A friend just sent this guest blog from the Parenting Passageway. A much needed read for me today. ;-)
Today, in New England, it was a beautiful day. Sunny, breezy, low 60’s. Perhaps to my Florida family, this is a chilly day, made for long sleeves and snuggles. But to my northeastern friends, this was a day for opening windows, climbing trees, and running through the grass barefooted.
As I gratefully cracked open my own window over the kitchen sink this afternoon and felt the cool breeze on my face, I realized that these three aforementioned activities are so very symbolic of the choice our family has returned to- homeschooling.
For a variety of reasons, our family tried public school this year. I must say, that of all the public schools out there, this is one of the best. Not because of test scores or academic standards, but because it is old and has character, it is small and cozy, and the principal is there every day, accessible and available to chat with a smile on her face. One cannot say this of many public schools.
My older two children started off the school year with much enthusiasm. They were quite excited to try it out. The idea of a whole room full of children was brimming with potential, thoughts of playgrounds and indoor gyms delighted them, and school buses were held in the utmost reverence.
So off they went, every day, with new backpacks, clean teeth, and nicer clothes than they had ever owned before. And all was well. For a while.
But slowly I noticed a change. The windows were closing. The breezy, graceful, happy freedom that had once blessed these little people was being replaced with something more rigid. As I said, it was slow, and we marched on through Winter Break without putting much thought into it.
Then came February break. We were not travelling nor were we hosting any visitors, so it was just me and the kids, doing whatever we do, for a week. And it was such an uneventful, beautiful week! That curious, magical, yet oh-so subtle bond that we once had was rekindled. Such a funny thing. I hadn’t noticed we’d lost it till we found it again. A part of my soul was awakened by this realization, I could now see this bond and feel it; a very tangible, very precious gift. The night before school started back again, I was consoling two crying children. They missed me, they missed home, they missed homeschooling.
At this point, my heart literally took over my entire being. My rational mind was reeling, but I grabbed it by the hand and plunged ahead. I began searching out new homeschooling groups, researching curriculums, and planning for next school year. At home.
Now, as the school year edges toward its close, I am looking at the entire school system with an unbiased eye. I do not wish to love it or hate it. (We are actually having the kids complete the school year, because in most cases I support finishing what is started.) And this is what I see:
There are rules and norms, cool things and uncool things. Age and sex become factors for friendship. Judgment comes often and harshly, from state tests, prep tests, report cards, teachers, and other students. It is everywhere. Fun is relegated to lunchtime, recess, and P.E. (though recess is a privilege quickly removed for make-up work or poor behavior). Learning is a despised activity, consisting of sitting at a hard desk under fluorescent lights listening to a lecture that seems designed to bore; little more than test prep conducted by an over-worked, over-regulated, over-stressed teacher, stripped of any power to decide what or how she teaches. The emphasis, in the minds of the children, is not on what they learn, but where they rank in relation to their fellow classmates. And where is the respite, where is the expansive, creative outlet for these boxed-up children? Even at recess, that sacred 15-minute privilege, one may not play with small sticks, or climb trees, or dig in the dirt, and certainly one cannot be barefoot. (All those activities are reserved for eccentric homeschoolers.)
I am not writing this to bash the school system. The people there are doing their best with what they’ve been given, students and teachers alike. I am writing this for the homeschooling mother, the one who is exhausted, whose house is a mess, who hasn’t brushed her hair or taken a shower in several days, whose children are playing with toys in the bathroom sink instead of practicing their handwriting.
You, momma, are doing a fantastic job. Your children are living. Real, authentic, amazing living. Listen. You can hear them squealing with delight as they squirt water all over the bathroom mirror right now. They discover. They probe. They laugh. They learn. They are alive.
Your house may be messy, but your precious windows are open.