June Mailbag: Courtship? College? Confidence as a Mom?
Each month I get a number of e-mails and private comments asking interesting questions that may be applicable to more than just the person asking.
My plan is to select a few thought-provoking and practical questions, keep the asker & identifying details anonymous, and share my answers with all of you, at the end of each month.
Let’s go for it.
#1- HOMESCHOOLING & PLANS FOR COLLEGE? BOYS? GIRLS TOO?
A: Our current thoughts are this:
We are watching each child as they grow as individuals. (You know that “train up a child” verse?– I think the meaning is much more like “train up a child according to the way he/she is particularly built”). So then we watch carefully to see how God has made them— talents & gifts, personality-wise, sin-struggle-wise, academic-strength-wise, relationally, etc.– and we consider:
- Are they likely made for marriage (most kids will be) or possibly called to lifelong singleness with strategic focus on God’s Kingdom? (1 Cor 7 lists only these 2 options). Until they get closer to adulthood, our default assumption is that they will marry and need to be prepared for those roles (husband/father, wife/mother).
- What sort of life, then, does God seem to be building them to live out?
In line with that, academically, we consider:
- What are their strengths?
- What career possibilities exist within that or related to that strength?
- What are the long-range commitments and debts associated with each career?
- And how would that affect his/her likeliest path for family life? (i.e., would it limit her ability to choose to stay home with her kids because she’d need rack up so much debt in pursuit of that particular career path? Would it limit his ability to start a family and provide for his family because he would need 7-10 years of schooling before being able to be dedicated to family life?)
- What are the ethical challenges for that career path? (i.e., would he be choosing between medical school with little to no time to invest in his marriage & children, OR risking a strong pull into sexual impurity by delaying marriage until nearly 30?)
- What are the debt commitments for that career path? Etc. Etc. Etc.
So then, once we start to see that, we start watching them carefully and talking through potential career paths. And we start kicking around ideas early. For example, after she showed him a design she’d drawn recently, Doug told Maranatha that because she loves art, doodling, and is skilled at coming up with creative ideas so much, he could see her potentially doing something like graphic design. If she desires to be home as a wife and mother, that is one idea for how she could use her gifts, contribute income to her family, and yet be home with the children she says she wants. The goal is not to produce a template “perfect life” for each of our children, but to provide them with ideas and options that will enable freedom to fly as they enter adult life.
We look for the options and resources available to us where we are. For example, our town has a “skill center” through the public schools where — beginning at age 15– kids can learn particular skills like auto repair, construction site supervision, restaurant management, etc.; there are community colleges 10-20 minutes away; there are also universities roughly an hour away. When we lived overseas, we considered options there.
God knows where He has planted us and will lead us, like a Shepherd, to the right things He means for us to use to develop our children in the ways they should go.
We talk with our kids about these things and measure their interest. For some of our children that may look like “going away to college.” Truthfully, in today’s college culture, I would not send a daughter far away and I would not lightly send a son away, without careful consideration of both his career path and his character development.
Though some homeschoolers seem to believe that girls do not need to go to college, that is not where my husband and I fall. My concern for both our sons and daughter is that much of what happens on many college campuses is perhaps a mild stroke away from serial predatory sexual behavior, and that is not something I take lightly. Thus, our hope would be that all of our children would take that campus culture into serious account and, if they attend college, be highly selective in terms of the college culture they enter and seeking a strong support system for the pursuit of godliness in those years. (By that I mean, in advance of going away, our goal would be to give them wisdom and training in what to look for in a good church– doctrine, church structure, and personal commitment. We’re already talking about how to choose godly friends.)I am extremely thankful for my college education and would be happy for our daughter (and any others God gives) to attend college.
For all of them, we talk through goals, skills, areas of strength, the ratio of debt-to-job-likelihood, and more as we consider college.
In our home, college is an option, but not a “given.” By that I mean that the old “wisdom” of
high school diploma + college= good job
is no longer a guarantee of anything and we don’t want to opt our children into high debt and low job potential. So for all of our children (yes, daughters included), college is an option we will consider with them as one of many potential means for them to enter adult life. But for all of them, we plan to help them think in big-picture ways about their futures and enter in with eyes wide open as to what doors each choice may open or close for them.
As far as jobs go, we also hope to start local/close to home and then see what opportunities God gives. The big boys (nearly 13 & 11) are already kicking around ideas like setting up lemonade/baked goods stands at the local farmer’s markets here. Not sure if that’ll work now with all the food laws. But those are the sorts of ideas we’re talking and thinking through. They watch a neighbor’s cats and water/care for her yard on weekends while she’s away. They’ve talked about doing yard care together, but I want them to be more consistent in skill with our yard before they start trekking out to do others’.
Both my husband and I worked a variety of jobs beginning as teens (summer camps, pharmacies, grocery stores, video rentals, fast food, etc.), and found it valuable, but know that that landscape has also changed dramatically and whereas it was easy for me to get a job at 15, here, there seem to be many 18-20 year olds who struggle to find employment. All that to say, we aren’t settled yet on the job front, but we’re open to a variety of options.
We want to do everything in our power to prepare them for the rigors and responsibilities of real life. Each of our big boys– 11 & 13– cooks roughly one meal a week for our family. Chores are regular expectations (the picture is what our chore chart looked like last fall… I think it’s been updated since then but it gives an idea nonetheless). Jobs will be considered on a kid by kid, situation by situation basis. College MAY be a means for any of them to achieve their goals, but it is not a given. That’s how things stand for now.
#2- DATING OR COURTSHIP?
A (Part 1): In regard to dating/courtship, you might find it interesting to listen to the four Sunday school messages our pastor recently taught about courtship. It’ll give you a sense of the community we’re a part of, but also I would say that the things that are taught are very very similar to Doug & I’s personal views on this topic. I think they could be encouraging and instructive for what you’re wrestling through.
A (part 2): As far as talking to our boys about courtship, they both sat in on the class, so they both have that as a beginning foundation… we talk a lot about how harmful and ridiculous it is that someone who can not even begin to think about providing for or starting a family with a girl says he is “dating” her… and that it is foolish to start those things before you are ready to actually make good on the relational “promises” you are making.
Passport2Purity was a GREAT way for us to talk through those specific expectations with Ethan when we got away together last fall. We plan to use this program with all of our children when they are 12/13, as it gave us a great springboard for discussion for all of these topics.
Part of the reason I mentioned our community earlier is that that provides the context for my answer. Our community here is not one where they are likely to have peers having “girlfriends” at young ages… I know that is unique and that colors my answer. If we lived elsewhere, we might not be using the word “courtship” but we would be discussing wise choices and not entering into dating relationships until you are ready to be thinking about marriage. It is not *courtship* we are committed to teaching to our children, but wisdom and biblical principles. Here, courtship makes sense because that is the community we are a part of, and for now, it provides enough clarity of language while talking with our children.
If, while at college, for example, one of our sons carefully and prayerfully enters a dating relationship with a young lady and gets to know her family and conducts himself wisely, we will not consider this a failure or compromise. The goal is wisdom, interaction with families and parents (rather than 1-on-1 flirtation and relationship-removed-from-reality style interactions), and Christ-honoring prudence in physical actions before marriage, not necessarily a particular title for the relationship.
#3- ABOUT KEEPING KIDS CLOSE:
(This Q is a follow-up from the article, A CHILD LEFT TO HIMSELF)
Q: As far as your older boys and keeping them close- does that mean they aren’t ever at a friend’s home without you? Are they allowed to play outside without you or Doug out there with them? How do you minister to people not likeminded with your family as you hold to these standards? I definitely get where you’re coming from, I’m just curious how you handle it.
A: As far as staying close to us, they stay close until they have proven that they can be farther, and then that release is slow and watchful and we pull them back closer when they show foolishness OR when we see negative effects from them going farther away. So… yes, our older boys go places without us. They (maybe once a month or once every two months) spend Sunday afternoon (between morning and evening services) with another family. They occasionally play ultimate frisbee with other teens/young adults in our church (without us present, but always with adults present, and always the two of them together). We try to have them go together as much as possible, as it provides accountability but also would allow them another person alongside them to “stand up” for the right thing.
Most of the time, I allow our children to play outside in our backyard without us. But if/when there is a child displaying foolishness/rudeness/constant fighting/constant picking at another child/etc., they lose that privilege and can only go out when I’m with them. If they all start doing those things, they all lose it, and they feel the deprivation from their own rudeness. So, it’s not that they’re never allowed to be alone, but in the house, they are kept close, and I don’t let them go places where there are easy places to hide sin (i.e., going places alone with other youth, or if our backyard didn’t have a fence, etc.).
It DID make it difficult to interact with other families, sometimes, until we got used to it. Now that we are both used to these norms, it is dramatically easier than it was at first. Now, it’s easier. We don’t just say “yes” to anyone who asks for our kids to come over…. we put it in the context of how often they’ve gone in recent weeks, how many events there are upcoming, how often they’ll be in the influence of other teens vs. our influence in nearby weeks, etc. (i.e., last Sunday, a family asked to have the big boys over, but that Monday-Thursday was our church beach camp and I knew that at beach camp, the boys would be going on hikes with other friends/parents, etc., and that I wouldn’t see them much, so we said no and spent that last afternoon together).
We both keep an eye on the 6 & under crowd all the time, but especially VERY carefully when other people’s families are nearby (we have home fellowship here at our house once/week with any number of other families attending, we have families over often, Sunday evenings after church while all the adults are visiting, etc.).
#4- HOW TO GAIN CONFIDENCE AS A MOTHER?
Q: I feel I know so little about motherhood and feel so inadequate for the task. I think this lack of confidence really affects my ability to command the authority I need to have in the home. I was wondering if there was a devotional or Bible study you knew of that could help to build me from the inside to have confidence as a mother as Christ gives me strength. I appreciate your time! God bless.
A: Well, have you gotten a copy of my book? It talks about this very thing.
Another excellent resource is the mothering portions of Carolyn Mahaney’s “To Teach What is Good.” Here’s a link to the free mp3 teachings. I highly recommend these great teachings. They are excellent for ladies’ study groups, one-on-one discipleship, as well as personal edification.
The thing that gives me the most “confidence” personally is an abiding confidence in God’s sovereignty. The God who made all the universe decided that out of all the moms in all the history of the world and all the children in all the history of the world, I should specifically be the mom to THESE children. So then, I can walk in confidence. He’s given me my strengths for a reason, allowed my weaknesses for a reason, and in the end, will use it all for His glory, for their good, and for mine. His sovereignty gives me great confidence and contentment as I walk, imperfectly, in the exact time and place He has put me.
Thanks to those who wrote, for the questions and dialogue!
Readers, I’d love to hear what you think of this “mailbag” feature.
Subscribe to my newsletter, and I'll send monthly encouragement -- full of truth and grace for moms. SIGN UP, SO WE CAN KEEP IN TOUCH: