Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Beginning of the School Year

I believe that we homeschoolers who say, "when are you starting school?" have the wrong idea. What do I say to that? "Ummm...I started about eight years ago and have been going strong every day since. Wait...there were those two days when I had a stomach virus and didn't get out of bed. Other than that, we've been homeschooling pretty much every day." I say this tongue in cheek because I believe that we are called to be in a constant state of teaching and training our children, and that "homeschooling" is a misnomer. It implies that we've allowed the cultural concept of how we should educate our children creep into our minds -- 17 years and countless hours of firsthand training and indocrination have nothing to do with this, of course. And this is not to offend the wonderful teachers who taught me and helped to form my life and develop the way I think about things (thanks, Fran!). I loved them all. But...since now I have a choice in the matter, I believe that education that is home based is in many cases the premier choice for cultivating a whole person, both whole parent and whole child. "Homeschoolers" from classical educators to unschoolers share this notion in spite of their vast differences in style. So for lack of better terminology at the moment, I'll identify with the sector of society best known as "homeschoolers" in spite of my subtle disagreement with the label; and the notion of "starting school" implies taking textbooks out again to start working on that kind of learning again.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a homeschool snob. I know what they mean. There's the natural rhythm of life. There comes that time of year when you just can't go anymore and you stash away the books and the whining and the routine because you're feeling a little burnt out on phonics and science projects and crafts...if you like that sort of thing. Then, you enjoy the learning that comes from critter-hunting, garden-growing, beach-combing, and campfire-lighting. It's a different kind of school entirely, but every bit as important. But somewhere around this time of year, perhaps because the leaves are showing just a tinge of red,


or perhaps because everyone around you is shopping on tax-free weekend, that question comes, "So, when are you guys going to start?" I have gotten so many different answers, from "Oh, I just can't face it. Maybe never." to the very firm, but late "Sept. 14th." We're "starting" on August 31st. What that means exactly, I'm never quite sure. It means a slight variation in our routine, in which the kids practice piano first thing in the morning and do math pages and listen to stories and do copywork and learn cursive and history and science-y type things. It means I get to relive my childhood anticipation for the first day of school all over again, but on a grander scale. I get to laminate memory cards (no home educating family should be without a laminator) and plan which science experiments and history projects we're going to do. I get to buy notebook paper and notebooks and pencils and pencil boxes and backpacks. I haven't figured out why my kids need backpacks yet, but they're cute and fun and they pack their clothes in them when we have overnights with friends.

Today I deep cleaned the basement in anticipation for our "start." It's an annual ritual of cleaning out old junk, making sure last years papers are filed away properly, books are neatly placed on the shelves, and the carpet is steam-cleaned (Please note--this is not standard. It's my own personal OCD thing with clean floors.) The planning is nearly done. The books have nearly all arrived via the friendly UPS man. The lesson planning and goal setting is very nearly complete.


Matty said to me for the first time in his life, "Mom, I can hardly wait." I said, "Wait for what, Buddy?" He said, "For school to start. I didn't feel that way before but I do now. You get better at it every year." Wow. I almost did an unsolicited, involuntary flip right there on the spot.