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Graduation: A Time of Dread or Celebration? Parental Transitions
by Jean Reed
Homeschooling is a way of life. I hear from many parents that they dread the time when their children will be gone and this lifestyle will disappear, too. Some parents fear they will no longer be needed, that there will never again be anything as meaningful in their lives. For some parents these thoughts create anxiety, for others panic, and some see this time as a doorway to the future offering new adventures in living and learning for themselves. I know how easy it is to get caught up in the daily routines and activities of homeschooling. As homeschooling parents we work very hard to help our children look ahead to their future. It is vitally important to remember that we too have a future. Through exploring what lies ahead for yourself, you become a model for your children of how to take control of a new part of your own life.
If you’re afraid you will no longer be needed, that the meaning of your life will diminish, you are mistaken. You will always be a parent, and your children will need you at all stages of their lives. However, your role will change over time. Children are born to become increasingly independent. Remember how easy it was to adjust to the myriad changes that occurred over the first few years of your children’s lives. It was a natural progression from having a totally dependent baby to having a toddler. At some point you will stop being the chauffeur and hand over the car keys. You can teach, guide, and lead by example, and then in time you must trust your children and trust the life process itself. As your kids become adults they will look to you more as a longtime trusted friend. Although it is rarely said, when your children leave home – for short periods of time or forever – they do so trusting that you will be there for them if they need you. The love and shared memories remain, but your job description changes and your own developmental challenges change.
When you think about your life after the children are on their own, imagine all the things you haven’t had time for while you were involved in the complex daily routine centered around your children. Just as you have worked to make your children aware of the many possibilities for their lives, you too should envision a future filled with possibilities, whether it be continuing your education, creating or finding a job, developing your artistic talents, finding satisfaction in volunteer work, gardening, reading, or working with other children. There is a future for you to dream about, to work toward, to bring into reality. This is a time to renew yourself and a time to celebrate a job well done.
For Donn and me, the end of our homeschooling journey had much in common with the beginning stages of our adventure – it was a time of questioning and doubt, a time for reflection and anticipation and new joys. Our children are now scattered across the country, and we’ve found that the bonds of love, companionship, and understanding formed over the years of living, working, growing, playing, laughing, and crying together overcome the distances between us. As our children became increasingly independent, we found a new maturity, a deepening of respect, and a new feeling of equality developing between us. These intangible rewards of the homeschooling years are lifetime treasures, a living legacy binding our family together through the years.
I used to wonder what an empty nest would be like: Would I find it traumatic when the last child left home? When the time came, Donn and I were surprised at how naturally our lives filled with a variety of interesting and challenging options. Unlike children, these interests didn’t require us to be on call 24 hours a day. I went back to college part time, studying computers, sign language, and emergency medicine, and began a serious and engrossing study of classical guitar. Donn worked more intensely on his writing. Both of us enjoyed the time we had to refresh our relationship, to work and play together, just the two of us. We treasured the times when the kids came home, filling the house with their love and laughter. When they left again, we felt immense satisfaction that they were happy establishing their own lives.
(Warning! You may still get those late-night calls. So far we’ve had: 1) Guess what? We’re getting married! 2) We just had a baby! 3) One that started with ?Everything’s all right, but ... I’m calling from the ambulance.? Once a parent, always a parent!)
About the author:
Jean and Donn Reed founded Brook Farm Books and wrote one of the first and most extensive resource books for homeschoolers, The Home School Source Book, now in its third revised edition. Jean homeschooled four now adult children over a period of 24 years, who have been off on their own for over 10 years. Jean will be exhibiting and presenting a workshop at the New England Homeschool & Family Learning Conference.
Brook Farm Books carries almost all of the books and resources reviewed in the The Home School Source Book and the book itself is much more than a catalog or list of reviews but a genuine gold mine of wisdom, insight and practical information. To order contact: Brook Farm Books, P.O. Box 246, Bridgewater, ME 04735, Telephone: 506-375-4680, firstname.lastname@example.org.