As America returns to school this week, I’m sitting here feeling conflicted. Anxious. Sad, even. Maybe it’s because I’m still new at this – my oldest is six starting first grade and the younger is about to turn five and starting Kinder.
Homeschool is awesome for so many reasons, right? But a few times a year, it gets me feeling unsure. There are no first day photos or class pictures, no need for new clothes or backpacks, no hundred days activities or “crazy hair” days, no anxiety to start something new without mom and no “first day jitters” that transform into “excited to go back tomorrow” butterflies.
The doubt sets in on important days like this. The doubt that maybe I’m doing the wrong thing. I feel guilty for taking away the experience of school from them – when they tell me they wish they had a bus to ride and a teacher who isn’t me, a desk and recess at the “yellow park inside the school fence”, I wonder if I’m just being selfish.
This week, while all their friends are excitedly awaiting a new life in a new place with new friends and teachers, most of them walking into their new rooms for the first time right this second as I type, we just keep doing the same things we’ve been doing and hope our friends don’t forget us while they are off on their new adventures.
Sure, we might go out in the front yard and take a picture when we start “officially” working on the new school year, but it’s not quite the same, right? Yes, it’s awesome that we have personalized curriculum based on things they actually really love so that learning can happen organically instead of being forced on them by means that will make them hate the process. It’s also incredible that they can attend functions throughout the day and take breaks when they need them, not when they are scheduled. It’s amazing that we can do our reading by doing chalk rubbings at the 100+ year old cemetery or take walks in the park to learn about nature or do word and letter scavenger hunts at Disneyland. It’s great to incorporate their favorite stories into their actual book-work so it’s more fun for them. It’s totally fun to build a curriculum based on what we are already doing that month so they don’t get bored.
All of this and so much more is wonderful, but when my daughter asks where her best friend is today and why can’t she come over and I have to tell her it’s because she’s at school, I’m met with tears – like, giant, sobbing tears – asking why she can’t go with her to her new school and when the only reason I have that isn’t a lie is “because I don’t want you to”, I begin to doubt myself.
I mean, yes. There is more than “because I don’t want you to” and I don’t actually say that to her – what I DO say is, “because honey, we do school at home.” There’s also the part about how I don’t agree with behavior charts and forcing a young child to “sit and attend” by age 5. I don’t agree with the “no hugs” policy instead of teaching children that compassion and affection is a GOOD thing. There’s also the bit about frustrated teachers who withhold recess from children with ADHD, making the situation even worse and the part about how doing your best is so that you can be better than others, not about being the best you can be and the part about how, when you boil it all down, school is more about competition and grades than learning and teamwork. There are plenty of other reasons, too, and I try my hardest to remember them in times like this. The reasons why, even though it is stressful, challenging in ways I never even realized, it’s worth it. But, when they both look at me with those giant, tear-filled eyes begging me to be with their friends, and angrily saying things like, “you just don’t want us to have fun and go to school” it’s so hard not to question everything.
I remind them; friends and recess are not the reason to want to go to school. That’s a bonus, sure, but school is for work, and learning, and sitting and writing and doing math and science. It’s NOT for playing. You can sometimes play there, too, but that’s not what it is for and if you want to play when you should be doing work, you get in trouble. We can do all the fun learning things they do- AND more, here at home – and then ALSO go play with friends! When I say that, I sound excited, but inside… I worry, I feel bad for them and I feel guilty for wanting to take them away from something that I know they’d enjoy, even though I truly believe the reasons I am doing this.
We won’t “officially” start our new year until the first week of September and I plan to do “not first day of school” photos, they’ll still fill out the first day of school questionnaires and draw pictures of themselves and talk about what they did this summer. I’m in the process of buying curriculum tools, going through what I have to decide what I still need, and I’m getting everything ready. I’m saving money to join the HSLDA, I’m on the “teacherspayteachers.com” page and Pintrest almost every day looking for printouts, class decoration ideas, everything I can find to help make their experience a positive one, one that they can be proud of and look back on with joy.
Will it be enough? Will they look back on this time in their lives with anger that I kept them from something they wanted? Will they see the benefits and appreciate the sacrifices we have had to make as a family to pull it off? I can only hope and do my best. In the mean time, I’ll be planning some “not back to school” day activities to make everyone feel a little better.
Do all homeschool moms feel this way? What are some ways you fight that feeling? What “not back to school” activities do you do to help your children transition without conflict?