After posting my interview with Andrea Jonelle of the EPIC Homeschool Network, a sweet commenter asked what my time at the table looks like with an older, self-sufficient learner. As I thought about it, my answer was much deeper than the one-liner that was my original response, and I thought some elaboration might be helpful to a parent of older children who is torn as to how to make an effective use of time.
When children are small, our presence as parents is a given. We are teaching, we are supervising, we are caring and correcting,…The list goes on, as does the switch of many hats. As children grow, however, they also grow in their abilities to self-facilitate, and to work independently with minimal guidance (or at least they should be). Mom or Dad is no longer required to sit at the table, or to be a part of the homeschooling process at all, dependent upon what methodology is used to teach.
I should subtitle this “My Perceived Power of Being Present” since the youngest and I have actually had a conversation about this. I sometimes will announce to her that I am leaving momentarily, to complete chores or take a call or work in some capacity. She questions me as to why I feel the need to let her know I am intentionally leaving her alone, quickly humbling any egotistical thoughts I might have by declaring, “I don’t need you to stay here. “ Teens. But that’s a different blog post…
I am needed, though you might take me for granted. My presence is still warranted, even if only I am aware of its importance.
I am needed as a sounding board for those intimate conversations. As kids grow into their more rhetorical state of thinking and learning, they leave the process of memorization farther behind. Instead, they want to chew on ideas, manipulating them and shaping them according to the rest of the world as they know it. They want to discuss the “what of its,” as Adler calls it in his How To Read a Book. They are fine-tuning the feast of information, deciding what to keep and what to toss. And this process is not simply limited to academic knowledge. The aftermath of those conversations with friends? The life experiences desired but yet to be had? The plans, goals, the dreams? If you sit long enough, it all surfaces, and transforms your homeschool space into a safe environment for a teen to share what is troubling him or her the most. I am not always ready for the conversation, but I understand the power of just being there and listening, even if the latter can be difficult when I want to shut down words that don’t suit me. I get to give guidance in a safe space, always with the caveat, “I’ve been your age; you’ve never been mine.”
I am needed as a role model for adulthood. I believe the saying goes that some things are better caught than taught. For sure, at this stage in my life, I don’t come downstairs dancing with brooms or mimicking bird songs, but I do believe there is something to be said for what I can bring: a good healthy breakfast, a sense of priority, and a good attitude toward each day. So that is where I begin, with a hot meal, a cup of coffee (actually, two cups), and my Bible. I study, I plan, and then I engage. Like so many others, my time on social media starts in the morning, but my goal is to make it meaningful: building relationships and encouraging people rather than gadding about, and completing business tasks rather than mindlessly wasting the hours. How I minister to a family, how I manage my responsibilities as a Believer, a wife, a mom, a home educator and entrepreneur, and how I interact with others—including setting boundaries—are all lessons she can learn, and they are best taught when she is close enough to observe.
Of course, there are the obvious reasons for being nearby as we maintain our teacher/student relationship. There is the occasional math question, or logistical conflict as school sometimes competes with dance or other pursuits. Mom still has to dry an occasional tear or discipline for missteps. But by and large, my role has changed quickly and quietly from parent to coach and, hopefully, friend and sister in Christ. Our time together is precious and fleeting, and I recognize that now is the time to pour into her some final intangibles that might make a very tangible difference later.
I fully realize that not everyone homeschools such that the older children are in near proximity of parents. Indeed, my oldest often completed her studies in her room. But this is about making an investment; it may take a different route, but the ultimate message is to not discount the power of your physical presence in an older child’s life, even if it is simply to give a forehead kiss and a word of love and encouragement. Your presence counts.
To say that 2020 has changed our lives is the height of understatement. But as I reflect, I also realize how much of the noise of my life was stripped from me—the busy-ness, the distractions, and those sinks of time traveling here and there. Without as much to do, my time and efforts could be refocused. I could invest in those critical areas in whole new ways. And I believe this is divinely ordained for all of us as Believers. Jeremiah 29: 4-7 instructed the Israelites in how to live while in exile. We have been exiled, i.e., separated from normalcy as well, and God’s Word is just as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. Rather than focusing on all that has been lost, we need to shift our vision to what we have gained. One item gained, for sure, is time—time with our families, time with our passions, and time to refocus our energy. Spend it wisely.