How I Coped When My Oldest Went to College

Letting go of a homeschooler once they head off to their grand adventure, whether it be college, the military, or just moving out, can be tough on you as a parent.  I wasn’t ready and no one had warned me of what I as about to go through.  (Am still going through, if I’m going to be honest.)

As homeschool families, our children are pretty much with us 24/7/365.  We are involved in all aspects of their lives, as they are in ours.  We know exactly what is going on in their school work.   Their classmates are their siblings.  Their friends are usually the children of our friends.  All of this time together leads to a very close knit family environment.   So when one of our Things is ready to fly the coop, it is an adjustment for us as parents.

I was ecstatic when Bug got into the college of her choice, on almost a full scholarship, no less.  The excitement, the pride, knowing all of her dreams were really starting to happen.  There was one hitch that I hadn’t taken into consideration.

Bug was going to be attending a school 1500 miles away.

Ugly crying happened when I left her at college.   Runny nose, red cheeks, smeared mascara,….the whole mess.   She was so excited about this next part of her journey.  She knew she would miss us, but just kept telling me she was ready.  I felt the same way, but how was I going to completely let go?…. I wasn’t going to be there in case she fell!!  I was leaving my baby totally vulnerable!

It was like an ’80s movie montage where suddenly the last 10 years of homeschool were running through my head, scene by scene.  She had been with me every day since she was in third grade.   I had been a part of all her successes and failures.  She and I had created our homeschool.  She had been my guinea pig.  What am I saying?  She still is my guinea pig.

I knew I had done everything I could to prepare her for this moment.  During her senior year, I realized there were only months left until she moved out.   If I hadn’t instilled in her the characteristics she needed for succeeding by then, it was too late.  Bug was an adult and I had to stop looking over her shoulder.  Everything from her schoolwork and time management to her laundry and keeping her room clean were all her responsibility.  How else was I going to know that she was responsible enough for me to set free?  (Man, I sound like a prison guard!)

It turned out to be a great lesson.  I’m not talking about for her, but for me, as the Mama who wasn’t sure I had done everything I could to be certain she was ready to take on the big, bad world.

During that time, I learned her strengths and weaknesses.  I was still the parent and my word was still law, but I began to let go.  There were times I had to just keep my mouth shut and let the situation play out.  Other times, I wasn’t as calm and Mama lost her mind, but in the end I was able to see what I needed to focus on as her parent to help finish preparing her for being on her own.  Plus, she was able to test her wings in a safe environment and realize that help was available and she only needed to ask.  Our relationship grew from that of mother/child to parent and (what I like to call) baby-adult.

When I left her dorm and began the 4 day drive back to our home, I’ll admit I was terrified.   In many ways it was like that first day of kindergarten.

  • Was she ready to be away from Mama?
  • Would she make friends?
  • Would she be able to handle the workload?
  • Would she like her teachers?

As time passed, I realized I shouldn’t have worried one bit.  She proved quickly she was ready.  Adapting to a classroom with a professor after years of being self taught, was not a challenge.  Actually having been responsible for her own study schedule for the last 10 years,  made the “college” load easier.  Socialization also wasn’t an obstacle.  Both in and out of the classroom, professors and fellow students know her and she is perfectly comfortable partaking in discussions and presentations.   The study habits, skills, and confidence she developed as a homeschool graduate, had completely prepared her for the independent learning required at the college level.

I’m not saying that there weren’t adjustments…Believe me, there were plenty!

I knew what Bug’s weaknesses were and those were the things I worried about the most.  I knew that I  had given her all the tools she would need, but I also accepted that learning to “adult” can be daunting.

Bug is not a morning person…EVER, so I got in the habit of calling her every morning.  Some mornings it was simply to make certain she was functional, other mornings we would chat as she got ready for school.

Her organizational skills are not top notch, so helping her figure out the best way to keep track of all the things she is juggling was trial and error.  Finally she created a system to help her organize her time without feeling overwhelmed, or forgetting to do things like laundry and grocery shopping.

I’ll be honest.  Those calls were as much for me as they were for her.   Letting go wasn’t easy.  I’m a mom.  What does a mom do when she FEELS she’s not needed any more?  I realized I’d always be needed.

I’m now there as a sounding board for project ideas, an ear to listen when she needs to gripe about a professor, a cheerleader when she feels like she isn’t up to par, and a verbal hug when she is homesick.  I still nag her to do her laundry, clean her room, eat her fruits and veggies, and not stay up too late. Now into her second year, I still call every morning.  There have been those mornings that she hasn’t answered right away and yes, the “oh no” still goes through my head until she calls back explaining she forgot her phone, but deep down I know she’s got this.

She has tested those wings of hers and is learning to soar.

Are you ready for your Things to leave home?  What is your biggest worry for them?  If you already have college kids, what words of advice do you have for  the rest of us?  Please leave a comment so we can support one another!

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