When Home is No Longer a School

It’s 10:00 AM. You are reading with Sharon from her reader. Robert is desperately calling for you to help with his math. Kathy needs assistance with the cookies she is baking as a homemaking project for the support group’s meeting tonight. Before you can decide whom to help first, the baby wakes up screaming for all he is worth.
Sound familiar? Something similar to this, give or take a few children or some specific activities, has probably happened in your home. Most homeschoolers have some days they think will never end. At times like that (after the crisis is over), many of us may wonder why we are doing this. Even when we know the answer to that question and have no regrets, we may long for the day when it will all be over and our children will be educated adults.

As someone who reached that point several years ago, I often miss those homeschooling days with their hassle and confusion. I miss the daily interaction with my children, the joy at each new thing learned, the immersion in subjects of interest, yes, even the messy projects that often consumed our dining room. I am proud of the people my children have become and feel blessed to have been allowed to help guide them there, yet a part of me longs for the ‘good old days.’

Having been blessed by God to be called into a ministry to homeschoolers, I have never really had to give it up. The level of involvement I have had with other children, through co-op classes and other umbrella school activities, as well as my publications and parent workshops, have kept me very much a part of the homeschooling community. So much so that sometimes I wonder what other ‘retired’ home educators do with their time!

To satisfy my own curiosity and help some of you see options for your own futures, I surveyed a number of homeschoolers whose children have graduated and moved on to other things. I found their answers interesting and I hope you will too. Though our survey was not large enough to serve as an actual statistical sample, I think it will provide some interesting reading.

It was intriguing for me to see that a large number of these women have remained involved with homeschooling in some way. This involvement has varied from leadership in homeschool organizations, umbrella schools, or other ministries to homeschool families to simply helping new homeschoolers on a personal basis. The specific activities break down this way:

70% remained involved in formal homeschooling groups in some official capacity

30% have homeschooled or helped homeschool grandchildren or other relatives

40% have taught other students formally through co-ops, tutoring, or similar services

50% have developed a mentoring relationship with younger homeschooling mothers

30% have written or published curriculum or other materials for homeschoolers

Most of these women were already involved in these or similar activities before their children’s graduations, but have been able to increase their level of involvement with no children left to teach. Other ways our respondents have put their extra time to use include:

70% have gone to work or increased their previous work outside their homes

30% have gone back to school or taken up enrichment studies on their own

20% have started or gone back to a hobby they had longed to pursue

40% have become more active in church ministries or volunteer activities

(*Percentages in both of the above lists add up to more than 100% because many women fall into more than one category.)

One Alabama mother launched herself a whole new career through her son’s homeschooling. She writes: “After I finished homeschooling George, I really missed teaching. Rather than go back to the public schools (she had taught there before homeschooling), I elected to teach a few friends’ children in my home. Each of these children had fallen through the cracks, so to speak. They may have been LD, ADD, ADHD, or just had difficulty with a room full of students or the pressures of a large classroom. For the next eight years, I chose to educate children with these difficulties, a most rewarding career move for me.”

More interesting to me are the feelings of these mothers as they look back on their children’s school years. I asked each of them to share some of their special memories of their home education experiences. Space does not permit sharing all of this, but I do hope it will be as refreshing to you as it has been to me.

Karen remembered her family’ short ’swim breaks’ in their pool in Florida, earned when one of the children reached a progress milestone in their schoolwork. More than one mother shared lessons in civics or other subjects that involved picketing abortion clinics, lobbying legislators or helping distribute petitions. Lib, in Alabama, remembers science field trips to airports to see how wind speed is calculated and to construction sites for learning about various methods and uses of leverage. Many of these mothers still remember with delight a day when the light came on in each of their children’s eyes as they truly understood a new concept for the first time.

Leisa, from MS, found another special type of homeschool memory to be her favorite. She wrote: “My thoughts go to the end, not the beginning, as each of my children graduated. I remember being so thankful that we homeschooled. I saw other parents who, when faced with graduation, saw that their children were grown and were leaving, and the parents’ hearts were flooded with regrets of time not spent, of things undone. I realized what a gift homeschooling had given me. The many hours spent homeschooling had enabled me to spend the time and get the most important things done.”

Like Leisa, all of the mothers in our survey, expressed joy about the time and effort they spent homeschooling. Universally, they not only believe that their children have benefited, but that their own lives have been enriched by the experience as well. Several of them recounted things they learned in academic subjects that they had not recalled from their own schooling. Most were also grateful for the spiritual development of themselves and their children in the homeschool setting.

Pamela, from CA, expressed these thoughts beautifully: “First and foremost, homeschooling has taught me how to disciple my children. I learned that my example taught them far more than my words. I learned to grow in the Lord myself as I study His Word and share it with my now-grown children and other homeschooling parents. Teaching my children to love learning has also caused me to learn to love learning. That love has extended itself into a lifelong joy in reading and expanding my own knowledge.”

Some of these mothers did express regrets, but not in areas where we might expect. Trudie, a single mom who homeschooled mostly in TX, regretted that she had to work away from home while homeschooling, even though she often had her son with her. Others wished they had begun homeschooling earlier, used different curricula or teaching methods, or had a more relaxed approach.

When asked what they would do differently, the responses were mostly in the same vein. Leisa said: “I would start earlier (kindergarten) and not open a textbook until junior high or high school” Jan, from WA, would have chosen a smaller, less expensive home to free her husband from his second job, allowing him more time with the children. Despite the struggles of her homeschool situation, Trudie was still able to say: “Since I know that my son has a good wife, a baby on the way, is buying his own house, and makes more money than I do, I guess I shouldn’t want to change a thing.”

All the women in the survey were enthusiastic about encouraging their grown children to homeschool their own little ones. Most of them plan to do so, and some already are. In fact, a few grandmas have to restrain themselves from trying to take over that job.

Lynda Coats is a writer, speaker, and retired home educator. www.LyndaCoats.com