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Is There Life after Homeschooling? An Interview with Gina Smith

October 9–13, 2017   |   Vol. 132, Week 5
Previously aired:   September 5–9, 2016   |   Vol. 128, Week 4

If you have grown-up children, then you know that maintaining a healthy relationship with them can be tricky at times. How can you navigate that transition with ease and grace?

Our guest Gina Smith has the answer on today’s Homeschool Heartbeat.

In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • How to develop positive relationships with your children
  • What life after homeschooling can look like
  • How to avoid homeschool burnout
  • How to make the transition from teacher to friend
  • How to maintain focus and prioritize your homeschool

“I’m intentionally learning how to relate to [my children] as adults, which requires less mothering and more listening and just being there.”—Gina Smith

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Are you nearing the end of your homeschooling journey and wondering what’s next? Tune in to today’s Homeschool Heartbeat as our guest Gina Smith talks about the joys of life after homeschooling. Now here’s your host, Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: I’m joined today by Gina Smith. She’s an author, blogger, and former homeschool mom of two children who are now grown up. Gina, welcome to the program.

Gina Smith: Thank you, Mike. I’m honored to be here.

Developing positive relationships [0:28]

Mike: Well, thank you. Gina, why did you and your husband actually decide to homeschool your children?

Gina: Actually, I just look back and I see how God led us very clearly to homeschool. When I was in college, I actually wrote a paper against homeschooling. It was in the 80s, and homeschooling wasn’t quite as accepted or popular then. So, I had all the answers to why homeschooling was not good for your family or your children.

And then, about my third year in college, I was mentored by a godly woman who actually homeschooled her children. And as I spent time in her home, and I observed the relationship she had with her children, the relationship that her husband had with the children, and also to see children that actually enjoyed learning, it really opened my eyes and it caused me to long for that dynamic in my own home one day.

And then, after my husband and I got married and had our own children, we found ourselves living in an area of Maryland that had the second worst school system in Maryland. So we couldn’t imagine sending our little ones into the school system. So I believe that those years spent in my mentor’s home actually were preparing me to be open to God’s calling on our family to homeschool.

Mike: So let me ask you this question: Now you’re through with homeschooling—looking back, what’s the greatest benefit—or what did you really like about your homeschooling experience?

Gina: I loved having the relationship with my kids. We had the flexibility and the time spent with them where we could just really pour into their lives. We could stop if they were having a hard day and do what needed to be done, and . . . Yeah. That’s what I loved about homeschooling.

And then, after homeschooling, what I love is again the relationships. We were able to build such strong relations with our kids, and I just really love who they are as adults and enjoy them. And then, of course, my relationship with my husband; I’m able to spend a lot more free time with him, so I love that about after homeschooling. 

Mike: See, I think that really should be the objective of homeschooling—is that through it all, we develop relationships with our children that last a lifetime, and they’re positive relationships. Because so many parents don’t have positive relationships with their children. Homeschoolers have a tremendous opportunity to nurture that relationship because of the time. On the other hand, there’s a tremendous challenge not to mess it up because we have so much time.

So you did it right.

Life after homeschooling [2:51]

Mike: Gina, what have you been doing since your kids graduated? Is there really life after homeschooling?

Gina: Well, there certainly is life after homeschooling. Actually, I’m really enjoying the fact that I’m not the teacher anymore, and that I can just focus on being a mom and their friend. And it’s also opened up a lot of fun doors as far as ministry opportunities: I’m able to write a lot more and I was actually able to write my very first book, which I don’t think personally I could have done while homeschooling. So yes, there’s definitely life after homeschooling.

Mike: What’s your book about? 

Gina: It’s a book, actually, about relationships with your children. I observed a couple of wonderful examples, when my children were young, of moms who were building relationships with their children. And my book is called, Grace Gifts: Celebrating Your Children Everyday. And it’s basically written about what I observed: learning to show your children grace, allowing them to be in a process of learning and growing on God’s timetable, not ours as parents. And then I give a lot of examples of what God has led us to do as a family to celebrate our children like God celebrates us, and to show them the grace that God pours out on us every day, and just learning to tune into them, and to walk with them and be their cheerleader. 

Well, what a tremendous subject to write a book about.

Avoiding burnout [4:18]

Mike: Gina, homeschooling parents are some of the most dedicated people in the world. They pour themselves into their children’s lives and education, but sometimes that dedication can leave them feeling drained and even depressed when their children leave the nest. How can parents keep from burning out at the end of their homeschooling journey?

: Wow, that is probably one of the most important things to talk about it. And my husband and I did go through a season of burnout, and when I look back over those years the two things that come to mind are again, relationships—nurturing your relationship with your spouse. My husband and I found ourselves at a crisis point several years ago and we realized that we had been so consumed with parenting, homeschooling, and daily life that nurturing our relationship had moved pretty low on our list of priorities. So, thankfully during that difficult season, some friends of ours took time to begin meeting with us weekly, and they helped us sift through why we were burning out and that helped us to move forward.

And then the second is nurturing friendships and being involved with people outside of our home. Another reason my husband and I struggled with burnout was because we had been in some circumstances for several years [where] we had very little fellowship or outside encouragement, and it just wore us out. I don’t believe God meant for us to live life alone. And it’s important to have a support system and to engage in times of fellowship and to make time to serve

But I think even more than trying to keep yourself from burning out, which is very important—I think the even more important message is that God wants to use our marriages and families for his purposes, and our marriages and families reflect God’s image and can be used to point others to him. We are here to be a light to this dark world and to offer living water to those who need Jesus. So, by keeping ourselves from burning out, we actually glorify God.

Mike: Amen, and it, kind of, sounds like you got back to priorities didn’t you? It was God, and then you and your husband.

Gina: Yes, we just had people come along side us and we just kept praying that God would knit our hearts together as a couple and he has done that incredibly.

A tricky transition [6:24]

Mike: Gina, one of the hardest transitions for parents is when their children grow up and become independent adults. Do you have any advice for parents who are trying to make that transition while still maintaining a healthy relationship with their children?

Gina: Well, I’m actually currently in the middle of that transition still, so I am continuing to learn how to walk through it. But what I’m finding now is that I really enjoy no longer being responsible for their education. It frees me up to focus on just being their mom and their friend. And I also find that they do still need me—only in a different way. I’m needed more now for stability to make our house a home for them and their friends to come to and to be a source of input if they need it.

And it’s a good thing that my children are taking steps that are leading them to becoming more and more independent, but it’s also a scary time for them, I think. They can be unsure of themselves, there can be insecurities, and I want to be their biggest support system and cheerleader. So, I’m intentionally learning how to relate to them as adults, which requires less mothering and more listening and just being there. And that, as a mom, can be tricky at times, and I am certainly not perfect at it, but mostly it’s just very enjoyable and really freeing for me when I focus on not mothering but just being available.

Focus & priorities [7:40]

Mike: Gina, what is your favorite part of life after homeschooling?

Gina: There’s a couple things I can think of. First of all, of course, I love that my husband and I have large blocks of time to spend alone together. [It’s] almost like before we had children, but it’s even better. And the other thing that I love is being available to young moms from our church or who I happen to know from different arenas. I love having them over, I love loving on their 2-year-olds and just spending time with them, talking to them and encouraging them. And that’s something that I try to do on a regular basis. And I also have enjoyed doing some ministry with my husband with a young married group. So basically, I just feel like I have a little more free time to just build into the lives of others.

Mike: Okay, this question has to do with the homeschoolers that are listening out there—homeschooling parents. If there is one thing you could tell them, that you think would be most beneficial to them, what would it be?

Gina: There are so many important things. I think that one of the most important things is that it’s really easy to take our freedom to educate our children for granted. And I’m really so grateful that I live in a country where I was able to make that choice and that there were several options to choose from.

I would encourage parents to keep in mind that each schooling option will have its weaknesses, and it’s important to prayerfully evaluate each option and be aware of any potential challenges that might come with the option we choose and then plan accordingly. I would encourage parents to ask God to help them to see if their child ever reaches a point that the schooling option they have chosen isn’t a good fit or if there is something He wants to accomplish in them that can only happen in another setting.

I loved, loved, loved that I was able to homeschool and I can’t imagine doing anything else because that was God’s calling for my family. But I’m reminded of Philippians 2:13, that says: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” And just like it is God who works in me as a parent, He also is the one who works in our children. And I think that it is very important to remember that our hope and confidence should be in God alone and not in a schooling or parenting method.

Mike: Well, Gina, thank you so much for sharing that with us this week. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been a pleasure to get to know you. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Gina SmithPhoto of Gina Smith

Gina and her husband met when Brian was in seminary and Gina was finishing up Bible College.  For the past 20+ years they have served on a college campus as the on campus parents, and Brian has been a professor and dean of students. They have two adult children who are both homeschool graduates.

Gina is a writer, and recently authored her first book, entitled Grace Gifts: Celebrating Your Children Every Day. She also writes for MomLife Today/Family Life Ministries, and has written regularly for The MOB Society and The Busy Mom. She has also been a guest writer for For The Family, The Better Mom, Time-Warp Wife, and The Happy Housewife.

You can find Gina at her personal blog.

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