Ever wished you could sit down with Gregg Harris—father of Josh, Joel, Alex, Brett, Sarah, Isaac, and James—and find out his secret to raising driven, passionate, and grown-up teenagers? Recently, we did, and we hope you’ll enjoy having a seat at the table for our conversation as Gregg discusses his thoughts on the “greenhouse model,” raising kids willing to do hard things, and then learning to let them go.
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COURT REPORT: Back in the early nineties, you used to talk about the “greenhouse model,” which forwarded the idea that it’s in your children’s best interest to be sheltered inside the greenhouse until they reach maturity—like seedlings. But when we look at the things your kids have accomplished at young ages—Alex and Brett started TheRebelution.com at age 16, published Do Hard Things at 18, then progressed to the national Rebelution conference tour; Josh started speaking and founded New Attitude at 17, then published I Kissed Dating Goodbye at 21—frankly, it doesn’t seem like you’ve kept them in much of a greenhouse. Just the opposite, in fact! Has your opinion changed?
About Gregg Harris
Trained at Centerville Bible College, the University of Dayton, and Wright State University, Gregg Harris has logged 27 years of directed study and personal experience in homeschooling. Gregg is an internationally recognized author and conference speaker whose work helped to start the homeschooling movements in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Mexico. Beginning in 1981, Gregg’s Homeschooling Workshops helped to launch over 180,000 families into teaching their children at home. Gregg currently serves on the board of directors of the Home School Foundation and as the founding pastor and teaching elder of the Household of Faith Community Church. He lives with his wife, Sono, and their three youngest children in Gresham, Oregon.
HARRIS: Well, let’s look at the metaphor of the greenhouse—or the hothouse, as some have called it. You don’t transfer plants right from the greenhouse into the field. Before that transfer, plants go through an intermediate process called a “cold frame.” A cold frame differs from a greenhouse in that it doesn’t have as much temperature control. There’s much more fluctuation of temperature than in the greenhouse. There, the plants get used to changing temperatures so they don’t go into shock out in the field. That’s where the plants are “hardened.”
Similarly, there are transitional involvements and activities that allow our children—once they’re well-rooted morally, doctrinally, and spiritually and have a strong sense of what they believe and who they are in Christ—to progressively be exposed to different points of view.
Unfortunately, many parents make the mistake of exposing their children to conflicting points of view before they are rooted, which creates a feeling of rootlessness and a lack of identity. At that point, the children can’t interact with these new ideas from a position of strength or confidence, but instead are feeling pushed around by every wind of doctrine. The Scripture refers to this in Ephesians 4:14 when it says that we’re no longer to be like children, pushed around by every wind of doctrine and the cunningness and craftiness of men in their attempts to deceive.
Because of this tendency, the strategy we’ve adopted for our family is making our home a place where people learn to think for themselves and discover what they believe at a very young age. We have not owned a television for 35 years. That doesn’t mean that we don’t see films; we have a nice video projector and a large library of films. But we’re not bombarded by television advertisements and by mindless television that’s only intended to entertain and that is often teaching more by its aesthetics than its actual narratives. And when we do watch films, we narrate. We discuss what we’ve seen and talk amongst ourselves, forming opinions.
There are also books, like Ralph Moody’s Little Britches, that we read together as a family when each child gets to that place where he or she can understand and appreciate them. We determine what we agree and disagree with, and the children develop their own opinions while being informed by ours. And we approach the Scriptures with the same intensity! We’ve explained to our children that the Bible is like a map; if you don’t use it, you’re going to end up hopelessly lost. When your kids start studying the Scriptures in more than a devotional fashion—when they start using it as a handbook, as light upon the path—they become young people who study their Bibles with an interest in “What does the Bible say about what I’m doing now?” They begin to turn to the Bible and let it speak for itself concerning the things they care about.
CR: So, they’ve begun to develop a biblical worldview and think for themselves… . When do they go from developing their own opinions to making their own decisions? Do you just let them loose in the candy store on their 13th birthday or what?
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Gregg Harris has launched thousands of families into homeschooling and four of his seven children into the field over the past three decades.