Monday, August 15, 2016

Back to School means End of the Boho Summer

We started school today. At our kitchen table. With our shiny new markers and workbooks and curriculum for a second grader, third grader and kindergartener. We started with enthusiasm. And that enthusiasm lasted about twenty minutes. 

This was the passenger seat of my minivan last week: 

Mandolin. Wildflowers and herbs tied up with garden twine. Battered, vegan sandals made from recycled plastic. On my way to band practice.

And then this morning I was back at my table with my coffee, trying to navigate two different math lessons while simultaneously trying to teach the three-point grasp to my four-year-old AND smelling the oatmeal overflowing onto the stove burner. That doesn't account for the two-year-old, who was up half the night last night thanks to a blasted cat who knocked a glass off a table and shattered it, causing a big ruckus and by that action gifted us with a 2am-5am party with the toddler, which I really hadn't wanted to attend.

Back to the coffee.

I'm always on the fence about homeschooling. When Anja and Greta were preschooler age, I got a little twinge of sadness when I saw all the official back-to-school pictures on Facebook, people's children all dressed up in clean clothes with their cute ponytails and new socks, standing next to a chalkboard announcing their first day of school. At that time, I felt like I was doing my girls a disservice by keeping them home.

But that feeling didn't last.

Our very first year of homeschooling was rough; I never did find my groove, but the girls learned to read that year and so they ended up learning a lot, without a set schedule from me. They read--some on their own, and some as read-alouds-- all the American Girl series, and it prompted us to talk extensively about different times in history.

After that we found our rhythm, to the point where last year I felt undeniably happy with my homeschooling choice. I would describe last year as the perfect homeschool year. We worked hard, we learned a lot, and I closed out our year last May feeling proud of all of us and ready for a well-earned vacation.

And now that vacation is ending and I'm sobbing into my pillow because I already miss my beloved summer of constant music and backyard s'mores and going barefoot and sleeping in. We stayed up late every night. We walked everyplace. We never had a schedule (except for two weeks in June-July when we had swimming lessons.) We went to the creek so often and to the pool less often, but still a handful of times. We explored Celery Bog and foraged wild black raspberries and sorrel for snacks. We sat on the porch during thunderstorms, caught crawdads and lightning bugs and minnows. We fished. We frolicked. WE HAD SO MUCH FUN.

This morning was rough. The girls were all enthusiastic enough, but I wasn't. I could see straightaway that juggling all four of them was going not going to be easy, and that difficulty was going to be compounded by the fact that my heart just wasn't in it. It's not that I don't want to homeschool though... it's just that I don't want this season to end.

I know you can't appreciate summer without winter, I know all the poetic junk about the changing seasons and beauty in the year round and yadda yadda yadda... But I want this...

 and this...

And THIS... keep going. Sweaty afternoon naps, climbing trees, all meals outside, reading story books all day long without worrying about whether or not we can keep carrying and borrowing straight, or count by twos and fives and tens. It was a good, good summer and I'm sad to see it go.

Well, there will of course be external factors to move me along. Fall will arrive. That will get us more in the mood to cozy down with our school books and learn our multiplication tables over mugs of hot chocolate. We'll be traveling to Boston in October and that will be an incredibly fun and educational trip. There will be plenty of nature walks and animal science and outdoor time the year round, so I shouldn't be so down. And I love homeschooling, I really do. I love to see my kids thrive and be so creative and eager to learn. They ask so many questions, and because it's just us, we can get answers together right away. We can spend as much time as we want on one question, learning everything we can, because we have the freedom to explore within our learning. "Limitless Exploration Learning" is what homeschooling could be called. The other day on the walk home from Mass we turned off onto the Heritage Trail that runs along the Wabash River. We didn't go far, but we foraged and identified a lot of different trees and plants and read the plaques about the history of the trail and the bridges over the river. Yesterday we went to play at the creek and we talked about the Battle of Tippecanoe as we visited the actual battlefield and the memorial there. (We also made multiple trips into the Nature Center, because Anja is completely obsessed and can't stay out! We stayed watching the birds until they closed!) Homeschooling truly is a "learning all the time" endeavor, which is why people are attracted to it, and I just need to remind myself of why I love it and choose it for my family. Also, reading Jonathan Bean's "This is my Home, This is my School," picture book to myself today really helped. It made me realize that if I didn't live this sort of life, I would read a book like that and wish that I DID. (But I do! So all is well!)

See, just writing this out is making me look forward more to the school year ahead! I knew there could be some good in complaining on the internet.

A happy new school year to you all.

1 comment:

  1. I know how you feel, Annie. I've got a 3rd and 1st grader and a a kindergartner to teach this year, along with almost 3 year old twins and a 1.5 year old. I am just not feeling it. The little kids are so hard to keep entertained, and the house gets so messy when I'm busy teaching, and summer just went too fast. I spent too long getting my garden going and just breathing and enjoying the freedom of no school, and then I got started on my summer projects, and then it's time to get set for and start the new year. We are starting the day after labor day and I know the enthusiasm is in there somewhere, but I'm still searching. I'm completely committed to home education and I do love it. It's just...hard. As you know.
    We'd miss our babies if they were gone all day. That's so long to be separated from us, and from each other!
    There'd be no Friday library day, or spontaneous after-lunch cooky baking, and they certainly wouldn't be drinking hot chocolate during math class if they were at school. We can do this, and it will be messy and beautiful and a great year. Best wishes to you and your little school!
    ~Emily (emidmag on IG)