James is a CNA like me, and we’d worked together for several months.
He was 19, clean cut, and a really NICE kid– the kind you hope your kids will grow up to be. His parents were missionaries and moved all over the US. He was homeschooled K-10th grade and attended public school for his last two years of high school. Until then, they never lived any place longer than about a year.
I’m going to preface this by saying that first, I am a Christ follower, and second, I have a huge heart for missions, both local, nationwide, and worldwide. This article isn’t to criticize anyone’s values. It is just one more example of what we should all be mindful of while raising our kids.
James is kind and compassionate, has a genuine love for people, and I knew when I first met him that he was raised in a Christian home. I could just tell. And soon after we met, he told me that he had been homeschooled, which I thought was pretty cool considering we were into our 15th year. (FIFTEEN!!)
He had fond memories of homeschooling.
“I loved homeschooling because I could always get my work done early and read anything I wanted to. I love history so I used to read tons of books on WWII. I still read a lot of history books, actually.”
James wasn’t given much in the way of lasting friendships because his parents saw everyone they met as a potential convert and a possible bad influence on James, rather than friends to keep in touch with. He was pretty isolated from anyone else who wasn’t just like him, from families just like his. They settled down when he was a junior so he could spend his last 2 high school years in high school.
He said, “I was just SO clueless about everything, that when I saw that this or that was fun, I did it ALL. I did a lot of really stupid things in those 2 years.”
He explained that his parents really didn’t do much to prepare him for public school.
He’d never been in a school environment before, which isn’t generally a problem for a homeschooled kid– but he’d not really spent much time with groups of kids at all. Particularly not kids from outside of his very sheltered church existence.
Since his folks didn’t prepare him for public school, they were also very unprepared for what happened next. James jumped straight into the party scene at school and sexual relationships with girls.
He explained, “Here I was, this totally naive kid who never heard a swear word my whole life, and within two months I sounded just like all the other kids at school. The stuff they did was fun, and it was just what I was looking for.”
When we worked together, James and his parents still had a rocky relationship. When he had gone off the deep end, they hadn’t known how to handle it. They fell back on what they thought had been working for them over the years: The strict, legalistic road to repentant kids… but it didn’t work. He became rebellious and belligerent. Their relationship deteriorated.
James moved out as soon as he graduated high school. He worked full time, attended community college, and had his own apartment. He stopped not partying and says he grew up a lot since graduation the previous year. His 19th birthday was coming up and he told me that all he wants for his birthday is “90 Minutes of a nice dinner with my family, maybe play some games. And I’m not sure that’s going to happen.”
Teach them to love people, and give them lots of experiences with different kinds of people. Please offer them grace when they fall, the same grace that God gave you. Build your relationship with your child as much as you help them build their relationship with Christ. Should you build one, or build the other? The answer is YES. The two are not mutually exclusive!
Public school did not “do this” to James.
He freely admits that he chose the path that he took, not to anger his parents, but because it was FUN. And at first, it IS fun. I know, I’ve done it too. His parents’ reaction is what started the tragic chain of events. Every kid makes their own choices. How we react is very important.