If someone would have told me 20 years ago that I would be a homeschooling parent of three teenagers, I would have done one (or both) of the following:
1.) Asked why on earth someone would want to homeschool
2.) Laughed uncontrollably
By my mid-30s, I had three kids (a boy and boy/girl twins), and we were just starting our homeschooling adventure. I had already been a stay-at-home mother for a few years, having left my marketing communications career behind when our twins were born.
Once the homeschooling bug bit, I was off to the races. Researching curricula? ON IT! Searching for all the groups and co-ops? Sign me up!
Decorating the homeschool room to the nines? Of course! I mean, at one point I did have THREE rainbow cart drawers that I expertly found on a homeschool Yahoo chat board (yes, back in the pre-social media days) and we had every Dollar Tree store educational poster adorning the walls, including ones in the powder room because learning happens everywhere.
I slowly found my footing and embraced everything about a homeschooling lifestyle. I quickly got involved in local groups, set up homeschool classes and field trips around our area, and started attending homeschool conferences too.
Our kids were thriving in this environment. We had a solid mix of structure and projects and plenty of time for creativity, free play, and running around outdoors in all kinds of weather. In short, I fully embraced my role as a homeschool mama. I was all in all the time.
Homeschooling My Kids, Homeschooling Myself
When my kids were 12, 10, and 10, I decided I wanted to find a work-at-home position. I had been sharing our homeschool journey on social media and was excited to be writing and connecting and encouraging people. I was fortunate to find a wonderful job for a children's growth mindset company. It was (and still is) the perfect fit.
We re-arranged our schedules a bit to allow for my working hours and it took my kids a bit of getting used to as well. Over the next year or two, I also started speaking at local homeschool conferences and blogging (thank you, TheHomeSchoolMom, for having me here!). Being able to combine my gifts and passions for communicating and connecting gave me a confidence and creativity boost.
While this was all happening, our homeschooling journey with middle schoolers and then high schoolers relied on interest-led learning. We worked together to design schedules and courses that leaned heavily on their strengths, while also checking the boxes that I, as the homeschool parent, needed to be done.
I truly loved seeing what my kids could do. Whether it was my oldest son diving into his Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) cadet program, my boy twin teaching himself all about podcasts and project management tools, or my daughter diving into all things baking, cooking, sewing, basketball, and writing.
The more I discussed our interest-led learning homeschool and the more I saw how well it worked for my kids, a little nudge was poking at me from the back of my mind. "What about you? What are your next steps?" this voice asked.
It dawned on me that all the beautiful energy I had poured into my kids' education had reignited a fire within me that I could no longer ignore. I stepped back and asked myself, "What do I want to be when I grow up?"
Yes, I was 45 years old at the time. Yes, I had originally been in public relations and marketing in my 20s and early 30s. Yes, I was a stay-at-home home educator with a few amazing side gigs. But I wondered if there was something else?
Part of our homeschooling journey has been trying new things (classes, curricula, co-ops, etc.). Some things stick and some (okay a lot) don't. I had shepherded my kids through so many things, witnessed the absolute awesomeness that comes when something just clicked for them.
I wanted this for myself too.
So, after discussions, journaling, prayer, and a big old dose of my own (interest-led) advice, I signed up for a life coaching academy with zero (or what I thought was zero), life coaching experience, a pure desire to learn all that I could about myself, coaching, starting my own business, and most importantly, serving and helping others.
My 3 Tips for Embracing Your Own Interest-Led Journey
I don't want to make this sound like it happened overnight, because it 100 percent did not. In the midst of me taking my own interest-led journey, we had two moves, health issues, family things, a global pandemic, and more. My sole (and soul) purpose for sharing my story is to encourage you.
I speak with many homeschooling parents of various ages and stages of the homeschool experience and I know how much they pour into their families on a daily basis. I know one of the biggest gifts I have shared with my kids is learning and growing, and going after your dreams doesn't stop just because you're 20, 34, 47, or 72.
They might not always understand why I am choosing to do what I do, but I don't think they have to.
Below are my three tips to inspire you.
- Get curious: Brainstorm a list of anything and everything you're curious about in this season of life. Talk with a friend and swap ideas together. Do this exercise with your own kids and see what everyone comes up with and then use those topics as a starting point to explore more. Don't let fear stand in the way. Curiosity is of utmost importance!
- Make time: I know you're busy. Dishes, laundry, home educating, c0-ops and classes, feeding people, etc. However, there will never be a perfect time. There is always something going on or something to do or a person who might need your help. I certainly did not (and do not) have long stretches of uninterrupted time to just sit with my thoughts, do all the creating, writing, coaching, and business-building ideas that are swirling around in my head.
I work in the margins: in my car while waiting for a kid, early in the morning or later in the evening. I carve out time on the weekends when our schedules are a little less busy. I decided that my journey and my work are just as valuable and important as my kids' education. That mindset shift was key. We prioritize what we need to and sometimes (oftentimes) need to let other things go.
- Go for it: Yes, the overused adage of "the first step is the hardest" is also true. Just like you have to encourage your kids to try new things, this also applies to you. What is your next best step? Is it taking a course? Reading that new book? Joining a network organization? Once you take those first few steps in your own interest-led journey, it will start to feel more and more amazing. Be sure to celebrate yourself too!
Are you considering your own interests and dreams in your current stage of homeschooling? What's working? What challenges are you facing? I would love to know! Comment below to get the conversation started. I'm cheering you on, friend.