Make no mistake. Taking your kid out of school is a big decision. It’s going on six months that I took Jack out of fifth grade and I’m just beginning to get an idea of what it really means.
I don’t know any adult who has been homeschooled. All the parents of the homeschoolers I know went to school themselves. I myself went to school for as long as there is school to go to. The only schooling experience I did not have was a post-doc! And I went to some of the best schools, in name and in actuality. The greatest school I went to was my elementary school whose principal is still a source of awe and inspiration for me. And taking my own teaching experience into account, we have three generations of educators in my family.
So how does such a seriously schooled person adjust to not sending her own kid to school?
It’s not as easy as it may seem. It throws your entire life out of whack.
I was thinking the other day that not since age 2 when my son went to a day care three days a week have I had so little time to myself. Back then I used the few free hours I had doing chores and some resting. When preschool started and I had more time I went back to my work. Not full time, but I slowly started easing back into it. (I do freelance work at home so I had flexibility.) By first grade I was in full swing of things. I not only worked but occasionally had lunch with a friend or just sat and looked out the window for a while.
But now it’s not just that I don’t have time to myself or for work any more. I am doing things that I thought I was done with. Now, wherever my son is I have to be too. At ten a kid is not old enough to do a lot of things on his own. When your kid is in school or in a structured program like afterschool, you are away from each other. Not the case when he has no other environment to be part of. You and the kid are attached at the hips. You end up doing things you used to do.
Take parks, for instance. That’s the first place it occurs to me to go when we have nothing else to do. And where do you go in a park when your kid is alone? The play park! Luckily Jack has no problem playing with younger kids so he often finds someone to run around with. And I? I sit on the bench and watch like I used to do when he was a toddler. I might return some calls (bad reception, uncomfortable seat, noisy background) or play solitaire on my iPhone (bad light, glare in the eyes, boring, boring, boring). For hours. You want the kid to be outside, right?
Or, I take him to this or that class or lesson: Sit in the car, feed the meter, be on the lookout for closer parking spot, make phone calls (at least the seat is more comfortable), play solitaire, or even read a little. Like in the days I sat on the bleacher while he took trampoline class, oh, how many years ago…?!
I know, I know, you’re thinking it’s not so bad. I am lucky to have the flexibility to be able to change my life for the good of my child. In fact I keep thinking about my poor husband working long stressful hours and I admonish myself for not feeling lucky. More importantly, I am old enough to know how short life is. I hear the minutes and hours tick by and remind myself that the (very) few years that are left of my son’s childhood will go by so fast that I will regret not having enjoyed these days. Guilt, regret, self-censure… I make sure I don’t leave out any of it!
But make no mistake, regression is not fun. You just don’t want to go back and do something you are done with all over again. I don’t want to go back to second grade, do you?
And that’s just me. What about the kid himself?
It’s a confusing time for Jack. Imagine this: You’re in fifth grade, the “senior” class in your elementary school, kindergarteners only up to your waist, fourth-graders a head shorter than you, king of the school yard, getting lectured on puberty, hurriedly combing your hair when the new girl shows up, going through chapter books in a day… and then, bam, you’re back climbing on the play structure, watching out for the toddlers toddling in your way, and your mommy sitting on the bench watching.
Poor kid! He’s being so good about it. As good as he can, of course. There are times that he is not good at all. He clings to me and does his best to annoy and infuriate me. He is loud and disruptive and hogs attention. He resists everything. He doesn’t want to go anywhere, doesn’t want to do anything. He is LONELY. Going to the park with his mom is BORING. He kicks and screams – not literally, but in spirit.
And that’s how we’ve both regressed. We are traveling the road of many years ago – and kicking and screaming the whole way. It is not pretty. Though we certainly try to hide it as well as we can.