After much debate, prayer, tears, anxiety, and hope… I have decided to … HOMESCHOOL.
I totally know. Only crazy people with TONS of energy and a the patience of a real life saint choose to homeschool. I’m mediocre in the patience department not to mention I currently lack full physical and mental capabilities. So why, oh why, would I choose to do that… NOW of all times?
A combination of reasons really, but probably not what you’d think. We had to let go of Montessori, basically as we just can’t afford private school while I’m not working, and to be quite honest it didn’t really work for my son although it was a blessing for our daughter. Anyway, I was resigned to public school. I researched our local school (which ranks really well in test scores – by the way). Again and again we were told that this is a really good school, we’ll be happy here.
So we went to the “new family intro night”. It was held in the school cafeteria, kind of what you’d expect, fold out picnic tables, commercial grade tile, principal and top staffers there to talk and meet the families. A couple of things struck me.
#1. This was really, painfully boring. The lackluster powerpoint presentation, and monotone speeches made ME feel restless and it had only been 40 minutes.
#2 – there was no natural light. Where were the windows? And when will it be over?
#3 School starts at 7:30am. WHA?
#4 The principal asked the kinds if they like Whattaburger and Chic-Fil-A? They screamed yes (except for my kids which looked at me with total confusion) He proceeded to tell us that we’d LOVE the school lunch program! (folks you couldn’t make this stuff up…)
#5 They had asked us to bring the children to orientation but only two coloring sheets and about 4 crayons per table suggested perhaps these people were not familiar with entertaining children for an hour? The kids in the audience began to get louder and louder and energy levels started to peak. A glance around the room showed children were starting to vibrate.
Finally, blissfully, it was over and time for the tour of the school. The kids were beyond excited to see a new school and their very own classrooms. Montessori only had 4 rooms in the whole school and this was a complete K – 6 school ! As we began to walk the halls I felt a tightening in the back of my jaw and throat. Like the one you get when you walk by the stack of tires at Costco… chemicals. Oh well, it will be ok. Then we enter the Kindergarten room and my heart fell. Where were the bright colors? The happy room? WHERE OH WHERE was the natural light? A room for 20 kindergartners yet it was filled with a half dozen computer monitors and dark chairs on dark carpet (yes carpet), and dark lockers in the corner. The fluorescent lights flickered above. There was no joy in this room. No light. No plants. No color. How could I get excited about this? How could I ask my 5 year old to spend 7 hours a day in this tiny dark room?
Exploring my daughters 2nd Grade class showed no improvement. Each class was carpeted and had only one tiny window. Everything in the class was dark – navy or black. Why do the fluorescent lights flicker so? I mean – have you people see One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest? I mean, seriously. Have you?
By the time we got to the gym (also carpeted , also without windows) and the playground (wood chips in a parking lot- no grass or dirt) I started to realize this wouldn’t work for us. It isn’t about religion, or test scores, or socialization. It’s about Environment. Do you know how depressed I felt after 2 hours? I don’t care if you taught my kid to be a quantum physicist (which is really quite cool) I wouldn’t ask anyone I know to spend 7 hours a day without color or sunlight. Not to mention starting lecture at 7:30am in a small dark room. My gosh, if that were my job I’d be miserable. And grumpy. And my kids are EXTREMELY sensitive to environment, electronics, chemicals, sunlight.
So now what? Um. I’m learning. I’m reading books and blogs on Montessori at home, Unschooling, and child led learning. I’m also working on structure, plans, and strategy. I’m overwhelmed but powering forward. (by the way, I do know proper English writing style but I prefer blogging as I speak so please refrain from any grammar lessons – I’m too fragile to take it with grace!)
There are many, many public teachers in my family and my life. One of my best friends is an amazing teacher at a public school. I have the utmost respect for these people and I don’t judge the system or kids in the system. I just don’t feel like it’s the best solution for us. But will I be good enough? Will I do good enough? Oh, the doubt that bubbles to the surface. In fact, I haven’t even told most of the people I know because I worry.. they’ll judge me. I worry they’ll ask a question that I can’t answer.
But really, my kids are 5 and 7. And I’m pretty smart. And I know what they need, what they are interested in, and how to keep them engaged. I know I’m doing the right thing. I do. I just caught myself worrying what “everyone” will think.
And then an angel came to my door today. Dressed as the Time Warner repair guy. Our internet has been blinking in and out for weeks so they finally sent the big guy to check out the source. He showed up while we were working on making cards at the kitchen table, and eating lunch. My house was not clean. There were flip flops flung and legos on nearly every surface. The pillows of the couch constructed into a fort for Transformers and Legos to fight off the intrusion of teddy bears. My skin glowed warm with embarrassment as I led this stranger into our home. The shame only grew stronger as we walked outside into the yard and found random undies that had been discarded in a flower bush after a sprinkler session one hot afternoon and I could see that the leaves must be raked and the grass around the edges had grown long.
We went back into the house and the kids were wild and excited to show off for a stranger. Jumping on couches and distracted from the project. I kept trying to redirect them, break up the fist fights before blood was drawn, put back on task of addressing an envelope, reminding them to clean up their mess. Between my shame of a messy house and my exhaustion trying to keep the kids on point and have a meaningful conversation with a stranger (not to mention I realized I hadn’t laid down in a couple of hours and my head was starting to spin) I was kind of a wreck.
Finally, the blessed internet was fixed and I could go back to homeschool focus. I had broken out in a sweat and stood defeated in my messy living room as the Time Warner man shook my hand and told me to have a nice week. As he walked out the door he turned out, looked me the in the eye and said “I really appreciate the way you are raising your children. I see a lot of people with their kids, friends, family, and work and you’re doing an amazing job.” Of COURSE, me being me, my eyes welled with tears. I stood 5 feet from this stranger who had just spent the last hour witnessing my messy house and wild kids and he left me with a compliment.
His words ring over and over in my mind. I’m doing an amazing job. Amazing? Really?
Well thank you Universe. I needed that today. I really, really, really needed that.
Create your Sunshine Life – follow your intuition when it tells you to compliment someone. Don’t hold back. Give the love. You have no idea what it could do to someone’s day… or week… or life.