The ABCs of homeschooling older kids (and ourselves)

Written by Hannah Vanderpool of Praying with One Eye Open

I’ve homeschooled my three kids from the beginning of their little lives, and I treasure the memories we share from our years at home together.

It wasn’t all delight-led learning, of course. I look back with regret on impatient words I’ve spoken; times when my expectations for my kids weren’t reasonable.

Overall, though, homeschooling is one of the best decisions we ever made.

But my kids are teenagers now, and, if I’m honest, I’m not having a lot of fun these days. Oh, we still enjoy one another (most of the time), and we don’t fantasize about going to brick and mortar school (usually).

We eat dinner together and take walks in the park. But the things that made homeschooling enjoyable for me in earlier days have largely fallen by the wayside.

For instance, my teens don’t want me to read to them anymore. They’ll sit patiently if I insist on doing it, but while they used to delight in read-alouds, now they forbear them.

Also? They don’t want me to sit beside them and help solve problems except once-in-a-while. They don’t ask my opinion as often as they used to, and when they do, they sometimes ignore it.

Increasingly, they need me in the same way I need a plumber or firefighter–in case of emergency.

And I don’t like it.

What’s a mom like me to do when my current role looks more like a springboard and less like a teacher? And what if I loved being a teacher? What if it feels like everyone in the house is moving up and moving on except me?

I’ve decided what I need most, right now, is to homeschool myself. I need to remember my ABCs.

‘A’ is for accept

I have to come to grips with the fact that homeschooling, like parenting, comes with its own built-in seasons.

From the beginning of this journey I wanted my kids to become independent learners. And they have.

My kids take classes from a local co-op and music lessons from a fine arts academy.

They organize social events with their friends, work jobs, play sports and complete their homework assignments mostly on their own. And they should.

While this season is bittersweet for me, it’s normal and appropriate. I want to stop negatively comparing now to the good ol’ days (that, honestly, weren’t always so good).

‘B’ is for believe

I choose to believe that the training, love, messes and failures of the last decade have prepared my kids — and me — for this new season, and that they were all part of our growth.

And, you know, there’s still growth that needs to happen in all of us. While my guidance might look different with teenagers than it did with littles, it’s still important.

I need to believe I can lead my kids by example, if not always by direct instruction, and that it will be enough.

‘C’ is for cultivate

I need to cultivate a life of my own as my kids become adults before my eyes.

Of course, I always needed a life of my own. But it’s sometimes hard to nurture a sense of self when you aren’t sleeping through the night, or your preschooler wants to watch you go potty.

It gets easier and, I’ll argue, more important than ever to have interests, pursuits, and maybe even a “room of one’s own” as my kids need me less.

One reason is that I can’t just sit around biding my time. I need to feel productive.

Another is that the kids are still watching. They’ll benefit from having a mom who chooses to grow no matter what comes her way.

I’m the only one who can cultivate my life, and, ultimately, my kids are the only ones who can cultivate theirs. It’s good for them to see that.

Homeschooling through high school can be a beautiful, if challenging, undertaking. It’s beautiful when I happen to be available for a conversation my son really needs to have. It’s beautiful when I notice my daughter struggling, and I can offer a shoulder to cry on.

Yes, we’re spread out all over the house reading our own books now. Yes, we sometimes disagree. But we’re still under one roof, and we love each other.

I want to remember that, and be satisfied with what we have in this moment. Because soon this will be a memory, too.

Are you homeschooling older kids too? How have you dealt with the transition?

About Hannah Vanderpool

Hannah Vanderpool is a writer, a world traveler, and a homeschooling mom to two great high schoolers and a middle schooler. She can’t imagine a world without sisters and books. You can find her at Praying With One Eye Open.


  1. I’ve been homeschooling for 11 years and yes this change is a surprise. Learning to fill the role they need now has been an adjustment. However, I love watching them take what we have taught them and go with it. 🙂 Love this advice thank you for sharing.
    Jen’s latest post: Gift Guide for the Working At Home Homeschool Mom

  2. I really loved this. I’m in my 20th year homeschooling my seven kids and I’ve been in this transitional stage for longer than I’d like. Our oldest is away at Graduate school and our youngest is in 3rd grade so my perspective has nice span! I have felt the twinge of bittersweet in not being needed in the same way I was by my older sons…but when they call with questions about bills, roommate troubles or just want to come stare into a full refrigerator I see that they need me still! As we get ready to graduate our third from high school, it makes me appreciate the daily routine with my younger children more. I really treasure the time with the last two who still enjoy read-alouds! The “headaches” don’t seem as bad now, b/c I know how soon it will all be over. I’ve begun educating myself and doing work on the side that interests me and it’s been amazing! For me, having some sense of myself beyond homeschooling, and for my kids to see me doing it, has changed our dynamic at home in a lot of positive ways. Thanks for the good reminder! 🙂

  3. Jamie,I bought the book Give Your Child the World(kindle Edition) and I love it! A while back you were offering another title with the purchase of this book that has “Give your child the world” in the title but it was a different book? I think it was “Old World”? Will it be available to purchase seperatley any time soon?

  4. Oh, boy, I am so right there. I am trying hard to “cultivate” as you put it, my life, but it’s really hard to change gears, and I’m not really free to get a job or take on a big project quite yet. I pretty much hate this children growing up thing. It is such a sense of loss but I know it’s the right thing. I have an only child, so it feels so fast since there’s no one else younger. It is a time I am learning afresh to grow in the Lord. I feel much like a teenager myself at this stage…the role I’ve taken for granted (mom) is changing and I’m forced to grow in many of the same ways that my daughter is growing – finding my place (which could mean a second career or new job) and making new friends and for me, working on my marriage so our empty nest is a place we are both happy and want to be and have purpose in. I don’t think dads get this as much…their job stays the same but for a homeschooling mom, your job goes away. Everyone goes through, but it feels like I’m going through it uniquely. We all have such different situations. I like your last few sentences…”I want to remember that, and be satisfied with what we have in this moment. Because soon this will be a memory, too.” I am so aware of that.

  5. Where did you get that very lovely quote for “A”? I am writing those words down so that I may reference them again and I wanted to read more from the author the words originated.

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