The last few years of homeschooling are hard. The junior and senior years of high school are stressful for mother and student. In addition to testing and preparing for college, there is the desperate worry that somehow, in spite of all your work, you have left holes in their education. People continually ask your child, “So what are you going to do now?” and often ask you the same question. Sometimes they assume that you will be heartbroken because your children are all grown up. Some people realize that was your goal all along – to prepare them for life and send them forth into the world.
Whether we had two children or ten, that last graduation marks a milestone change in our lives. The homeschooling lifestyle is consuming. When it ends, where does that leave us? How do we redefine our lives and ourselves?
1. First of all, recognize your achievement. Congratulations! You did it! You ran the race marked out for you, finished the fight, got them to adulthood alive! Most of us will add the phrase, “by the grace of God,” because we know we couldn’t have done it in our own strength. Pat yourself on the back. Whether your children are off to college, military or a job, you have fulfilled your educational responsibilities and can now enjoy just being an ordinary person.
2. Have a respite. Take a year and get to know yourself again. You may have spent the last couple of years thinking about this time, and now that it’s here, it’s tempting to jump into drastic changes. There may be a lot of pressure on you to get a job, go back to college (as if you want to ever see another textbook), or find some other occupation. Don’t be rushed. You have spent a lot of years focused on educating your children. Get to know your husband, meet other moms of adult kids, dabble in some hobbies. Take time to decide what you want to do. Most of us need to make money, but after a lifetime of homeschooling, it can be difficult to adjust to being someone else’s employee, with a set schedule and coworkers. Frankly, I encourage retired homeschool moms to explore the possibility of being self-employed. Research educational requirements, if applicable, or start putting together a resume. If you do not need to make a living, decide how you plan to keep yourself busy. If you took my advice and had a year off, you are probably getting bored and want to do something productive. The world needs volunteers. Get out there and look for a need you can fill, but don’t commit too fast.
3. Take action. You have a plan, so start working on it! Realize that it will be a total change, so be prepared: talk to your husband about changes in household responsibilities, buy an alarm clock and a wardrobe, think about lunches and dinner, and step out!
4. You may love your new life, or it may not be what you had hoped, but don’t give up too soon. On the other hand, if it’s horrible and life-sucking, get out and find something else. Don’t be afraid to stop and change directions. Any major life change is going to take adjustment and flexibility. If your last graduate leaves home immediately, you will also be adjusting to an empty nest. Empty nests are big and clean and peaceful, and it’s nice to have privacy again, but there is no bigger change in a parent’s life than when the children are all gone. You will have moments of sadness. Your husband’s life has changed drastically, too, so find something the two of you can do together and get to know each other in this new situation.
Move forward in life and learn who you are now. You won’t be the same person you were when you were younger; you will have different goals and priorities. It will be a busy time. Your children and their friends will be busy marrying and having babies, and the cycle starts again with a new generation. Be blessed by it.