My other children are boys and in their teens and they have a whole other need. Boys were not made to sit at home cooking, cleaning and knitting with mother. God gave boys the desire to conquer. Their needs are opposite that of girls. And once they pass puberty, it is a definite NEED for them to have some sort of life outside of mama's skirt. I always chuckle quietly to myself when I meet moms of kids under 12 and their short sighted vision of keeping their kids influence-free. The cloistered homeschool family is unhealthy because they mistakenly think that shielding their children from others until the wedding bells chime will somehow prevent their children from any exposure to evil. Or perhaps limiting their exposure as much as possible.
I am all in favor of limiting evil influences and protecting my children. But parents need to understand that even if a child grew up without any evil influences at all, he would still be in danger because evil lurks within. Not one of us can escape the resident lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and pride of life.
I kept my children close to me and very, very protected all of their grade school years. Even around family members. I have always been the most careful, overprotective mother you'd ever meet. But at the same time, I was constantly letting out the ties little by little. You can't just keep them close and then one day when they turn 18 let them l discover the world around them.
Some moms will say, "My kids discover plenty around the house with me." Ok, that is fine. I was my children's best friend, too. We are a tight knit family and always have been. But a mother's need and the needs of her children are two very different things. Some mothers have high social needs and you will see them OVER doing the social thing and way too early. Other moms are homebodies and they are the ones who enjoy just being home, keeping home, cooking, cleaning, not big on social functions, etc.
In both cases, the mother who doesn't learn to see her children as individuals with God given needs and desires misses the mark. Providing outlets for the needs of each family member is quite the balancing act. But either way, after puberty hits, kids need to start flapping their wings a little. Providing them with opportunities to play, compete and have some carefully controlled adventures with other homeschooling families is absolutely essential to their happiness and well being at home.
Some of the most miserable homeschooling kids I've ever seen were teens who had no adventure, no friendships or acquaintances, no vision or goal. The Bible says where there is no vision, the people perish. Think of how that older child feels. Teens have all the drive and determination of an adult but in an immature and untested body and mind. They need space to spread their wings and give and contribute to the world around them.
What to do?
Getting kids involved in helping with charities, missionaries and evangelism is good. But they also need fun stuff, too. My boys are 13 and 16 and we have added quite a bit of outside activities to our plate this year, more than any of the previous years combined. And they are thriving. They spend one hour on Wednesdays playing field games like kickball, dodgeball, volleyball, etc with a group of other Christian homeschoolers. They spend 3 hours on Tuesdays in a Christian Speech and Debate club run by some good friends of ours. And they are starting their own Chess Club for boys 12-19. The meetings are at our house and we are hoping it will provide them with the opportunity to form some Godly friendships and camaraderie.
Eventually, I would like to see each of my boys go on a real evangelistic mission where they will be able to take the gospel of Christ to those who've never heard. But if they don't start wading in the water now, they will never be ready when the opportunity comes along.
So I see two extremes:
1. homeschooling families that hole away from the world producing socially inept, insecure kids.
2. homeschooling families who are practically taxi drivers constantly on the go with activities for every child.
I've known both of these groups to also be outspoken and adamant in their positions to the point of being on the rude side. Those who seek balance as I do are typically quiet and peacefully go on their way. We do not sell our life to others nor do we apologize for it. Our children are well adjusted and genuinely happy because that is the normal result from a balanced life.
I refrain from telling others what to do unless they seek me out for counsel or guidance. But I will share what I do that works for me when/if I'm asked. This blog post is not meant to tell you what to do, just to share my observations and experiences.
But what I would really like to see more homeschooling moms who are looking to God and their husbands for counsel and guidance. That's the best place to start. After you know the general direction you're going, God always seems to provide those who trust in him with the right opportunities and help.
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21 KJV)
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death. (Psalms 48:14 KJV)
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. (Psalms 37:23 KJV)
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV)
And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16 KJV)