Are you interesting in teaching teens values: What is the Good Life?
Teaching Teens Values: What is the Good Life?
Over the eons of homeschooling my own teens and teaching in homeschool co-ops and group classes, I made the point each year of asking the kids:
What do you want out of life?
The majority would answer: To be happy, to have a good life. The teens were smart- the two ideas are related. Happiness and good life are intertwined concepts.
Then I would ask them:
What makes a person happy? What is the good life?
These questions always caused a pause. Then there would be halting answers:
- Doing what I want…
- Having ____ (stuff)…
- People being nice to me…
At this point, each year I would first sigh a little sigh of despair (“Why do teens raised in church and homeschooling have such a limited, self-oriented view of good life or happiness?”).
Then I’d quickly re-orient myself. Teens are in that place developmentally. In Human Development courses, this is called *adolescent egocentrism*.
The only problem with this is, that many Americans never outgrow adolescent egocentrism. They are so immersed in our American consumer culture, that they don’t see the things that are of eternal value.
However, teens are also excited to explore ideas and love finding happiness in meaningful lifestyles and attitudes. Teens who are learning to think and to serve are often the happiest teens and will tell you that they already have a good life. (Same goes for adults!)
Here are 5 tips for teaching teens values:
1) Talk about it. Ask them What is happiness? What is the good life?
2) Together examine your presuppositions. (What do the answers to the above questions tell you about what is meaningful and important in life? Even deeper than that, what do you believe about yourselves? about God? about creation? about life?)
3) Talk about times you and your teens have been happiest? Felt that life was good? Note the difference in feeling when the *good feelings* were short-lived (like when you received some new stuff) and when the *good feeling* was deeper (like when you served someone who needed help).
4) Integrate thinking and values into curriculum. That’s why 7Sisters’ World History course
(homeschool high schoolers need World History for the transcript) integrates philosophy (and church history). History and Philosophy of the Western World introduces homeschool high schoolers to the great thinkers like Aristotle who long ago defined the good life: to live well and to know truth, goodness and beauty. (Another discussion: How does that compare with Scripture?)
5) Study an actual philosophy course. Teach teens actual thinking skills in a philosophic framework. At the local teens’ request, Dr. Micah Tillman created Philosophy in 4 Questions as a fun, accessible introduction to thinking skills. They’ve loved it- your teens will, too. And it will help them define in a healthy way the answer to the questions about happiness and a good life.