Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homeschool, Day One, 1993: A Memoir

Homeschool, Day One, Take One:

It was in late August of 1993 and we were starting kindergarten for Ben, our firstborn, then five years old, and I had a little pile of preschool books right next to his for Sarah, who was four. Our curly-headed blonde two-year-old, Stephen (whose name Sarah couldn't pronounce, so it was "Fegan,") had toys and books and other things to play with in the living room, so as to not disturb our "classroom." He was not a demanding child at all, so that should have been easy.

But he wanted to be right there at the table with us. Drawing, "reading," being a cute distraction.

I wanted everything to look like a school on Day One. The kids were bathed and in fresh, clean clothes, hair just so, pencils sharpened, books stacked neatly at their places on the dining room table. (Our kitchen was too small for a table.) I had decorated a bulletin board with a fall theme above the stereo cabinet (which held--oh my goodness--LP's and cassettes). There was a bookcase, of course, and a server for art supplies. The piano stood duty along the north wall, begging Stephen to bang on it like a drum. Ah, yes, I can still hear it. I remember thinking, "Lord, I will give him piano lessons, but Heaven help me if he ever begs for drums in the house!"

That right there makes me chuckle. I should have seen it coming, but I digress.

Since it was 1993, homeschooling was still a new thing, a new and odd and seemingly-illicit thing. I felt all eyes on me when people asked where my pint-sized child would be attending school. When I said, timidly, "I'm homeschooling them," it was as if I I had just decided to burn my bra, eat tofu, and grow my own alfalfa. (Wearing a denim jumper while maneuvering stair-step kids through clearance racks didn't help my defense.)

Hippie or pioneer, it doesn't matter; the label is immaterial. Grit and Determination fueled my rookie tank. The problem was, my first child had been born with the same kind of fuel--except his I would have called Stubbornness and Rebellion.

It was Day One, and I was going to be not just an average mom, I was going to be stellar. Ben would start with English grammar in kindergarten, know Latin by third grade, French by fifth, and Greek by graduation. So would I. Somehow.

He would give Einstein a run for his postmortem money. He would sing like a Polish Pavarotti and write like William Shakespeare.

We would sign him up for t-ball, for "socialization and physical exercise," but (in my heart) I said, "God forbid he actually becomes a sports nut."

I would be revered as a mother by my kindergartener. He would rise up every day and called me "Blessed" for all my sacrifices on his behalf, for disciplining him in mind, soul, spirit, and backside. He would thank God every day (over tofu and alfalfa sandwiches) for the privilege of being schooled at home, under my tutelage.

Homeschool Day One, Take Two:

We have prayed to open our day and that we'd do everything to the glory of God. We have turned to the first page of A Beka K Arithmetic. Ben takes his careful time on the first page to write neatly, and declares how easy that was.

Can I go play now?

MAY I go play now? I correct him for the 188th time since last week.

Play? I say. No, honey. We don't play in school. This is work time.

He dropped his pencil on the floor. "Adults work, kids play," he said.

Okay, so maybe there was a greater lesson to be learned than 1+1 = 2.

The morning which I had so romantically inclined my heart to, looked nothing like
I'd fantasized. Ben dropped his pencil no fewer than fourteen times in a half hour, retrieving it each time as if blindfolded and crippled, and he complained that page 2 of math was way too hard (you know the pace A Beka keeps!) and that I should have let him get on the big yellow school bus and go a "real school" and have a "real teacher."

About 45 minutes into it, I was in tears.

I called my dad. That's right, my dad, not his dad. I needed comfort.

"What's the matter, Zo?" he asked.

"Oh, Daddy, I just didn't picture it ever being this way?"
"What way? What?"
"Homeschool. It's only the first day and I want to quit!"

I do believe my dad stifled a laugh. It was so typical of me: Get a notion, run with it, declare defeat at the first sign of trouble.

"How long has Benjamin been sitting still?" he asked.
"Not even an hour," I said.
"Well, that's an awfully long time for a little guy to sit still. I think he needs to get outside and run around."
"Run around?! But Daddy, this is school time, not play time!"
"Zo, a little boy needs to wiggle and run. You send him outside and tell him to run around the house ten times. Then you watch. He'll come in ready to sit still again."

My dad's advice had seldom failed me before. Why doubt him now? I thanked him politely, and told Ben that Pappaw said to run around the house ten times. I really did it so that I wouldn't get social services called on me.

And he did. He ran all right.

But, as he ran circles, in broad daylight, in our Dundalk neighborhood, around the weird Christian/hippie house, he yelled and panted, yelled and panted, "I hate my mother! I hate my mother! I hate my mother!"


Marie said...

OH MY GRACIOUS!!!!!!!! I can't stop laughing/crying. SO MUCH is similar to my house during school time. (Right down to MY 3 yr old banging on a piano :) I'll have to try the running around the yard thing.

YOu and Laurie are posting these home schooling thoughts at the perfect time. I feel like I'm in a post holiday slump and need this for laughter and motivation. Thank you!

PS LOVE The irony about Ben and Stephen. So what did you say Sarah would NEVER do ? ;)

Marie said...

I just realized that my older 3 are the exact same spacing as your older 3. When we started school this year they were 5, 4 and 2. Crazy! And of course I get the same funny looks from people. When the twins are there, I even get asked if I run a daycare. I say, yeah, it's called my family :)

Karen said...

my children run around the house singing that and I DON"T homeschool. Oh my goodness what would they be saying if I did? ;) hehe Must admit that I am a bit jealous of you homeschooling mums. I wish that was my calling, but it isn't at this point. AH well, Who knows what God has in store for my family.?

Jessi said...

What a great post. Ah yes, the realities of homeschooling. I too started out thinking I'd turn my home into the perfect little classroom. Funny thing...classrooms generally don't have a toddler and an infant going around creating small disasters at every turn, do they?? Yeah, my first days were similar, but how fondly I look back on them now... Isn't it funny how time softens the edges on some memories?

Laurie said...

Hey Hey! for homeschooling and the perfect set-up for processing our need and dependence on God through some humble adjusting... I know!!

Briana Almengor said...

Very funny in hindsight..not so funny at the moment, I'm sure.
I am actually loving the "before the reality of homeschooling sets in" delusion that I'm living in at the moment. I know it'll be one of the most humbling efforts I've ever attempted (one b/c there have already been several), but I also know GOd is leading me to do it and will be with us through it. (Remind me I said that in several months). ;)

Zoanna said...

Marie, I don't think I said "never" about one of Sarah's likes. She has always chosen quiet forms of entertainment which haven't resulted in any ER trips.

Karen, there's nothing to be jealous about. Keep an open mind, ya never know.

Jessi, no toddlers running around in a 'REAL' school, but that is part of learning. Where else in "real life" is everyone you work with the same age? But even w/ the interruptions, we all somehow got a lot of schoolwork done.

Laurie, you know what I'M talkin' about. It's nice to know someone w/ grown homeschooled kids.

Bri, I will remind you if you want, but you're pretty sharp;0.