Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Silence of Older Homeschooling Moms

This post by Melissa Wiley made Chari and me think and connected to one of our ongoing discussions.

We started this blog partly because as younger homeschooling moms, several years back, we had noticed the "Silence of Older Homeschooling Moms."   When we first got online, my oldest was just 13 and Chari's oldest was just 11.   We loved the deep lively discussions and working out of educational methods and ideas.  But looking around our online community, we couldn't help being aware that we were apparently in the veteran front guard.   Hardly anyone with kids older than ours ever spoke up.   We knew there MUST be homeschooling mothers with older children than ours, who had much experience to share.  But where were they?  Only occasionally did a mom with 16 year olds or older pipe in with perhaps, a simple word of wisdom, or a curriculum suggestion.   When they did, we treasured their words.   We really didn't want to be the in front line! 

The advent of blogging didn't change this situation very much.  And even though we started this blog in order to try to share our lives as older moms with grown homeschoolers, we find ourselves in the same situation that Melissa points to.   We simply don't talk all much about our older children and the daily occurences in the homeschool.  .

Why is this? 

Privacy Concerns

When the kids hit their teenage years, privacy is an issue in more than one way. For one thing, this is an era of employers and even new friends googling names.   To some extent, using pseudonyms can be a protective screen, but the barrier is not as secure as one might hope. For another thing, there is personal privacy and reticence.   Teenagers are already barraged with messages encouraging them to pull down their personal boundaries in all sorts of ways.  Don't they need their moms to help them in this endeavor to protect and seclude their interior selves?

We Don't Want to Boast

While we don't want to invade our teens' privacy by sharing too much information about their challenges and difficulties, we also don't want to close down honest discussion by simply listingour children's achievements.   This can be a real downer for someone who is struggling or not seeing how to get from where they are to where they want to be.   Yet we do want to be encouraging and inspiring, of course!    I think there are ways to discuss what our children have accomplished without sounding like a promo ad (see below for some ideas) but it can be rather tricky, which probably makes us hesitate to embark on the topic. 

High Schoolers take over learning for themselves.
Some older homeschooled children are mostly independent.   We as moms simply aren't as involved in their daily routine.  They may be studying more from relatively advanced textbooks, or taking college classes, rather than cuddling on the sofa or gathering around the table for crafts.  Obviously high schooled kids are still doing interesting things but again, it seems more like "their" endeavor, and the mom is more of a resource and support than the primary mover.  

Life is too busy and scattered
Other moms of older children have shared that they are too busy to sit down and write.  You would think the toddler years would be the busiest time, and in some ways this is true, but helping older children to move into the wider world seems to bring a new season of driving, strategizing, arranging, mentoring, and this isn't always conducive to sitting down and writing, especially if you have younger children in the mix as well.   Some older moms are re-entering the work world, some are helping with grandchildren or aging parents, and in general, it is a very hectic season in life for many.

Beginners in a new stage of life
Also, I know that for me, part of my difficulty in discussing my homeschooling life as my kids get older is that I don't feel like I have a good perspective on the whole thing.   In some ways, as they grow older, their personal stories are just beginning.   I think perhaps it will get easier as they move out into real life and have their own children, perhaps, but right now I feel like a beginner or novice in a new stage of life.   Whereas curriculum and habits might be the keystones of the younger homeschool years, other things seem to be the primary focus of the transitional years, and I am not sure I have even decided what things those might be.


However, as others shared in the quotes in Melissa's post and in the combox, I also feel the desire to share some moments from one's life with teenagers or grown children.   I noticed that Melissa's post and the related thread on Facebook mentioned several possible ways to open the conversation about older children.  So I am bringing them out in hopes of making it easier for ourselves (and other moms of olders) to find ways to share their experience and encourage/support others. 

You Don't Have to Tell Everything to be Truthful

Homeschooling without Glitter makes the point that what we blog readers really want is inspiration and encouragement.
I would like to see older homeschoolers represented online with the same enthusiasm. Why?  Well, because I’d like to have my reality reflected, too. I’d like to be inspired.  I’d like to be reassured.  And if it was a slightly more glamorous image than reality, my heart would welcome that, too.  A little salesmanship of the day-to-day.
Two blogs I love in this regard are Sue Elvis Writes and Leonie's Living without School.   These Australian moms both seem to combine love and warmth and pride for their kids with realism.   They celebrate the ordinary parts of life, not just the high achievements.

I just read this interesting post by a mom of olders, What I Don't Show You.  It makes the point that there are lots of things we rightly can leave out and still be truthful and encouraging.  

A Blog can be a Reader's Journal/Life Encapsulation

On the Facebook thread, Melissa wrote:
.in the last few years I'd say Bonny Glen has been not so much a homeschooling blog as a family reading journal, with my usual hodgepodge of stuff-I'm-thinking-about and stuff-we're-doing thrown in
 This seems like another possibility --- as children grow, the focus seems to change away from the deep working out of homeschooling methods to something more like a lifestyle of learning.  This shift is difficult to document (at least it has been to me).     But taking the indirect approach, mentioning the older children as part of the description of daily life, seems to have a lot of potential.

Melissa is one who manages to mention her children's projects and activities and insights as asides, and there are others out there, I know.    For instance, I have seen Erin at Seven Little Australians post little bits about her olders in her Seven Quick Takes. 

The How I Did It

 The fact is that I think most veteran homeschool moms have discovered some sort of groove, something that works for them.  Homeschooling does not have to be thrashed out inch by inch anymore.   We sort of know what fits our kids and ourselves.    Sometimes we are somewhat hesitant to share because we know very well that what fits our family may look very different indeed from what fits other families.   Some have shared what worked for them without seeming to make it an ironclad rule for everyone.  For example, Susan at High Desert Home has written a series of posts on homeschooling older children.  I revisit these posts regularly.  If you homeschooled your children using a more intuitive or less conventional method, and they turned out well, it really helps other homeschoolers who are venturing off the beaten track to read about it. 


Another possibility is to provide help with the creative and logistical possibilities of homeschooling high schoolers -- designing or tweaking curriculum to suit them.  Sally T has done this with her site Abandon Hopefully, and Barb at Harmony Art Mom also shares details of her boys' curriculum without giving very many personal details about the ins and outs of their lives.   Theresa at LaPaz Home Learning has written several posts sharing the plans she makes for her high schooler.

Write what you know

Related to these two above -- some homeschooler moms of olders transition to blogging or otherwise sharing their area of expertise.  Julie at A Bravewriter's Life in Brief has a writing program that has been very successful with homeschoolers.   Maureen Wittman is engaged in making Catholic courses available online for middle and highschoolers and adults as well.    Maria Rioux has shared her Catholic CM-friendly syllabi which she has developed from years of homeschooling her children.   Catholic moms Michele and Kathryn have designed the Mater Amabilis curriculum which is freely available online.  And of course, this list goes on and on. 

Write about Teen Topics Indirectly

It also occurs to me that older moms can share their perspective on homeschooling through the high school years by keeping our kids' names out of it, either by using pseudonyms or by referring to our children indirectly so they aren't singled out in public.  A friend of mine and Chari's has a blog called Love Notes for Teens that seems like a really interesting way to deal with some teen-related issues without infringing on personal territory. 

Group Blogs or Grown Homeschooler Blogs

Last but not least, some grown homeschoolers start blogging or otherwise communicating for themselves.   Sometimes the blog becomes a family blog.  Sometimes the child starts his or her own blog.  Like Mother, Like Daughter is a nice example of a family community blog.   Mystie is a grown homeschooler who is now homeschooling her own, and so are Alicia and Jenn.   My daughter co-blogs with several other young ladies at The Catholic Young Woman.    In the Deeps of Time is an excellent Catholic science blog written by the grown son of a homeschooling mom of many.   Further examples abound.

After writing all this, I think I have a better sense of the possibilities of writing about older children in the homeschool.  Chari and I are planning to discuss this more between ourselves, since I think Chari has other thoughts on this that I haven't mentioned.    There is still much to be said. 

How about you?  Do you have any ideas on what you would want to hear about homeschooling high school and beyond?   Any favorite blogs that focus on this topic?


  1. To respond to the opening thoughts of this post ...

    As our daughter got older, I chose to become more vocal in our local home education community because I consider it important for the elders to encourage the fledglings, so to speak. Now that our girl has moved on to tertiary studies, there's one chief reason I've chosen to shut up and move on with my own life, too.

    In a sense, my reason is two sides of the same coin. Bluntly put, it is simply that younger mums, for the most part, don't want to hear. They're a bit like teenagers who know everything and don't believe that their parents have anything to say that's relevant to their own lives. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but often, that's how it comes across. Frankly, whatever actual teenages there are in our households is enough - none of us need to go looking for any additional battles.

    The other side of that same coin is that every generation of home educators needs to learn the path for themselves. Some seek counsel and wisdom from those who have traversed the path before them, but as a family unit, they still have to walk it for themselves. Theirs will be, just as ours was, a unique journey.

    All I can say, as I take deliberate steps backwards from the home education journey, is that I'm SO glad we walked it. I'm so glad to have been exposed to all sorts of approaches, and such an array of unique and wonderful human beings. Our daughter is a strong, creative, sensitive young woman who is well able to think deeply on all sorts of topics, and who is already creating her own marvellous life.

    The one concept I wish I could impart to all home educators, whether fledgling or seasoned, so that they truly understand is this: Walk your own path with your children, and leave others to theirs. Step outside of the box, and breath.

    1. Your point about younger moms is well taken. I think it fits in with what you say in the last paragraph about "walking your own path", something that everyone has to learn to do. When I was younger, I think I thought that there was one best way to homeschool -- and that if I thought about it long enough, I would figure it out. But meanwhile, education is what happens day to day while you are trying to figure it out : ). So in some ways I've given up on the idea that there is One Way -- and that makes me more silent. Somewhat the same thing is happening with my older kids -- I still might give advice or encouragement but I am not so pivotal in their lives -- they have to figure out how to live their own lives, which are different from mine in significant ways.

      Yet there is still that hunger out there for hearing other stories, and that doesn't go away as I get older....

    2. I observe the same thing about the younger moms not being particularly interested in the thoughts of older moms. Having just been to a large party with both it was interesting to observe.
      In defense of these younger moms, the resources available to them for raising and educating children are astounding. Information overload is a problem in all areas of society including homeschooling. They may simply be trying to protect themselves.
      And we older moms don't help when we approach things with the "you should" mentality. I think we can be most helpful by simply describing our experiences, good and bad and leave the decision to the parents.

    3. Yes, protecting self from information overload is a great point. And simply describing our experience seems helpful. Emailing about this with some older-mom friends brought out the point that beyond helping younger moms, we older moms also have an opportunity to support/encourage other moms of older children. I think we crave hearing about others' experience -- and there is a lack of that out there.

  2. Funny you should mention my blog, since I have been guilty of being pretty much MIA myself lately.
    I have been following this conversation and I do agree that there is a paucity of writing about older kids out there and I do wish there was more. But I totally understand all of the reasons why.
    For me it is more because the stuff my older son does is just not as "show-and-tell-able" as the stuff the younger kids do. It's easy to snap a photo of a pretty picture or craft my 10yo has done and make a blog post about it. But my son is doing stuff like going through an SAT practice book, teaching himself Russian (or trying to)and plugging away atb his 3-D animation program. How do you blog about this stuff and make it worth reading? I don't know. I'm still working it out, but this conversation has led me to thinking that I should probably be better about blogging the older kid stuff because I sure would like for others to do the same so I have something to read!LOL!

    1. Ditto, Theresa -- I think that was mentioned in one of the links from Lissa's post -- that older children's learning just isn't as visual or as easy to write about!

  3. Hi Willa,

    This is such an interesting and thought provoking post and I am going to follow your links! Thank you for the one to my blog! You are so kind including it.

    Amy Caroline was writing about homeschooling high schoolers the other day and after reading her post, I did some thinking about this topic too.

    I am very fortunate that all my children, including my young adults, don't mind me writing about them. I promise them I won't write anything too embarrassing and we usually discuss what I am posting before I hit the publish button. They aren't shy and private which is just as well as they have me for a mother!

    Why do I write about them? Sometimes just to record the experiences for my own family, to see where we've come from and to be grateful for what we have, and to express the joys of family life. I want to remember everything! Other times, someone asks me a question about homeschooling and I try to answer it using our family's experiences as an example, but not necessarily as the only way of doing things. I have found that what most people need is reassurance so it's good to talk about the fears we all have. It's also good to be able to look back and realise those fears came to nothing, and share the successes. When I was a less experienced homeschooling mother, I wanted to know what high-school-aged homeschoolers DID! It was very hard to find out. You are right. Their work isn't so visual or simple to write about. I am trying something new at the moment: posting links and ideas my children are using in their homeschooling on a separate linked blog. We don't use a set curriculum so I can't share that.

    Maybe why I write about older children more than most people is that my younger children aren't quite so young any more! They don't often do beautiful crafts for me to photograph etc. Instead they might present me with a molecular model and I have to make a post out of that!

    Some of my children blog. I think the older ones' posts are a good insight into what they are doing, what they are interested in, who they are... I sometimes think that readers who want to know about homeschooling older children are better off reading my daughters' blogs instead of mine!

    Anyway, this comment is getting long so I shall stop and go and follow your links!

    God bless.

    1. Very valuable thoughts, Sue. I think you just added several more categories of ways to write! I love it when the combox fills out the post.

      I particularly like the way you and your kids cooperate to share details of your family life. It seems so natural for you. I didn't mention your sister Vicky in my post because off-hand I couldn't remember if she had written about her older children, whereas I remember several posts from you, but I think of her in that category too, of doing things cooperatively with her children.

      My young kids are getting older too. When they were little I guess I mostly focused on blogging about them, but now only one of them is under 12 -- hard to believe!~

  4. Wonderful post, and I'm so glad you're thinking and writing about this. :) Thanks for keeping the dialogue going! I'll chime in when I have a bit more time...cheers!

    1. Thanks for commenting and for getting the discussion going, Lissa!

  5. I didn't see this post until today, but it's a good one, Willa.

    As a young mom, part of the problem I see when I've asked older moms (in real life) about their experience is simply that their memory is hazy. They rarely give actual practical advice, because they don't really remember what they did, or they've reached a point of self-doubt or perhaps wisdom so that they just say it didn't matter what they did, God did the work. Which is actually marvelous encouragement, though sometimes it comes across as a cop-out when you're the one in the middle of it and needing still to do something.

    My friend and I talked about this topic a couple years ago and saw these tendencies: 1) preschoolers-only moms want to hear and know what it's like, but they actually don't know what they need to know; they gravitate toward the very-practical, do-this advice when they should probably be filling up on the big picture thoughts. 2) elementary-moms are curriculum focused and love giving practical advice; their advice gets overwhelming, because each person seems to push their style. 3) moms almost done are tired of homeschooling and don't really want to talk about it; even thinking about starting from the beginning makes them tired. 4) moms who are done homeschooling are either ready to move on and not talk about homeschooling ever again after it being their life for 30+ years OR they say things like "Oh, just enjoy your children" or "it doesn't matter what you use" or "I can't give you advice because I mostly messed up, but God worked despite me."

    These are generalizations of course, but they seem to be commonplace in our real-life circles.

    Another older mom who actually does have good and practical advice is Linda Fay at And, of course, Cindy at

    Thanks for mentioning my blog, but just being second generation doesn't really make me experienced. :) I think it helps me be comfortable eschewing the workbooks and school-at-home model, but I feel like I'm just starting again at a different beginning. I'm learning a new set, perhaps the next set, of how to do this than my mom had to learn.

    1. Hi Mystie,

      I think that is a very perceptive analysis of the different stages of homeschooling. Except for the older set, I couldn't help noticing that it somewhat followed the psychological-Trivium model of grammar/dialectic/rhetoric. : ) If you bring out the older moms who write books or start some sort of cottage industry inspired by hsing, you could get the psychological-rhetoric stage in there too.

      I also see some older moms (done homeschooling or almost done) who are somewhat disillusioned, especially if they were idealistic at the beginning. I know I fight that sometimes. It makes me want to stick to generalities like your 4b because after all those ARE things I can say truly. (Except I don't usually say "enjoy your children" - I am more likely to say something like "pray without ceasing" because I always remember my mom saying that the only thing she KNEW she did right was pray!)

      Thanks for commenting and for your perspective on 2nd generation hsing -- I do think every generation has its own work cut out for it and perhaps that might be another reason why older parents tend to fall silent in this culture, because it is so fast moving.

    2. Just thinking about it some more. When I was a new mom, both my mom and my mother in law were very supportive. My mother in law had excellent practical advice -- she is a very practical person. I don't know how I would have managed those neonate days without all the tips she gave me, and the same again with toddlers.

      My own mom was not so much on nitty gritty stuff. She was very supportive and always willing to help me thrash out parenting theories, and was very perceptive about the psychology of the kids, what made them tick.

      Both of them were loving and wanted what was best, and wanted to help me become a better mom, but by supporting, not taking over or second-guessing.

      Both of them really helped me, but in very different ways.

    3. Hm, and you had a relationship with both as well. If we talk more of real life people than those who choose to write about it, then perhaps part of the problem on the young mom side is having one conversation with an older mom and wanting and expecting answers. The older mom knows that's not possible, so in one way or another puts off the younger mom.

      Perhaps what we need more of is investing time in relationships beyond our peers.

  6. Hi Willa! Great topic, and very insightful. I think Mystie's breakdown of the different stages is generally accurate.

    The Age of Blogging has brought a new dimension to mentorship and modeling for the homeschooling mom (and everyone else too, I suppose!) As a culture, we are now so quick to consult Google, hone a precise question, and expect the perfect answer to pop up on that perfect blog out there, written by the mom who totally knows what you are going through.

    I have wondered if this form of cyber-mentoring can in some ways set us up for false expectations, and perhaps cause us to overlook in-real-life mentors who are right under our noses.

    Your mention of your mom and mother-in-law is interesting. I too have been helped along by my own mother, who in so many ways led a VERY different life than I am. She sent us to public school, did everything that the doctor and the teacher said, served on the get the idea.

    However, she has been a wealth of wisdom for me, and my biggest support. Not because she is a homeschooling veteran, but because she is Godly, prayerful, wise, and she loves me. Its a great combo.

    Anyway, I'm not sure of my point here, but I guess I just mean to say that perhaps we "younger" (or middle-aged in my case) homeschool moms expect a bit too much in the way of mentoring? Godly women encouraging Godly women seems to transcend homeschooling. Yes, sure, it's GREAT to have someone to specifically discuss homeschooling, to have the "what did you do when your son pulled this?" conversation. Chari have been a true gift to me in that IRL, somewhat (although not much) older homeschooling mom who is willing to talk about it...even when she is tired.

    1. You are so funny, Shawna...."even when she is tired"

      Ten years older is enough to be able to mentor that is for sure. I depended on moms who were ten years older than me when I was in my thirties.

      And now look at you, Shawna.......with all of your parenting to mentor others now :)

      And, we will not bring up your age. Though, I just realized....we have officially been friends for over ten years now.

      Love you and praying for you!

  7. ...continued from above...

    Our difficulties were mostly due to the rebellious nature of one of our children who wreaked very much pain in our family. We spent many weeks/months crying in church, our children devastated as we all sacrificed to save this one child. I was an insomniac for many months and would stay home on Sunday from time to time. Other times I would leave church crying in heartbreak. Our daughters cried, one lost weight, one gained weight. It was stressful beyond words. We needed compassion from our church. We got none. This WAS NOT the image of a pastor's wife/family that was expected from the aspiring to be "ideal homeschool full quiver families." When my husband decided to turn to the men for understanding and support and shared the worst of the worst that this child did, he was thrown under the bus. He came under great attack and was expected to step down because we did not fit the "biblical" model they expected. Never-mind the fact that my husband held our family together in THE MOST servant, sacrificial manner anyone could imagine. (Can we say "Christlike?") He navigated our family through it all and today we are all so much better off. God giving my husband the grace to keep us from falling apart and as close as we are today IS the success story. (Not the fact that our 2 adult sons are well educated and well employed, though they are.) Look in the Bible, ladies. It's not full of perfect people, it is full of stories of a perfect God managing the affairs of mankind for His outcome, His glory. In the end my husband was vindicated by the elders of our oversight church and these men were told that he is exactly the example they should want. But my husband lost his desire to serve. The church folded. Am I disillusioned, yes? But I'm disillusionment by something I should never have trusted in: a lifestyle, people, the church. I'm very glad it all happened. We do still homeschool. We still believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus. This isn't the "advice, encouragement" younger moms would want, I'm sure. They mostly want to know what curriculum to use, should I use a schedule, how do I get Johnny to focus, how do I get it all done, etc....those are easily answered. I suspect the generalizations that Mystie shared are due the shear fact that older moms really have learned that those nit-noid how-to questions are all surface issues. Perhaps you can't learn what really matters until you've gone through difficult times. These are the kinds of things that happen to many homeschooling families as well as none homeschoolers. No young mom wants to plan for them. We all thought we could control the outcomes better. Control is easy when they are little. And if you tell any one you can't, there is still this, "these things won't happen in my family" attitude. Perhaps they won't but if they do, it's not beyond God, His ability nor outside of His methods to use it all for good. (Again, read the Bible for examples, not the blogs.) As for me: I wouldn't go back to that pie-in-the-sky pressure/guilt, works/results driven, comparison way of living for anything. This is relevant to homeschooling older children, because this is life.

  8. (there was a mess up...this goes above the post above)
    I just googled "older homeschool moms" and came across this. I'm not a blogger, nor do I follow blogs, but I would love true fellowship from older moms. We have a story. Not sure it's interesting or relevant, but we do have a story. I was amazed that others have had the same experience as I have; younger mothers not needing nor seeking advice of older ones. Many of us who didn't have the "Titus 2" older woman mentorship worked hard to blaze the trail and fully planned to fill the need for younger women to have help that we did not have. Sadly, you that commented on their lack of need/desire for any involvement were correctly assessing the same thing I see. I see several reasons, some mentioned here: the overall "independent, I've got this figured out" attitude of the younger generations and the ability to go to the blogosphere for the "ideal" that surely everyone else lives. But we had another experience. We were the only older ones in a very small church in which my husband was enthusiastically chosen as the pastor. We "looked" like what they wanted to "look" like as their children got older and indeed there was/is much good grace in our children/family. But, as MANY, dare I say MOST, of God's children do, we went through some very hard times; difficulties that without God's grace would've torn our family apart and tested ours to the core.


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