What To Do When Homeschooling Is Over
I know many of you taking a peek at this post are doing it with a bit of trepidation and guilt. After all, is it really OK to take some of our precious time away from our children and household and think of what we’re going to do with ourselves when this homeschooling journey is over? And, let’s face it, most days feel like it will NEVER be over.
Believe me, I have been right where you are. I have homeschooled our four children for 21 years. There were days when I wanted to just give up. There were times when I felt like I couldn’t go on. So why should I spend any energy on what I am going to do when the homeschooling years are done while I have so many more ahead of me?
Because you need an exit plan. And it is wise to think about it before you get to the END and don’t know what to do with yourself.
That’s right. You see, homeschooling is so intertwined in our home life that it is difficult to separate from everything else we do. We plan our house-keeping/laundry/grocery shopping around homeschooling. If you are like me, EVERY vacation becomes a field trip opportunity, too.
I can’t tell you how many times my children asked me, “Mom, can we PLEASE go to the beach just once without it becoming a field trip?”
And my unashamed answer was, “No (with a smile, of course).” That’s because there is so much to learn out there, and we as homeschool moms cannot help ourselves when learning opportunities are present. That is one of the awesome things about homeschooling!
Now, when our children grow older (and believe me, they will!), we have a goal of basically working ourselves out of a “job.” We aim to help them become independent in their learning skills. We train them to plan their days and weeks; we teach them how to gather information from texts and other sources; we let them build skills out there in the real world as they work at a part time job or in an internship.
And as they do these things, we are needed less and less. They are working and growing towards becoming independent young adults. That’s a good thing. But where does that leave Mom?
Well, I want to help you walk through several ideas as you approach the day YOU graduate from becoming a homeschool mom as your youngest child graduates from high school.
First, let’s think about the big picture. As I wrote earlier, your goal as teacher is to help your children become self-directed, independent learners. And that means you will slowly be giving them more and more responsibility over their studies. In the same way you taught them to dress themselves, they first learned to put on their pants and a shirt, maybe asking you for help with a button or a zipper. Then once they mastered that, they may only have needed you to tie their shoes (and maybe suggest a better choice of clothing options). But once they got that down, you were not needed at all. They took complete responsibility of dressing themselves, giving you more time to do other things.
And that’s the way it should be with their school work. As they go through high school, you become less and less of a teacher and more and more of an overseer or facilitator. They should slowly be taking on the planning of their school week. They may have some input in their curriculum choices and the types of subjects they are interested in. They dialogue with you more when it comes to making decisions about extracurricular activities, sports, and jobs.
So you will find yourself with more and more available time. This will be a gradual thing. Your days won’t look like they did when you had a first grader.
With this understanding of the possibility of gradual extra time, you can begin to brainstorm what you want to begin to do. I’m going to take this and one or two more posts to go over some helpful ideas.
First, understand that as you are given a bit more free time, you may not actually see it as time open to do whatever you want. During those teen years, you may be driving them around to co-op classes, work, babysitting, or sports activities. You may find your “extra” time is spent in the car or waiting at a coffee shop or zipping through the grocery store while your teen is doing something.
You may also be using that little bit of free time to catch up on things in the house that you might have put off for the last few years (or decades). That dresser that you were refinishing. That closet that likely contains remnants from the previous century. A file pile where items are filed according to how deep they are located within the pile. (I like to call that the fossil-record-filing method.)
So realize that as you might be getting a little more free time, it may be filled with recovery or getting to things that have been put on the back burner for a while.
But there WILL eventually be time to fill, and if you don’t have a plan, you can be sure that the extra time will be filled for you.
One of the things you can do right now as you look forward to your homeschool “retirement” is to begin to brainstorm about activities you would do if you had free time right now. When that alarm clock goes off tomorrow morning, what goes through your mind? Think to yourself, If I didn’t have homeschool or mother responsibilities, what would I do today?
Would you start a large garden? Would you look for a job at a bookstore? (Face it. Most of us homeschool moms become die-hard book lovers!). Does the idea of regular workouts make you excited? How about going to school for a degree or certification in an area that fascinates you?
Write these ideas down as you get them. You may be wishing you could be more involved in a ladies’ ministry at your church or you like the idea of having a full or part time job. You may want to bring a little more income to make household finances easier. These are just ideas. They are not things you are required to complete once you get to that point.
But they give you a glimpse of where your needs are and your passions may lie. They may be just ideas that point you in a completely different place, too. We’ll talk about that more later.
I know that you may want to do absolutely NOTHING once this journey is over, but realize we are designed to have occupation. It is fulfilling, because we are designed for work. You may take a few weeks or months off once your last child graduates, but, just like a person retiring from a job: once the newness of doing nothing wears off, boredom replaces it. And if you don’t have a bit of a plan, you may find yourself swept into something that is not as fulfilling.
With a little preparation, prayer, and patience, you can plan ahead so that your transition to homeschool teacher graduate is a smooth and fulfilling one.
Next time, we’ll talk about more specific things you can do to narrow down your ideas and plan with a purpose.