Hold on to Teens With Four Important F’s: Fellowship, Fun, Fathers, and Faith

Teen: “Mom, I want to go to real school!”

Mother: “No!”

Teen: “Okay, I want to go to the Marines then.”

Mother: “No!”

Teen: “All right, I really feel like God is calling me to the mission fields of

Mother: “No, He’s not. Not yet, anyway.”

Teen: “Well, He’s calling me somewhere besides staying around here all of the time. I am positive about that!”

Fellowship: The Joy of Having Friends

After teaching elementary home school PE in a suburb of Dallas for ten years, several mothers prevailed upon me to offer a teen PE class. Nine teens showed up for the first class, but with each subsequent Thursday, the numbers swelled to 30 then 40 teens. Over the next ten years, the students have changed, but the numbers have stayed the same. Clearly, teens enjoy being with teens. Many moms have said, “Thank you for doing this class. We would have had to fight Michael on the issue of home schooling without it. He gets so bored at home with just his little sister and me. PE is the highlight of his week.”

Being an old athlete myself, I always thought it was the competition that brought the Michaels and Sarahs of the home schooling teen world to class. Years ago I decided to let the girls play soccer on one field and the boys play touch football on the other, thinking that the boys would want to play a more competitive, all-out game. OOPS! MUTINY!! Neither the girls nor the boys went for this. They considered it a ploy to ruin their time of fellowship. I quickly realized the competition was secondary to the socialization. Both boys and girls enjoyed their time together in a healthy, fun setting.

That is the beauty of extracurricular activities–a healthy, fun setting in which to fellowship. The variety and quality of extracurricular activities have developed exponentially for home schoolers over the last twenty years. There are excellent sports leagues and music programs available. My own boys have danced in the ballet, played tackle football for a Christian school, been in scouting, and participated in chemistry, history of the world, or whatever co-op class Jessica was teaching in the den or the garage. In fact, there are almost too many employment opportunities and neat, fun activities for teens nowadays. Families have to choose carefully and with discretion, so they do not feel as though they are living in the car running from one activity to the next. The choices are so rich that we must carefully choose those that are best for our teens AND our families.

Fun: Learning Should Be Fun

The same moms who came to me begging for teen PE also came to Jessica pleading with her to write a high school curriculum that was academically challenging yet still retained the fun, hands-on activities that created a desire to learn!! These moms were graduating kids from elementary school which was hands-on and fun to high school textbooks which were just as boring as the ones we used in public school. The difference between our kids and us is that we got to go to lunch period, pep rallies, and science labs. Home schooling teens are stuck alone at the dining room table or in front of the TV doing video school.

We have been proponents of hands-on learning for little kids for twenty years in home schooling. Just because a child turns thirteen does not mean that he is now ready for a full-time diet of seatwork. We learned that parents were facing mutiny with their teens on two fronts: HOME and SCHOOL. The teens were at home too much and wanted to interact with people other than forty-year-old mothers or seven-year-old sisters. They also disliked their schoolwork and performed this drudgery with silent disengagement. Those same hands-on, experiential learning methodologies that worked so well for little kids work just as well for older ones too.

Two teens playing the parts of Brutus and Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is an exhilarating sight. Making a shimmering gown, cape, and crown for a Queen Elizabeth report seems like a waste of time for a young woman of seventeen to do, and yet she will know and remember more about the Elizabethan Age than most college professors. Reading real books like biographies, historical novels, and the classics-not just textbooks-gives our teens understanding of the passion and sacrifice of real people who came before them. History, science, and Bible come alive when teaching strategies are incorporated to ACTIVELY involve the student in the learning process. Real learning and remembering occurs, not just cramming for a test on Friday. Hands-on learning changes a list of facts and dates stored in the left side of the brain into stories with real people and real events, thus, moving information over to the right side of the brain, which is the storytelling side of the brain. The point to remember is this: the list side of the brain is short-term memory, and the storytelling side is long-term memory.

Father: Vital Mentors to Teens

It is a well-known, biblical battle cry of the home schooling movement that fathers should lead in the training and discipling of their children, but that battle cry is especially true for teens.

When a child is an infant, most of the nurturing and care fall under the purview of the mother. The same is true for toddlers and early elementary children. By the time a child enters into late elementary and junior high, Dad should assume more of the oversight of the child. By the teen years, most of the responsibility of deciding if a teen can take a part-time job, when the teen can begin to drive the car, or in what extracurricular activities a teen can be involved should be decided–with the input of the teen and the mother–by dear, old Dad. The problem that seems to halt this natural progression of transferring oversight from Mother to Dad as the child advances into adolescence is that the junior high and high school years are much more difficult to manage than the early elementary years. Dad soon realizes that this oversight is a little more challenging than he expected, so he conveniently spends more and more time at the office. The natural progression of oversight responsibility from Mom to Dad makes an abrupt turn from Dad back to Mom. We have a teen society run by moms with most fathers hopelessly disengaged or absent altogether. God has given the grace for this difficult parenting task to the father: “My son, give me your heart.” Oh how our wives long for the day when we assume the leadership role to which God has called us. Not as tyrants or jerks, men, but as caring and benevolent fathers seeking what is best for each teen in the family.

Wives should ask their husbands to be involved in the oversight of teens. They must make a conscious effort to pass this responsibility and duty to their husbands, especially with teenaged sons (see the first ten chapters of Proverbs). It is interesting that the prophet points to one change that needs to occur before the coming of the Messiah in the very last verse of the Old Testament. Malachi 4:6 says, “And he [the prophet] will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” Our land is smitten with a curse. What will lift this curse from our land is one father at a time turning his heart to his children, assuming the role of spiritual head of his family, and becoming a loving father and trusted mentor to his children.

Faith: The Foundation of Adulthood

The most important role for the father to assume is that of family pastor. He should teach the Scriptures to his children daily and, of course, to teens who are on the very edge of adulthood. In Psalm 78:1-12, fathers are told to teach the wonders and works of God to the next generation. If our young adults are academically sound but do not choose to serve the Lord, then we have just released another really smart heathen onto the world! Teen years are so important. It is the last concentrated time that parents have with young people before they sprout wings and begin to fly to jobs, apprenticeships, college, mission fields, or even marriage. Not that we do not have input or counsel in their lives as they grow older—we should and do; however, the role clearly changes as they become adults. All our training for our children should serve to direct them to God.

May God help you to put these to work in your family today!