where a baby made tomorrow is again

Tonight the four of us are sitting at the table doing schoolwork. Sophie completes a few pages and grows tired of difficult subtraction problems. She and Ralph leave to take a bath and I’m sitting with Nels on my lap as he finishes his Language Arts book (reading so well!) and quickly moves on to the new Math volume acquired today. It’s funny; he can perform well at first-grade level math even though in writing an answer down he still sports a backwards 9 now and then, and his 8s can end up “sidewards” (his word of course). I literally cannot tell you where he learned math because they weren’t really doing it in his preschool and this is the first time I’ve sat with him to do it; I think he’s been snuffling around in the various workbooks that accrue in our household.

I watch him discover “8 + 2 = 10” without using his fingers and his body jumps and he looks up at me with his eyes alight and the Iron & Wine song “Someday the Waves” is playing and my hand is in the wet tangle of hair at the base of his brown little neck and I feel tears coming on, because how did my baby end up sitting on my lap doing sums?

Awesome: I… Biked That!

I ended up determined to bike from Vance Creek Park to the Satsop nuclear power plant today – the latter abandoned and now serving as some kind of odd industrial / half-assed business park, but infinitely more recognizable to those heading to the beaches as semi-iconic twin towers (my friend’s grandmother used to call them “ladies’ girdles”). My father had told me about this bike ride; Ralph and I had attempted it about a year or two ago (with kids in bike trailer) but after what seemed like a long slog we thought we’d gone off the track, so we cut it short.

I don’t know why I made this trip the point of our day. I know I wanted to find and finish the route my father had told me about. I wanted to get some fresh air and exercise. I wanted to be close enough to these giant towers – I’d never seen them in the flesh before – to touch them. I didn’t want to bike; I wanted a goal destination.

So here I set off with plenty of water, food, sunscreen, and my two children, the eldest installed on her own bike. I had no idea of my route or the distance required or if we’d turn around after only a couple miles. I remember my father saying something about “13 miles” – but I didn’t know if he meant round trip, or one-way. I’d also heard him mention an ascent for the last part of the journey – and this worried me. For my father to even mention a hill meant the hill was likely ass-kicking.

Sophie didn’t enjoy the first leg of the trip, an admittedly mildly-unpleasant run accompanied by the sounds of highway car travel. In just a mile however all signs of highway traffic had disappeared and we were in a lush farmland. The children exclaimed in joy – tree farms, cows, verdant meadows, the river, a huge group of pheasants gibbering and running about. Very few feral dogs, thank goodness. I kept saying, “See those towers? That’s where we’re going.” Sophie asked if we could turn around. I said, “No, I think we can do it.” After a while we both believed it.

The trip went on. And on and on. And then: up and up and up. I began to doubt my worth as a parent to drag my girl up this hill in the scorching heat. After a while I was saying, “We’re almost there,” because I could not imagine climbing more than we were climbing. Food trucks passed; Schwans, Fiesta. OK, so, wherever we ended up, there were other people there. The road was not busy but when people did speed past their faces were smiling or their mouths in an “o” shape – I swear my Xtracycle looks like a jalopy, loaded with tow-headed gap-toothed kids and a big grass basket and my body all muscle and fat rolls getting us up the hill.

At the last steep ascent, as we walked it in blistering sun, Sophie said, “When we get to that sign…” and I thought she’d say we were turning around, but instead she said, “I’m getting back on.” We rounded the corner and there it was – close enough to touch the tower, a monster, and a triumphant sail down and up the last dip, as fast as we could both do it. The kids loved how the tower burst out of the greenery; I had tears in my eyes. No photograph (and there are many online) can encompass the feeling of being dwarfed by these massive towers, or my elation that myself and my two wee children had made the trip on our own, the seven-year old on her own steam.

There wasn’t much else to look at, a few employees, a few forklifts. The view was incredible; we’d been biking steadily uphill for the last third of the ride and were surrounded by the mountains and the greenscape that make the area so lovely.

Just as we’re coasting triumphantly along the summit of the hill, about to settle at a picnic table for lunch, the unimaginable (or the shockingly predictable) occurs: Sophie’s back tire shreds. Which is funny, because my LBS practically gave me this bike and those tires were balder than a newborn baby’s ass, and I remember thinking, really? regarding the tires, but I trusted they’d be OK. Of course Sophie puts miles on her bike like no seven year old I’ve met.

As the kids ate (fresh fruit salad, black forest ham on french rolls, Doritos, water and more water, chocolate covered raisins) I pondered my options. I could find someone in the business park and phone Ralph, whom I could count on to find a way to rescue us; who would have bought us a new bike to return on had I asked. Better, though, to make it back on our own. Sophie obligingly got on the ruined bike tire to see if it could go – she said it “wasn’t much different”, but of course, it was not rideable. So it was down to me. Well, I could do it. Or have a really shitty time trying.

As the kids finished eating I put the front tire of her bike in my pannier and bungeed the stem to my V-rack. Sunscreen, extra clothes, water, basket – all loaded up – even more Joad-like than before, with a third wheel and extra kid clinging on. Then we were off. I painfully rememberd two large hills on the return trip; I couldn’t let them slow me down too much or I’d feel defeated. We went down the dips before the uphills fast; I put the bike into gear and cranked it, making a surprising amount of momentum for the uphill. Then when we’d be on the upswing my kids (unasked) would hop off and walk the few feet to the summit as I granny-geared it, then just when it was prudent for them to be on they would jump back on. I never had to stop. Sophie turned herself backwards to position herself for any oncoming cars (while on this trip the kids came up with a code – cars coming from behind us: “Incoming!”; cars travelling towards us: “We’ve got company!”). I may have done all the pedalling for the return trip but it was a team effort. It felt wonderful.

At about 4:45 we rolled back to the park to my mom’s old pickup. The best part of the trip is that the kids and I were still laughing as we finished. No trail of tears here; we’d made it.

All in all, we biked over 15 miles. My dad would have been proud.

i couldn’t think of a post title, but as i type this my husband is explaining the details of crucifixion to my children

Today I knew something about myself concretely: I will not be the mom who has a hard time with my kids growing up and growing older and getting a life separate from me.

No, but really. And this is a good thing for me to know.

Let me explain. Today’s trip to downtown HQX ended in a rather frustrated attempt at the bike shop: intending to order both riding gloves and a new helmet for my daughter, I had to leave after not being waited on for several minutes (this happens sometimes and I do not hold it against the oft-busy shop owner) and experiencing a exponential increase in douchey behavior from my secondborn. So fine: bike errands another day. Not a half hour after we return home I hear the children talking outside to some grownups and join them to see my daughter talking with our friends and sporting a new helmet. I am completely amazed at this and thinking – I did not even update my Facebook status to indicate helmet shopping. I didn’t even tell my husband! No: it turns out earlier today my daughter had called a friend of the family’s to invite him on a bike trip. Apparently they got chatting on this and that and Sophie revealed that A. she needed a new helmet, but B. she was sad to see her old one go as these friends had adorned it with a sticker she loved. So here our friends are, providing her with a lovely helmet with a second charming sticker – and she’s wheeling around in it, having manifested a own solution nicely.

I might not be able to explain this to the childfree – and perhaps even some fathers I know. But my life often revolves around the constant assessment of my children’s needs and acquisition of said sundries or provisions. Just before the cold weather set in this year I remember trying to explain to my mother how small I felt that most of my waking thoughts were on boots, coats, and gear for my kids to keep warm. She thought I was saying something I wasn’t (I think about feeling inferior in some way), becaus what I wanted to convey was a constant running preoccupation that borders on obsessive thought.

I cannot be alone in this. Everytime I pull a load of clothes out of the dryer I note the wear on the pant hems, the elastic popping out of the underwear’s waistline. Every time I open the fridge: how much milk is left? This is not because I am particularly fastidious, controlling, or even that excited about the mundane details of running the household. This is because seven years ago I hit the ground running with a newborn, the experience like a sledgehammer to the chest and suddenly altering my adult life of, Ho hum what’s my schedule today? into a sprint where you are required, at first, and for years, to meet every single need of a living, growing, high-energy lifeform – who by the way, makes your heart leap and your breath catch in your throat on a regular basis, running the gamut from an almost oppressive experience of deep love to the worst kind of worry a human being could feel – and one never knows when these staggering emotions may be invoked.

The acquisition of a helmet is of course, no big thing. But watching my children figure out their own goals and priorities and make these things happen is a pride and a privilege – and only a bit disorienting in that I’m hardly needed.

Next week we are considering sending the kids to a five day sports camp at the YMCA. The seven-hour-a-day program includes lots of sports activities, a field trip to a bowling alley, a day at camp, and roller skating (although I hope not at our local rollerskating rink where they’re likely to get knifed by a gang of mangy ten year old boys with shiv-sharpened peppermint sticks). If we put the kids in the program the amount of time I’ll have to myself will likely feel at first startling, then quickly be frittered away in my fashion. The camp is also $120 per child: no mean sum, even with my little paycheck as a sewing teacher at the college. I think it’s funny that many people use daycare or school to allow them to earn a second income; I decline such convenience, and here I am on spring break considering blowing $240 on my kids so they can have a great time. By “funny” I mean, occasionally I think I am completely stupid not to do things the way most people seem to, because by the dollars and cents, I don’t make sense.

More biking today. Cycling with my daughter is a delight. I realized today that it’s not just the lack of fifty-something pounds on the bike that makes our trips so much easier – it’s the fact she and her brother aren’t being annoying together on the snap deck (where about one trip out of five they piss me off so badly I finally “pull the car over” and chew them out, humiliating for us all since unlike a car anyone can hear me bicker). Nels’ persona on the bike is different now that he’s alone; he clings like a spider monkey, rubs his cheek against me, kisses me, watches for traffic, and sings songs of his own authorship. It’s lovely, really. I think if everyone spent more time on a bicycle they’d probably get along better, with everyone else.

hurry up and stay present

Today my son awoke with a croupy-sounding cough and flushed cheeks – the sickness, presumably, that’s been going around his preschool. I decided to keep him close and subject him to my crazy “wisdom” in treating the common virus: fresh air, a wee bit of exercise, hot food, lots of fluids, and lots of rest. Having a sick child – especially my youngest – means I must put aside, as much as I can, my vast list of things I’d like to do in the day and be there for the Boy instead. Indeed as we go about our day I wonder that I’ve let myself be as busy with outside interests as I have.

Homeschooling is hard for me in one or two respects. When I had my daughter in public school last year I could wait to be told how she was performing or behaving – or I could ask the teacher myself (this happened often enough since I volunteered twice a week). Now on my own I have to figure it out with only occasional outside commentary. I’m well aware my children are ahead of the curve in their reading, writing, and math acumen (Yesterday in the library I was interrupted at my computer by the head librarian cackling and signaling my son. She’d tried to help him at the self-checkout terminal – unnecessary, as he knows how to operate it – and had said, “OK, click the blue button!” to which Nels responded, “You mean the one that says, ‘Continue’?” This tickled her. “I was just schooled by a four year old!” she crowed). If your children are doing well academically, for the moment anyway, what then do you do for “schooling”?

There’s a lot of newness in all this for me. As a youngster I did well in school and thought that was the be-all end-all “job” as a child – to perform well, to get A’s. This simply isn’t how I see it any more. For instance, I see Sophie’s self-directed interest and pursuit in embroidery as a pursuit as valid as any school curriculum: perhaps more so, since she herself sets the goals and decides how to execute them. I have discovered I am not an academic-success-at-all-cost kind of mommy, yet I still don’t know what kind of mommy I am vis-a-vis school. Sometimes I can’t decide how much work I should put in to finding them things to occupy their minds and bodies, and how much should be self-directed. Most days, like today, there is a happy medium: to know my children and know what they’re ready for, then to suggest it (or bike them to the event or set them up with paints) and get out of the way.

This afternoon we finish swimming (a blissful, calm 1.5 hours in the pool sans throngs of post-school kiddos) and sit down to eat a bit before heading home. My son eats. And eats and eats. “You going to finish that, Sophie?” he asks his sister (who is silently weeping, distraught the sandwich I brought along includes lettuce). After devouring the sandwich he has juice and string cheese, then a short car ride home and I tuck him upstairs in bed. Sophie is enthralled in her new book so I tuck Nels next to me and queue up On The Waterfront on Netflix. I am nearly instantly misty-eyed at what is one of my alltime favorite movies. My son asks questions and maintains his interest until we are interrupted by Ralph’s arrival home. I feel only a tiny bit claustrophobic – wishing to be out, itching to fold my tons of laundry, longing for an hour in the sewing room. I’ll get to those things again, and soon enough.

And as if on cue, my son slides off the bed and next to me here on the floor. He says, “I’m crying.” I ask, “Why?” And he tells me, “Because I love you. It’s happy crying.” His forehead is hot, his eyes are bright, he’s full of love, and I’m just hoping I don’t catch whatever it is he has.

"a nice eel who lost his mommy" – nels, on his swimming persona

Two years ago when we first moved here we threw our kids right into swimming lessons (after my mother repeatedly hounded us to join our Y; she even said she’d pay our monthly fee if necessary, although we did not take her up on this). At first our daughter was only a wee bit more proficient than our son, but that has changed over time. This seemed in large part due to a setback for Nels: the ritual for kid water-readiness in the early swimming program is to dunk the kids (involuntarily and repeatedly). I don’t have much of an opinion on dunking except to say it seemed to work well enough for 80% of children, who got over the surprise and accepted the new sensation. The other 20% or so, like my son, disliked it very much. Nels cried and protested intensely. I felt for him. We didn’t return him to lessons at his vociferous request. He has been water-clingy ever since, and only reluctantly tolerates his face being wet in the bath.

My mother has always been earnest in the endeavor to teach my children to swim. Nothing makes her happier where her grandchildren are concerned than to see them make headway in this. I wish she could have seen Sophie’s recent foray across the pool; however, my daughter will be an expert when my mom returns in two months time and I know that old lady will just about burst with excitement. I’ve watched my mom with my kids and, like many other things, she is a “pusher” – often coaching or bribing the children to do the thing she imagines she must “teach”. This is just Grandma’s way and the kids seem to be fine with that.

I love swimming with the kids because our schedule (or non-schedule, as homeschoolers) means we often have the pool almost entirely to ourselves. This creates a very peaceful, serene experience. In swimming with Nels today (Sophie is off on her own, diving, hand-standing, cannonballing) I listen to what he wants to do. I notice he already grips me less than he grips his father. I don’t know if it’s the more peaceful swim hour or something unique between my son and I.

Something magical begins to happen. Nels begins to enjoy the water, rather than enjoy it reservedly. He begins to tell me to go here, or there, or leave him along the side to hand-walk his way around the pool. He lets me put him on his back to float. He requests water-wings and delights in being able to “stand” in the water, his legs free floating. Within about a half hour his hands are touching mine only lightly (as opposed to his arms around my neck). I move him over on tummy, or back, holding him only lightly. I repeat to him I will not let him go unless he wants me to. Soon, he wants me to.

But his face – it’s hard to describe. His face simply opens up, his chin the bottom of a happy triangle, his mouth open and laughing, snub nose, his eyes wide and smiling. It’s an expression I often see when he tells a “joke” and makes me laugh unexpectedly. He is the master and author of the swimming experience. We’d had good times in the pool before today, but even I am surprised with how wonderful this feels.

About halfway through our (almost two-hour) swimming adventure I start to feel very emotional and out of time. I realize I am having a visceral body flashback to my son’s waterbirth. The way his body stretches out before me, the gentleness of the experience, his arms are just so, and of course although he had no voice those years ago, it was still him. “Mama,” he says, peering at my face. “You have a little red in your eyes.” “Nels, I’m crying,” I tell him. In the small benched water oasis in the center of the current river the two kids move close to me, their hands gently encircling me, and ask me why. “I’m remembering Nels, when he was born in the water.” This is a story the kids know very well, so they nod. It makes sense.

Nels and I move back out, he updating his waterwings to include two on his shins. “My foot is being carried!” he smiles. Thirty minutes of doing this and the lifeguard staff changes; the next lifeguard tells us the water floats aren’t allowed on kids’ legs. By the time we are done swimming he is no longer gripping me and his body is relaxed. He has put on the new goggles I bought him and used them to look underwater a few times. And bittersweet for me: he looks older somehow, unfolding like a bloom. We leave the pool early again while his sister enjoys more time in the pool; we shower together and he washes his own hair. I move slowly, enjoying the rhythm of our conversation, watching him carefully dress in his methodical way. I was a good enough mother to babies and toddlers but I always felt I was bending over and helping them along. Today feels more like a dance.

assignment: go down each slide in GH county

Sophie
* This weekend was dominated by a sleep/swapover; we had our friends’ children over on Friday night, and they took Sophie last night. Nels was scheduled to attend as well but he spent Friday running away from me a handful of times, including at the YMCA then later around the block to the iffy Trios bar on Simpson Avenue where had he stayed one more minute he would have schmoozed his way inside and smoked a few Camels. Exasperated I pulled his sleepover privilege. One of those things as a parent where you don’t know what to do so you just do something. I do believe (and cross my fingers) Nels will take this to heart and begin asking me before running off to skeezy taverns.

So anyway.

Avast ye Trees
We planted trees on Saturday, hauling the four kids along. They mostly played and threw giant rocks in the stream. As for me I thought it was a ceremonial, plant-one-tree-in-a-park kind of thing (I think in a half-assed way I thought it was Arbor Day) – not the wet, cold, muddy work party that greeted us when we arrived. I wasn’t dressed for it, and it was so cold it would have taken the damper off my spirits for anything, even things I like so much more than planting trees, like eating Mexican food or doing some ass-grabbing.

We are working on lots of projects for homeschool. My children’s talent is wonderful, in part because it pops up in ways I heretofore had never realized they had:

Playground Map
“MIRICAN FAG”. Here we see much of Nels’ artwork and spelling. The red lines are “bridges”. The flag is a majestic specimen located at Morrison River Park in Aberdeen. At first he’d written “American” with no “a”; a couple days later he intuited the vowel sound at the beginning of the word and updated accordingly. The weird thing is a lot of people pronounce it the way he first wrote it. Nels is an expert: phoenetics, olfactory identification, and social justice (although he occasionally seems to consider himself exempt from the latter).

* Shown in photograph: Sophie’s seventh tooth lost, kicked out of her head by her brother on Friday morning.

maybe it would feel easier if more would follow suit

Our life seems backwards. Or at least different. Sometimes I feel odd that I don’t see our choices echoed in other friends’. Then I think: that’s right – it is nobody’s business how we run our lives!

We all sleep upstairs in this one huge room. My kids don’t have toys and toys and toys or their own separate rooms. I do not feel guilty about toys I don’t buy. They are expected to help clean house. They dress themselves (today this included, for Nels, silvery sparkly Mary Janes).

They are given a great deal of free reign with regard to things I’ve decided make sense. I let them argue or backtalk me. I do not prompt their manners in deference to others’ value systems. They are adroit at climbing things, and computers, and friends, and reading and spelling, I notice. They take care of the chickens, although Nels is no longer allowed out there by himself because he was chasing them too much.

Instead of a bedroom per child, I have a sewing room of my own. We don’t own a television. My kids are always underfoot. Instead of babysitting via public school, they hang out with me all day, just about every day. They mostly draw, read, play with obnoxious intensity, write music, and help me cook. Or at least eat the things I cook (today: pizza, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and chocolate tapioca pudding – all homemade). They tell me I’m “the best cooker ever”. Ralph invites their friends over often. These winter months, with the poor weather, it’s draining we don’t get out and exercise more often. I remind myself of this when I feel pent up and angsty.

My husband and I share a small closet and less than one dresser for our clothes. I hang our laundry – especially the woolens, jeans, and coats – up in the house to dry. I am obsessed with keeping my house clean and I succeed at this (with Ralph’s help, lots). The other day at preschool my children showed a thoroughness at cleanup which first made me proud, then, as Nels’ tidying extended minutes past the other children’s (the teacher politely saying, “OK little guy, that’s good enough”, repeatedly), quickly made me feel uncertain shame (am I too obsessed with neatness?).

I work, but not primarily for money. I now take my kids to the diner with me. If my boss starts to resent this, I will have to quit my job. I tried a paid daycare thing, for a few hours one day. Nels hated it. He’s a pretty tough little dude but seemed terrified. So we promised him we wouldn’t go back.

Ralph prioritizes family over work, to the extent he can. He has encountered snide remarks for this. He puts the Parent Helper days of preschool on his work calendar so he can attend. I feel a great deal of empathy for him on this. Whereas with my professional career I was expected to “let down” my employer by giving a damn about my family, as a male he has been occasionally treated to an incredulous sneer.

Today we had our friends’ children over for a few hours; going on a walk along the highway, pulling a wagon while my daughter pushed my friends’ toddler in a stroller. The highway is not friendly. People do not run us over but they often don’t stop and, when they do, they seem to glare. I wave and them some of the glares turn to smiles. Last week while biking I was yelled at by a man in a big truck, who then blasted off. I couldn’t hear what he said but I’m sure he was telling this devoted bicycling mama to GET OFF THE ROAD WHERE SHE DOESN’T BELONG. Incidents like this really hurt my feelings and make me feel small.

I get bored or lonely sometimes with the children. Other times it is brilliant. Maybe one of the reasons I keep them around, and let them be (to the extent it is safe) their own creatures is because it seems healthiest for all of us. At some point I stopped needing them to be “well-behaved” because I need stimulation – the stimuli of their own true selves. I am not, as my mother has my entire life called women content and successful at housewifery, “a cow”. I am a living, intelligent, driven person who loves my children deeper than anything. They drive me totally crazy sometimes. A day where I don’t speak harshly to them, is a success.

It’s rare.

I’m working on it.

i will also look back in years hence, and likely be bored reading this

My small-town life is so busy and often so fulfilling I don’t take the time to write about it that I’d like to. For instance today: This morning I spent almost an hour on the phone with an educator (discussing Sophie’s school curriculum) while the kids first tussled on the bed (having woken up together all-smiles) then ate breakfast. Time to clean up, dress, make beds, and we were off to the Food Bank where I am training to help manage inventories in the event the Director takes a vacation (she will) or, what I’m really thinking, finally retires having shoehorned me into the job (which I admit would be very cool). Except the Food Bank wasn’t ready for us so: off to the Deli to get a tuna melt to bring my mom, who is suffering physically (hurt back) as well as a few other ways that aren’t mine to reveal. While there I sat and had my own lunch while my children played with the Shop Kid K., in the sunshine at an outdoor table. Mayberry, indeed – a life built perfectly for us, an eden.

Then: off to Aberdeen to pick up two pounds bulk pinenuts for my upcoming pesto-making adventure, stopping in to check out soccer gear for my girl, and buying the last bits of my anniversary package for my husband.

In a few minutes: off on the bike to help conduct Parent Orientation at our Co-op Preschool – and don’t think I’m not super-excited for it!

betraying my so-called socialist family values

So much of family life is helped by me embracing the I don’t know. Maybe this comes from a reaction to my upbringing – my mother comes from a large family that from my observance seemed to establish and repeat variations of the party line (“Our family had a lot of warmth,” emphasized despite many stories of strife and dysfunction amongst those of love and connection) and worse: labeling (the “slow”, “ugly”, etc children have a lifelong subscription to those roles). (Incidentally, no fair to use these opinions of mine to pedestal my father’s family – they pretty much don’t / didn’t spend time on personal reflection as far as I could tell. One time I heard of an instance where my father and his siblings discussed their childhood). For these reasons I suppose, I don’t like my experience being discounted for a larger established storyline; I don’t like being told how I felt growing up, or being cast for life (“selfish”, “strong willed”, “smart” etc) despite however I might mature, grow, or change.

Maybe my embrace of the I don’t know comes from more relevant, recent experiences. Sometimes it seems the exact measures I’ve taken to ensure some sort of family value system, some sense of pride in our choices, some sort of continuity – these have ended up biting me on the ass. You know how people proudly trumpet their family “traditions” and insist how much everyone liked them? I never want to do that. For all I know our evening ritual of taking a bath does not fill my children with a sense of being well-cared for and a soothing ritual; maybe they’ll grow up and say, “Jesus mom, you were so obsessive about keeping us clean!” So I try to keep a light hand on what we do around these parts; yes, we take a bath every night. Feel free to feel however you want to about it.

It helps me in the now to embrace the I don’t know even while I do my best to raise my family according to my own preferences and personal integrity. I daily try to avoid the impulse for perfection, to make the “right” plan, or to even believe too heartily in a plan – especially when that plan involves three other people in my family. This in turn helps alleviate – although doesn’t seem to eliminate – my stress when my family doesn’t cooperate. This week we started homeschool and although my daugther takes well to the program, my son has not enjoyed our forays into the YMCA’s Goldberg room where the computers and teacher advisors reside. Nels, just like his sister, does seem to enjoy actual academic work – he watches over her shoulder and demonstrates remarkable reading and spelling skills. I didn’t know how this first week would go down; now I’m finding out.

In starting homeschool I am once again a novice: having given myself the charge of teaching my children how to read, write, study, do homework, and mark progress in their learning, I become more fully aware I am not a trained educator. In many ways I’m flying by the seat of my pants. How much easier it would be (or was, last year, to an extent) to put my child in “the system” and believe she would be handled better by what we consider experts – every now and then to visit the school and be assured by cheerful bulletin boards of art lining the class hallways, by test scores and assignments brought home with big red circled “Good job!”s applied by another hand. Nevermind that I was in the classroom during the last year – in fact, far more than any other parent – and saw the system truly has nothing to offer the kids we can’t offer it at home (I’m not touching on the undesirable “extras” like bullying, homophobic and sexist value systems, busywork, etc). This may not seem incredible to many, but does to me. See, I’d believed in school – rather, kept it holy. I don’t have anything against it now – in fact, our current educational program for Sophie still financially supports our local public school district, and this was a huge factor for us in choosing the program – but I’m definitely experiencing an, um… change in mindset (yes, I worked hard to avoid the phrase, “paradigm shift”).

And who knows if, in weeks, months, or years I’m gratefully dumping my kids off for the day and whizzing onto something else.