Today is the day! Today was the last 6:30 wake up for weeks! Today there are no more early braids, no more early breakfast, no more car lines! Today is the last report card, the last sing-songy teases, the last timed lunch.
School has been a fantastic experience. As a former homeschooler, who very much loved that life and still pines for it, I’m amazed that I can say that. True that, the worst part has been the schedule. The long days that weren’t always full of learning where I was sorely tempted to keep them to myself and go explore something kind of sucked. It’s hard to pack your kid off when you know they’re going to watch another movie or scrimmage and there’s a beach calling or new books. Sometimes I just plain miss having them in my space. And getting up before dawn, when my natural clock vehemently disagreed, was no fun either. Most of our snafus had to do only with adjusting to a system:
- absences need documentation and they matter,
- the FCAT is the golden calf we all must bow to,
- reading can be for fun but more importantly it’s for points and book choice must be with an eye for “the most points”,
- what must come naturally to mommies who started off in the system was repeated, awkward failure for me: missed reward ceremonies, field trips, volunteer in the class time.
But my younger kids had fantastic, fantastic teachers. Most people have some significant teacher memory they carry with them through life and my kids started public school at an age where they will very likely remember their firsts. These were nurturing teachers who helped them learn the process, strive to make up lost ground, and have a welcome emotional space from the personal drama that led us here. They have soared, not only maintaining the “honor” roll, but by truly loving school days.
Middle school was a whole ‘nother ball game. Take that awkward system and raise it to the nth power. It’s all “more”. Believe what you hear: if you are homeschooling and want to transition to a public system, don’t do it in 6th grade. The standard quickly drops from “excel” to “survive”. By that critieria my fella is a hero. The year is under his belt. He’s learned. And now he’ll move onto thriving.
Somewhere in my storage trailer is a loved copy of The Well Trained Mind. Together with my well-worn Kindergarten curriculum, it’s my most-missed book. There’s a whole section on “after schooling” that I always skipped over before. I definitely walked a path this year I’d previously thought verbotten.
Summertime is going to be a continuation of that: these babies have to suddenly transition from only seeing their father for a few highly supervised hours to weeks of unsupervised, uncertain overnights. The next two weeks are all about preparing them, reassuring them, and praying. They don’t want to go and the stakes are so much higher than wanting to stay home from a day of school. If the first day of drop offs to the institutions of learning felt like feeding them to the wolves, this one trumps it easily. It’s all new territory and feels dangerous at best.
The way through is one step at a time and a light at the end of the tunnel. I know life after the summer is going to look very, very different than life at the start. Those early alarm starts will return, braids may or may not, packed lunches will be back on the counter. I hope our afternoons will include some of that Well Trained Mind after schooling togetherness. I want to give my smallest guy at least a taste of the homeschooled freedom his siblings had at that age. Childhood requires time and systems don’t afford much of that.
Today, though, feels high. It’s flying loose leaf paper and end of the year cookies. It’s knowing the beach is only a few miles away. It’s feeling open and unencumbered. It feels like accomplishment for the mere fulfullment of days. Seems we ought to sit a bit and let it sink in.