The Aging Homeschool Parent
- Friday, June 22, 2012
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.comor read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.comto read the magazine on your mobile devices.
The modern wave of homeschooling essentially began in the 1980s and has now embraced a new generation. Homeschooling has matured—it has aged. And, it seems, we are aging with it. Since homeschooling families tend to be larger than average, there are more families than ever who are still homeschooling long after their counterparts have faced an empty nest.
I am a prime example of this growing trend. I began homeschooling in the eighties and am still homeschooling today. I am 50 years old. My husband is 55. We have three children with college diplomas and one of them is married. Yet, we still have an 11-year-old and 14-year-old at home. If all goes as planned, we can expect to be homeschooling for another seven years.
Sometimes it scares me to think about how old we will be. I envision myself hobbling through homeschool book fairs, pushing a walker rather than a stroller. I wonder what it will be like to buy curriculum with a Social Security check. I only hope I can still hear well enough to appreciate the graduation ceremony as my final homescholar accepts her high school diploma.
Okay, maybe it won’t be thatbad. But it is a future that I never envisioned for myself during my college years. However, I can comfort myself in the knowledge that at least I am not alone. A recent survey by The Old Schoolhouse®Magazinerevealed that in roughly 20% of homeschools in the U.S., the parent who serves as the primary teacher falls within the 45–54-year-old age group (Dr. Heather Allen, 2007). Add to that the estimated 15,000 to 20,000 grandparents who are homeschooling their grandchildren, and it is clear that the number of aging homeschool parents is significant.
Being an aging homeschool parent is not all bad. In fact, there are some definite advantages. The major advantage is that we now have more experience. We know which educational approaches work for us and which fail to fit our teaching style. We have more experience as both a parent and an educator. We don’t make quite as many mistakes as we once did.
This experience also gives us more confidence. In the early years of homeschooling, I was constantly second-guessing my decisions. Now, I don’t feel the need to justify my decision to homeschool to those around me. Now, I realize that, even if I choose the wrong textbook for my child or fail to dissect a frog, the results are not disastrous. I have learned to focus my attention on the endgame: rearing Godly, well-educated children who can think for themselves.
Bobby Land, a homeschool father with five children ranging in age from 9–25, is an example of someone whose perspective has changed with age and experience: “Even though I don’t have the energy I had before, I think I am more focused and have grown spiritually so that I can pass on my faith better. I feel that God has given me a second chance,” he said.
Being a middle-aged homeschooling parent can offer personal benefits as well. One such benefit is the cognitive stimulation we receive. As you well know, homeschooling requires you, as a parent, to invest a great deal of time thinking, planning, and learning as you educate your children. According to a 2009 study by the Mayo Clinic, learning and cognitive exercises during middle age causes you to be 40 percent less likely to develop problems with memory loss as you age. Therefore, home education can benefit you as much as it can benefit your child.
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