It’s foggy in Boston this morning. Looking at the small corner of sky visible from our courtyard-facing apartment, I expect it to be cool and crisp. It’s not. The best I can say is that, while the air holds a whisper of warm and sticky, it’s actually pleasant outside.
Labor Day seems to have magicked away the hordes of tourists and ushered in the promise of fall, all in one breath. Now we might actually look like locals. All during July and August I felt like a tourist, for the simple reason that almost no one living in the downtown area has three kids. Where we came from, three kids is nothing, not remotely considered a big family. Here it’s practically cause for a double-take. All of them are YOURS? If you’re on the streets of downtown with three children in tow, you’re either employed as a shared nanny or visiting from somewhere.
But this morning I felt like I belonged, simply because I was still on the streets of the North End while everyone else had gone back to Omaha and Austin, back to the rhythm of the school year. Hmm, the school year. When IS ours going to start?
Because the local public schools are full, the private schools would have wiped out our savings account, and we’re headed back to Montana next summer, I’ve decided to homeschool this year. It puts me in the seemingly-unique position of Reluctant Homeschool Mom. Most of the homeschool families I know are passionate about their choice, either for positive feelings about their children or negative feelings about the school system. I’m almost the opposite. I love our little elementary school in Montana. As a wise parent of nearly-grown children once told me, “School is amazing. You send your kids there in the morning and they come home in the afternoon and they know stuff. All of a sudden, they can read, and add, and you didn’t have to do every inch of work to get them there.” Amen, sister.
And on the family side of things, I know without a doubt that I am not designed for 24-7 togetherness with my kids. Or anyone else, for that matter. So when I hear homeschool families use the phrase, “I just want a little more time to pour into my kids,” I think, I’m pretty sure I’d end up pouring rage into their little souls by Wednesday afternoon. Nope, not a good choice for us.
If I had any doubts about my personality, the kids made it abundantly clear to me last week when our Montana friends were starting school. I got a text from a friend asking for a little bit of prayer, so I asked the kids to say a quick one with me. I explained that their friends’ mom was a little bit sad that she had to send her girls back to school.
“WHY?” Riley asked.
Good question. “Well, it’s just the start of the new year and she’s sad that it’s time for them to go.”
“But YOU’RE never sad,” the girls both chimed in, puzzled.
Truth. I’m the mom waving good-bye with a huge smile on my face, hugging my teary-eyed friends on the playground and then skipping all the way home. I can hardly wait for two years from now and the Holy Grail of stay-at-home motherhood, when EVERYONE goes to full-day elementary school.
And yet here we are. Homeschool. For this year only, I really believe it is the best choice for us. We have this whole amazing city to explore, New England at our fingertips, and 10 months left to do it. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re going to have a great year. I am also finding it a tiny bit difficult to get launched, to transition from endless vacation to a structure and expectations. As Riley put it when I asked them when they’d like to start school, “I can’t really think about school now. It’s kind of like we’re on one big vacation because this isn’t our real home. Can’t we wait just a little bit longer?” I have to give myself a firm start date, though, or I’m going to wake up and it will be mid-October and the only thing the girls will know is how to assemble Lego cities and talk their mom into watching “just one more” Wild Kratts episode. (And I would then tell myself we’d covered Engineering and Zoology.) So we’re starting tomorrow. (Probably.)
I also finally found the sanity-saving piece of the puzzle, a part-time babysitter, so I really think I can do this AND that we can actually all enjoy it. Without her, I’d be speed-dialing every school in Boston to see who can shoehorn in two more students. I have been with my children every single day since June 17 and I discovered, unfortunately about a month ago, that my temper gets a little shorter every day that I am smothered from morning until night with debates about Lego ownership, the feasibility of doing gymnastics in the tiny apartment, and the location of shoes and special blankets. With Melissa coming on board, I have renewed hope that all things are possible. But, as I tell everyone who expresses admiration for my bravery/supermom status (which is so, so far from the reality), “Check back in two months. We’ll se how it goes.”