Old Yellow Passed Me By

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School Bus by wabisabi2015.

I’ve been flooded with a strange mixture of bittersweet nostalgia and excitement this week as classes begin in our area public schools. Seeing friends from Oakwood post their first day of school pictures and comments has taken me back to this time last year, when we were new to this stunningly picturesque, close-knit Dayton community full of hope for Luke’s first year in public school. We dressed him in new clothes for his first day of Kindergarten, helped him into a stiff, new backpack, walked the tree-lined streets with dozens of other parents and marveled at how the whole town comes out for the start of school. The excitement in the air was palpable. I remember standing in the schoolyard, my heart swelling with pride as Luke emerged with his class from the building, having completed roll call, walking single file to board the yellow school bus. In Oakwood, only Kindergarteners ride the bus. It is a walking community beyond that, and we were so hopeful about our role as a family in this new place that day.

Fast forward one year, one move to Columbus, and one prettttty long story…

Pouring my second cup of coffee at 7:36 this morning, I glanced out my kitchen window to admire the way the sun makes the grass positively glow this time of morning. Just that detail cues my mind that it’s school time. I would be walking the boys to school now. I might even be dressed for work in the schools, myself. Instead, I feel a solid kick in my swollen belly and smile, imagining Elise doing her morning karate moves. I grab two slices of wheat bread and begin to make Joe’s sandwich for work. He’s in the shower. Luke is playing “My Singing Monsters” on the iPad upstairs, Seth is still sleeping. He’s always been our “later gator.” We don’t start homeschooling until the first of September. On the corner out front a mother stands with her son.

Waiting for the bus.

Sure enough, I hear the familiar roar of that old yellow behemoth as I spread almond butter on the bread, and by the time I look up, mom’s walking away and a single boy sits in the back row of the bus as it roars off. There would have been two boys on the bus today. This is where, and when, I would say goodbye to Luke for the day. I thought about our homeschool notification letter, still circulating in the mail as we just sent it out yesterday. Since we’re new, the school district probably doesn’t even realize we exist in the first place, but I felt a nervous twinge that we’re bucking the system or doing something we shouldn’t by not putting Luke on the bus, but I reminded myself that we had a choice, we made a choice, and we were allowed to do that. I don’t have to rush around this morning. I only have to pack one lunch – not two- and the mixed feelings I’m having, full of memory and duty and choice and bittersweetness and sadness and ecstatic joy just have to be normal for someone like me on a day like today.

 

 

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Making A List, and Checking Myself

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Hot Air Ballons by DFBphotos.

“Now…what are the major school subjects, again?” – Joe

Last week I announced our decision to try homeschooling this year and invited you to follow as I share this big, new adventure/experiment. I’m not writing as a homeschool expert or even as a veteran teacher (or parent), but as the novice I am; feeling a little scared, a lot clueless, but venturing forth on a journey I feel compelled to take. Several friends already shared my first post. Thank you, and please keep sharing! I’m feeling so encouraged and energized by comments from both friends who don’t homeschool and just want to walk this road with me and new homeschool mom friends, mostly introduced to me by my non-homeschool friends. Now how cool is that?

Going back to that day Joe and I sat down at the dining room table, looked at each other and said “so we’re going to do this, right?” what we knew we were doing was cutting the ropes that kept us comfortably grounded and letting the balloon soar God-knows-where. Certainly past the euphoric feeling of flying. Definitely into uncharted territory, probably into realms where we’ll give about anything to just tie down again and feel secure. We won’t be able to rely on (or blame) public schools or teachers for Luke’s development this year. We even passed up on the opportunity to join a co-op that would cover half the subjects (even delivering the content and assessment material for those subjects) for us. No, instead, we sat down and did what maybe most people would do in our situation; we made lists. The first, a list of subjects we needed and wanted to cover. By “need” I mean things like Math and Reading, and by “want” I mean underwater basket weaving. Kidding! Then we went online to shop for curriculum.

We were already having our first hot air balloon moment; we were in uncharted territory, gaping in awe at all the curriculum choices – our choices – on a single website! Narrowing the field to, say, “Science” and “First Grade” there were hundreds of choices, and whoooosh that balloon was flying a little high for my comfort level. I’m like this at a new restaurant, too. As much as I love to try new foods, and I love so many foods, if there are too many choices on the menu, I am quickly overwhelmed and helplessly (pathetically) asking Joe to order for me. Taking a deep breath, we decided to anchor our choices by at least reviewing the content standards for our State, as well as the Common Core (national standards) that forty-some states have already adopted. I will say briefly that I am not a fan of the Common Core or what it represents for our public schools, especially after spending years on curriculum and pacing guide committees as a teacher, meticulously mulling over the standards appropriate for our state and school district – but for a host of reasons; that our kids’ peers will be held to these standards, that we can use them as a springboard and jump higher if we want to, that it’s just nice to know what the competition is up to – we reviewed them, and it did help narrow topics within a subject. Of course we are adding plenty of our own.

Joe and I were feeling pretty good about ourselves once we filled that online cart with $400 worth of curriculum. Oh yes, we are dreaming big. There is no possible way we could go through all this curriculum, I’m thinking (and the field trips we want to take, and the music lessons we envisioned, and some kind of sports team for Luke…). And frankly, right now, there’s no way we can pay for all this curriculum. We will have to prioritize and take it a little at a time. But it’s so exciting to shape what our boys are learning. At this point, I walked away with a feeling of empowerment, and a thought was running through my head “Those he calls, he equips.” I Thess. 5:24 and several other verses reference this truth about God that I’ve heard my pastor illustrate many times; God calls you to do something first. THEN he equips you. When we made the decision to homeschool, it was terrifying and I felt completely inadequate. But almost immediately after making the decision, we were able to focus on those curriculum choices, write a post announcing our decision, and through that post I have already begun to build a network of friends and family who will support me on my way. And I had been afraid that maybe none of my non-homeschool friends and family would want to talk to me again!

Then, just when I was feeling on top of this thing, I saw this third and completely different list come through my Facebook feed this week:

Qualities Not Measured by Most Tests, by DyslexicKids.net
Qualities Not Measured by Most Tests, by DyslexicKids.net

Now this list brought me right back to earth. These are the things I really want my boys to walk away with when they leave my “classroom.” And through homeschooling, spending all those extra hours with my boys, I will get to know their character a whole lot better – both their strengths and weaknesses – this will be my work, and honestly, this is the hard work. I learned quickly as a parent that kids don’t simply listen and apply our character lessons immediately. They don’t even mimic every good thing we “model!” Some parents wait a lifetime to see the “fruit” of the seeds of character they’ve sown. Yes, this is the hard work. And I will need continual equipping the whole way through!

We’re still in the “big dream” stage of homeschooling. What would be your big dreams, if you chose to homeschool, or what were they when you started out?