Before I write this post, I just wanted to talk about a little occurrence in my life lately that I know I’ve heard people sort of complaining about when you’ve got so many kids. And it’s that, people far and wide seem to have only one phrase to say to you when they see you. That magical phrase is, “you’ve got your hands full.” Now, I’ve read things about people getting upset about this and wanting to retort things like, “yeah, and so is my heart,” or something to that effect. But I find myself not really getting upset when I hear it like I thought I might. I actually feel like it’s pretty harmless and that people are not only simply astounded with the passel of small children I have orbiting about me, they just don’t know what else to say (“Damn, girl! Keep it in your pants!”). not only that, but I actually kind of like hearing it because more than likely I’m thinking something to that effect myself anyways when I am trying to deal with all three of them and it feels sort of validating to have perfect strangers comment that, “man! You have a lot to deal with!” yes. I do. I heard this phrase no less than twice yesterday at the park in about an hours span of time. Once, the lady (dog lady) seemed just not to know what else to say and the second time was after I was wrestling/arguing with the kids in the bathroom over washing hands which I’m sure echoed out into the surrounding area and when we came out, the man seemed to have heard everything and wanted to let me know he felt for my situation. Thanks, random man. I do have my hands full.
But what I really want to write about, what I’m really chomping at the bit to get down onto paper, er, screen, is ruth’s homeschooling. After five long years, at least two of which I was pretty sure we were going to give homeschooling a try, I can finally officially say that we are homeschooling because ruth is finally school-aged and would be going to kindergarten at this point. Yes, right now, I might be waking her up in order to get breakfast in her belly, get her dressed in something somewhat matching and non-stained, make sure she had her school stuff in order (do kindergarteners have “school stuff”? I dunno. I’ve heard that they do). instead, she’s in snooze-land. For another two hours or so.
I gotta say, when I first saw everyone posting pictures on facebook of their kids first days of school, something in me wrenched a little bit. Not because of the cute outfits and big kid status that the first day of school signifies in our culture, but because of that huge relief of some of the responsibility that would come with sending ruth away for much of the day. “finally. Someone else can take partial responsibility…” that line of thinking.
But the initial blow to my gut passed and I’m feeling better. Now that people are done posting statuses about how much their kid “loved” their first day of school and “couldn’t wait to go back”. I’ve calmed down a bit and I’m feeling….fine. normal. My life and my kids lives can simply continue on the track they have been going down.
Not everyone is so relieved. Some people are downright horrified. I have an elderly neighbor who asked me frantically if I had registered ruth with the school system yet, because they’re trying to pass a law that lets them check up on you ever since that lady in Detroit murdered her two kids and said she was homeschooling. “they haven’t actually passed a law,” I replied, “nope, I haven’t registered her. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to. Michigan is, thankfully, at this point, incredibly lenient in their homeschooling requirements.”
“what about the ‘common core’?” asked a well-meaning aunt of mine. “I dunno,” I said because I have no idea what a common core is and I don’t really intend to try and figure it out. “we’re just gonna do our thang,” I said light-heartedly, “and have as little structure as possible.”
Since ruth was a baby and I had so much trouble thinking about putting her in the care of someone else, I knew that I sort of wanted to homeschool. But the last thing I wanted was to be a teacher-figure in her life, set up a desk for her, give assignments and check homework. Shudder. Being a parent is hard enough. I have no desire to be her teacher as well. Talk about a complicated relationship. Looking back on my own experiences in school, and watching her grow and learn, I became even more convinced that any kind of “school system” is not where I really wanted her to spend most of her formative years. Yet I felt trapped into this structured homeschooling idea.
Until I stumbled one day at the library on the idea of “unschooling” or authentic learning. Basically, living life and learning in an authentic, natural way and letting the child basically be his own teacher. Bingo. That combined with a little bit of waldorf educational philosophy, which focuses on verbal storytelling, songs and body movement, a child’s intimate relationship with nature and being invited to work alongside adults in the care of a living space, and I had a plan. Or a non-plan.
I feel sort of like a rebel, which at once gives that little bit of thrill at going against the grain, but also exposes you to feelings of vulnerability and of being excluded from the crowd. I’m excited. Nervous. But excited. And also bored. Because our life hasn’t changed at all since the first day of school started for everyone else. Ruth will still sleep until 9 or so. She will still bother me all day long to play with her. She will still have meltdowns that I and I alone will have to figure out what to do about. And I still have to figure out how to juggle the needs of three kids and keep a house in order and keep myself sane and happy and the atmosphere mostly positive.
It’s gonna be a big heaping scoop of more of the same for us here on the homestead. I wish everyone out there luck with their kids educational endeavors, be they at home or in a school. These are the wonder years.