September 6th, 2016- My first two posts in the Diary of a Homeschool Mum have been set in the past as I shared the beginnings of why we started homeschooling, the when, and the how. I am deviating this month from writing about the past and am focusing on the now, as well as my future, as a homeschool mum of what is now only a few.
This has been the toughest beginning of a homeschool semester ever. For years I was adding to my homeschool registry. Many school years saw the addition of a nursling who was traveling from arm to arm in the school room whilst we were also accommodating a preschooler or toddler who created his or her own commotion to the schooling scene in our home.
Then in 2001 we reached a stage where we maintained a status quo in classroom numbers because as one child would spread their wings and leave home, another joined the family. So for years the number of children at home hovered around 10. Finally back in 2008, the year our 13th entered the world, we actually dropped to nine children at home when one flew the coop and another returned to college after taking a year off to help with the family business. We held steady at nine until we dropped to eight in 2012 but, with the youngest just barely a preschooler and several children still in the single digits, I wasn’t fazed. At.All.
Then this summer happened.
Two left home for college.
We organized a good bye party for the two leaving for college and gifts began to arrive in the mail for them from family out of country. It was so much fun watching for boxes as the postman drove up. But then it was time to actually pack all of that stuff into the back of our mini-van since our big van is nearing retirement and decided to loll about the yard this summer. This meant not all of us could go so I got to take the pictures of them leaving and then have a good cry every time I walked by the piano the 18 year old was always playing. Yes. Every. Single.Time. All day!
But then a few belated boxes arrived and I had an excuse to go visit…
That was mid August and we were down to six children still at home.
Lonely, only, six.
When was the last time I had ONLY SIX? That was in May of 1995 just before I gave birth to our seventh child, third son… That’s a long, long time ago – though I remember it like yesterday.
And then today….. today we dropped to five! When were we ever only five? Twenty three years ago – that’s when. And ironically it is our fifth beautiful child who left today to begin the biggest journey I think a person can ever begin – the giving of oneself entirely to God through a religious vocation.
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
— St. Augustine
That was the quote from the source of daily readings that I use. I actually couldn’t read it aloud as it caught in my throat because truly – could I have asked for better reassurance of what my child is doing? Finding her heart’s rest within the heart of Jesus for whom she will live the rest of her life? My 13 yr old daughter, Emma, had to read it aloud, along with today’s Mass readings to our small group gathered at the breakfast table.
So once more we loaded the back of the mini-van but with far less belongings then when we moved our two children to college this August. An hour later we arrived at the airport where we dropped off our precious daughter, and much loved older sibling and said our hurried goodbyes before having to leave and make room for other harried travelers. The tears began to drop as we pulled away from the curb while Gabby wheeled her two suit cases towards the revolving doors.
I have known this was coming for such a long, long time – this drop in numbers. These huge changes have been looming in front of me for the past couple of years. As the big 5 0 crept up on me and no more new babies joined the classroom, I faced the inevitable truth- our family had reached its zenith. We are still growing, but in a different way. This summer we watched as our ninth grandchild was welcomed into the church in the same gown many of our children and other grandchildren had been baptized in.
While there are still children at home, I have found myself longing for the past as I began to count down instead of up. In addition I have had to face the truth that my youngest child’s firsts are my lasts- last first tooth, last first bike ride, last first Holy Communion… I have been filled with dread over this. Absolute dread. I’m experiencing empty nest syndrome before the nest is empty. I’ve been almost paralyzed by it.
My challenge now is to accept that “I’m entering a new season in my life.” I find myself grimacing as I type that because I do not like that expression. Most likely because I have loved so intensely THIS season of new babies, new personalities developing, talents explored and found. Being a mother of a large and growing family has been my vocation and my complete and total identity for thirty plus years.
And now, as I help the last five of my beautiful children find their wings and watch them prepare to leave the nest, I too need to find new wings so that I can fly with the future. After all, next year the only adult child still at home while he studies locally for a year will be leaving for his college of choice and I will be down to four and I don’t even want to think how long it’s been since I only had four.
I need to find a new me.
Over the next year when I pop into Catholic Sista’s every few months to keep up my “Diary of a Homeschool Mum” I will continue to share the memories of over two decades of homeschooling while I enter into my last decade of teaching children at home. But I will also begin to include where I see my future taking me. I will share as I explore my talents that got left in the dust while I changed diapers, chased toddlers and helped teens and tweens find pencils so they could do their math. I am already tackling an even bigger challenge – rebuilding my body that has been ravaged by 13 births and hypothyroidism, among other health issues.
Until next time – God Bless!
Christi Gareis is a homeschooling mother of thirteen, with four children still at home. Her youngest child can boast that she was an aunt before she was born. Christi has been blogging since 2005 and has three blogs. In addition to blogging, Christi has been published on Catholicmom.com as well as in CCL’s magazine Family Foundations. She also wrote the section on How to ‘Prepare Your Child for First Reconciliation’ in the book ‘101 Stories of Reconciliation’ by Sister Patricia Proctor.