Point of Departure

Sometimes, familiar actions – the ones we’ve repeated over and over for what seems like forever – carry extra weight. In this case, it’s the school dropoff, an act we’ve been performing daily since the girls were three. At some schools, the dropoff involves a circle (“Parents, please remember to enter COUNTERCLOCKWISE!”). At others, it involves a parking lot. On occasion, it’s even involved a hug and a kiss at a bus stop. But each time, regardless of the setting, there’s a conscious awareness of ceding, entrusting, handing over. Here, we’re saying. Teach.

Next time around, that responsibility will fall to us in its entirety. As it stands now, we’re in the final months of dropping off. If everything holds to form, the fall of 2013 will see all three of our kids home, doing our ‘mindful education’ brand of unschooling on a full-time basis. The very concept of a dropoff will cease to exist, as so many day-to-day activities will. We’ll never be freezing lunch-box inserts again, or queuing up with all the other parents to check off school-supplies lists in the heat of August. So we’re on a sort of farewell tour of bitter – are they going to want to go to Skate City with their friends ever again? – and the sweet (I really won’t mind not seeing fundraising catalogs stuffed with unwanted, overpriced crap every fall).

The Goodbye Tour also carries with it a greater sense of responsibility to be aware during these last few months. In pursuing a hybrid-homeschooling strategy with H and E, we have, in a sense, had the best of both worlds for some time. We’ve been able to see into the workings of a fifth-grade GT classroom, borrowing and adapting ideas that could be expanded into a homeschool setting. Dropping off means picking up, both literally and metaphorically; they’ve been able to pick up concepts and ideas from both the homeschool setting and the traditional-school setting, and by and large, I think we’ve benefited from extra visibility into the traditional education process. But I have no doubt that it’s been a double-edged sword: in seeing what they’re ‘supposed to be doing,’ I wonder if we’ve limited them at times, too. We’ll find out next fall.

We’re conscious of the need to be aware of their emotional states during these final months, too. It’s the last time we may have a look at them in a ‘regular’ setting for some time. It falls to us to remember who they were during their time at school. Did structure motivate or repress them? Did the daily noise and drama of an elementary school classroom invigorate or exhaust them? We know these things only by contrast – so we’ll find out next fall, assuming we can hold this image of our schoolday kids in our minds through a summer of pool noodles and cookouts. Sometimes I’m tempted to keep a video camera running full-time, so that we can compare our full-time homeschooled kids to their hybrid predecessors – like scientists releasing zoo-born animals into the wild, I have an urge to tag and track them through these next few years.

Finally, we’re aware that this is a new beginning for us as a family. Kathy and I joke from time to time that if we are truly going to unschool everyone, we could probably do it on a catamaran at sea. It’s said in fun, but it’s also a mindset that we know merits consideration. We’re leaving – probably for good. What mindsets and beliefs, what tenets and touchstones should we pack into our ship for its departure? What will be leave behind that we will miss? And what might we pack along that we would later regret bringing from our ‘life on land?’

For the moment, though, it’s enough to let each event on the Goodbye Tour have its moment in the sun. Some, as I mentioned, we may miss down the road. Others I’m confident we won’t. But every one has moved us, some subtly, some more aggressively, toward the point of departure that awaits us in August.

And we can’t wait to go.

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Dave Mayer posts regularly with his wife, Kathy, on Chasing Hollyfeld.

One thought on “Point of Departure

  1. Jodi

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time! Tom and I held off commenting so we could tell our kids first, but now that they know, and we’ve begun, we can tell you that we just pulled our kids out of school and have begun homeschooling. Last Friday was their last day at school.

    It’s been an emotional time for them. They do miss seeing their friends every day. The word “seeing” is key here. They really didn’t have much time to talk to or interact with their friends. Except for that half hour that they cram recess and lunch into. The girls are also excited to be able to do things that they want to do and learn things that they want to learn. At their own pace. At their own time.

    We pulled them for a few reasons. Our first grader is testing at a 3rd – 4th grade level and was bored in school. She’d cry the night before school, saying, “I don’t want to go. I’m so bored there. I need harder work.” We requested the teacher to send work home to challenge her. She sent busy-work. Em was still bored.

    Our third grader also works above grade level. But, honestly we’re not sure we see her true abilities while at school. She has several life-threatening food allergies and when food is in the classroom (which it is way too often in my opinion) she’s more worried about the food and being safe than she is her work. She has anxieties (because of her food allergies) that manifest in her either having tummy aches or feeling like she’s having a reaction (itchy mouth/tongue/throat). I would field phone calls several times a week (sometimes several times a day) about this. She’d also cry about tummy pains at bedtime during the week. In this first week of homeschooling, we have not heard her complain about either.

    This is not a decision we made lightly. We talked about it a lot. With each other. With other parents who homeschool. But once we committed to it, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. This was a good decision.

    Right now we’re spending a few weeks just trying to “un-do” some of their thinking. We want them to realize that they don’t need to be at a desk in a classroom to be able to learn.

    I wish you well as you begin this new and exciting journey! I have to admit, I do not miss the drop off nor the pick up at all! Sometimes I like to drive clockwise. 🙂

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