It’s Back-to-School time and I’ve always found it such an exciting time of the year. Even though Fall is not typically thought of as a time of re-birth, I think there is an irresistible newness of the season -- a new year, a new class, and a new box of 64 Crayolas. As a homeschooler, I find it hard not to be part of the excitement. I hear this excitement when people talk to those starting school for the first time or returning for a new school year. I don't hear it when they ask me about homeschooling. Or perhaps I simply don’t feel it when I respond. This is not a beginning for my family, it’s not a return to learning or structure; it’s a continuation of the beautiful pattern of how we’ve chosen to live our lives.
I suppose this is simply the antithesis of how I feel at the beginning of summer. Last year, a friend of mine whose child attends school during the year was asking me what we do in the summer. I told her that our schedule doesn’t really change, we continue to attend park day and to have play dates with our friends. We visit playgrounds and museums. The only real differences were a week’s vacation at the beach and the opportunity to go to the outdoor swimming pool. I took a lot of comfort in the fact that I wasn’t like other moms who were worried about what they were going to do with the kids when school is out for summer.
Now it’s Fall and I’m the one wondering what to do with the kids. I can’t help but feel that I should be doing more and that sentiment is echoed in conversations with my friends. We wonder if we’re doing enough. We wonder how much we should be doing. We toy with the idea of signing our kids up for various activities and classes. We struggle. We worry. We talk to each other. Ultimately, we must each decide for ourselves. My husband warns me that my youngest daughter is going to need a lot of time with me. He’s incredibly supportive of nearly everything I do, but that’s his way of asking me not to do too much and I know he's right. My conclusion for now must be less is more.
While I may not be part of the conventional Back-to-School excitement, I am part of something. I’m not alone; I’m one of the new unschoolers who wonder. I recently saw a post on a popular homeschool list I read. The author asked "Just wondering how all the fellow life learners/unschoolers (whichever you prefer) are doing this time of year?....I am feeling a sense of missing out and fighting the pull to "do" something schoolish…." Sweet words to my eyes – my friends and I aren’t the only ones struggling with these issues. She ended her message with “just feeling a little need for some.........I don't really know. I think it might be just the need to know I am not alone….allowing my girls to.....just be.”
I posted back my response, “...I'm feeling a bit blue -- I keep trying to join activities only to feel the noose tighten around my neck and to run like heck the other way. I'm not sure who these activities are actually for anyway -- all my kids want is more attention from me. So, here we are -- with nothing to do and everything to do.”
I continued, “Honestly, I think its just part of the ebb and flow of life. There is a season for everything and maybe it’s my season to mourn not being in school. I know it will be followed by a season of rejoicing not being in school. And always, there will be a season for loving my kids. I just feel it, I don't worry about it." Well, I try not to worry too much about it. "But right now,  it’s a bit tough. You're not alone in your feelings.”
If there were no other reasons to homeschool, I think I might do it just for that connection, that sense of community. Not only do my children get the freedom to learn at their pace, in their way, and avoid being labeled or pressured, I am able to get my soul fed in the community of others who understand how important it is to ‘just be’ when it seems the rest of the world is so concerned with what they do.
Marjorie has been homeschooling her two young daughters for just a few years. Her family chose homeschooling for the freedom it afforded them -- freedom from the school schedule and calendar; freedom to follow her children's interests; freedom from labeling and categorizing her children; and freedom from testing and homework. She enjoys volunteering with her state's inclusive homeschool association and writing on her blog unclimber.