I see all the memes starting in mid-August on Facebook. All of the “Yay!!! My kids are going back to school!!!” memes. And I am going to be 100% honest here and admit that I DON’T GET IT. No, seriously, I don’t. Back when my sons were in the public school system (only because our circumstances wouldn’t allow home education at that time.) people would flippantly make jokes about “I bet you’re excited school starts soon!” In a sing-song voice with a nudgenudge to my side. And I would look them in the eye and say “Actually, I hate when they go back to school. Summer is my favorite time of year because I get to spend every day with my children. I MISS them when they are at school.” And that is the point when they would eye me like I was some weirdo who had just confessed she liked eating baby kittens for the protein.
But it’s true. I LOVE summers. Love them. Summers with a family this size is just crammed full of potential and possibilities for so much adventure and memory-making. It’s building a huge fort under the trampoline in the backyard. It’s Ice Cream Sundae Night. It’s trips to the beach and taking a billion pictures of the kids splashing in the ocean. It’s impromptu games of football or soccer in the backyard. Its firefly hunting with mason jars. It’s roasted hotdogs and marshmallows over the firepit. Summers are sleeping in and staying up late. Summers are fun. So much fun. Who the heck would want to interrupt all of THAT and start waking up at the ass crack of dawn and getting back into the grind of….well…the daily grind. Ugh.
My children are unschooled. What this means is instead of us having any sort of set specific curriculum, I allow THEM to lead the education. For example, if my 9 year old is interested in Italy, we learn some Italian words, he helps me prepare an Italian-themed dinner. We watch a movie about Italy that shows the culture. He gets a book from the library all about the animals that are local to Italy. He draws a picture of the Italian flag. All I do is provide resources and sometimes gently encourage the direction of his learning. I also believe VERY strongly in learning through play and through simply living daily life. So, I take the 11 year old food shopping with me and we learn about couponing and I show him how to compare prices and read labels for size comparison of products to find the best deal. And at the end of the trip he sees the receipt with the savings on it from the coupons and tells me the percentage. And that is his math lesson for the day. Along with the fact I have shown him by example the proper way to socialize with a cashier, a bagger, and fellow shoppers. It’s hands-on learning at it’s finest. My 5 year old is learning geometry by building with legos. The 7 year old is learning phonics by watching Sesame Street and playing a fun rhyming game his big brother made for him. It’s a relaxed approach and it works for us. And it slows down the ebb and flow of every bit of life. We go to bed around 10. we rise around 8 or 9. We live and we learn and it goes on and on. No worries of missing the bus or finding a missing shoe or finding time for homework in the midst of preparing dinner.
So, basically, now that my children learn at home, our entire year is summer. Without interruption. I don’t have to be sad about sending them off somewhere all day. I get to spend every day with my children.
Yes, there are moments I need a break. A couple hours away to relax and refocus and find my center balance again so I can approach parenting with a new sense of zen. But I do not in any way crave being away from my children for any prolonged period of time. I miss them when I am away from them. In the same way I miss Justin when he is at work all day or how I miss my friend Norma who lives too damn far away. I miss my children like that because I love them the same way I love Justin and Norma. I love them as individuals. As people. As a part of my life I enjoy and am thankful for. I enjoy their company. They make me happy. They make me laugh. They make me feel loved. They are a part of me. I get to be selfish and keep all of that awesomeness to myself.
Some day they are going to grow up. They already are working their way in that direction. Some day they are going to move on with their lives. And I will miss them. I will miss the early morning voices and patter of running feet and a yard filled with balls and bikes and plastic climbing toys. I will miss short people helping me cook meals. I will miss a dinner table crammed all the way around with my family. It will be a nice, quiet, relaxed time in my life. And lonely in some ways too.
So, here it is, almost September. Most of my friends have already posted their kids’ First Day Of School photos. I’ve got nothin’. It’s just another day in Paradise here.
And I ain’t mad.