between ministries or looking for a fresh idea how to serve as a family. Here are some ideas that have worked for us:
Take them along. When I led a mid-sized music ministry in an East Coast church, I took my young children with me constantly. They played with dolls and cars on the floor of my office while I filed music. They played pretend instruments or sang along with the choir in rehearsals. They napped under the piano during lessons. They were constantly there, so they got to know the church members working with me.
Teach them how to serve. My husband is the director of our church’s AWANA program, and he’s using it as an opportunity to train our teen daughter, along with other young people, how to teach and disciple children. This year, she’s even teaching the Bible lesson, planning crafts, and supervising games for the little preschoolers.
Expect continual service. There isn’t really a question of “do you want to serve the Lord” in our family — it’s expected. Each Sunday, if we aren’t sick, we should be doing something, every one of us, to help those around us in the cause of Christ. If you have an instrument, play it. If they need a nursery worker, hold a baby. If they ask for a sound assistant, learn how to do it. There’s always something that needs to be done.
Make it a family affair. Reaching out to the community is also important to us, and we try to involve the entire family in the efforts. Whether we’re donating to the Salvation Army or packaging food in the food pantry or organizing a block party, everyone works together. Even in our current efforts to prepare for adoption, there’s plenty for all of us to do. It’s always more fun to serve together!
These two issues — working and serving — go hand-in-hand. Teens grow up to realize they need to provide for their own needs and then reach out to give to those around them. It’s part of being a mature adult. As homeschool parents, we have a great opportunity to make these lessons a priority in our teaching.
How do you help your homeschool high school student learn about working and serving?
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