There have been street closures due to construction surrounding our neighborhood all summer long. Two of the main exit points are closed. For our purposes, any time we want to travel south from our neighborhood (which we do the majority of the time), there is only one exit we can use - one way in, one way out. That goes for everybody. I'm not sure of the approximate size of our little enclave, but I would guesstimate about 1500 residences??? Plus a park, small lake, green space, tennis courts, ball field, soccer field and an elementary school.
So earlier this afternoon, at 4 pm., I ran a quick errand - going southbound. I followed the now-customary route that meanders through the neighborhood to get to the exit street. This route takes me right past the school. I rounded the corner and immediately regretted it. Cars... Minivans... Hundreds of them, all having to travel in the same direction - one way in, one way out. There were parents and kids streaming down the sidewalks and crossing the streets, laden down with boxes of Kleenex, reams of printer paper, bundles of yellow pencils and newly minted crayons, in 64 different hues. It's that time!
I've walked past the school every morning for the past month. They have a little electronic message board out front that broadcasts upcoming events, and it has been advertising the day-before-school-starts ice cream social for a couple of weeks now. It was a chance for the students to meet the teachers, see the classroom, and drop off a small fortune in school supplies.
All this hoopla makes me a little wistful and A LOT thankful. I have mostly good memories of those first days as a teacher - I had a total of four of those 'first days', and they were fun, crazy and flew by in an instant. The classroom was as neat-as-a-pin when the kids and a few helicopter parents streamed in, and in a total wreck by the end of the day.
From the parents' perspective, I got to at least experience that first day of Kindergarten with Jordan. Here we are, in my classroom. My first day, ready to teach third grade, and Jordan's first day of K.
Okay, I have to admit that looking at this photo makes me miss the classroom... - *just* a little bit. I really did love setting it all up, doing the planning, and engaging with the kids. And look at Jordan! Ha! Now he is a gangly 13 yr. old. He was soooo exited that day. He couldn't wait to get to his classroom - but he had to hang with me until it was time.
A lot of time has passed. We now have six full years of homeschooling under our belts, and have already started up with #7. I didn't feel particularly emotional about leaving public school behind until two years ago, when Rylan was ready for Kindergarten. All of a sudden I felt this inner panic that I was depriving her of some sort of right of passage. I tried to picture her in a classroom setting, sitting a table with other kids, madly coloring and chatting away. I felt very sad, and it took a while to get past it. Now we are at a milestone again - Owen is now the Kindergartner. Do I feel the same sense of panic?
When I watched all of these families walking towards the school, carrying their burdens in backpacks and shopping bags, I did feel sad. But not quite so much. I was almost willing to surrender my girl to my feelings of elementary school nostalgia, but not our Owen. No way. I don't want to miss out on a second of schooling him because his enthusiasm is absolutely precious. The concentrated effort that he puts forth in holding his pencil 'just so', the way he colors carefully within the lines, the way he brings his workbook and stickers to me with an expectant look on his face... I am so, so, so very thankful that we are on this path. That I know that tomorrow morning, while tons of other kids are boarding yellow buses with their brand new backpacks and lunchboxes, we will wake up, and work through our day together as a family, at a measured pace, mixing in the play with the schoolwork - a routine we know like the back of our hands. I love our homeschool life, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
(Although I have to admit - I suddenly have the urge to decorate a bulletin board with apples and bookworms... Just a little one... maybe put up the calendar on it. And post some copywork or something. And a small inspirational poster. And a list of some sort! Gotta have a list. Maybe some gold stars?)