There’s the classic conversation I once had with my childhood BFF, Kerri, when I smugly insisted that coyote could be pronounced either ki-o-tee or coy-oat. (When Sam was born, she couldn’t find a stuffed coy-oat for a gift, so she bought him a stuffed lee-oh-pard instead.) Then there was the state spelling bee when I was asked to spell “poinciana.” I was certain the judges has mispronounced “poinsettia,” so I spelled that instead. (My DC dreams washed right down the drain with a heavy dose of smugness…) And of course, Carrie will remember all the things I said I’d NEVER do when I became a parent (e.g., toy guns, dessert before dinner, yadda, yadda, yadda).
And one of my most adamant claims?
I’ll NEVER homeschool.
(Cue “The Fray.”)
It’s not that I’ve ever been anti-homeschool, it’s more that I’m anti-having-my-kids-home-with-me-all-day-every-day. Sometimes, we barely make it through the weekend without scratching each other’s eyeballs out. And summers can drag on for years.
But, it’s true. With age comes a bit more patience and perspective. Life has a way of softening us around the edges — of making what once seemed not only improbable, but borderline impossible — much easier to embrace.
George has struggled this past year and a half. While each of the other kids found a niche in his or her new school, George continued to operate on the sidelines. He was always a one-friend kind of kid, and although his Zionsville BFF didn’t attend the same school, there was comfort for George in knowing his bestie was near and accessible and available for weekend sleepovers and jungle building adventures. He hasn’t found that friend here, probably hasn’t really tried all that hard. He still misses his BFF fiercely, still longs for what used to be. And although he never loved school in Zionsville, it’s definitely the greener side for him now.
When I drop him off at school in the mornings, I feel like I’m throwing him to the wolves. There’s such defeat in his face when he says goodbye. It’s no way for anyone to begin one day, let alone every day. And when he gets in the car after school, his stories are always the same — we didn’t get recess because the class was acting up, we got another lecture about good behavior, we had to sit silently in PE because no one was listening.
The school culture here is very different from the only other one he’s known. In our experience, it seems to be built on a compliance-above-all-else model. I understand the need for order and structure, but I also believe that order and structure can come naturally when kids are engaged and interested and learning. And in my humble, non-teacher experience, that doesn’t come from a litany of worksheets.
We fought the good fight for a year and a half, and now we’ve decided to make the one change we’re capable of making.
We’re homeschooling George.
Note the “WE” in that previous sentence. With both of us working full-time, there is no way in hell I could — or would — do this on my own. And Chris, after all, is a teacher and public school administrator by trade. We’re not going into this blindly. And we both have a great deal of flexibility. And George is an effective independent worker — when he’s not talking incessantly or humming or asking 4,598 questions or complaining about being hungry. And we only have four more months left in the school year. And this is most definitely not our long-term solution.
We can’t screw him up completely in four months, can we?
Note, too, that we’re only homeschooling George. He’s been begging us to keep him at home, begging for this opportunity. The other three are begging us NOT to homeschool them. “Oh, puh-leeze,” Mary Claire sighed dramatically, “There could NOT be anything WORSE!”
Thank God for Mary (friend-Mary, not daughter-Mary, although I’m thankful for them both) who is going to help us develop his curriculum. If I could ship George to her for brain-food every day, I’d do it in a heartbeat. No one would encourage and inspire him more. But because the commute would be a killer, I’ll just have to depend on her long-distance expertise. I am so grateful for her guidance, her friendship, and the wine she will have waiting when I come to Indiana to pick up materials and advice and a rousing, glass-half-full pep talk.
George wants to learn French, play the violin, and take up the saxophone. He’s suggested that daily games of racquetball at the Sanderson Center would satisfy his PE requirement. We’ve confirmed that he can still attend Science Club if we sign waivers and provide transportation. We’d almost be willing to sign a couple of the other kids away if it meant keeping George in the one activity that has saved his Starkville life. That’s how critical Science Club has been to his 10-year-old existence. (Thanks, Dr. Tegt, Science Rock Star Extraordinaire.)
And guess what I’ll get to do again soon? Diagram sentences. I must admit that makes me more than a little bit giddy.