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?
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 inThis 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?