- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2000

I receive and answer an average of 20 e-mails a day. The majority seek advice on getting started in home-schooling or on addressing a particular subject or problem. Recently an e-mail caught me off-guard.

The letter came from a woman who had home-schooled her children for a number of years. Now, with the last child graduated, she is having a hard time adjusting. She wanted to know if I knew of any resources for home-schooling mothers who are facing empty nests. Obviously, this woman poured her life into nurturing and educating her children. Now she finds herself out of a job and home alone.

I'm sure we all have mused about what it will be like when we are no longer home-schooling. Some of you may say, "My children are still young. I have years before I will need to deal with this issue." That may be true, but I can tell you, life goes by too fast. In the blink of an eye, the child you hold in your arms today will be grown up and leaving home. You too will wonder: "Is there life after home-schooling?"

Although we must live in the present and do the best possible job we can training and educating our children, this mother's note should make us stop and consider seriously what we will do when our last child graduates.

Even though change is not easy for me, when my youngest child, Zachary, completes high school, I don't want to be like a deer caught in headlights. I want to be prepared for the next phase of my life. So, after reading the e-mail, I sat down and thought about what I want to do with my life when Zachary graduates in five years.

The first thing I did was make a list of the skills and knowledge I have gained from being a stay-at-home mom and home-schooling parent, and then I coupled it with a list of my personal talents and pursuits. At a glance, I saw many marketable skills I could use in a volunteer capacity within my community or in a paid position in the work world. How does your list look? Pretty impressive, I bet.

I then thought back to my years as a young home-schooling mom. At one point, I had a third-grader, first-grader, preschooler and newborn. Life was hectic, and I often wondered how I was going to home-school and run a household at the same time. My mother-in-law came to my rescue on many occasions. She would come to my home and wash dishes, mop floors and do laundry and whatever else needed to be done. She even would listen to the children read or help them with their math lessons.

Not everyone is blessed to have relatives living nearby, but you or I could be that seasoned home-schooling mom who helps a young mother with a growing family. I even know of a home-school grandmother who has started a one-day-a-week program in which local home-schooled children come to her home for an afternoon of arts and crafts or a science lesson. What a wonderful way to give weary home-schooling moms a break to catch up on lesson plans, housework or errands.

Empty nesters also should consider getting involved in home-school leadership on the state or local level. One of the biggest reasons people drop out of leadership positions is that they are unable to juggle home-schooling with running a group or organization. While family must be our No. 1 priority, the home-school community needs individuals who are willing to take the helm. As a retired home-school parent, you would have the required wisdom and knowledge plus time and energy.

When Zachary graduates in 2005, I will have been teaching for 22 years. I could use the resources we amassed and the educational knowledge I have gained to tutor children who may be having difficulty in school. Our local Literacy Council also told me it has a six-month waiting list of adults who want to improve their reading and writing skills or learn English as a second language. Why is the list so long? The council cannot find enough tutors. What a great way to continue teaching.

By far the best suggestion for my life after home-schooling came from my daughter, Erin. She told me to plan on making rounds between her home and those of her brothers to help home-school my grandchildren.

We all go through seasons of life. Just as we planned and prepared for the season in which we would nurture and educate our children, we also need to plan and prepare for life after our children leave home. As one door begins to close, we should have a foot on the threshold of the next.

Kim Huber, a mother of four children, has been home-schooling for 17 years. She and her husband serve on the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania's board of directors. She can be reached by e-mail (CHAPKimH@aol.com).

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