Back to School …For Parents?
Home educators are all about learning. We spend a disproportionate amount of our time thinking, planning, collecting materials, and preparing a cerebral meal for our best and most important students – our children. Phonics turns into creative writing, baking soda-driven volcanoes morph into equations on a page, and the years drift by as relentless as waves in the ocean.
Caught up in this year’s curriculum, with a few harried glances at next year’s, the end can come upon us without warning. Suddenly, we’re beached on a sandbar, our students grown and doing what we raised them to do. There’s no one to teach, no little voice asking, “why”, and nothing but a closet crammed full of broken crayons and dusty composition books to remind us we were ever so busy in the business of learning.
I’m not there yet. I feel I’m in my prime, with two children who have finally hit their stride and are working steadily toward their goals as middle-graders. I have (happily) at least five or six years ahead of me before I have to clean that closet out for good. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about that fateful day. I can’t very well wait around for grandchildren to appear for me to teach again.
Anyone who has homeschooled knows that the education bug bites hard and leaves permanent marks. You can’t just switch off the excitement of opening a new book or diving into a new field of study. Let’s admit it. There are some topics we enjoy more than our kids. There are some things we’ve learned right along with our students, and our lives have been the richer for it. So why should that end?
Some parents plan to teach beyond their own family unit, perhaps to community children or in the public sector. Others have missionary or volunteer goals in mind. For me, the yearn to learn has such a hard pull that I’m compelled to find a path that keeps me in the role of student as well.
I completed my bachelor’s degree over the course of fourteen years (yes, that’s a two-digit number), while I married and had my babies. But recently, I’ve thought about going back for more. Why not work on my Master’s degree during the teenage phase of my in-house students? If the best example is the one you set yourself, what could be better than being a student along with my children?
Already, they have witnessed my application process to the graduate program and ridden along to campus to fill out paperwork. After driving to various specialty buildings, my son, age nine, asked, “Mom, when do we get to your school?” I replied, “We’ve been on it for the last half-hour!” There was a moment of silence from the back seat, and then a subdued, “Whoa.”
I like that my kids are getting a first-hand look at the college process, should they decide to take that path. I like that they tiptoe around my chair as I study for an exam. I smile when they ask me how class went, or if I have to read ‘that whole book’. We have a new appreciation for each other, for the time and effort it takes to acquire more knowledge, and a mutual respect that isn’t typically found in a teacher-as-authority-figure model of education.
It feels good to know that I won’t be stranded on the shores of my education memories. I can continue to be involved and moving forward – whether it is at the university level, taking a community course, or picking up a new hobby. The main thing is to keep learning for ourselves. We never graduate from the school of life, and I plan to be student for a very long time.
Karen Nelson is a writer and homeschooling mom of two. Her family enjoys their small hobby farm in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, where they pride themselves on fresh eggs and fresh ideas every day. You will find Karen sharing about their home and homeschool on her blog — Karen B. Nelson.