When I started homeschooling so many years ago, I truly had no concept of what it would be like when my little boys would be high schoolers and we’d have a couple more students too. We were pretty sure we wanted to homeschool all the way through high school, but that seemed far away. And even when we did reach those high school years, I realized that my kids would not be my students forever, but it was still unclear what a homeschool empty nest might look like. As my students graduated, they would move on – perhaps going to college, perhaps pursuing a career – and even if they continued living at home for awhile, they would no longer be my students. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, and yet somehow it was strange to realize that my classroom was shrinking!
It started to hit me during the last school year, when my son was preparing to graduate as a junior. He was working almost completely independently on schoolwork. He’d be the third graduate from our homeschool, and of course we were proud of our shared accomplishment! Three down, and one to go!
Wait a minute. One to go. Somehow, we’d gone from four students to just one, and although we’re nearing the end of this school year, that thought still hits me new every now and again. I have only one student in my schoolroom now, and just two years before she graduates!
I’d be lying if I said that the changes in our homeschool aren’t bittersweet sometimes. I do miss those days of gathering kids together for a science experiment, a field trip, or a read-aloud story. But I don’t miss things like trying to keep one kid from interrupting while I work with another one on spelling or math, while also hoping that any kids I can’t see at the moment aren’t getting into too much trouble. Here are a few of the changes you can expect as your graduates leave the classroom and your own class size goes down:
- Your active teaching time will probably go down. This happens as your kids get older anyway, but you’ll probably find yourself acting even more as facilitator and coach rather than teacher.
- You’ll have less grading to do with only one student, and probably a lot less time needed on lesson planning. But if making time to actually do the grading was your challenge (it’s always been mine!), you’ll probably still face that challenge! (I really thought this would get easier!)
- You may have more time available to do other things. Since you don’t have to supervise and police every moment, you might have more time to spend on hobbies or your own projects. You might be able to pursue some new things or consider a part-time job, like I’ve done.
- You and your remaining student(s) may crave outside socialization more. Face it, having a whole group of siblings in your homeschool satisfies at least some of the need for companionship. With fewer siblings at home to hang with, you might find that you need to go out and be with others more often. Depending on what your optimum socialization level is, of course! I’m an extrovert, and I need interaction! (For proof, see my Homeschooling is Hard for Extroverts post.)
- You may have time (and energy) to do things with the youngest student that weren’t practical with the whole group. I rarely even considered a year-long co-op at the high school level for my older students, because we didn’t have the time or the money, and what would the younger kids have done during that time if there wasn’t a class for them? That’s changing next year, when my only student and I will spend almost a full day every week at co-op classes.
- You’ll find yourself wondering what you’ll do with yourself when that last kid graduates too. That’s why you need to Keep Your Perspective on life and homeschooling and everything. Remember that your homeschool goal is to provide a great education and to equip your student for life beyond graduation. You really are trying to work yourself out of a job, as the saying goes! And remember that there is so much more to you than just homeschool mom. Be Yourself and nurture the other parts of your life so that you won’t be entirely at loose ends when you’ve successfully launched all your students. Be prepared for life after homeschooling!
Good thing we homeschoolers are usually pretty good at adapting and making the most of our circumstances! How things change in your homeschool will be unique to you and your kids too.
A big thank you to Kym of Homeschool Coffee Break for writing this article