Is this homeschool burnout? Turning my youngest son over to the care of the local school so I, so we, can have a break. I don’t feel I’m doing him justice, need to be refreshed, some time to myself. Those are the words, though they sound hollow. I think–he’ll make friends, some right in our neighborhood that he’s never met. He’ll learn how to work with different teachers, and in groups. He’ll have dedicated teachers, who don’t have to make his breakfast, answer the phone, get him to do his household chores, sweep and vacuum, drive him around. He’ll get used to school before the big move to sixth grade, so it won’t be such a shock. I tell him, at school you’ll get organization, structure, and accountability to complete assignments and projects (something we often don’t do, having been more about process and skills to this point). And when you get home, I’ll provide the flexible, open-ended, creative projects. “Yeah!” he says.
The boy is completely at peace with the idea of going to school, so that’s no problem. Even though when I used to threaten that if he didn’t work with me better, I’d send him to school, he’d plead with me and promise to do better. It was probably the difference in tone. Once we calmly talked about it, how we were going to make a change for a season and then see, he accepted it. He says he’s looking forward to recess. And when I asked what else, he said it will be organized, and he’ll get his work done, come home, do his chores, and get to have his computer turn, instead of putting off his lessons, and putting them off, and dragging it out all day. Sometimes I feel the same way about being a teacher in the system, instead of being at home–imposed structure can be helpful. On the way to becoming totally self-disciplined, developing one’s own rule of life, of course.
The year after his third grade year in public school (his first non-foreign school experience), my friend told me, when my son was playing with her boys he would periodically look at his watch and say “this is the time that we would be doing music” or P.E., or whatever had been on his third grade schedule. He had the schedule down, by the clock. Which made me think that maybe he’d do better with more structure. But he’s pretty good with a loose schedule, too, so that’s not the main reason.
Now I’m trying to pull together some records and make some notes for his teacher, and I thought I’d be feeling guilty about the lack of school-like work, tests, and of course grades. Except for the mandatory yearly standardized testing, and that looks good, despite our informality. Highest in social studies, curiously enough. That (we call it history and geography consisted mainly of reading lots of good history books and historical fiction and talking about it, and I suppose discussions he overheard about politics, economics, news and such.
Today, he told me, he wants to be really productive–that’s the word he used, so he can get all his lessons done and make Minecraft videos. K, I answer, absentmindedly, as I am often these mornings. I am trying to gather thoughts to write. Writing about him, about education, schooling. Removing myself from the human being that has brought these questions to my mind. Absenting myself. Do I need more time for myself? What will I use it for (surge of excitement, but a bit of concern). Finishing the new ambitious garden design, kitchen renovation, and reupholstering? Choosing some classes in teacher education, starting a Masters degree, or at least updating credentials. Maybe now it’s my turn to go back to school (my husband did a second masters a few years ago). Or shop for a secondhand kayak and wetsuit, and paddle off into the sound? No, isn’t that selfish? I really should go back to work, take a little of the burden off my husband. Aiming at a balance of work and leisure for both of us.
I’m supposed to be justifying this decision, able to explain why it’s the right one for all the right reasons. But I have a habit of seeing the flip side of everything, and I really don’t know. But I trust that if it seems to be motivated by the best intentions I have right now, then it will work out. After all, pretty much everyone else sends their kids to school. A touch of irony there, of course. It will work out. It will be good to have a change. I like change. I may return to homeschooling one or more of the kids (my daughter asked me to teach two of her courses this year, but I turned her down–I do need a break. One year at a time.