How to Thrive as Your Homeschool Shrinks

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As homeschooling moms, we invest a lot of our time and the prime of our careers to homeschooling our children. What happens when our kids finish homeschooling high school and launch as young adults? How do we manage the transition in our homeschools with kids still at home? No one talks about this! How to Thrive as Your Homeschool Shrinks discusses healthy ways to make adjustments and thrive in the new phase!

How to Thrive as Your Homeschool Shrinks- mom and a teen boy look over an atlas together at a table

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The day has come,

or maybe you’ve done this before.

Your homeschool high school senior is leaving the nest.

The days when all of your kids are home and in your homeschool full time have come to an end.

Maybe you are still in the throws of launch and the dust hasn’t settle yet.

Maybe you’ve launched and things aren’t what you expected-

you knew to expect missing your graduate, but you didn’t expect the trickle down on your life and homeschool for you and your remaining students.

Maybe you’ve realized that it’s not any easier the second time around,

and you weren’t expecting that.

Pro Tip: Every launch requires adjustment no matter how many times you’ve done it before.

At our house we launched two at once after our oldest was delayed two years from his illness.

That was no joke!

Our younger boys and I had a period of adjustment, not just in our everyday life but in our homeschool life too.

Launching Young Adults Takes a Toll on the Whole Family

How to Thrive as Your Homeschool Shrinks- two high school graduates shopping in Target for dorm supplies and looking purposely haggard!
Protective of his new pillow, our oldest and his sister shop for college life. They are haggard. Getting ready for launch day is hard work!

That is for real.

Whatever your senior is doing post high school there is a LOT of planning, preparing, and executing.

And, let’s face it, some of it may not go smoothly.

So, there’s a lot going on.

The list is long:

  • Thinking– on what is next
  • Planning– on what’s needed for getting ready and what it will take to make it happen
  • Implementing– plans you’ve made with your teen whether it’s programs, internships, projects, etc.
  • Evaluating– or testing to check boxes and provide data
  • Applying– to schools and programs based on experience, etc
  • Waiting– to hear about acceptance into schools and programs or to understand that the next step will be delayed
  • Working– to earn money and/or experience
  • Shopping– to get supplies and necessities for a new living arrangement whether it’s on a campus or a barrack or with a relative or in the mission field
  • Preparing– for the day when the new phase begins and you drop your young adult off in their new digs whether it’s moving into a residence hall or at the drop point for another travel experience
  • Leaving– this is the day when it happens. Your young adult is dropped off and you and your other kids walk away until the appointed time when you will visit or be together again

It’s exhausting-

for everyone.

It’s also consuming.

It’s your young adult’s whole world while they are in process.

It’s a huge chunk of time for parents as well- making sure that you’ve fulfilled your responsibility for a successful launch.

Not just in terms of the actions you will take during this time but also the headspace it will take up.

It takes a lot of headspace to launch a kid into the world.

Then, all of a sudden, it’s over.

Your young adult has left the nest.

What’s is left is a time of adjustment.

Post-Launch is a Time of Adjustment

How to Thrive as your Homeschool Shrinks- two teen boys at a table with RC planes on a bright afternoon
Working together on some old electric RC planes- a long time interest of our 16yo, our 13yo is slowly getting into it and will be retooling a plane of his own this season.

For everyone.

It will take time for the shift in all of the interpersonal relationships in your home to take place.

Young adults leaving home isn’t just about missing that person.

There the relationship between you and your young adult and that of your spouse, but also between that young adult and each sibling.

And how the siblings behave with each other when everyone is around.

It’s a whole thing, right?

Let’s name a few things that will be affected by the absence of your graduate:

  • Meals– even through the teen years we managed to eat together almost every night. As a homeschooling family, we ate all three meals together most of the time. That empty chair is a big deal! Our meal dynamics changed.
  • Games– as a family of 6 we could count on playing 5-6 player games regularly.
  • Chores– obviously, missing people means redistributing work. We took our young adults out of a regular rotation and my expectation when they are home is for them to be generally helpful.
  • Perspectives– you lose the older teen perspective in your homeschool when your graduate is no longer participating along with just missing a personal perspective in general.
  • Collaborationsone of the best things in our homeschool day is the collaborating our kids do on projects. Not just projects done together but the collaborating they do on each other’s individual projects.
  • Enthusiams– not everyone loves everything. Losing the homeschooled kid who loves art, for example, means big changes. Or maybe your best hiker is gone, etc.

There’s more, I’m sure, but you get the idea.

Launching your young adults into the world is a big change and requires everyone to adjust on some level.

How to Thrive as Your Homeschool Shrinks

How to Thrive as Your Homeschool Shrinks- teen boy at a digital piano
At almost 14, our youngest started piano lessons. His teacher promised to teach him as fast as he could learn- a match made in heaven!

Just as there are adjustments to make in your life when your young adults leave home,

there are also big changes and adjustments necessary for your homeschool.

In some ways, that’s obvious, right?

With one or more teens gone from your midst, that’s a change in itself that requires doing things differently.

The need for some of these adjustments is more subtle. After all, just because you have less students doesn’t mean everything has to change or you have to give up your favorite things. Right?

Well, that depends.

Consider the following:

  • Things that were good when you had all your kids in your homeschool– don’t necessarily work with only a few
  • Activities that worked well with your older kids– may not work as well for your younger kids.
  • Focused efforts on the older teens– is no longer necessary, so you can have more flexibility
  • Fewer students means you can shift your focus– on the students left in your homeschool
  • Consider what your younger kids need most– and drill down on those things.
  • Encourage communication and relationship with your launched kids– while your homeschool focus is on the kids still at home, part of meeting their need is to continue to foster relationships with the siblings that have left the nest. Encourage your younger kids to reach out on their own so it’s not a parent thing all the time. There has never been a better time to stay in touch long distance and I guarantee this will be worth the effort.
  • Let your younger kids grow too– at our house, we launched two and the next two aren’t all that young though it was easier to think so before their older siblings left. So, as you begin to get your bearings again, come to grips with where your students are and let them grow up gracefully too!
How to Thrive as Your Homeschool Shrinks- a teen and his dad standing on the wing of a fighter plane at a joint forces air show
Dan and Isaac took a trip to the Joint Forces Air Show. Isaac is a historian with a special interest in aviation.

The fact is, with your young adults off on their own life adventure, you are freed up to turn your attention back to the daily life of your homeschool.

It’s time to give your younger students your full attention.

Re-imagine Your Homeschool to Thrive as Your Homeschool Shrinks

How to Thrive as Your Homeschool Shrinks - teen boy working with is RC plane on a glorious afternoon
This kid loves to fly his planes. Making time for the things important to your younger kids will go a long way!

We launched our oldest two at the same time.

Preparing two young adults for launch at two different schools at the same time was no joke!

Keeping track of all the details of financial aid and other parent responsibilities during the process was time consuming.

After it was all over and it was time to put my energy toward planning for our homeschool year, I made two big decisions which helped me to cast a new vision for our homeschool and our younger kids.

I wanted to re-imagine our homeschool with our kids and I wanted to be purposeful about focusing on the present with them.

– Post Launch Heather

That meant no launch talk and turning my attention to their needs and interests- even if that meant leaving some things behind.

Here are some guiding principles I can share with you:

  • Focus on the present– with the students in your homeschool now
  • Let your younger students be in the present– it’s easy to keep looking to the next launch, especially when you’ve already done one or a few. Relax! Enjoy the stage and phase of your remaining students, no matter how close they are to their own launch!
  • Involve your younger kids in re-imagining of their homeschooling– you’ll find out a great deal by including them in the process and it will help them to get excited. This reboot will not just be about how to get along without your older kids. The sky is the limit attitude will bring strength and a new focus to your homeschool and will be suited to the students you have now.
  • Allow your young adults to be adults– your time of intense parenting with the kids you’ve launched is over. Let them do and learn in their new environment.
  • Set up healthy boundaries with your young adults– this is especially true if they live at home while going to school or working. Your priority is on the younger kids and their homeschooling. Resist the urge to let the needs of your young adults still cast a shadow on the work you are doing at home. Feel free to be helpful, but be careful about your time and energy. This principle might need its own post, but I’m still working on this one, so let me get back to you!
  • Don’t be afraid to make changes– even when they will hurt a little! I was hesitant to let go of long time pieces of our family culture. For example, 4-H was one of the pillars of our homeschooling experience, but it was not working for our younger boys. We chose to go in a new direction which was the best decision!
  • Take up new experiences– not only will it be an intentional move to pour into your remaining students, but it will allow everyone to grow into a new and flourishing place.
  • Seek out the activities and experiences that will help your students to thrive– we are so good at that with our oldest kids. Sometimes we keep thinking about our younger kids as really young when they might be into a great stage for digging deep on exploring an interest. Go there!
  • Remember that it might take some trial and error– your students might not hit the spot at first, but continuing to seek the right fit will pay off and the road to get there won’t be boring!
  • Think ahead rather than behind– as moms we are notorious for thinking about the past and dwelling there. It’s easy to look back and yearn for the good old days with all of our students at home. I encourage you to keep focused on the present and respond in thankfulness for all that is behind you and what is to come.
  • Be on the lookout for hearts to sing– when you are intentional about retooling your homeschool to the students you have now, you will be amazed at how everyone begins to thrive again!

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis

In our case, our youngest has taken up formal music lessons for the first time and he loves it. The timing was perfect. I don’t think he would have owned it when he was younger, but there’s no question that this was the right move for him.

Our current high school junior has found a niche with our local history center working as a student ambassador and as a volunteer with cataloging historical census data. He’s grown so much through this experience. Again, the timing was perfect for him to volunteer.

We left behind our homeschool co-op and 4-H. While I sometimes miss those activities, it’s more about missing the time when we were all involved and having fun. I don’t miss what those activities would be like for our boys now. It’s much more enjoyable to know we are doing just the right thing for them and to watch them grow.

Without the willingness to leave some things behind, we would not have found our new homeschool groove.

We would have continued on going through the motions of what was good for the older kids but not really the students I have now.

Be encouraged!

Turn Learning Obstacles into Opportunities!

Speaking of finding the right fit for our kids, I’m on a mission to help families homeschool high school with peace and confidence.

Sometimes what we think of as learning obstacles are really opportunities we need to embrace.

Sign up and download this free guide to the 10 myths we believe about our Out-of-the-Box teens. These are practical tools for our homeschool mom toolboxes!

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