Gosh I’ve got so much to do. I have seriously tried to look for interesting things to read and think about but you know what, AGHHH. That’s the spiritual substance of my person today. Why? you ask. Well, more than half the country has started school, and the other goodly portion will begin before I have time to blink three times. AND I have a big pile of paper strategically teetering in the true center of the floor so that whenever I walk through the new shiny school room, I trip, stub my toe, and scatter it all everywhere.
A dear friend yesterday, after helpfully clearing the storm cloud of gloom by audibly acknowledging that every single person in the whole wide world is perversely and meanly posting first day pictures online, and remarking on how obviously happy everybody looks, especially those blessed and hallowed people who are sending their children out and away for an essential portion of every day to what’s called School, then asked what the homeschool sucker looks forward to.
That’s a really good question. There is certainly no sense of relief that the long cluttered summer is over and order will be restored by the glory of all the generators of clutter leaving the house and going to some other location to throw down their little bits of paper all over the floor one by one by one by one. And there’s no effervescent excitement over getting to go out and buy crisp boxes of pencils and a nice outfit for the first day. That’s because I buy huge boxes of paper from the internet, and I give the children pencils as presents on Easter and St. Nicholas Day. And what more do you need really? An occasional new package of tape that you grab hold of as you’re lost in Wegmans looking for Tahini? And good luck with a cute outfit. The “first day,” which doesn’t really exist, is every child wrapped in a blanket hunched over a mug of coffee, balefully unclear about why you’re still stacking books in front of him.
No, its not that kind of excitement. Rather, it’s the rush of energy that comes from yet another year of hopefully amalgamated academic panic, of Everything Depends On Me. It is this anticipative disquiet that makes me a saint and a martyr and should cause you, when I tell you I homeschool, to lower your eyes respectfully and begin to speak in hushed tones as in the presence of unassailable holiness. The fact that I homeschool sets me in an exalted category that no mortal ordinary school mother can ever ascend. See my clean hands and my clean heart? I don’t even need Jesus because I’m so competent and amazing.
I’m kidding, obviously. The reason I homeschool really is to reinforce to myself year after year that everybody is better than me—All The Mothers, all of them are better than me. The ones with kids in school are better because they’re not stupid enough to homeschool. And all the homeschooling ones are better than me because they’re doing a good job and not beating back constant looming total catastrophic failure. And all the women who don’t even have children are the most sensible of all because having children who need to be educated in any manner is The Worst. There’s no good way out that I can see.
But, you know what, homeschooling is too much like giving birth. You start out blithely with your first child. You go into labor and toddle off to the delivery place of your choice. It’s difficult but fine. You come home and nurse your baby, or feed it, or whatever. You haul it around in its enormous car seat and you’re so young and hopeful and innocent and happy. But by baby number five you’re (and by you I mean me obviously) wracked with anxiety because you know exactly, minute by minute, what’s going to happen and how painful its going to be and how many weeks before you will stagger through your own life with any kind of functioning reason. You’re not unhappy by any means. Indeed, happiness has been replaced by deep joy and certain knowledge that everything is fine and a new baby is exactly what you always wanted. But, that joy is tempered by knowledge driven anxiety.
Similarly, the longer you homeschool, the more experience you have, the more your apprehension is based in reality. You have already failed in various and sundry ways. The pitfalls lie before you, cast in the veritable light of What Happened Last Year and The Year Before. The immensity of the project grows and you see, daily, how young and stupid and dumb you were ten years ago. Sure, the children are alive and doing well. But there’s dread. Real, quantifiable rightly ordered dread. That’s all I’m saying.
And on that note, I will arise and go kick over that stack of paper again. And later, but not today, I will, without fail, post pictures of every single child as if a first day has dawned. Because facebook demands it and I am nothing if not obedient.