How Do You Cope with “Emerging Teens”?

How Do You Cope with “Emerging Teens”?

Growing Smith Clan on Pete & Genevieve’s wedding, 16 February 2008.

L to R: Jeremiah Smith 16; Zach Smith 26 & Megan Smith (nee Schneider, a pioneer home educator from the USA) and baby Cheyenh Smith 4 months (they all live near Peoria, Illinois); Pete de Deugd (a pioneer home educator from Australia) & Genevieve de Deugd (nee Smith) who now live near Ballarat, VIC (with Natalie Elizabeth who was born 20 December 2008); Alanson Smith 23; Kaitlyn Smith 6; Barbara Smith; Jedediah Smith 10; Grace Timmins 2; Craig Smith; and Charmagne Smith 20.

Click on photo for larger image


by Craig Smith
Over the years we’ve been exposed to what appears to
be a whole new way of looking at this issue.
It bothered me, even when I was a teen, how my own
family was constantly shooting off in a million
different directions…there was no cohesiveness as a
family, no direction, just everyone doing his own thing.
All I knew at the time was that there had to be a better
When Barbara and I set up our family, we fell into the
ways of the surrounding culture, as I suppose we all
do….just followed what appeared to be the norm. Let
me tell you, that all changed majorly when we began
home education. Once outside the box, we began
looking at all things else with new eyes, questioning,
“Why do we do things like this?” “Can this be done
better?” and eventually we simply started asking,
“What is a more Biblical way to do this?”
When our eldest children were pushing into the teen
years and few other home educators were around and
the other teens who were around really didn’t have
much time for these weird home educators…and when I
began to have nostalgic remembrances of my teen
“socialisation” experiences…and when I started feeling
sorry for my own teenaged children, how they were
missing out…I suddenly woke up! Good grief, what on
earth was I thinking about! I had allowed my mind to
go into “pagan” mode, just as it did unceasingly for the
first 23 years of my life. Holding those teen years of
mine up to the light of Scripture was like lifting a long
untouched log off the woodpile: a lot of yucky critters
are seen dashing madly for the shadows.
As a slave of Christ I need to think soberly and
Biblically about what my children require: it is not
helpful to wallow in nostalgia or view things through
rose-tinted glasses. No: my children need to live where
they are with what they’ve got and with what Barbara
and I are able and willing — and commanded — to
Barbara and I weighed up our own teen socialisation
experiences and saw at once that they had contributed
little of a positive nature but heaps in a negative way.
And, hey, we were popular go-getters as teens,
involved in all sorts of things…totally worldly things.
Some friends pointed out that “teenager” is a worldly,
not a Biblical term. Children are adults in training, and
we do them a disservice to make them think they
should be catered for only as “children” for a while and
then “adolescents” and then as “teenagers” and then as
“youth”, as if the world always revolved around them.
Then I saw how society has this pre-occupation with
youth in advertising, marketing, TV shows, fashions,
even personal appearances, with older folks trying to
dress mutton up like lamb and old crows trying to be
like spring chickens.
No, let’s get real, we figured….let’s train up our own
children with a much more realistic, sober frame of
reference, one with a steady eye to the future of what
we’re trying to produce for our children and in our
So we started taking a more long-term view of things:
what is it we are all aiming for ultimately? That is
what to work for now. This realisation took the shine
off of trying to provide them with the full range of upto-
the-minute popular “children’s” experiences: ballet
and gym and music and swimming and highland
dancing lessons, Saturday sports, label clothes, many
unusual pets, ever-better annual birthday parties, every
new Science Centre programme and museum and art
exhibit and circus and orchestra and stage play to come
to town…not that these things are necessarily bad.
Perhaps just not all that worthy of energetic and
sacrificial pursuit. We came up with an even dimmer
view of working hard to get all the culturally expected
“teen” stuff done while they are still teens:
experiencing a “special” boy– or girl-friend; dating;
going to a formal ball; getting a full driver’s license as
soon as absolutely possible; pajama parties; having a
first smoke; having a first drink; having a first…No,
none of that stuff really has much connection with the
real adult world of work, responsibility, raising
children, preparing them for the future. And, hey, as
our eldest daughter pointed out to us, we are already so
weird and so far out of the mainstream as Christian
home educators, we might as well go for gold!
We had always taught our children that as Christians
and as home educators and members of a family who
are committed to training children who are not just
going to cope with this wicked old world but go out
there and turn the place upside down (that is, right-side
up, re-claiming it for Christ), they were just going to be
considered weird by virtually everyone, including other
Christians and home educators. So get used to it. We
are not flowing with the current but actively working in
a different direction.
That is, we tried to impart a vision that was bigger than
any of us, bigger than our whole family could cope
with. That caused some practical issues to come to the
fore: how does one do that, working so closely as a
family on this conquer-the-world programme and at the
same time follow the good old “do your own thing”,
“Follow your own path” idea that characterises our
society? Well, it became obvious that one couldn’t
combine the two. (Actualy, it took years to even notice
that we were living with these conflicting ideas both
vying for attention in our minds.) So at last we
consciously jettisoned the “follow your own path” stuff
and began to think of ourselves as a committed family
unity, each of us making decisions not based on what
we personally want to do, but based on the family
direction…with Dad responsible for making sure the
direction is Biblical. Now as parents we all do this to a
fair extent already. But we began to fine-tune it a lot
Our oldest sons Zach and Alanson (who had already
left home…see, I’m talking about a long-term process
that was going on, one that is still going on, and one
that Barbara and I are still getting used to ourselves)
had moved too far along the “follow your own path”
scenario to come back. They were right on target
according to the “each of us will take on the world on
our own” ideas we drummed into them. Consequently
they are committed Christians, one flying his colours
from day one at RNZAF bootcamp and the other
working full time for a Christian home education
resource marketing firm. The rest of the family is now
thinking more of how we can pool our resources rather
than each automatically going his separate way and
how to help each other in this common task.
Now, I’m not saying these sons are happy to cut ties
with the rest of the family…I’m saying they are very
keen to make their own way in the world, independent
of what Mum and Dad are doing. This is to a large
extent very natural, and I also believe we must train up
our sons especially to know how to establish and run
their own businesses, enterprises, households and
families. It is just that I could have worked a lot harder
at giving them a boost up by giving them greater
responsibilities within our family “enterprise”. Instead
of just making Zach in charge of mowing the lawns, I
could have put him in charge of the entire landscaping
of the property: I could have said that he could come
up with his own total design, and the rest of us would
help him do it. Instead of putting Alanson in charge of
washing the cars, I could have made him responsible
for keeping track of their maintenance schedules. And
more than these kinds of things, I could have found
areas of responsibility to give to them within the area
through which we derive our family income: the Home
Education Foundation. I could have got them doing the
mail, managing the database, doing the accounts,
indexing every issue of Keystone and TEACH Bulletin.
They have each said to me in recent days that there was
a period of time — and they told me the actual months
and years — when they were particularly waiting for
me to do exactly that. But I missed my opportunity, for
the concept was not fully formed in my own mind as
yet. And so they turned elsewhere for a greater degree
of training, responsibility and challenge, when I had it
in my hands to give them tons of each of those.
It could have meant they would be closer to home and
may have thrown in their lot with us entirely. Yet in
God’s Providence, Zach is Marketing Director for a
huge Christian home-education-supporting firm in the
USA and has married the daughter of the boss/owner.
He travels all over the USA and handles huge
accounts. He helps us out with information and
obtaining certain items where he can. Alanson comes
over from the Ohakea RNZAF Base nearby whenever
he can to help do building and landscaping and
maintenance projects around the place. That is, they’re
still involved in the family at the same level as they
always have been.
With our daughters Genevieve and Charmagne,
however, our new way of thinking that has developed
has meant that they have turned their hearts
compl e t e l y t o w a r d home — until such time as
prince charming comes to take them away (or perhaps
to join what we’re doing).
Genevieve in fact gets married next month and
will be taken away to Australia. Her stated
objectives and daily occupation over the last
couple of years has been to submit herself more and
more to her parents’ vision, to help her dad in
particular to become successful in his calling.
She has taken on the database, the mail, the
accounts, even most of compiling and editing of
Keystone. (Charmagne and I are now struggling to take
these responsibilities back!) She did this to fulfill the
Fifth Commandment, to honour your father and your
mother, and also to train herself to look for ways to lift
loads from the shoulders of her future husband. No,
she hasn’t sublimated herself so that she has no
individual self left: she has in fact at the same time
developed an international book/tape/CD business and
weekly newsletter ministry called Issacharian
Daughters ( Her fiancé Pete is
thrilled that his future bride is committed to taking on
as much of his wood-working business as she can, but
he is also amazed that he — who until now hasn’t so
much as had a girlfriend — will suddenly have a
ministry to young women all over Australia, New
Zealand, USA, Canada and the UK!
I now am focussing on our younger sons, to help them
become part of what Barbara and I and the daughters
are doing, rather than refraining from getting them too
involved “in case they themselves want to do
something else.” It seemed to me, and I’ve heard
plenty of others say the same, that our teens generally
don’t know what they want to do….so I’ll give them
plenty of work, very useful and purposeful work, right
here in the meantime. Man, I’ve always needed a
hand…why didn’t I see this earlier?
What I’m saying is that each of us family members still
at home and able to think along these lines has
increasingly endeavoured to integrate all that we do so
as to aim in the same general direction as a family unit,
hopefully gaining strength and support from one
another, rather than each trying to carve out his or her
own niche and having to mostly struggle on our own or
find companions to help from outside the family.
We’re seeing a little of the benefits of family-oriented
work in this way: we are all on the same page, there are
fewer conflicts of interest, we can pool resources and
save money all round. Sure, both Genevieve and
Charmagne could be out earning megabucks
somewhere — and each has done that for a season —
but then they found their hearts either wandering from
the family and even scarier, wandering from the
standards and values with which they’d been raised; or
else their hearts, minds and consciences were bruised
and hurt by the contrary and hostile standards and
values they were forced to endure as part of the job,
something few of us would normally put up with if not
tied to the job. They also found that at home they
had a lot more freedom and flexibility to pursue a
multitude of other interests and hobbies, something a
regular job mostly prevented due to time constraints
and being worn out at the end of the day.
Barbara and I, as a married couple separated from our
respective families by geography and even more by the
Faith, carved out a niche, and we are now encouraging
and preparing and expecting our children to widen and
expand that niche and make the whole thing more
productive and useful. We do this by focusing on each
child in a different way than when we do to give them
“childhood memory” type experiences: we focus on
their strengths, abilities, gifts…those things they will be
able to use and develop with our family enterprise or
with an enterprise elsewhere, should they be led in that
direction. This is pretty much what families all used to
do….the miller’s son became a miller, the shoemaker’s
son learned the trade of shoemaking. It doesn’t mean,
of course, that each son and each daughter is expected
to stay forever at home, although that is one of the
options we would like them to know is available, an
option I believe is virtually denied most children these
days. (In fact, I personally know two young Christian
women who wanted to stay at home with their
Christian families but whose parents insisted they get
out and get their own jobs and living arrangements.)
There is another aspect of this whole thing: Barbara
and I do not see ourselves ever “retiring”. The focus is
on the family as a corporation and what we can do as a
team, rather than on catering to the individual as if they
were “their own person.” Just as the family farm used
to be handed down to the sons while the dad stayed on
to help out and advise, maybe we can all hand down
more than we think to each of our children, even if we
just earn wages by working for someone else. We can
at least pass on the skills we’ve learned at that job and
introduce our children to the boss and workmates and
the workplace and the work ethic and how that
business ties in with the rest of what’s going on in the
community and the world. We would hope to be
spending our time in the latter years still promoting
home education while also helping to disciple our
I discovered another benefit to this outlook just
recently: I was foolishly grizzling about shelving my
career prospects years ago to home educate, about
being a lowly door to door salesman for 13 years for
the lifestyle to allow me to do the teaching and how, as
a result, we have no superannuation or retirement
scheme. My daughters stared at me in disbelief and
remarked, “Are you serious? You’ve got eight separate
retirement schemes running right now, and their names
are Genevieve, Zach, Alanson, etc.”
A couple of books that really helped us and encouraged
us along this path are:
When You Rise Up, by RC Sproul, Jr (a committed
home educator in a similar unschooling sort of vein as
we are!)
Bound for Glory, by RC Sproul, Jr
Safely Home, by Tom Eldredge
Uniting Church and Home, by Eric Wallace
Tapes and website material by Doug Phillips of
All speak of integrating our lifestyles so they operate
more like a rifle shot than like a scatter gun; of
simplifying; of taking a familial, multi-generational
view of things.
As we’ve become occupied with looking toward the
future and planning our days with the bigger picture in
mind, the teen socialisation issue just hasn’t had a
chance to become an issue! I guess you could say we
used the old distraction strategy: rather than deal head
on with the “Why can’t I go with Bobbie to the
movies,” “Billie’s folks let him do that; why can’t I do
it too?” we pre-empted much of this by having an allencompassing
vision that spawned a different type of
activity. Yes, we still go to the movies…actually, only
quite rarely now. And sometimes we just have to say
that we hold to different standards than Billie’s family,
and our personal programme for the child asking the
question does not include that kind of activity.
Bottom line: we parents are the boss of the Smith
Family Corporation. We will listen to requests made in
a respectful and polite manner, we are open to
negotiation, but our decision is final and must not be
challenged. To manage this we have found that we
must convince our children that we are devoted to their
best, to giving them many varied and exciting and
edifying activities and experiences so they cannot
claim to be deprived. But all of these things fall within
the parametres set by God’s sovereign Providence. He
has organised some of us to be able to afford only
secondhand clothes, for some of us to fly overseas a
lot, for some of us to be tied to a farm nearly 365 days
a year. And so, rather than rail and complain against
God’s provision, we seek to conform to it and learn
what He is trying to teach us. His promises in this
regard are simply unbeatable:
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the
desires of your heart. — Psalm 37:4. ?

From Keystone Magazine

January 2008, Vol. XIV No. 73
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
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