The Aging Homeschool Parent
- Friday, June 22, 2012
However, homeschooling during your middle years does pose some particular challenges as well. One of the most common is the increase in responsibilities as a caregiver, for as we age, our parents do as well. Elderly parents often demand our time and attention, whether it ranges from occasional errands to full-time care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most caregivers for the elderly are women, and 70 percent of those women are between the ages of 45 and 56. This places many homeschooling parents, particularly moms, in a position where they are caught between meeting the needs of their parents and the needs of their children.
One solution to this problem is to involve your children in the caregiving process. This is not always possible, but if it is, the experience can be rewarding for you, your parents, and your children. Your children can often benefit from the interaction with another generation, and you are providing them with valuable lessons about the ways that family members should care for one another.
Not only do caregiving responsibilities often increase as we age, but other responsibilities tend to pile on as well. Your older children (and grandchildren) now require your support in new ways. You probably face increased responsibilities at church and in the homeschool community. You may be working part-time in order to help with college expenses or to save for retirement. It is easy to spread yourself too thin.
All this comes at a time when your energy levels are likely far lower than they were in your early years of homeschooling. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, much of the problem stems from sleep issues that tend to develop as we age. Most people find that they sleep less and less, and the sleep we do get is often not as restful. Studies show that 65-year-olds spend less than 5 percent of their sleep time in deep, restful sleep, compared with experiencing deep sleep 20 percent of the time when they were in their twenties.
Other physical challenges increase as well. Middle-aged people are more likely to be dealing with new issues such as diabetes, joint pain, or high blood pressure. Learning how to deal with the quirks of our aging bodies can be just as challenging as the issues our teens are learning to deal with as they enter a new stage of their lives as well. It is even more important, as homeschool parents, to address these health issues through proper rest, diet, medical care, and exercise so that we can be here for our families for many years to come.
Another challenge to veteran homeschool parents is the loss of excitement that once accompanied the homeschool adventure. Experience is wonderful, but it can sometimes form a rut in the road. In the early days of homeschooling, there was more of a need to prove one’s self, and so you may have embraced the challenge of homeschooling more passionately.
Our later children may benefit from our experience, but we need also to convey to them the same passion about education that we had in earlier years. One way to do this is by connecting with other homeschooling families through local groups or conferences. There is a tendency to pull away from such associations as we get a handle on the homeschooling basics, but the passion of newer homeschool parents can ignite your own, even as they benefit from your wealth of experience. You may even decide to shake things up a bit and try a new educational curriculum or approach just to keep the experience fresh! Remember that one of the greatest benefits of home education is the ability to adapt to individual needs and new situations.
Seasons of life are a part of the human experience. For those who are fortunate enough to take the long road on the homeschooling journey, middle age can be one of the most fulfilling and enriching times of your life. As always, however, we need God’s guidance as we face the challenges that lie ahead.
Amelia Harper is a homeschooling mother of five and a pastor’s wife. She is also the author of Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings, a complete one-year literature curriculum designed for secondary-level homeschool students. In addition, she is an English tutor and a freelance writer who contributes regularly to newspapers and magazines. For more information, go to www.homescholarbooks.com.
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