And then there was a Prom

I was going to post some photos of Prom. But then I started writing about raising and homeschooling teens. So I went with it. I think I've had some of this on my heart for a while and it's needed to come out. It's hard to talk about raising teens without bawling or bragging. I'm trying to be an honest witness to our experience in this post.

Formal dances were not something we were anticipating as a rite of passage for our homeschooled kids.

So I was pleased when a small group of graduating girls from our co-op organized a formal dance to celebrate that accomplishment.

They called it a Prom which was the best word for the occasion, a group of "older" high school students (you had to be sixteen to attend) getting dressed up fancy for an evening of dancing, eating amazing food, and hanging out together.

Planned months in advance, and held one week after our yearly drama production, it was the end of homeschool co-op year and also the end of being a student at homeschool co-op for several of our kids.

We're homeschoolers so of course the event was well chaperoned mostly because homeschooled families do stuff together, but also for the practical reason that when you commute for these events you need somewhere to hang out till it's time to drive back home, in the wee hours of the morning. This isn't to say the kids always want the parents around or that we are always are around. But it is a different dynamic than a school experience.

I know in our family we encourage more independence from us than our kids actually pursue or seem to want. We're not concerned about them growing up too fast, we're wondering if they'll ever want to leave home (ha!)

Celine finished high school last spring but like everything with homeschool, things are flexible, you aren't assigned to a graduating class anymore than you are to a school grade. She attended, and helped pay for Prom as a graduating student.

Seventeen year old Laurent met the sixteen year old cut off and was going to fly solo but ended up being asked by another graduating student and friend, to accompany her as her date. So there was a matching bowtie and a corsage to be procured, and the traditional couple photos.

Celine went solo, which wasn't a problem for this mostly "non-dating" group of friends. There are a few dating couples (all older than 18) in our homeschool co-op social circle, homeschool graduates at this point.

Some of her friends asked dates to the Prom - friends within the co-op, siblings, friends outside co-op - to accompany them, but the event itself was very group orientated. These are homeschoolers after all. We're so used to doing things in a mixed age group, there is much less exclusionary activities in the homeschool context.

There were dates and there were singles and everyone hung out together, and danced together. Just like kids do.

I don't want to sound antiquated, but seriously, this was such wholesome fun.

Homeschooling our kids and being part of a homeschool community means we create and participate in a different culture within the larger culture. Which is what we wanted. So much about the prevailing culture does not sit well with me, the list is long and includes compulsory school attendance, age-segregated peer and learning groups, and families going in separate directions.

We haven't raised our children with the aim to shelter them from the culture we live in, but we did want to root them a different culture. To give them a different baseline for their education, relationships, and experience of family life than what exists in society-at-large.

Brienne's friends, too young to attend prom but showing up to see all the dresses

As far as Christian homeschooled kids go, my kids are not sheltered. We are a TV-watching, video-game playing, online friends, and social media family.

To a certain degree, my kids participate in youth and media culture like fish in water. Pop culture is their native landscape. They are very normal teens in so many aspects. And they struggle with universal adolescent issues, universal human issues, in their unique ways.

Our kids interact with, and are friends with people who have different schooling, different beliefs, different world views. I'm happy for this. I didn't want to raise culturally-isolated kids. At the same time I am deeply grateful for, and heavily invested in, creating an "alternative" healthy teen and family culture to root them in.

I do not want to remove my children from the wider world by homeschooling them but I do want to give them a solid place to be planted in the wider world. Rooting them in family and healthy relationships; in Christian faith; in self-awareness; and in skills, knowledge, and attitudes to succeed as an adult.

I think most parents have similar aims (if it's not Christian faith it's some kind of faith or value system.)

I don't talk a lot about our specific values and beliefs on the blog, I prefer broad strokes. Suffice to say, we land on the liberal end of the Christian spectrum and "Christian" parenting.

We hold particular beliefs that are not shared by our community-at-large. But that's true in any vibrant and living culture. There are core shared values and there are differences. The same is true within families, within marriage.

The thing that makes us "conservative", if you will, is our belief in the primacy of family, parents, and parent-facilitated community in the formation of the child. As parents we feel responsible to raise our children, to lead, guide, teach, mentor, educate, etc. And we want to be a part of a community that believes and does likewise. We need a village and our village is a Christian homeschool co-op.

This is where it gets weird to talk about my teens on the blog. It's easy for me to share my personal angst and struggles, my insecurity and anxiety. But it's hard for me to talk about the really positive relationship I have with my kids.

Did anyone else just knock on wood?

I'm going to overcome that resistance and publicly say a few things I usually keep to myself.

Damien and I have great relationship with our teenagers.

With God's grace (and I don't mean that in a religious sense, I mean we've been given a lot from our own upbringings and life experience) we've set up our lives to provide for their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual well-being. And I think they know that. And maybe because of that, and all the years leading up to this point, our teens trust us, respect us, hang out with us, they even listen to us (except of course when they know-it-all, which happens often enough, they are teenagers afterall!)

We don't have a combative, enforcing, or punitive relationship with our teenagers. I cannot imagine punishing, withholding privileges, removing rights, etc. in response to their behavior, academic or otherwise. It's so foreign to me.

Did anyone else just knock on wood again?

Sure we have issues and challenges, we're all very human in this small-ish Montreal apartment (where five of us share one bathroom!). It seems that at all times at least one kid is struggling with some part of being human and needs extra support from us in navigating their way to adulthood, but that's our job as parents.

When you're raising kids, and teenagers especially, it seems like so much can go off the rails. The thing we have worked most to keep on track, that seems to help keep everything else on track, is our relationship. Maintaining and deepening the mutual trust and respect we've nurtured over the years. So far, so good.

One last knock on wood.

Family is the safe space for our kids. Family is the relationship they are rooted in as they make their way into their adult lives, hoping to find their own life-partners, create their own families and start the cycle all over again.

Our homeschool community had a Prom this spring. Our beautiful, teenaged and young adult kids in fancy clothes, being feted and photographed by their grey-tinged, a wee bit wrinkled, camera-happy, tired but proud parents.

A rite of passage for many North American youth and for this homeschool community also: celebrating our teens and young adults, celebrating our families, celebrating life.

Next up... more photos of Celine's dress, because, well... isn't it obvious? Hot dang, that girl looked awesome!

« The other side of spring
A girl and her dress »
  • Susan

    Susan on June 15, 2018, 4:36 p.m.

    Oh, I love to see the prom photos! Your kids looked fabulous! I also really love the lighter blue dress one of the girls is wearing. My 16 year old attended prom this year too as a high school junior. She is young for her grade so I was a little anxious, but it was all good. It was fun to participate since my college freshman son didn't go at all. Look forward to reading more about Celine's dress!


  • Melissa R

    Melissa R on June 15, 2018, 5:24 p.m.

    I love the teen posts. Mine is 15 and right on the heels of your two oldest. So it's helpful for me to see the path your family is blazing.


  • Sarah M

    Sarah M on June 15, 2018, 7:56 p.m.

    They look FANTASTIC!! I can't believe Celine made her dress. WOW. The jacket and lightning bolt earrings were perfect accent pieces for it, too! Well done. Your son looked quite handsome, too. I can just 'hear' the pride in your voice. (Smile!)


    • Renee

      Renee on June 15, 2018, 8:03 p.m.

      Sarah, to clarify, Celine did not make her dress. She did sew the petticoat (From her own pattern), she also made her earrings. She's been so busy sewing play costumes, cosplay costumes and other costuming pieces she didn't have time to sew a prom dress. She did buy it bespoke from Etsy though. Handmade girl that she is ;)


  • Tonya

    Tonya on June 16, 2018, 11 a.m.

    This Renee, "our belief in the primacy of family, parents, and parent-facilitated community in the formation of the child." is our family's foundation as well. And when we have made friends with other families it is this commonality that has been the binding force. No matter our other views, if we shared the belief that our children are really the biggest part of our lives while they grow.... then we have enough in common even if our other values are different. I so enjoy your writing. I will also be in touch with an email soon. Sending love!


  • Sandra

    Sandra on June 16, 2018, 6:54 p.m.

    My eldest is about to turn 13, and so many people have a "batten down the hatches" speech about these upcoming years. They cite hormones, peer pressure, the "natural" separating of teens from their parents as their main influence, etc. etc. On the other hand, there are the restrictive parents who are terrified of the culture and how it will steal their children. And I have seen this happen! I appreciate your writing about these years because I'm seeing this new phase approach in my home, (more critical of my husband and me, more loyalty to friends than to family, etc. ) and honestly I have very little idea what to do to navigate through it. I love the family-centric approach that you describe, and I'd love to hear more about these years. Your children are beautiful, unique and seem to have such a great sense of self. Refreshing.


  • Nic@nipitinthebud

    Nic@nipitinthebud on June 17, 2018, 7:13 a.m.

    I loved reading this. I'm a years away from my eldest becoming a teenager but to know we share your values for family connection and have seen the results in close, respectful, loving relationships as you grew your young adults is really encouraging. It's hard to parent against the curve and finding like minded families is equally hard. What a blessing you all are to each other and the other kids in your community.


  • Lacey

    Lacey on June 25, 2018, 10:18 a.m.

    "We haven't raised our children with the aim to shelter them from the culture we live in, but we did want to root them a different culture."

    This is so beautifully succinct and well-put. Imma' be using that one!


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