What are your plans for yourself after you’re done homeschooling? Are you returning to your old career, searching for a new path, or feeling completely uncertain? What do you do to develop yourself while educating your children? Join the conversation.
In an online group I frequent, a mom recently asked what other parents did to assure they would have a life past homeschooling. It’s a pressing question for many of us who have suspended or altered careers to develop our young. Many homeschooling parents leave careers to tend to their children’s needs that are unmet in school, while others educate at home because they see homeschooling as a natural extension of parenting that is worth pushing the pause button on a career. They leave jobs in law, medicine, engineering, academia, and more, jobs preceded by years of (expensive) education and training. Many, including myself, never planned on leaving the workplace after having children, at least not for more than a few months. And many never dreamed of homeschooling at all.
I planned to work. After an undergraduate degree in English, I earned a Masters of Science as a physician assistant. I married, went to work full-time in family practice, and some years later, had a child. After four (long) months off, I returned to part-time work at the same clinic, stopping again four years later after my second was born. Chance, choice, and circumstance, as well as a seat on a corporate step stool while my then husband was climbing the corporate ladder led me to stay home full-time A year later, three years before I started homeschooling, I returned very part-time to a PA position some Saturdays. I’ve maintained that position for over ten years. My younger son wasn’t the type to be left with anyone, and neither my then husband nor I wanted to return to the push-pull that comes with two demanding jobs and kids who become ill at daycare when Mom has three rooms full of patients and Dad is in a meeting.
I’m a bit restless by nature, and staying home with two young children didn’t come naturally to me. I soon became a La Leche League leader, which gave me a chance to use my diagnostic acumen in another way, helping moms troubleshoot when breastfeeding didn’t come easily. As well as stimulating my mind and helping me keep some rudimentary social skills, it provided something for me to do that worked with my job as Mom and gave me more sense of purpose. No, I’m not the type who reveled in the stay-at-home mom job. I missed adult contact, and this volunteer work gave me that while making me feel useful to adults. It kept me sane.
Nine years ago, my older son came home to learn, finding little intellectual stimulation in the gifted second grade classroom he’d attended, which, ironically, overloaded his sensory circuits quite handily. I’d done my research, connected with others, read everything I could, and dove in. It became my job. I loved lesson planning each weekend, and I perused catalogues and websites too often, seeking for whatever might be the best. Being a homeschooling mom became a large part of my identity, although my sometimes-PA work and often-La Leche League work remained parts of who I was, too.
I’d like to say I planned it that way, always maintaining more to my life than homeschooling my children. I didn’t. I worked because the job fell in my lap, although I’ve long been grateful to have that opportunity to maintain my skills in a career I still enjoy. I went to LLL because I was having breastfeeding problems (we worked them out) and was soon asked to apply for leadership. Keeping my world bigger than my boys was accidental rather than wise, but I’ve reaped the benefits anyway.
Somewhere in the last nine years, I became more intentional about my pursuits. I still take phone calls from nursing moms and work in family practice some Saturdays, but three to four years back, I started to write. I started one blog, Finding My Ground, where I explored the questions life was raising while dusting off the skill I’d honed in undergrad, although this time in personal form. A year later, I started this blog as a way to share my journey homeschooling separately from my personal walk through life. Something had changed.
Actually, a lot changed. I was homeschooling two twice-exceptional kids. I’d left the religion of my youth. I was separated and nearing divorce. My role at spouse had finally died after a prolonged, painful illness. I was, as corny as it sounds, looking for who I was outside of all that. I started teaching another person’s child along with my own biology followed by chemistry. I wrote more and learned to knit. With my boys, I started fostering cats from the Humane Society (there isn’t much volunteer work available for young children). I found a Unitarian Universalist church that worked for my boys, and I and took an active role within in. I taught more kids who were not my own, which led to me finding the gumption to ask for pay for that work rather than volunteering. I became a writing instructor.
I found more of me. In the volunteer work, the writing and knitting, the new business, the old career, and the search for meaning, I found more and more of me. No, doing isn’t being, but doing can help one figure out just who one is and how one fits in the world. I was driven somewhat by the passage of time. The boys keep getting bigger and more independent. Mostly. One takes college courses. The other cooks for himself and reminds me often that he can do it all himself. They aren’t getting any younger.
So I’ve worked under the assumption that they’ll leave at some point. At times that unnerves me a bit, because I don’t have the full picture of what I’ll do then and because they still must just be seven and three. I don’t think I want to return to full-time PA work. I’m not sure I want to teach in a PA program, a goal I’d held when I started work almost 20 years back. I’m pretty sure I can’t make a living writing, even if I start submitting more than one article a year. I don’t know how I’ll feel about teaching writing in six and a half years, when my younger will be an adult. There’s time to figure that out.
Developing oneself benefits one’s children. My boys have watched me pursue my interests, give my time to others, start a small business, go into the office, study for re-certification exams, work in our church, and otherwise do things that aren’t all about them. While I occasionally sing a chorus or two of, “Mom’s a person, too,” my pursuits in the world clearly show that to them. They know they are valued. They know they are home because it’s the best option and something we usually enjoy. And they know I am someone — an individual — in addition to the amazing job of being their mom and educational coordinator. There is value in that, this teaching our kids that we are part of the world which we’re sending them into.
After reading through the online thread on how to plan for life after homeschooling, I was astounded by the paths of others. Some had changed careers. Others were fostering pre-homeschooling or pre-child careers. Several volunteered. A few returned to school to launch new careers. Many followed passions that had developed in the course of homeschooling their children. And some were scared and struggling, unsure of what would happen when the kids left home. The question of self-development was on everyone’s mind.
We return home or start at home for our children. Sometimes we find we like it better this way. Sometimes we just do it because we’re out of other acceptable options. However we start, at some point our job ends. We work with an aim to put ourselves out of business. So if you’ve not already, join me in developing yourself. Learn a new skill. Volunteer. Take a class. Follow a passion. Someday you’ll be forced into retirement as a homeschooling parent. Prepare, and enjoy the process.