Writing my book Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers four years ago helped me through a difficult time of my life: letting go of our two oldest children. Over the course of three weeks, our daughter moved to the city and our son left for college. After homeschooling them all of their lives, it was a tough transition for me. (They held up just fine.) Working on the book kept my mind busy so that I didn’t do anything stupid, like body-blocking the front door so they couldn’t leave home.
Now we’ve reached another milestone: our son graduated from college last month and is getting married this weekend. He is already living in another state, where his bride will join him after they say their “I do’s.”
Isn’t this silly? I feel like I’m letting go of him all over again, and yet he’s been away at college the past four years. The summers and brief school holidays that he was home were just enough time with him that I never quite let go of him completely. But now he’ll be living with his wife six hours away from here. That’s ample reason for Mom to let go, don’t you think?
But the thing is, after homeschooling them all of their lives, I got used to having them around, and I liked it. I never could understand parents who live for the first day of school each year. I like being with my kids, and all the time I spent with them as they grew up only solidified that feeling.
Fortunately, we still have two children at home; our 16-year-old does not seem to have the independent nature of the older two, so I’m hoping she’ll stick around a while. And our youngest, now 14, will probably never live on his own because of his disabilities. God knew what He was doing when he sent that little fellow my way! He is staving off Empty Nest Syndrome for me.
I do have a few regrets, though, and I want to share them with you in hopes that you don’t make the mistakes I did. For one thing, I wish I hadn’t been in such a hurry for these guys to grow up. With our eldest, particularly, I found each stage of development so exciting that I couldn’t wait for the next one. Why did I want to rush things along? Back then I had no idea that even as the days were long, the years would be short.
I also wish I hadn’t tuned out my children at times. When we had all four at home, sometimes it was so chaotic that I, a person who needs her quiet time, would stick my nose in a book and get lost in it for an hour (or more, if it was Maeve Binchy’s newest novel). I considered it a way to keep my sanity back in those days, but now, on the rare occasions when all four of our kids are together, I sit and watch them interact and just enjoy the pure pleasure of it. But it never lasts long, because someone has to catch a train or get home so they can get up early for work the next morning. Back when all six of us lived here together every day, I never realized how soon that would change. It seemed like it would always be that way.
Before I go completely regretful on you, I should also share what I will never regret. I will never regret choosing to keep our kids home from school. I will never regret the mornings spent doing our version of school in our jammies. I will never regret the chocolate chip pancakes for lunch, the untold hours in our van spent singing along to tapes, or the finger-painting sessions in the basement. I will never regret the hours I spent in the vendor hall at the homeschool convention each year, picking out just the right books for each child, nor will I regret the time I put in searching out art supplies, every color of construction paper known to man, glue sticks on sale, and cool pens that made them want to write. I especially will not regret the money I spent on all these things; we saw much better results from those few dollars than the thousands we pay in property taxes each year to support our local schools.
I’m going to throw in some gratitude while I’m at it. I thank God every day that He led us to homeschooling. I am incredibly grateful that homeschooling gave us so much valuable time as a family. There’s a six-year gap between our first and second pairs of children; how close would they have been if they’d gone to school? The older ones would have been gone all day when the younger ones were little. They would not have seen each other much. Instead, they all grew up together, and what a blessing that has been to their relationships with each other!
Are you getting the vibe yet? It may hurt more to let go of my kids because of all the years we had together, but that pain is a small price to pay for the experience of living together as a family for all those years. We were especially fortunate that my husband has worked at home for the past 12 years; most kids nowadays don’t even have one parent at home during the day. Homeschooling has been a tremendous blessing to our family.
So……when you’re tired, when you’re discouraged, when you go through the hard times that make you wonder if it’s time to quit and put them on the school bus, please remember that I went through those times, too, and I’m here to tell you that it was all worth it. Tape a little note to your bathroom mirror, where you’ll see it every morning:
ENJOY IT WHILE YOU HAVE IT!
Copyright 2007 Barbara Frank/Cardamom Publishers
Barbara Frank is the mother of four homeschooled-from-birth children ages 14-23, a freelance writer/editor, and the author of “Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, “The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling,”and “Homeschooling Your Teenagers.” To visit her Web site, “The Imperfect Homeschooler,” go to www.cardamompublishers.com.