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  • Preparing for H.E.N.S. (Homeschool Empty Nest Syndrome)

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    You wish for it with every breath. You pray for it to whatever god, rock, or spaghetti monster will listen. You hide in the closet in hopes that you might remember what it sounds like.

    Silence.

    But for the homeschool parent, itís as elusive as Sasquatch or Nessie. Possibly even a figment of your imagination, since you canít remember the last time it actually made an appearance in your house.

    UntilÖ..
    [cut to the inside of my house this morning]
    Iím typing furiously on my keyboard, answering one of the many emails I received since I last logged in. The hubs and my son who still lives at home have both long since left for work. The dogs (both in their twilight years) are lightly snoring on their respective beds. The only sound I hear outside of the clacking of my own fingers hitting the computer keys is the squeak of the mail truck pulling up to the curb. My heart leaps. I jump up excitedly and wave to our carrier from the window. Not because heís brought anything important, mind you, but just because heís there. A hit of the drug I didnít even know I would become addicted to - - human connection.

    Thereís just something about homeschooling, isnít there? Beyond the learning together, the frustrating battles of wills, and the spontaneous laughter. Beyond the financial sacrifices, the messy rooms, and the late night discussions. Itís that connection - - that complicated camaraderie - - that surprises you most. And when the end of it looms near, thereís only so much you can do to prepare.

    But prepare we must. Because Iím convinced there is no empty nest syndrome like Homeschool Empty Nest Syndrome. One minute you are up to your eyeballs in glue sticks, map outlines, and high school transcript drafts. And the next minute you are finding excuses to wake up your dog to have someone to talk to. Those maddening, curious, magnificent kids whoíve turned our lives upside down are going to leave us. What are we supposed to do to be ready for that?

    Trudge through those memories (and STUFF!) together
    Take some family time as their months with you wind down to pare down the homeschool paraphernalia. Going through all those old books, papers, and projects is balm for the soul, a

    reminder of how much youíve all accomplished, and an opportunity to share your favorite memories of the journey.

    Take a vacation together
    As soon as the homeschool graduation decorations come down, pull out the travel brochures, and plan at least a few days of true family fun. Whether your budget will only allow for a weekend camp-out, or you can splurge on an adventure youíve bucket-listed, that kind of purposeful getaway will be like a nicotine patch on your memory bank when theyíve said their goodbyes.

    Buy them a prepaid phone plan for their graduation present
    Iím totally serious.The fact that you are paying for the minutes and data means they should feel just obligated enough to contact you regularly with it. And if not, donít hesitate to make it clear exactly what they owe you for your generosity.

    Take advantage of that homeschool spirit
    Youíve said it all along. Learning is for a lifetime. And now that you have time to learn beyond the confines of Minecraft, dinosaurs, and english lit, DO IT! Make a bucket list of everything you want to learn about when there isnít a child-led interest, a grade, or a transcript involved.

    [cut to your house in ___ months/years]
    Youíre almost two chapters into your book before you realize you havenít had a single interruption, or heard a single argument since you began. You feel immensely grateful. And yet, the tears appear out of nowhere. You and this silence thing. Itís going to be a complicated camaraderie.

    lets-talk-about-jpg


    It's time to share your story. Your thoughts. Your feelings. About what it is/will be like to deal with the "aftermath" of homeschooling. Let's help each other through this thing!!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Preparing for H.E.N.S. (Homeschool Empty Nest Syndrome) started by Topsy View original post
    Comments 16 Comments
    1. inmom's Avatar
      inmom -
      Topsy,

      I thought about this today while 6 hours on the road to and from a college visit with my son. His sister left this fall for college and he leaves next fall, so it's happening very quickly around here.

      Coincidentally enough, my husband, son, and I are planning one last vacation with just the three of us. (DD is hoping to study abroad this summer.) Strangely enough, ds wants to go hike Death Valley; he enjoys the quiet and desolation!! So anyway, we're hoping to build yet even more memories there.

      I'm torn in feelings. I'm really happy and excited for both kids with this new stage in their lives. They are so eager and hopeful. But it is also sad, because other than some college breaks, I know they are never coming back, not even to live nearby. They won't find their occupational futures here, and that's okay.

      Like Shoe said in another post, we work so hard to make them independent, confident, and responsible,....and then we have to let go. On the positive side, with social media, cell phones, and texting, it IS so much easier to see what is going on in my daughter's life than when I went to college 30 years ago.

      Personally, I'm hoping to pick up some college instructor work, even part time. Dh has worked so hard for so long in order that I could stay home to homeschool, I'd love it if he could cut back, maybe with the dream of semi-retiring early. We want to travel as well, so I also have that to look forward to. I know for certain that I'm not going to rattle around in this quiet house---I'd go nuts!
    1. Avalon's Avatar
      Avalon -
      I'm having an early preview right now. My daughter started high school last month and I feel like I lost my best friend. I didn't even realize how much of my day was taken up with her, but boy are things quiet and lonely without her. I was so used to knowing every single thing she did that it's a bit like torture to hear only snippets of her day, not knowing who her friends & classmates are, not knowing her teachers, etc., etc, etc.

      My son is still home, but he's not as demanding as she is, and he spends a lot of time just reading or on the computer, so there are hours and hours sometimes when I feel like I don't even need to be here. I'm trying to find some new things for him to do (and for me to do), but we're both feeling a little lost without her energy around here.

      Part of me wants to just make the leap, send him to school, too, and go off to work. At the very least, I feel like I need a new hobby or interest, but I can't for the life of me figure out what that might be. I'm at a bit of a crossroads here. I'll be home with my son for one or two more years, but what will I do then? Definitely feeling lost.

      Sometimes I wonder if I have an unhealthy connection/attachment to my kids. Do other parents find separation this painful? I don't think I'm holding them back or clinging or helicoptering or interfering in their lives. I'm trying to be very grown up and encourage them to do what they want/need, but inside, I just want to squish them back down to 10-year-old size and keep them there.
    1. Shoe's Avatar
      Shoe -
      Quote Originally Posted by inmom View Post
      Topsy,

      I thought about this today while 6 hours on the road to and from a college visit with my son. His sister left this fall for college and he leaves next fall, so it's happening very quickly around here.

      Coincidentally enough, my husband, son, and I are planning one last vacation with just the three of us. (DD is hoping to study abroad this summer.) Strangely enough, ds wants to go hike Death Valley; he enjoys the quiet and desolation!! So anyway, we're hoping to build yet even more memories there.
      We had planned a last vacation with the whole family this past summer, but because both kids ended up getting jobs, they couldn't come. The family tradition that had been our standard vacation for the last 12 years or more just wasn't the same without them. Both my wife and I agreed that we have to make new traditions and that that former beautiful period in our lives has reached its natural conclusion.

      I'm torn in feelings. I'm really happy and excited for both kids with this new stage in their lives. They are so eager and hopeful. But it is also sad, because other than some college breaks, I know they are never coming back, not even to live nearby. They won't find their occupational futures here, and that's okay.
      Perfectly stated!

      On the positive side, with social media, cell phones, and texting, it IS so much easier to see what is going on in my daughter's life than when I went to college 30 years ago
      My son currently doesn't have a phone available (one of the things we didn't consider when sending him to school across international borders, although hopefully we'll resolve this issue soon), so I've actually considered signing up for FaceBook again just to have more contact with hi. Right now, we exchange weekly e-mails as our only form of communication. It's kind of nice in that there is a considered depth to our conversations that is not present with live talk...but I do miss his voice.
    1. Shoe's Avatar
      Shoe -
      Quote Originally Posted by Avalon View Post
      Sometimes I wonder if I have an unhealthy connection/attachment to my kids. Do other parents find separation this painful? I don't think I'm holding them back or clinging or helicoptering or interfering in their lives. I'm trying to be very grown up and encourage them to do what they want/need, but inside, I just want to squish them back down to 10-year-old size and keep them there.
      I don't think it's unhealthy. We devote a huge amount of time, energy and emotional investment into caring for and raising our kids, and then we let them go. It's a huge adjustment, so it's not surprising that it's so painful. But it's a good thing for them, so there's this bittersweet mixture of pride, happiness for them, along with loneliness and emptiness.
    1. Topsy's Avatar
      Topsy -
      [QUOTE=inmom;201187]

      I'm torn in feelings. I'm really happy and excited for both kids with this new stage in their lives. They are so eager and hopeful. But it is also sad, because other than some college breaks, I know they are never coming back, not even to live nearby. They won't find their occupational futures here, and that's okay.
      We visited our son for the first time in two months this past weekend, and had some interesting discussions about this subject of happy/sad. He said he feels the same way. So happy to be doing something he's wanted to do for so long. Yet super sad about being away from a place and situation he always felt so loved and accepted in. It really IS that roots and wings analogy!!!
    1. Topsy's Avatar
      Topsy -
      My son currently doesn't have a phone available (one of the things we didn't consider when sending him to school across international borders, although hopefully we'll resolve this issue soon), so I've actually considered signing up for FaceBook again just to have more contact with hi. Right now, we exchange weekly e-mails as our only form of communication. It's kind of nice in that there is a considered depth to our conversations that is not present with live talk...but I do miss his voice.
      We're in a very similar situation with our son. His internship is in VERY rural Tennessee where there is very little cell service and no internet. I always thought that we'd have these incredible "digital connections" when he left, but that hasn't turned out to be the case. In some ways, it's probably good. He's able to really assert his independence even more strongly. And the phone calls we DO have with him are always really terrific ones. But it is the hardest part of this transition for we as his parents. Going from talking to him all the time to hearing from him only a couple times a week.
    1. Topsy's Avatar
      Topsy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Avalon View Post
      My daughter started high school last month and I feel like I lost my best friend.
      Boy do I identify, Avalon! My son has always been an "old soul" and definitely one of my dearest companions. It's so hard to not get to experience their lives in-real-time anymore.


      Quote Originally Posted by Avalon View Post
      Sometimes I wonder if I have an unhealthy connection/attachment to my kids. Do other parents find separation this painful? I don't think I'm holding them back or clinging or helicoptering or interfering in their lives. I'm trying to be very grown up and encourage them to do what they want/need, but inside, I just want to squish them back down to 10-year-old size and keep them there.
      I'm not kidding when I say that I think empty nest syndrome might be even more difficult for we homeschoolers. Healthy or unhealthy, advantage or disadvantage, it is what it is. For the past few years I have felt like everything I've been involved with - - getting them ready to be independent and preparing them for life beyond homeschool - - has been counter-intuitive with what I've wanted to do, which was to will them to stay put with me for the rest of their lives!
    1. inmom's Avatar
      inmom -
      Quote Originally Posted by Topsy View Post
      We visited our son for the first time in two months this past weekend, and had some interesting discussions about this subject of happy/sad. He said he feels the same way. So happy to be doing something he's wanted to do for so long. Yet super sad about being away from a place and situation he always felt so loved and accepted in. It really IS that roots and wings analogy!!!
      First, so envious. We won't see dd until Thanksgiving Break, and we dropped her off at college in mid-August.

      The conversation you had with your son seems similar to something my daughter wrote in a blog post she wrote for her brother for his 18th birthday a week ago. (BTW, "Quentin" is his blog name since he doesn't want her to use his real one.)

      I miss my brother. I’m not homesick, per se, but I do miss certain people and it feels weird not to talk to them every day and see them every day and just generally be around them. I haven’t seen Quentin since I left for college in August, and I won’t see him again until late November.
    1. Melyssa's Avatar
      Melyssa -
      I have been really struggling with the transition. My daughter didn't do much at home last year either, but this year I am not really involved in anything except to drive her places. She completes all her classes now outside the home, via a school district program once a week and then part-time community college. It does seem like such a short time ago I was in the thick of it, researching and buying curriculum, stocking up on supplies, making out lesson plans, keeping records, going on field trips, etc etc etc. She is also in several extracurricular activities, and with friends and a new boyfriend (another stage I wasn't quite prepared for!) she is not home very much. Or when she is home she is busy with homework. We do watch tv together at night when she can. But for the most part I have just felt so....lonely. And useless. What has helped me get through this change is a part-time job. In May I started working 3-4 mornings per week, only about 8-15 hours total but it gives me a feeling of purpose I guess. Before that I was feeling so lost and depressed.
    1. Topsy's Avatar
      Topsy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Melyssa View Post
      What has helped me get through this change is a part-time job. In May I started working 3-4 mornings per week, only about 8-15 hours total but it gives me a feeling of purpose I guess. Before that I was feeling so lost and depressed.
      Seriously couldn't have made it without work. Although since all of the work I do is from home, my volunteer work is just about all that gets me out and about on a regular basis. I'm thinking of stepping that up even more, even though it will mean less free time. Because I have to tell you...homeschool empty nest syndrome while working from home is a dispiriting combo!
    1. Topsy's Avatar
      Topsy -
      Quote Originally Posted by inmom View Post
      I miss my brother. I’m not homesick, per se, but I do miss certain people and it feels weird not to talk to them every day and see them every day and just generally be around them. I haven’t seen Quentin since I left for college in August, and I won’t see him again until late November.
      Um. (((weep))) So sweet!!!
    1. Norm Deplume's Avatar
      Norm Deplume -
      Quote Originally Posted by Avalon View Post
      I'm having an early preview right now. My daughter started high school last month and I feel like I lost my best friend. I didn't even realize how much of my day was taken up with her, but boy are things quiet and lonely without her. I was so used to knowing every single thing she did that it's a bit like torture to hear only snippets of her day, not knowing who her friends & classmates are, not knowing her teachers, etc., etc, etc.

      ...

      Sometimes I wonder if I have an unhealthy connection/attachment to my kids. Do other parents find separation this painful? I don't think I'm holding them back or clinging or helicoptering or interfering in their lives. I'm trying to be very grown up and encourage them to do what they want/need, but inside, I just want to squish them back down to 10-year-old size and keep them there.
      My 11 yo is intending to try public 7th grade next fall. His sister is in PS, and he wants to run cross country and track like she does. He and I are both worried about not being so connected. That's the one thing that is giving him pause about going back to full time school. (I'm also worried about how he'll handle the homework load, but that's outside the scope of this conversation. )
    1. Topsy's Avatar
      Topsy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Norm Deplume View Post
      My 11 yo is intending to try public 7th grade next fall. His sister is in PS, and he wants to run cross country and track like she does. He and I are both worried about not being so connected. That's the one thing that is giving him pause about going back to full time school. (I'm also worried about how he'll handle the homework load, but that's outside the scope of this conversation. )
      My oldest did a "part time" stint in middle school. The local private school (now since closed) allowed homeschoolers to take up to three classes there, and it was an interesting experiment for him, but after a couple of years of even part-time, he still felt like institutional learning was way too much jumping through hoops and way too little actual learning, so he was back to homeschool full time after that until graduation. But it would be nice if they could all sort of "pick and choose" the parts of the school experience they are interested in.
    1. Shoe's Avatar
      Shoe -
      I guess I had better get used to the idea of the "kids" leaving home-my daughter just received an acceptance notice from the same college that my son is attending, so we know she's going somewhere!

      What will make this empty nest thing even more noticeable for me is that I will be finishing up a graduate degree this term, so I won't even have that (stress) distraction to keep me occupied.
    1. Topsy's Avatar
      Topsy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shoe View Post
      I guess I had better get used to the idea of the "kids" leaving home-my daughter just received an acceptance notice from the same college that my son is attending, so we know she's going somewhere!

      What will make this empty nest thing even more noticeable for me is that I will be finishing up a graduate degree this term, so I won't even have that (stress) distraction to keep me occupied.
      Can someone send CONGRATULATIONS and COMMISERATION in the same post? If so, sending your way, Shoe!!!
    1. Shoe's Avatar
      Shoe -
      Quote Originally Posted by Topsy View Post
      Can someone send CONGRATULATIONS and COMMISERATION in the same post? If so, sending your way, Shoe!!!
      Thanks Topsy!
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