Editor's note: This article is adapted from Andrea Longbottom's piece which ran originally on HSLDA.org. Courtsey HSLDA. Used with permission.
Do you remember how you felt after receiving your high school or college diploma? Remember the question, So what are you going to do now? When you come to the end of your homeschooling journey and graduate your last child, that question has a way of popping up again.
You’ve poured your time, money—your life—into teaching your kids at home. For many parents, this has taken several years, even decades. And suddenly, or perhaps gradually, depending on how far apart your kids are in age, those years are over. Your kids are starting to answer the What next? question and find their own way—it’s your turn, too.
So what is next?
First, congratulate yourself. You made it! Homeschooling is no easy task, and you definitely deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labor: possibly a freer schedule, the ability to explore other interests, more time with your spouse, married children, and grandchildren.
Next, consider the homeschooling movement. It has come a long way, and you’re part of the reason for its success. But it’s like any movement—it thrives on the constant commitment and effort of its advocates. New generations of homeschoolers build on the underpinning of retired homeschoolers who have walked the road before them and made it. The existence and growth of homeschooling depends in large part on its “undergrads” and “alumni” fighting to protect it. While homeschooling is now legal in all 50 states, parents still encounter numerous restrictions and face threats to their freedom from policymakers. The very foundation of homeschool freedom—parental rights—is under attack in America and other countries through court decisions and international law.
You’re still part of homeschooling, even after you’re done teaching your kids British literature and algebra. And homeschooling still needs you!
“The next generation of homeschoolers needs your wisdom, your input, your encouragement, and your time,” says HSLDA President Mike Smith. “It’s important for parents to keep connected to help these new families succeed and to stay involved to protect all parents’ right to homeschool today and tomorrow."
As a homeschooling parent who has earned the title of “veteran,” you obviously believe strongly in the freedom to choose how your child is educated. You committed yourself to giving your children the education you felt was best, and your children need that same freedom to homeschool their children. Will you commit to helping protect homeschool freedom for future generations?
You don’t have to speak at conventions or homeschool your neighbor’s kids to stay connected to home education. You may find that informally mentoring or simply staying on top of homeschool news works best with your new schedule. Here are some ideas:
Be Informed. Keeping up-to-date is the first step towards protecting the liberty you’ve already enjoyed as a homeschooling parent. Scan homeschooling magazines and websites, and sign up for an email service with your state or local homeschool organization and with HSLDA. Before it’s time to vote, find out if political candidates are supportive of homeschool freedoms. (Did you know you can still receive HSLDA membership benefits even when you’re no longer homeschooling?)
Be an ambassador. No matter what you do next, you’ll always find yourself telling others about homeschooling and fielding questions from curious parents. You could develop this into a more formal role and speak at local or state homeschool events. Or maybe for you, this means being available to other homeschooling parents or those considering homeschooling, and updating yourself on homeschooling news so you can share it with them. (Find out about the Home School Foundation’s Ambassador Program)
Be a mentor. You have experience and knowledge that can boost and encourage other homeschooling parents. Although you’ll naturally find yourself offering advice or tips, maybe you have time now to regularly invest in one or two families, or more! Some may even have the opportunity to help homeschool their grandchildren.
Give. Financial support allows homeschool organizations to stay afloat, homeschoolers and other supporters to lobby for pro-homeschooling candidates and against bills that take away homeschool freedom, and needy homeschooling parents to continue teaching their children. HSLDA and HSF offer opportunities for you to donate, and so do your state and local homeschool organizations.
Maybe you feel like you need a break from homeschooling—after all, you’ve been at it for a long time now. You deserve it! Take that break. Go on a vacation, or commit to not looking at homeschool materials for a little while. Everyone needs to distance themselves from routine sometimes. This will refresh you and help you refocus on the next step. While you’re on break, take some time to think about your goals for the future. What do you want to be doing a decade down the road?
As the following family portraits show, there’s no one way to do things once you’re done home educating. Take a look at how some parents are answering the So what’s next? question, and be encouraged that, yes, there is life after homeschooling!
With five children of various ages, Daryl and Dorene Borgquist of Leesburg, Virginia, found the “end” coming upon them gradually. By 2007, their youngest daughter Kari was finishing up her senior year and Dorene was starting to focus more on interests of her own.
Brushing up on a longtime interest—teaching English as a second language (ESL)—Daryl and Dorene earned their ESL certification with the goal of teaching overseas for missions. During summer 2010, Dorene and Kari were able to travel to the Ukraine to help with an ESL day camp and softball clinics.
Dorene recommends that parents involve their kids in their interests while still homeschooling. Dorene and Kari took clogging classes together, and Dorene and two of her children spent three months teaching ESL in Ukraine in 2006. “We could do it because we were homeschooling,” she says.
Dorene has also become a year-round substitute teacher in the local public schools, teaching classes from special education to ESL. Every fall, she helps conduct hearing and vision clinics in the schools, putting her degree in speech pathology and ideology to work. She enjoys the work since it’s flexible and provides extra income.
“It was worth all the time I put into homeschooling and the time I put into my kids,” says Dorene, “but there is life after homeschooling. And there’s so much yet to do—explore different opportunities and interests, hobbies and ministries.” She advises other parents to “find out what interests you and go for it.”
Easing the Journey for Others
Before she finished homeschooling, Rosie Watson thought, “Wow, what will it be like when I’m done?” Because her youngest children were twins, the end was “pretty sudden,” she says. “I was thinking of fun, relaxing things … that I deserved a break, and I was planning my break.”
Once, after speaking to a group of moms, they told her she had so much to offer. She began to think of her years of homeschool leadership and speaking at homeschool conventions, and questioned whether moving on from all of it was really the right choice. Shortly after that, as she thought about the resources she wished she’d had as a homeschool mom, she “dreamed up” what is now the Center for Home Education in Fort Worth, Texas.
Rosie says her desire went from “I’m so done with homeschooling," to "God putting on my heart that after all the years of learning, I could now give back to the community, give back what I had learned. You don’t homeschool for 20 years and not learn,” she says, laughing. “Even if you do things wrong, you learn!”
“The center seemed way too impossible and costly, so it was just an idea,” Rosie says. Then, when her husband, Steve, lost his job, they both felt that God was calling them to put their idea into action. For the next year, Steve and Rosie worked together around the clock to make Rosie’s dream a reality.
Eight years later, the Center for Home Education serves approximately 300 students who take classes from geometry to Spanish, and it maintains 22 teachers. The center also offers a curriculum store, coffee shop, and theater where students perform throughout the year.
“I can’t say it’s for everyone,” says Rosie about remaining so involved in homeschooling. “I think many come to the end of the journey and think, ‘I’m worn out and ready to move on.’ ” She advises parents to at least deeply consider if they have something to offer other parents.
Apart from directing the center and offering workshops, Rosie continues to enjoy speaking at homeschool conventions and to smaller homeschool groups. She says sharing with homeschooling parents is rewarding. “You can identify with them,” she says. “You’re able to guide them through or let them know, ‘This too shall pass!’ ”
Opportunities Will Find You
When the autumn after her youngest daughter’s high school graduation rolled around, Adele Sekerak got nostalgic. “I didn’t need school supplies anymore!” she laments. “My friends who had been homeschooling for a long time were looking at me like I was crazy. I was having an identity crisis, really.”
It was her oldest daughter, Sandy, who reminded Adele that her main identity is in Christ. “I had to rely on that, pray about that,” says Adele, who lives with her husband, Ed, in Huntsville, Alabama. “I’m a Christian first; then I’m a wife and a mother.” She realized that “what I was doing wasn’t that critical as long as I was open to what God wanted me to do.”
Ed, too, found himself struggling with his role once they stopped homeschooling. “I initially thought I would have to support Adele a lot,” he says. “However, it seemed that I had a much more difficult time. Adele actually supported me by spending a lot more time with me taking walks, traveling, talking, and just hanging out.”
Adele decided to stay at home instead of go back out into the workforce, a decision that she and Ed had discussed. “He told me he would support me in whatever I decided to do, whether that was going back to work or staying home,” Adele says.
And in the time that followed, opportunities began to come her way. “It’s amazing what you fill your time with,” she says. Some of her new pursuits include traveling more with her husband and visiting family in other states, and befriending families in their church and helping meet needs there.
She and Ed keep up with legal news about homeschooling and continue their membership with HSLDA. They also try to encourage their daughters and their husbands as they start their own families. Babysitting for young homeschooling families they know has also been a way for them to help moms take a much-needed break.
Adele encourages parents to cherish the homeschooling years. “The time you have with your children is irreplaceable. Whatever you say or do during that time—that’s what you’re going to look back on.”
Similarly, Ed encourages dads approaching homeschool “retirement” to take time off work and do “big” things together as a family, such as an overseas vacation, mission trip, or volunteer project with a local ministry. “These will serve as capstone events for your homeschooling experience, further cement your family together, and provide wonderful memories that will last a lifetime,” he says.
You Don’t Know Til You Try
In 2006, Steve and Tanya Dobler’s youngest daughter graduated, leaving Tanya out of a “full-time job.” In the following months, Tanya asked herself whether she should go back to work as a nurse. But she hesitated, knowing it would require intensive training. In the meantime, the Evington, Virginia, mom continued volunteering at a pregnancy care center and kept her eyes open for new opportunities.
One year later, Tanya took a tax class and began handling taxes for others. The next year, she followed up on another interest and received training to teach adult literacy, which ended in her decision to “Forget the taxes!” Since then, she has enjoyed the rewards of teaching a handful of internationals. She loved homeschooling and now has the opportunity to continue teaching and finding materials tailored to different personalities, an aspect of home education that she especially savored.
Steve supported Tanya through the transition by listening to her and praying with her. He also helped her find resources to give her direction, such as career testing. “Be patient with and sensitive to your wife,” he advises other dads. “She may be grieving over the loss of her ‘career’ and children. It may take some time.” Steve has also tried to “consistently tell Tanya how much I appreciate her tremendous investment in our children and that the investment has made a huge difference and was not in vain.”
Currently, Tanya is toying with the idea of following up her literacy training with formal classes and certification. “I’m still not actually sure,” she admits candidly. “You’d think I’d be grown up by now, know what I was going to do!”
As Tanya’s story shows, sometimes you have to find the pursuits that excite you and be open to new experiences. She encourages moms to be aware of their interests while homeschooling and be thinking beforehand of ways to develop those interests after the homeschool years are over.
Regarding ongoing involvement with homeschooling, Tanya points out a challenge retired homeschoolers may face. “Where your family is—that’s where you’re focused,” she says. When the kids are college age, parents tend to move along with them and may feel they’ve moved past some homeschool activities (such as certain support group functions or meetings). As you move forward, it’s important to find ways to stay connected that fit well with your changing lifestyle. Tanya says opportunities have naturally opened up for her to encourage other homeschooling parents and share ideas with them.
Back to the Classroom
Many parents go back to full-time jobs once they’re done teaching their own kids. Janet Longbottom and her husband, Sam, of Huntsville, Texas, knew this would be the next step. Janet worked at a couple of different clerical and teaching jobs before becoming a 4th-grade teacher at a local Christian private school.
While she misses a more flexible schedule and admits teaching other people’s children can be difficult, Janet has found her job rewarding. For example, she says her years of homeschooling prepared her to teach from a biblical perspective and gave her familiarity with the curriculum being used. “I personally saw God’s hand in my life equipping me to be teaching in a private school setting,” she says. “Yes, I have to work outside the home, but I’m in a wonderful environment and able to teach from God’s word. It’s like a continuation of homeschooling.”
“I wanted Janet to be happy in whatever she ended up doing,” Sam says. “There’s a certain amount of excitement that goes along with coming to the end of our homeschooling years—you don’t always know what’s ahead.”
Sam and Janet continue to keep tabs on legal news about homeschooling, adding that email alerts are an easy way to stay up-to-date even if you’re short on time. “We try to support candidates who believe in the freedom to choose homeschooling.” They are also always ready to recommend HSLDA membership and to share their experience with other parents who are considering home education or looking for advice.
Janet encourages retired homeschoolers to “look to the future, because there’s always a hope that your children might become homeschooling parents.” Her parting words? “Take a great vacation because you”ve done a great job! Pat yourself on the back, because you’ve done something that’s very unusual in this day and time.”
Doing What You Love
Scherenschnitte. That’s the German for “scissors snipping” or artistic paper cuttings—and artist and retired homeschooling mom Kim Frey loves it. Also a fan of Fraktur (an artistic type of document-making) and silhouettes, she creates her own paper cut designs and illustrates them with paint or pencil.
“Homeschooling really taught me to love learning,” Kim says. “And it’s been exciting to explore many areas of art.” Since homeschooling, she and her husband, Chris, have built up their Delaware-based folk art business, Thistle Dew Mercantile, where Chris handles carpentry and Kim does the artwork.
Kim also teaches art classes for children and adults—her current class is composed of elementary-age children who attend local public and private schools. And she finds time to work on children’s book illustrations, having taken an online course in the subject. Another goal is to finish her art degree, which she is working towards by taking online classes.
Kim’s interest in the paper arts took flight in 1989. While homeschooling, she created small amounts of artwork, displayed her creations in her parents’ general store next door, and kept in touch with customers. She and Chris started Thistle Dew Mercantile in 2003, partly to teach their two daughters the ropes of running a business.
“It’s hard to find time to pursue hobbies and interests while homeschooling, but if you’re able to find an hour or two to do something you enjoy, it can be refreshing,” Kim says. She goes on to explain that she often worked on art together with her girls. “Often, the activities and interests we develop as a family can grow into an area of personal interest that will be a big part of our post-homeschooling years.”
She also encourages parents to devote time and effort to their marriage during the homeschool years. “A strong marriage will be encouraging to your children as they begin their own families, and having each other will help you through the transition to the next stage of life.”
Round the Bend
As you can see, the answers to the What now? question range far and wide. As you enter the post-homeschooling years—or approach them—remember to look forward with enthusiasm to the next step. “I enjoy the closure of a task completed,” says Adrienne McClendon, reflecting on her homeschool experience. “A new chapter opens.”
While the next chapter will be different for each parent, the tie to homeschooling unites them all. As you find your way, consider the part you have still to play in protecting homeschooling for future generations and encouraging other moms and dads.
“You understand why people are homeschooling,” says Rosie Watson about her continued involvement with the homeschool community. “And if I can be a part of something I care about deeply, it’s very rewarding.”
So, what’s next for you?
Andrea Longbottom is a homeschool graduate who lives and writes near Houston, Texas.
Home School Legal Defense Association is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms. Through annual memberships, HSLDA is tens of thousands of families united in service together, providing a strong voice when and where needed.
Publication date: July 18, 2012