Next fall, Sally will board a school bus, turn and wave, and leave for kindergarten. Sally is excited. She babbles on and on about kindergarten. But if I am honest with myself, I am scared. This may seem silly given that Sally currently attends full day preschool, and has been in daycare since she was little. But public school? As a K-12 homeschool graduate, public school is something that is still foreign to me.
Lately, Sally has been peppering me with questions about kindergarten. This has proven a bit of a challenge, because many of her questions are ones I simply cannot answer.
“Sally, honey, I think you need to ask daddy these questions,” I finally told her the other day. “I never went to kindergarten because I was homeschooled, remember?”
Sally paused and her brown furrowed. Sally knows that her grandmother taught me at home, and she knows that a number of her aunts and uncles, my youngest siblings, are still being taught at home themselves. When she meets a child of school age, she’ll ask “are you homeschooled, or do you go to school?” She understands the idea of homeschooling, but this time she was clearly pondering something slightly more complex.
“Mommy,” she said finally, “Would you like to come to school with me one time and stay all day? That way you can see what it is like.”
I wasn’t lying when I said Sally is developing a keen sense of empathy. My heart melted and I pulled Sally close and thanked her for her offer. Sally may be only four, but somehow I feel like she understands.
Kindergarten makes me nervous because it is so foreign to my own experiences, but that also means it will be an adventure and a learning experience. As Sally attends kindergarten, I will learn alongside her—I will learn how it works, what it’s like, and how to be there for her, supporting her. But there’s something else about kindergarten, something else that fills me with dread, and that is my mother.
I haven’t told my mother yet that I will be putting Sally in kindergarten, but I’m sure she knows. I know that she disapproves of me having my children in daycare rather than staying home with them, and somehow I know that this disapproval will only get deeper when it comes to public school.
My mother has dedicated decades of her life to homeschooling her children. It is her life. It is her identity. My mother believes that homeschooling is superior to any other method of education. For my mother, homeschooling is the only valid educational choice. I’m having a hard time explaining just how severely negatively my mother views sending children to public school. I think it’s hard for those who have never spent time in homeschooling culture to fully understand.
There is more than a little bit of irony here. My mother’s parents were concerned and a bit upset when she and my dad first started homeschooling. They were not at all happy with this decision. They worried about us kids. And yet, mom stood against them and homeschooled us, because it was her choice and because it was what she felt was best for them. The irony is that that same situation is now repeating, in reverse, and it’s like my mother can’t see that.
Many homeschool parents, especially those who began homeschooling decades ago, remember facing opposition from family members or others. And now, here I am preparing to send my children to public school, facing opposition from my family.
The only good thing about how ironic this situation is is that the irony seriously tamps down on my dread at my mother’s increased disapproval. I’ll say one thing for sure, though: I’m going to reserve sharing Sally’s excitement at her first day of kindergarten to people who will actually share it.