Anticipate the Empty Nest

The sand in my youngest’s daughter’s homeschool hourglass is swiftly running through the hole as she is busy preparing for her final year of homeschooling and I know that my years as a homeschool mom are fast coming to an end.  I pray that we will end it properly, for her, but more importantly, well for me.

Because she has studied independently for several years now, she freed me up to start to follow my own interests, hobbies and work while I am still available in the study with her while she works.

Steven Lambert wrote in Life After Homeschool on Five In A Row Facebook page,

These days are long, but the years are short. The homeschool years go by so quickly. Empty nesting is a challenge for EVERY mother. 

As each child leaves, they take with them their special and unique personalities and life in the home shifts and changes.   I hope that I will transition into my new season of child-free-home motherhood without the distress that I experienced when my older two daughters graduated and moved out and started their own lives.

When they both left home straight after their respective graduations, I recognized that much of my identity and purpose was wrapped up in my role as their homeschool mom and I floundered emotionally for a while.

But if I had paid attention, the shift into not being “needed” or “wanted” had started much earlier.  In episodes where my first teenager pushed away from me and my “help”, my idealistic motherhood ideals and expectations were shattered.  I  lost perspective and I cried before the Lord and eventually surrendered my ideals and began to trust Him for an upgrade in my relationship with my daughters.  I learnt to remain open and available in grace toward them.  I began to focus on their teenage loves, passions, interests and hobbies, and to champion and support them in their early entrepreneur endeavours. This subtle shift made it possible for my graduate daughters to move out into their independence without a huge wrench in my heart.  It felt right and natural, and I have always believed that to be a successful mother, I must work myself out of my job as a mom.

High school moms, may I encourage you to prepare your exit strategy as time and opportunities begin to present themselves in these final homeschool years.  Are there dreams you never took time to pursue? Did you love to paint? Sew? Write? Do you have a skill or passion? Take a class.  Share what you have learnt with others. Teach a class.  Mentor younger moms stuck deep in their trenches.  Be a Titus 2 woman.  Keep on learning, discovering, growing.

More importantly, work on your marriage and your relationship with your husband.  When I poured myself into my early years of homeschooling, I gave most of my energy to my young kids rather than into my marriage. My life pretty much revolved around my kids.  Now that the children are older and more independent, I started to rediscover and revitalize my relationship with my hubby and find renewed purpose and intimacy, especially as we both transition into the next phase and season of our lives.

It helps to shift one’s perspective, to anticipate the new open, free and quiet days as a wonderful blank canvas for new opportunities!  I may have an empty and quiet nest someday soon, but my days can be full of interests and activities that fulfil me and allow me to live out my gifting and passions in a new way.

My hope is the joy of ending well — to launch our last child into independent adulthood, freely— instead of mourning the stage of parenthood that is ending.  That is my prayer as I prepare my exit from my many years of homeschooling.

You can read another good article on having an exit strategy here.

Blessings to each of you in whatever transition you may find yourself, Nadene.

Navigating postgraduate years

Here’s another “Getting Real” post ~  My eldest daughter graduated high school at the end of 2013.  Motherhood and homeschooling shifted gears and I entered into a completely different phase with a postgraduate young adult.  Somehow, navigating these years are far more difficult than I imagined.

If you follow the system, this is how educating your children usually looks ~

Schooling +12 years = graduate = college/ university = a diploma or degree = good job = successful life. 

Right?  In fact, I hear more moms who are considering homeschooling their preschooler or really young primary-aged children ask about homeschool graduation qualification requirements than how to enjoy the first few years of homeschooling.  The system rules their thinking.

I seemed to really have my act together when I was homeschooling my three young daughters.  As a qualified school teacher, no one doubted my ability or our vision for our family, but things changed drastically once my eldest graduated and we did not insist on her going to university to study further.

In fact, we have repeatedly been criticized by family and close friends for not providing her with the opportunities to achieve her God-given purpose.  I have endured days of long ‘conversations’ where granny and oupa and aunties have laid into us.  I received a heavily disappointed email with 7 attachments on “Finding your God-given purpose” from my dad.

But here’s the thing, our eldest daughter didn’t want to study further.  And I have learnt that forcing any education on a child doesn’t stick!  It vanishes like mist before the sun.  Our daughter didn’t want a chosen “safe” career or long-term commitment to a job or internship.  She didn’t want to do short courses. We thought, “Why invest heaps of money on courses or take out study loans or go into debt when someone is not keen?  It doesn’t make any sense.”

So, we allowed our eldest daughter to have a gap year … or two …  She has acquired major life skills ~

She and her best friend began entrepreneurship ventures when they were just 15 years old. They have been creative, hard-working and their skills have been tried and tested over the past several years.  They have stocked and run two shops.  She and her sister created a unique clothing range which they collaborated, created and ran online and at markets.  She has been committed to several short-term jobs, one where she gained valuable experience doing administration for a company. She has served others faithfully.  She has grown enormously spiritually.

During these years she assisted two of her friends with their home births.  She has learnt to cook large family meals on a very tight budget, from scratch, without electricity.  She’s learnt to run a home.  She’s attended a month of life-coaching.  She has been serious in her involvement with people and she is committed to deep and meaningful relationships in the small town where she has made her home.

Most importantly, I realized that she is community-driven.  She hated the idea of moving to a large town and living and working on her own.  I have to think that because we live so far from town, on such a remote farm, that we don’t have the same circumstances that most folks have of gently easing a new school graduate into jobs and towards independent living.

When we consider our eldest daughter, we realize that she is living out her life with her own, well-thought-out choices.  Our role is to help her in her startup ventures, assist her to begin businesses or start new jobs, and to encourage her when she faces disappointments and frustrations.  Our role is to champion her.  It is not what the system reflects, but what her heart longs for and how it leads her.  We seem to be navigating her post-school years without a map.

We are so proud of our daughter, and the amazing young woman that she has become!

The best way to parent a graduate is to be available, relational, supportive and encouraging so that we have a place of influence.    And to pray much …

In contrast, it is so easy to follow a homeschool schedule or curriculum.  You know exactly what is expected, what to use and how to get there.  The day is set out neatly.  You can tick the boxes and feel the accomplishments at the end of the day like a warm glow.  But this graduate phase … these open-ended days, filled with uncertain choices, unpredictable outcomes, and sometimes frightening opportunities scares us and it terrifies our newly graduate children.

Life after school is scary, folks.

So, enjoy your young children, your neat homeschool timetables and plans, your simple choices, your children’s innocent hopes and dreams.  And start praying now for those post-graduate years.

What advice do you have for other parents facing their children’s graduate years?  Please share your views in the comments below.

With much grace, Nadene

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Beautiful Mama Blog Award

This blessing came my way …

Beautiful Mama Blog AwardMarie at My Mom Thoughts  shared this encouragement,

thank you so much!

She wrote ~

“To accept the award, please do the following things:

Click the above award image, save it and use it in your acceptance post.
List 3 things you love about motherhood.
Nominate other deserving mamas; you may choose as many as you like. (And let them know of the nomination)”

Normally I tend to keep family issues private on my blog, but please let me share a little more about my being a mom …

Right from the start of my marriage, I was a step-mom to 2 boys. It was not always “beautiful”.  When the boys lived with us for seasons, we were a blended family and I felt secure, but their coming & going has been the most challenging aspect of parenting.  Currently one son, 22-years old, lives and works with us on our farm.  The eldest, 25-years old, is planning to join us here too.  … coming and going …  and learning to love with my hands and heart wide open. 

I always wanted to be a mom and when I fell pregnant with our first child, I prayed for mentors, attended La Leche League meetings, read books.  I wanted to do motherhood well. I was a breastfeeding-baby-wearing-attached-parenting-co-sleeping kind of mom and it was natural to continue nurturing her and start homeschooling.

Four years later I had my second child.  We had an amazing home birth and I thought that I would parent her as I had before,  but everything seemed different.  She was different.  She loved to sleep on her own, in her cot, and thrived on structured routine. My parenting style with her changed dramatically.

And just two and half years later my youngest arrived, also with an intimate home birth.  She fitted into our lives so smoothly.  I could pop her in my sling and continue with the family.

I love seeing each child open up like a flower and discover themselves and life around them.  It is a privilege to homeschool them and spend our lives together.

I am so grateful to be a mom.

Here are 3 things I love about motherhood ~

  • Every age and every stage of the child is utterly unique and special.  It is sometimes so beautiful that I tell myself to soak it all in.  Sometimes it seems so hard, even ugly.  Grace to a child in transition and grace to a mom who doesn’t know how …
  • Every child is unique and one style does not fit all.  All my ideals and standards have been challenged.  Grace.  Grace to others, and self-grace to the ‘different’.
  • All truly great parenting is done on bended knee in prayer. Keep praying, looking to Him,the author and perfecter of our faith, the One who K.N.O.W.S. all.

Other amazing moms who inspire me are ~

Pop over to their blogs and websites and be encouraged and inspired.

Blessings and grace to all you beautiful mamas!

Away

I have been away.
 
JET PLANE COMES IN FOR LANDING AT LOVE FIELD O...

I traveled alone.

I flew to visit my parents and to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday.

We last saw each other 2 years ago.

This time with my mom and dad was a gift.

My darling hubby encouraged me before I left with this Word ~

“Treasure your time with your parents.  You each have been given a basket to collect precious moments and treasured memories.  We send you with our blessing.  Go and enjoy them.”

I wept with gratitude.

I had phoned my mom and told her that I would come with “open heart and willing hands“.

We baked and prepared for her party.

I helped her here and there.

But mostly I joined her life.

She’s so creative! 

She has busy hands and fills her days with inspired work.

Quilting, sewing, fabric painting, making gifts, making chocolates.

lots of quilting.
 She’s a physiotherapist with healing hands.

Her patients love her and need her to ease their pains.

Her birthday was a special day.  I met her neighbors, close friends, the marvelous ladies in her quilting group called “Always in Stitches” – and boy, do they laugh!

During the week she taught me the latest tricks of free-hand machine embroidery and paper-piecing quilting.

(I have lots to learn & practice!)

 A mini quilt made by sewing through a pattern ...

I loved every minute of my time with her.

We had good chats at the dinner table. 

We talked, remembered early times, laughed, cried, prayed.

Amazingly, my family back home thrived and survived without me! [smiles]

My daughters cooked, cleaned, did washing and ran the farm and did their household chores without my reminders.

My eldest sat for her mid-year exams on her own!

I am delighted. 

Life skills at work.

This kind of independence is good for growing young adults.

Consistency, routine and good habits have created those Charlotte Mason “railroad tracks” and days continued smoothly … while I was away.

Homeschooling works.

I am so grateful!

… Grateful for time and relationships.

… Grateful for grace to leave hubby and home.

… Grateful for children who released me despite their insecurities or fears,

despite exams and end-of-term pressure.

I am grateful to be able to be present where it mattered most.

And I am grateful to be back home,

Loved and belonging.

For family.

Blessings,