5 things I wish I could say to every 16-year-old Homeschooled Girl 17


When I turned 16, I had been homeschooled my entire life. I was finished with my high school work, and preparing to go to college in the fall.
I bought a car with cash that I’d saved myself; I’d already worked at several different jobs. I was ambitious and creative, and had been given an academic scholarship to a private institution.  I had never kissed a boy, although I was a heavy crusher from an early age.
The day my parents helped me move my things into the dorm, I felt that my entire life was about to embark, building into one great big crescendo. I thought that I was about to overachieve my way into a distinguished and exceptional life. I had vague ideas in my mind about popularity, taken from movies, and had decided it was both possible and necessary to change my personality and become an ‘it’ girl.
Freshman year was hard on my beliefs about myself and the world. Sophomore year was harder. Graduation, at the age of 20, with no job prospects, no fiancé, and nothing on the horizon, was much worse.
I could fill a book with the things I didn’t know at the age of 16, as, I suspect, could most of you—homeschooled or not, male or female.
But there are a few false ideas that tend to clump around the minds of homeschooled girls in particular. Here are five things I wish I could say to every 16-year-old homeschooled girl:

 

1.       You’re going to need a skill.

 

When parents make the (commendable) decision to homeschool their children, “protection” is often one of the implicit reasons. They want to have control over their kids’ education, and they want to have more time to help them build a worldview. They want a more family-oriented life, and they don’t want their kids to waste time standing in line and doing busy work.

 

These are all wonderful reasons to homeschool. And homeschoolers are more likely, on average, to be skilled in things like cooking and cleaning and maybe even entrepreneurship.

 

But you might also find out at some point, homeschooled girl, that you have an underdeveloped work ethic. You are used to being able to do things on your own schedule, or at least on your parents’. You’re used to studying in pajamas, maybe. And I know you probably know how to work hard and are smart and efficient and self-motivated. But you’re used to being the exception to rules that apply to other people—other people have to get on the bus. Other people have to be at school eight hours. Not you.

 

You probably say things like ‘I just want to be a wife and mom’. I’ve said the same, and for the record, this is still my favorite plan for my life. But there are two reasons why you cannot let this goal get you off the hook for learning other skills:

 

a.       You don’t know if God is going to give you a husband and children. You just can’t assume things that haven’t been promised. 
      
       Also, I don’t want you or anybody to get married simply because this is your only career aspiration and time is running out. That is a recipe for bad decision making—and everybody knows that when we don’t have something interesting to occupy us, we are bound to get more desperate (and more hasty). Yes, I know you’re probably courting, and yes, your dad is going to help you with your decision making. But he can’t make you appear interesting, productive, and engaging to a man if you aren’t interesting, productive, and engaged.

 

b.      Even if you do get married, exactly at the age you intended, to exactly the sort of man you envisioned (unlikely, on all counts), you will need something else to occupy you. I want you to be the sort of woman who can do business with other people, who has friends and interests of her own, and (yes!) who has the ability to make money.

 

Maybe you were raised in a family where mom was at home and dad worked. I was. And maybe this is how you’ll end up. I hope to. But in the meantime, do this math: your childbearing and rearing years will be only about 20-30 of your total lifespan. Your lifespan will probably be 70+ years. Do you understand that that means you’ll have to find other ways of occupying yourself for 40-50 years of your life?

 

This is not the year 1905 anymore. Keeping house is not an all-encompassing job anymore. We have dishwashers and vacuum cleaners, so when you’re done cooking a meal and cleaning the bathroom, you’re still going to have about twelve hours a day of work and leisure time.

 

What are you going to do with it?

 

Why not find a career that you are actually interested in and pursue it? Not half-heartedly, not as a ‘backup’, but as a way to bring value to the world around you? Your husband will delight in your resourcefulness. Your life will be richer and fuller. You will experience the satisfaction of knowing that you have done excellent work, at an ordinary job, for a long time.

 

Work is sanctifying. Take it seriously.

 

2.       You’ll need to guard your heart—but there are no rules which will ensure this if you don’t care about defrauding men.

 

I was raised with the understanding that I was going to do courtship, rather than aimlessly dating. And I like the courtship model of accountability and intention, although I don’t particularly care what it’s called. (When my husband and I started getting to know each other, I’m pretty sure we called it dating. Turns out, this didn’t kill the purity of the relationship.)

 

But as many times as it was pounded into me growing up—“guard your heart” “guard your heart” “guard your heart”—there was another side of the coin that I somehow missed.

 

I was never taught about treating the men well.

 

I wasn’t concerned with treating men well; as far as I knew, this was beside the point. The point was me—my heart, my needs, my rules. I was concerned with feeling good. I was concerned with not crossing certain lines—these lines were almost arbitrarily chosen, and had to do with physical contact and verbal commitment (‘don’t tell boys you like them’ ‘don’t date boys’ ‘don’t kiss or hold hands’).

 

So I would spend long “platonic” hours with boy after boy after boy, but—with no concern for their well-being—I had no reason to choose aloneness and boredom over excitement and game-play.

 

Disclaimer: at my level of overall immaturity and spiritual blindness, little could’ve been done to protect me or the young men who came around. But what bothers me about this time is how very self-righteous I was. I thought that because I never told these boys we were dating, and because we never did this or that physical thing, I was a pure girl. In reality, I was about as emotionally defrauding and cheap as any run-of-the-mill flirtatious girl you ever met. My rules failed me, and utterly confused a long succession of guys.

 

And my girlfriends weren’t fooled. They knew a flirt when they saw one.

 

3.       You’ve been mercifully protected and allowed to grow—but don’t respond by worshipping safety and comfort.

 

Homeschooled girls are usually raised under a philosophy of protection. This is as it should be; the World is a beast and will happily eat women alive. Even feminists know this (although they respond by preemptively throwing themselves to the wolves… more on that in another post).

 

So yes, I support the Biblical mindset that protects children until they are grown and protects women under male headship. But there is a healthy flipside to this that needs to be remembered, encouraged, and cherished.

 

Remember boldness.

 

Boldness is a one of the great Christian virtues. There is a kind of valor that gets lost and crushed a little bit if a girl hears for a lifetime that ‘getting hurt’ is the worst thing that can happen to her. ‘Getting hurt’—for the right reasons, and in the right ways—is one of the great glories of the Christian life. We are promised to be reviled and persecuted; ‘getting hurt’ for the faith is sometimes a litmus test of our genuineness.

 

Sometimes, it seems to me that the conservative homeschooled vision is a screen for laziness and the idolatry of comfort. Women and girls hear for a lifetime that they are under the protection of men, and they use it as an excuse to cultivate timidity, cowardly forms of love (see one example in #2, above), and ignorance.

 

What will happen if you decide to go to the mission field, Christian homeschooled girl? Will you be able to reconcile your vision for your life with the physical and emotional dangers you’d face there? Do you think, honestly, that if you choose to live your life as an evangelist at home instead of a missionary abroad, that your life ought to be dramatically safer and more comfortable? Do you think that you won’t need the power of the Spirit if you live in the shelter of well-kept home?

 

When it’s your turn to parent, remember the point of protecting your children: protect them only AS PART OF THE TRAINING PROCESS that will prepare them for battle.

 

4.       Don’t assume your salvation.

 

I’m not trying to turn you into a morbidly introspective navel-gazer, but I don’t want to breeze over this point.

 

You are the daughter of parents who homeschool. That does not mean that you are a daughter of the King.

 

You have been self-identifying as a Christian since you could lisp the words that your parents taught you to say.  You have always wanted to please, and you have always wanted to do well. You believe in God, probably. Perhaps you believe the Bible is true.

 

Don’t assume that your heart has been transformed by the gospel until the scaffolding (your family) is off and you see what the fruit really looks like.

 

That’s all I’m saying. Don’t assume you aren’t ‘real’ just because you’re under your parent’s roof still. Don’t act like nothing you do matters now because you aren’t out there, inspecting your own grown-up fruit.

 

Just don’t assume at all. If you are a transformed follower of Christ, it is just as much by a miracle of grace—and just as much a process of Earth-defying repentance—as when a prostitute turns to Christ and is redeemed.

 

5.       You’ll always be a Homeschooled Girl, on some level… but you won’t always feel like one.

 

This is a minor point, but I just wanted to mention it.

 

Right now, being Homeschooled is probably one of the top five things that define you. It’s one of the first questions you get asked when you meet new people, and you carry it around with you—for good or for ill—as a major facet of who you are.

 

I just wanted you to know, 16-year-old, that you’ll always feel an instant connection to other people who love the things you’ve loved from girlhood: your Annes of Green Gables, your Secret Gardens, your Elsie Dinsmores, your American girls, and your Jane Austens.

 

But you also won’t always identify yourself as The Homeschooled Girl.

 

In ten years, this will be more like a random fact about yourself that you tell a friend months after meeting her. “Really?” she’ll say. “I didn’t know!”

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Leave a comment

17 thoughts on “5 things I wish I could say to every 16-year-old Homeschooled Girl

  • Emily Tyler

    Tilly, this is so good. As a 25 year old former home school girl, I resonated with so so much of what you said- especially 2, 4, and 5. Thank you for writing this post! What you said was seriously good, and true.

  • Anonymous

    So good, Tilly. I wasn’t homeschooled, but the ideology in my house and my own expectations for myself and my life are similar enough to identify. I wish I knew (and understood) many of these things when I was 16. Or 18. or 21. – Erika C.

  • Anonymous

    I have a 16-year-old homeschooled daughter. She is the one who found this post and showed it to me. What wisdom you have! This was such good advice for her. Thank you! We read several of your other posts together also and very much enjoyed them.

  • Anonymous

    I may be twenty-nine, and male, but I really want to thank the writer of this article. Particularly for #2. I am one of countless guys who have been emotionally cannibalized by emotionally dishonest young women who think nothing of their actions because the conservative Christian movement has taught them to think only of themselves.

    At least you were sixteen. Some people go their whole lives without learning these lessons. Thanks for passing them on.

  • Ruth J Leamy

    I am so thankful that I was a homeschool kid before all the stereotypes! My mom thought denim jumpers were fit only for the barn, and she thought courting was silly. I am thankful for this because I know the kind of man my parents admired, and I married someone quite different–a wonderful godly guy, just not quite what my parents had pictured.

    Unfortunately as families escaped from the box of traditional schooling, a bunch of them jumped into a homeschool box. I hear homeschool graduates blame homeschooling for all their troubles. They don’t seem to realize that there are 5,000 different ways to homeschool. We don’t all have long hair and denim jumpers. We don’t all live on farms and raise goats.

    I live in Las Vegas. I wear skinny jeans and green nail polish. I homeschool my daughters. I am not teaching them about courting. I am teaching them that God might have marriage in their future and they can trust Him to help them meet someone in their own unique situation.

    I think your post would be even more valuable to parents. I think we need to make decisions a little more prayerfully instead of following the crowd, even if it’s a very good goodly crowd.

  • Anonymous

    Your many, many mentions of your religion and how it guides your life that was lived in a complete bubble, secluded from the realities of the world, make you the kind of person that either incredibly annoying or purely dull. I feel so sorry for you and I feel your parents have done you an irrevocable disservice.

  • Brandie Burkett

    I find it strange that these types of groups that choose homeschooling “prepare” their daughters for marriage. I was raised in a radically different home, my dad was a California surfer and my mom a feminist. I was told to do everything on my own. If someone you like chooses to go along for the ride with you, fine. I am married and have four kids. I impress on my daughter to respect boys but don’t expect them to make your life easy. Boldness. Your definition of boldness is mild. I’m more bold than that in my sleep. I’m not judging, yet I expect you have a lot more living to do. Embrace your personality and let it out! How do you expext people to admire your love for your God if you don’t live a life others see worth living?

  • Anonymous

    This was a fresh — and refreshing — perspective. I will be sharing it with my hs 13-year-old daughter who thinks that we should not require her to be so diligent about her studies (we’ve chosen a fairly rigorous classical path) because she thinks she wants to “just” get married and have a family. I hope the Lord does bless her in this, but she’s going to get the best education we can manage to provide — and learn to work hard along the way. If she indeed does decide to forgo further education, then we will make sure the one she gets is as rich and full as possible (and that includes advanced math — sorry, darling). I have feeling she will change her mind when she earns her first minimum wage paycheck — that’s what spurred me on to college (;

    #3 really resonated with me. I am glad we have been able to remain close knit as a family, and I want our children to know we have loved raising them this way, but we’ve always been clear that our kids will be expected to make their own way in this world. Ours is just the jumping point — and they will need to take the leap, just as we did. Thanks so much for this thoughtful essay.

  • Mary

    I just have to say~as a mom that home-schooled my children and a friend of many homeschooling parents….This sounds more like it should be an outline for a book for you to be writing instead of a blog post. Mary from Nashville.

  • Anonymous

    Someone shared this on FB… good post. As a “homeschool graduate” myself (now working in a career – in is more of a random fact to many now), I resonate with the article. Thank you for a balanced approach looking for continuous improvement while not bashing the biblical worldview and many things taught to help live a life pleasing to the Lord rather than merely pleasing ourselves or acquaintances. It is neat to see others who have not rejected the godly training they received. The homeschooling movement has been trending to a more self-fulfillment idealism from its largely religious focus some time ago.

  • Heather Sipes

    This was great! I, too, was a homeschooled girl, and started public school full time in the 10th grade. This really resonated with me! Thankfully, my parents did a really good job of encouraging us to cultivate skills and passions in order to help us succeed in the real world, post-college. Now that I am a mom of two little girls, we are considering homeschooling, but I definitely take the factors written in this post into consideration. I want to enable my girls to be whoever and whatever they want to be! Parenting for the Launch, a book by Dennis Tritin and Arlyn Lawrence, is an incredible useful resource in this regard. Packed full of tips for parents to raise their teen to thrive in the real world. It is such an awesome book to have in my tool kit. I feel like every parent of children under the age of 18 needs to read it! Check it out at http://www.parentingforthelaunch.com or http://www.dennistrittin.com