The Empty School
Do you ever wonder what it will be like to be DONE homeschooling? The question might have crossed my mind a couple of times over the last 15 or 16 years, but I never dwelt on it — I didn’t have time! My life was crammed with the “side-effects” of homeschooling — musical instruments, field guides, insect pins, cookbooks, trips to theatre rehearsals, and even algebra problems! It was a lifestyle we loved, and we immersed ourselves in it with abandon. Now that we’ve closed our home school and we stand looking back over the collection of paraphernalia that remains from that wonderful period of our lives, I am convinced that the very hardest thing about homeschooling was stopping.
Nothing really prepared me for the empty house my husband and I returned to after we helped our youngest move into his dorm a month ago. I often said that he was gone so much his last few years at home that I didn’t see how it could be much different once he left. But it IS different, very different… and I don’t like it much yet. I don’t say this to intimidate those of you who are about to graduate your youngest child. I often detect a note of trepidation in the voices of moms who have devoted their lives to the education and rearing of their children and are wondering what it will be like to actually finish the job.
People speak of the “empty nest syndrome.” Well, our “nest” isn’t empty — there are still two of us here, along with frequent guests, and our children pop in once in a while– but what seems so difficult is that our school is empty. The place of discovery doesn’t have the same luster. Yes, it is true that my husband and I will keep learning new skills, and enjoying new books, new places, and new opportunities for the Lord to teach us. The lifestyle of learning that we imparted to our children belonged to us first, and we have not lost it. But unfortunately, the day-in and day-out FUN of learning with our children in the formative years of their lives is over. Done.
As homeschoolers, we may feel separation from our children more intensely than many others do. When our daughter left home for Bible School a few years ago, I found myself wandering for weeks in a brain-fog that I just couldn’t shake. One Sunday morning when I couldn’t locate the attendance chart for my Sunday school class, a friend blurted out “What is the matter with you lately? You’re not your normal, organized self.” It felt like I’d been punched in the stomach, and when I caught my breath, I sobbed “I feel like I’ve lost my best friend!” At that moment I realized that what I was dealing with was actually grief. My daughter and I are very close, and to have her suddenly absent from the day-to-day routines, to have her companionship taken away even though our relationship remained firm, was an undeniable loss. It was not a death by any stretch of the imagination, but it was most definitely a loss, and as such, brought a measure of grief. Once I recognized my emotions as grief, things began to get a little easier for me.
For my husband and I, there is no doubt that our children are now in places where the Lord wants them — it just doesn’t happen to be very close to home. Is there anywhere a Christian parent would want their child to be MORE than in the center of God’s will? Of course not! Just as we are convinced that the Lord has our children exactly where he wants them, we can be assured that the same is true of us in our “empty school.” The years of homeschooling have been a rich and varied adventure, and God has used them to shape the people we’ve become, to strengthen our marriage, and to refine some of our skills. I’m sure the same is true of you. Do we think that God has been doing these things in our lives so he can put us on the shelf? I doubt it. We’ve finished one large assignment of our lives as a married couple, but I’m pretty sure that the course will have other assignments!
Despite the changes, He does not change. Despite our uncertain emotions at this point, one thing IS certain– His grace is sufficient for every season of our lives.
This verse we use for our graduates is applicable for us “empty-schoolers” as well: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.
Joan Thompson homeschooled for 16 years. She and her husband live in Southern Wisconsin and are the owners of Homeschool Diploma.com. They enjoy designing products to help families celebrate the end of each student’s homeschooling journey, and are especially blessed to have their son joining them in the family business! Visit them at www.homeschooldiploma.com