Back to School for the Very First Time

Back to School for the Very First Time September 4, 2018

We finished our first year of homeschooling.

I’ve been meaning to tell you guys about homeschooling for weeks, but August was a busy month for news and I never got the chance. Rosie completed her Kindergarten year, and immediately started the first grade, because she gets frantic if she goes more than a few days without lessons. Besides, schooling through summer means we can take a day off whenever we think of an excuse to during the year. 

I vacillated back and forth on the topic of homeschooling.When Rose was still in the womb I was determined to homeschool, but as she made her ungraceful exit and navigated her toddler years I became less and less sure.  I am not a school-ist. I don’t think there’s only one right way to educate a child. Sending kids to a regular school works fine for many families, maybe even most families. And there were good reasons for me personally not to homeschool. I’m a working mom with bad fatigue from fibromyalgia and I didn’t know if I’d always have the time. Rose is an only child, so far, and I feared she’d be lonely. Also, I was homeschooled from halfway through fifth grade all the way up until college, which was in many ways a positive experience but in others a mess. I may not be able to stop Rose from having a miserable childhood. When you get down to brass tacks, most childhoods are miserable at least a good deal of the time. But I was determined that Rosie would at least be miserable for different reasons than I was. 

On the other hand, I hadn’t liked “real” school at all either, in the years before I was homeschooled. And I was less than impressed by the results the local public schools were turning out. There are billboards all over this town claiming that public schools here have the best test scores in the region, but I don’t see any evidence of academic prowess in their students. I always dread having to ride the bus when it does its high school pickup hour because the high school children act completely feral. as if they’ve just been let out of Juvenile Detention instead of an institution of learning. And the elementary school children I’ve had a chance to meet in this neighborhood have hours of homework every night and nothing to show for it– they don’t like to read, they don’t seem interested in learning, they’re not very knowledgeable. Geeky homeschoolers are much more fun. Perhaps that’s not the experience you’ve had in your school district, but it’s what I see in mine. Besides, Rose is sometimes painfully shy. And she hates to get up early even more than I do.

The threat of getting up early five mornings a week was my last straw. I decided to homeschool. I notified the superintendent. I got my excusal notice, and I set to work.

Next time I get the chance I’ll talk about the method I came up with, the books I used, and how I got everything I needed for cheap or free. Right now I’ll just say that we only did an hour of busywork a day, plus watching educational videos and listening to lots of audiobooks, and Rose was always outside to play with the neighborhood children when they got home at three. She finished her Kindergarten work in May, and we kept going through most of the summer with first grade; at the time of her evaluation I’d bumped her up to second grade math because she was bored with the first grade lessons.  We’re going to start learning Japanese and do a special unit study on theater appreciation this year, just in case Rose wasn’t geeky enough.

Put like that it sounds like we were incredibly successful, but I’m a mother so I don’t ever feel successful. Perhaps other mothers among my readers feel the same way.  I would never be half so critical of another human being as I am of myself as a mother; I second-guess every decision. I fretted every single day of Rose’s Kindergarten.  Maybe I was crazy to think Rose was learning anything. Maybe I’d completely ruined her life. Maybe she would have enjoyed Kindergarten. Perhaps she’d be happier riding the bus and playing at the playground with other girls and boys under a teacher’s supervision. Perhaps homeschooling was a crutch for her shyness and “real” school would have been a cure. Perhaps, after all, Rose would be miserable in the exact same way I’d been miserable.

I fretted until one hot and stuffy afternoon last week, when Rose and I got on the bus to go shopping.

One of the children of the neighborhood was there with her grandmother. Half her face was swollen, scratched and bandaged as if she’d been in a car accident. They were on their way to the emergency room.

This little girl is five years old. I’m told she just started Kindergarten at the local public school that week.

It turned out that the punishment for not completing homework in this little girl’s class– mandatory homework, for five-year-olds, after full-day Kindergarten– was to run laps around the school outside. The little girl had been punished for neglecting her assignments and was running laps around the school building in her good school clothes in sweltering ninety-degree heat, when she turned a corner too clumsily and smashed the side of her face. She’d been so disoriented afterwards that the school secretary called her grandmother, explaining the accident and asking them to go to the ER to check for a concussion as soon as she got home.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever be cured of Mom Guilt, but I haven’t felt guilty about homeschooling since.

A certain dose of misery might be unavoidable in childhood. Every mom ends up messing up her child one way or another. But as far as homeschooling, I think I made just the right call.

(image via Pixabay) 


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