This is often prominent on the minds of homeschoolers who recognize that quality academics represent only a portion of a well-rounded education. Spiritual, mental, emotional, social, and even experiential growth also fills wedges in the educational pie. As homeschoolers, we delight in knowing we can work on all of those wedges simultaneously instead of having to separate them from the eight or more hours a day that children spend in school.
This delight is no greater than in the high school years. For nearly a decade and a half, we have watched our children absorb information like a sponge. We have seen them delight in a variety of new experiences. Before our eyes, they have blossomed relationally and socially as they have learned to interact with family, friends, and associates of all ages. Light bulbs have come on as their brains have begun to process, understand, and make connections. And the first signs of change from childhood to adulthood have become apparent in their physical, mental, and emotional appearance.
As we walk through the high school years with them, we have the opportunity to help them cement all of those aspects of growth. And now, more than ever, the growth is about so much more than building an academic transcript or creating the perfect portfolio.
These four years are about helping our precious children discover who they are.
When my girls were heading into the high school years, their minds were still very sheltered. They had limited experience with the great big world, and I knew so many things would take them off guard. They still needed a great deal of protection, and I did not want to see their innocence mauled or preyed upon. But, the high school years represent a time when our children’s minds are working overtime to process the world around them. They are struggling to discover what they believe and why. And when their experiences are limited, they fail to process deeply. They end up naive and idealistic in a negative, self-important way. Sometimes, in order to mold their idealism into something positive and motivating, we have to allow them to be exposed to realities that chip away a bit at their naive innocence. And the best time to accomplish this is while we still have them in the safety and security of our homes, under our protection. So, when my girls hit this stage, I began to intentionally expose them to experiences that would stretch their horizons and open doors for conversation and questions. Questions such as…
Why do they believe that way?
How do people end up in that lifestyle?
What does __________ mean?
How can I help my struggling friend?
How in the world do I handle this problem?
What do I do when there is no clear right or wrong answer?
At what point do I go from just seeing things differently to being unbiblical and ungodly?
Carefully exposing our students to stimuli that will help them process and grow is not formulaic. I can share my experience, but your family may not have the same opportunities we had. Still, there are a few things that will be constant as we work to provide a safe, yet stimulating, environment for our students to grow, explore, and reason.
One of the best things we can do for our children is expose them to other adults and mentors. This may happen through church, a co-op or enrichment program, extracurricular or sports opportunities, work, etc.
Some of these adults will be phenomenal mentors for our students. Others will offer us opportunities to show our children how to recognize abuse, operate under poor leadership, or avoid falling into bad situations.
Whatever the case, it is important that we are vigilant, but not hovering; attentive, but not micro-managing; and protective, but not unwilling to allow our students to learn how to make decisions.
Whether our students are on a college track, are preparing for a trade, hope to go into the military, or are completely uncertain about their future, they are heading into a world that will challenge their perspective. There is no way we can prepare them for everything they will see and experience in the big, wide world. But, we can equip them to learn from their experiences, ask questions, and seek solid advice and wisdom from godly influences in their lives.
Church activities are wonderful. Doing just about everything with co-op friends is fantastic. But, every now and then, encourage an experience that is outside the norm.
Does the local school district have a summer program that is open to the public? Consider being a part of it. Is there a job opening that might stretch your child’s horizons a bit? Check into the possibility. Does a college of interest have a program for prospective students? See if it fits into the schedule. Let this be a time of safe exploration where your student can easily come back to you and talk it all out.
Scenarios & Stories
Every day in our churches and communities, troublesome stories play out of strangers and friends who find their lives slammed with unexpected tragedies or who suddenly are slapped in the face with exposed secrets they never imagined possible in their home.
We often want to protect our children from these scenarios. But, as they learn to reason through what they see, hear, and believe, it is important that they learn to process through the things going on around them.
What about the mother who just found out her unborn baby has hydrocephalus, and carrying the child to term could endanger her own life?
What about the friend who has just informed her parents that she is gay?
What about the promiscuous young woman all parents want their children to avoid, but who you know was molested as a child and forced to endure abortions?
Now is the time to talk through these scenarios and more with our own children, to help them to see how to handle and pray through situations that have no clear solution.
During these high school years, we work hard to create a solid transcript and help our students discover their interests. But oh, what a privilege we have to also nurture them as they grow spiritually, emotionally, and socially.