Today marks the official first day back to school for our neighborhood. For Marisol it is a very bittersweet day filled with mixed emotions. She was very sad this morning about losing her playmates - our neighbors - to their school schedule. She laments that she will not be able to play with them until 4 pm. She is upset because the school 3 of her favorite playmates go to just got rid of early dismissal on Wednesdays - something she looked forward to every week. She knows that it isn't just the school day that is going to cut into her playtime with them - it is homework, and after school activities and all of the things that come with a school schedule.
Because of family travels Marisol and these 4 girls really only had 3 weeks out of the whole summer to play with very few restrictions - 1 week at the beginning of the summer and the past 2 weeks.
The following is a very loose representation of the conversations I had with Marisol this morning as she worked through her feelings about school starting and losing her playmates:
She walks in the kitchen looking very sad. I mention that she is feeling sad about the neighbors going back to school. This prompts an avalanche of words from her. A lot of it is very negative - some is related to school starting and some is not. She starts complaining about all sorts of other things - mostly about her friends. I'm tired and haven't eaten - so I gently tell her I don't have the energy right now. She leaves.
A few minutes later she comes back in the kitchen looking sad still. This time I've thought of some helpful things to talk about. I sit down on a step stool and pull her onto my lap. She still kind of fits.
"I know you're sad about the neighbors going back to school. Sometimes when you're feeling bad you just have to let yourself feel that way for a while until you feel better. Sometimes I try to make myself feel better by thinking positive thoughts, (Big sigh - almost a groan from Marisol)... but it doesn't usually work. But when I tell myself, 'It's ok to feel sad,' I almost always start to feel better."
I tell her how I know she's feeling bad but I tell her all the things I'm grateful for - that we don't have to go back to school today and can continue to do anything we want with our time. She mentions that she wishes she could speed time up. I tell her I used to feel that way - when I was a teacher! I was always wishing for the weekend or the next vacation.
"Daddy would tell me it is a terrible way to live! And it's true - we don't want to be wishing away our time. We just need to fill our time with things that we love to do." I think she gets it but she also says it's only a few hours that she wants to speed up - just till the neighbors can play. Because that's all she really wants to do for the moment.
"Why do I have to be so different??" She lies down on the floor and some tears leak out. She talks about not going to school, and how even her hair and eye color is different (the neighbors are blonde hair, blue eyed beauties.) She says she's always the odd one out. My heart aches for her. I know she is always adamant about not wanting to go to school, but sometimes you wonder about making things difficult for your child by choosing such a different path. She talks about how much it bothers her when her friends ask her if she is STILL homeschooling or WHEN she is going to school. I ask her why she thinks this bothers her so much, "They think that I HAVE TO go to school to learn." We elaborate on this some more and I suggest some things she could tell her friends when they ask her these questions - she's not too interested, she really just wishes they wouldn't ask.
We talk some more then move to the dining room where I take my eggs and toast and we sit together.
"Do you ever wish that we had just sent you to school? That we didn't do things so differently?" I ask her.
"NO." She is definitive. Even with all the bittersweet feelings she is sure.
"I like you the way you are. I'm glad you're different." I tell her. We both have tears in our eyes.
And now she's happily playing minecraft and Facetiming with her bestie that also homeschools. We are planning to play with them today too and go out to dinner. It will be a good day - another day in a long line of days in which we determine what we do, when, and with who - as much as possible. The first day of school is a reminder that we don't get to choose for everyone and that we don't always like what other people choose. It's hard being different - but I think that she will realize as she gets older that although "school kids" seem to be "the same" they are really all unique individuals too. Also - learning how to be "different" gracefully at a young age is probably not such a bad thing either - even if it's hard on a mama's heart.
"What about Gerry?" some of you may be wondering. He is 6 - would mostly likely be in first grade, or maybe Kindergarten if we opted to wait a year. School is barely on his radar. Last night at dinner I asked him what he knows about school and he said, "Well, you ride a bus to school. A Big Yellow Bus. That's all I really know about school."
Mike and I grinned at each other. I asked him if he likes buses, and he nodded yes. After a little more thought he added, "Kids learn about Science in school."
"Yep." I said. And that was about the end of that conversation. Today he woke up to watch some "Miles from Tomorrowland", eat (organic!) poptarts, play Minecraft with me, and watch videos. He is happy.
Happy Not Back to School Day to all my fellow homeschoolers and I hope everyone's first day/week/month is going well to all the kids and families and teachers who did start school.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.