I've spent a lot of time preparing myself for what we'd do if this doesn't work out. If the transition to going to "school" every day is too much for the family, if he doesn't like it, if he doesn't fit. I feel cool and hip talking about how we're proud to shun preschool because that's what all the cool kids are doing, but I haven't really prepared myself for the other possibility.
What if he really likes it? What if those couples hours away from home charge up interests in him that don't happen at home? What if this is a good fit?
I've come to terms recently with the idea that I'm not - except in maybe dire circumstances - meant to be this child's teacher in his early years. My personality, temper, and drive are not suited for it. "Oh I'm sure you're mistaken" you might be saying, but just trust me on this one - and honestly a big part of it is that I still feel no desire to make this happen and the last thing any of my children need is a teacher without a desire for teaching.
But yet here I am hoping that I might be wrong, even though I can see how it goes down when we try and really faced for the first time with the reality that this is all coming up a lot faster than I had anticipated.
Then I see little glimmers of how it might work out in our family; little snippets of the things I feel more strongly about giving my son.
- When the thought of arranging co-ops and extra classes fills me with dread I see how I throw myself into finding fun, short-term activities to sign up for in the summer.
- When the thought of picking out curriculum and making lesson plans sends a shiver down my spine I see myself continuing to guide our read aloud selections towards classic, moral and beautiful books that we can enjoy at our leisure.
- When the thought of fitting in everything I'd want to cover in a home-school environment gives me a panic attack, I love find ways to incorporate exposure to art, music and language in our normal days.
You see I really don't think I'm meant to teach my son to read, but I am meant to instill a love of good books and encourage the skill once the groundwork has been laid. I really don't think I'm meant to teach my son maths, but I am meant to work maths into our day so it's a normal, accessible skill. I don't think I am meant to fill my home with the latest educational tools, but I am meant to make my home a place where interests and imagination can run rampant.
See here's the thing, there's a lot I don't expect and honestly don't want my kids learning from school. In my mind school is the place to learn the fundamentals and learn them well - reading, spelling, composition, basic and advanced math, the scientific process, research, etc. That is what school is for; that is what I expect from our teachers. Even if every one of our future teacher sat next to use at church every weekend there are certain things I don't expect them to fill my children's minds with - an appreciation and understanding for beauty and truth.
Now that's not saying that a teacher can't talk to my kids about faith or morality or beauty in the arts or natural world - the classroom would be dull and content questionable without these items. It's just that I feel more strongly about imparting knowledge of truth and beauty to my children than I am about helping them with phonics or long division. This isn't because I don't trust the teachers - though I'm sure we'll butt heads with our fair share - but it's that those are the things I feel it is critical for me to teach as a parent. At the end of the day, my job is to develop a decent, loving, sacrificing saint - no matter if he reverses his "I" and "E" or if he still needs to count on his fingers.
I feel so strongly about this that I feel strongly that I need someone else to handle the rest. My relationship and dynamic with my son shows me clearly that when someone else handles the teaching, we are more at ease to deal with the rest. I'm more likely to have the energy to read a long story at bedtime or play a game if someone else has done the craft projects, the print work, and the phonics. We both have more patience and time to fill our home stories, art exposure, and music if we're not cramming it all in at once.
Now of course - this is just me, my family and our dynamic - when I think of my son going off to school it does make me tear up. I can't believe I might not be there for all these little milestones or achievements, but when I think of a home able to relax and able to dive into surrounding my kids with these concepts of truth and beauty that feels right. While he might not read that book thru for the first time in front of me I can't wait to see him come home waving it and showing me what he can do - all the while giving me to time to pick the next round of books or switch out some art or show him the joy I take at learning a new song on the piano.
The biggest things I've got to be ready for in the next few years is allowing myself to make the best call for him, what is truly right for him and his unique brand of crazy awesomeness. It might not be filled with co-ops and new curriculum and lots of mornings in our pajamas, but it might just what we need to really shape him into the person the world needs him to be.