The Homeschool Empty Nest
I know many of you saw this title and thought to yourselves, I don’t need to read that. I won’t be finished homeschooling until 100 years from now. But something made you read the post anyway… We have to believe that there is an end to this, right? A goal to reach?
Believe me. When my children were in their elementary years, I would uneasily peer down the seemingly endless road ahead of us and then sigh.
You can do this….No, I’m not sure I can.
Well, just keep going this year and we’ll see about next year.
That’s the kind of conversation I would have in my mind. And it always seemed to be during that long never-ending-desert-like-expanse of time between Christmas Break and Spring Break.
I get it now.
We had just come off of a fun, but busy rest. We were facing a long stretch of months without a break in sight, and the pressure to really get some intense work done was strong. This is the time of year when the lessons are past the introductory level, and the coursework gets deeper. This is the time when your students lose the excitement of the newness of the school year, and it just seems like endless work. This is the time when you just do a quick internet search for the prices of private schools in your area…
Just checking. Not really serious. (Or was I?)
Well, I am writing this post after seeing it through those moments each year. I have walked, skipped, dragged, struggled through year after year and I am actually standing at the finish line, having graduated our last child after this 21-year journey.
I have done the cheering. I have done the celebrating. I vicariously threw my teacher’s version of that last mortar board at graduation as my daughter threw hers. I DID feel like I was graduating, too.
Well, as most high school seniors can attest, the most common question that they get from adults is, “What are you going to do next year?” “What does the rest of your life look like?”
Let me tell you. THAT was the most common question I received last year, too.
“Well, Sherri, now that your last child is graduating, what’s next for you?”
It is kind of like that empty nest cliché that happens to parents when their last child leaves the house. My occupation of the last two decades has ended. There is an empty nest in my day.
As homeschoolers, we really don’t think about that while we are ‘in the trenches’ of teaching, raising our children, doing our everyday responsibilities. But it WILL come.
So I thought I would give you some hints about how to begin approaching this next chapter in your life. It is something to begin thinking about, because I have found that many moms reach this stage and, after that emotional high of the finish line (followed by desires to purge old textbooks and sleep in just once or twice), just don’t know what to do with themselves.
First, realize that this transition often occurs gradually. As your children enter their last years of high school, they become more and more independent. You should be encouraging them to take ownership of their studies, making them a part of the planning of their school years. Ideally, they will need you less and less in their day-to-day responsibilities.
Now, I know that not every student embraces this transition, and they still need your guidance (and gentle prodding!). But your students should begin to realize that they are approaching adulthood as they move through the high school years, and it is your job to help them become self-directed.
So as your last child gets to his or her junior or senior year, there should be a bit more free time in your schedule. You may still be needed for “shuttle service” to and from classes, sports, or work, but your mental requirements should be less.
This is the time to begin discovering what your work will be. For some, it is helping out their older children with grandkids (a labor of love and a privilege!). For others, it might be working part time to help with the finances. Still others will begin to pursue ministry within their church, supporting other moms or homeschoolers.
As I have traveled throughout the U.S. and have talked with homeschool families, I see a common characteristic: they all are industrious; they all think outside the box; they all love to serve.
Those three distinctives are part of what makes homeschoolers so amazing! With those characteristics, realize that you can do just about anything – and do it well.
Begin to explore what God would have you to do in the next chapter of your life. And you can do that as your last ones get into those high school years. As your teens are working to discover what God has for THEM in the next part of their lives, you are walking alongside them doing the same thing for your life. Spend time praying for their future – spend time praying for yours. Pray WITH them about this. You will be showing them that there is always a purpose in our lives, there is always an occupation. We should always avoid being idle, because God wants us to be busy with the work of the Kingdom.
If you are in the middle (or at the beginning) of your homeschool marathon, don’t look at homeschooling as a sideline of something to do until you can get to the REAL ministry of life. Right where you are now is exactly where God wants you. You ARE doing ministry; the best mission field, the best occupation one can have. And when that occupation ends, you will find something else to fill your time. You will have amazing skills that you learned while managing your home and homeschool. I have always said that homeschool parents are some of the smartest folks I know!
So you don’t have to worry about what will come next. You just need to do what is before you today, then next week, then the month after that, and before you know it, you will find yourself on the other end of that homeschool finish line, ready to take on that next event!
I am now on the sidelines cheering you on! You can do this. You are making an amazing difference, and though you may not be able to see it as you place one foot in front of the other, I can see from the sidelines that you are moving forward, completing the BEST run of your life!
Doing the ordinary is what makes us extraordinary! ~Sherri