[Author’s note, 2017: This article caused a great stir when originally published in 2012. Though I appreciated the widespread sharing, discussion and commentary below in comments and over social media, it also concerned me the amount of criticism I received for bringing this issue to light. I repeat today what I wrote originally, which is that certainly letting go must happen differently for different people; however, over the years, homeschool moms have sometimes confided the tenderness of their hearts when looking ahead to children ultimately leaving the nest. My article was never meant to generalize an entire population of homeschool moms, convict anyone for caring too much or in unhealthy ways, nor claim this is happening in the majority. More importantly, I never meant to hint at harm or abuse, as was implied by a good deal of readers who felt I made that assertion. The truth is, in my 20+ years of encounters with homeschoolers all across the country and other parts of the world, I would estimate that the majority of homeschool moms (and dads, too) have no difficulty letting go, and in fact look proudly and enthusiastically upon the process, knowing their children are poised and ready to face the joys and challenges of adult life. My article was written solely to assist the minority of moms who’ve admitted being worried about letting go, as a way to share what I’ve seen work in other homes, and to comfort those who may be struggling similarly.]
It takes a special kind of mom to homeschool her children. You know the kind: loves her kids until it hurts, goes to the moon and back to keep them safe, harnesses superpowers to protect them from evil, and stops at nothing to grant her offspring a world of opportunities plus a life of never-ending happiness. These qualities are certainly not unique to homeschool moms — it’s just what moms do.
We want to do it all. Be there 24/7. Sure, every mom nurtures, protects, and cheers her kids on. But the homeschool mom takes on even a little bit more, because she’s not about to give away the reigns of child-rearing and education. She’s in the driver’s seat, charting her own course, deciding when and where to turn along the way.
The homeschool mom is in control, and plans to stay there.
I assert this control can lead to a problem – when letting go. Though not true of everyone, many a homeschool mom has confessed her fear of letting go once her children are grown.
I have experienced this to some degree. Have you?
A fear of letting go is hard to describe. It’s the feeling that some day, after being there day-in and day-out, all those years, the realization that the kids won’t need her so much any more. It’s reality that the children will eventually do schoolwork on their own. And graduate from high school. And head to college. And, then, some day (gasp!) leave home and move away.
Homeschool moms of littles haven’t begun thinking letting go. But you can bet moms of middle- and high schoolers think about it. Sometimes a lot.
It’s natural and unavoidable, you might say. But overthinking letting our kids go can be sad, too.
Fortunately, Mother Nature helps prepare for a child’s eventual independence, as she has done for generations (remember the last time you had an argument with your teen?). Alas, that doesn’t always make it any easier, especially for moms who hold on too tight.
There are ways homeschool moms worried about letting go can help themselves. Even the most fiercely protective and controlling moms can ease into the idea of letting go. Please understand that I am not an expert in this area. However, I have found these tips to be helpful for women I know.
For starters, recognize when children are able to do things on their own. This should begin in the early years and must continue as the child grows. We sometimes see moms doing for children the things the children should be doing by themselves. Whether a child ties shoelaces poorly or makes a messy bed is insignificant. Learning by trying over and over is what builds confidence. Ultimately, it’s that confidence that leads to independence.
Assigning kids responsibility is necessary and helpful. By assigning independent schoolwork, household chores, sibling care, and other age-appropriate duties, kids learn when they’re accountable for their completion. With greater responsibility comes greater independence. Ultimately, self-sufficiency can aid in viewing kids that way, since self-sufficiency needs to be visible in order to feel good about letting go.
As her children grow, moms must learn to step back. As obvious as this is to some, some moms don’t see this as clearly. Children as early as 3rd or 4th grade are capable of doing a good deal of homeschool work, plus many other things, on their own. Though it may take some retraining — perhaps extra willpower for those used to sitting by a child’s side – homeschool moms must expect that a portion of her child’s work is done independently. Am I suggesting that homeschooling should occur without help or supervision? Of course not. But, schooling with the expectation that mom can walk away for longer and longer periods of time is the norm.
Finally, as the children move into adolescence and young adulthood, moms must be willing to relinquish some things. This will vary from person to person, but if she hasn’t done so already, she must cease activities that may thwart her child’s independence or take away opportunities for them to use their own judgement. Moms must learn to welcome — and look forward to – the day that her child’s knowledge of a subject surpasses her own. And she must allow her child to express opinions and thoughts, even if they do not always coincide with her own.
Giving away control isn’t the same as giving up on caring. It is, however, a way for moms to learn to let go. Over time, it gets easier, until eventually she recognizes that her children are ready to do the things they have the confidence and training to do.
Letting go is a process all parents go through, often naturally, and with no additional help at all. But for the moms who may be worried about nurturing independence in their children or who outright fear their own inability to let go at the end, it’s my hope that these tips have given help and a bit of comfort.
To your success,
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. A homeschooling pioneer and the founder of many groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the public school system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame, with no teaching background whatsoever. A writer, a homeschool leader, and a women’s life coach, Marie-Claire mentors in a variety of areas that impact health, education and lifestyle. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA, H.E.R.I., Home Education Council of America, The Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool Network, and many other events. Her articles have appeared in and on Holistic Parenting, CONNECT,Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of sites and blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.