It has been a strange couple of weeks which finally culminated in a short walk to our neighborhood grade school to enroll my 10 year old son, Henry. It is his first time entering a “real school.”
By way of back story I’ll tell you that I have been homeschooling my kids since my oldest was 6. She is now 15 and entered an Arts High School as a sophomore this year. My son, Chet found his way into a charter school based on game theory, his love language. Henry and Miles I had intended to keep home a couple more years. My educational focus for them had shifted though. In the past my aim has been for us to pursue what they love, to find the connections of everything, to be together and learning in a familiar place, at their own pace and this has been amazing. But this year I hit a wall and I began to feel more and more agitated, under pressure, ready to blow at any small event. I signed Henry up for a Virtual School, thinking this would be a good way to alleviate the fear of his never learning what he needed in order to enter school and to get him ready to enter the “real school” world next year.
So for the first four weeks of the school year I sat down with Henry every day and did all the school work that he would have done sitting in a CPS classroom all day. The curriculum was fine. The materials were fine. The pace was even doable except that I hated it. I hated every moment of teaching to the book, the computer program, the test, the oversight, the standard. Every fear I had about him entering the system was triggered. Every insecurity I had fostered all these years of homeschooling rose to the surface and presented as a roaring bad mommy monster and I did the thing I promised myself I would not do with homeschooling my kids. Instead of drawing out his strengths, instead of nurturing his interests, instead of laying down a standard and helping him find his way toward it I criticized and belittled and guilted him every day as we sat there plowing through his work. As we descended into this educational hell hole poor Miles sat on the couch waiting for his instruction, for the attention I told him he’d get when his older siblings would be in school.
Virtual School didn’t work for me and I would lay awake at night and despair and wallow in the guilt for having poisoned the well with my beautiful and intelligent son. Henry, the cuddly one, the creative inventor, the clown, the stylish guy. I was slowly tearing him down and I could find no way to stop it, except to quit.
I procrastinated because guilt is strange and slippery and because feelings of “failure” and “what if” plagued me doggedly. I spoke to his teacher at the Virtual School but nearly nothing made me feel better. So, I made a phone call to the neighborhood school. I spoke to the principal and I wavered.
The next day, when the principal told me that I only had 2 days to left to register him for this year, I gathered my resolve and walked to the school. We took a short tour, I dialed back tears and I filled out the paperwork. The moment I finished it was as if someone lifted a three hundred pound gorilla from my shoulders.
The night before he started school I asked Henry, “Do you think you’ll be alright?” He swelled with tears for a moment. “I want to stay home.” I nodded and said, “I know.” I told him how I felt and how much I loved him. I told him that I didn’t want to be the meanest teacher he ever had and that I felt I was headed in that direction. “What if I get a mean teacher anyway?” he asked. “You might,” I admitted, “but then you’ll be able to come home to the nicest and most loving mommy in the whole world.” He climbed into my lap, long limbs leaking out over the edges of the chair, arms wound around my neck as he lay his head on my shoulder. We stayed that way a long time, quiet and sniffling a little, content in that moment, weathering the storm, bracing for the light.