Category Archives: Mothering

Back-To-School

It’s mid-August, which means that the Back-to-School season is upon us. Some of your kids have been back in the classroom for a couple of weeks already, some will be returning in the next few weeks, and others have children who are in school year-round.

Whatever Back-To-School looks like for your family, welcome to the season!

For the first 32 years of my life, I operated entirely around the school calendar. My parents were teachers, I attended public school for 13 years, went to college for 4 years to earn a degree in education and subsequently began teaching for the next 5 years at a private school. When our second daughter was born, I left my 7:00-4:00 job as an educator and began providing childcare to other families during the school year. Then my husband began teaching, our oldest began her elementary school career at the same private school, and the rhythm of the school calendar pulsed deeply through our family’s veins.

Then last year we broke the cycle. We launched full-time into life on the road and began homeschooling. At first we tried to follow a typical school schedule, but found it was just not the right fit for our family (more on that another time), and began to create our own rhythms. Over the past year, “school” has become so interwoven into our lives that our children can rarely differentiate between what is “school” and what is “life”. Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard for us as parents to differentiate too, which is one of my favorite parts of our journey toward whole life education.

So, when Back-To-School time rolled around again this past July (REALLY?!), it was a non-event for the first time in my life. While our family formally began our new school year on July 1, the day came and went without new notebooks and backpacks and shoes and haircuts and ice cream socials and photos at sunrise. There was not even new curriculum on that day. We simply continued life as usual, picking up where we had left off in the prior days.
And it was good.
It’s what feels most right for our family right now.

However, each of us need to be resolved to find what is right for our own families for right now. That can change from year to year, or even mid-year.

Some of you have also found the path of homeschooling to be the right fit for your family, and I know that even within the realm of homeschooling you have had to make so many decisions as to what that should look like for your family right now. And when you’ve found your sweet spot, be confident in your decision and boldly move forward on the path that you’ve chosen; whether that’s following a formal curriculum such as Abeka or Calvert, a more classical approach to education, a hybrid school or homeschool co-op, an eclectic mix or radical unschooling. Have a wonderful year learning together with your child(ren)!

Some of you have found a private school or a charter school to be the best fit for your child(ren). I know that this decision requires some huge sacrifices on your family’s part, whether financially or significant time sacrifices or both, and this is a choice that you have not made lightly. If you know that your children are where they need to be in the private or charter school of your choice to partner with you as you educate your children, be confident in that decision. I trust that you will also have a fantastic year together with your child(ren), their teacher(s) and their schoolmates!

Many of you have chosen for your child to attend a public school or public magnet school within your district. Again, this is not a decision that you have taken lightly. When you chose to purchase or rent your home, you did so with the knowledge of which school district your home lies within. You may have paid a premium for your home simply for the privilege of being able to send your child to a premier elementary of high school. Alternately, perhaps the school district that you live in has a lack-luster reputation, but you are confident that it is still the best educational choice for your family. You understand that this might mean providing supplemental tutoring, remedial or enrichment assistance and more to give your child the education that they deserve. You, my friend, are a rock star, and anyone who ever insinuates that choosing public education for your family is the “easy choice” has no idea what they are talking about. I hope that this year is the best one yet for your family!

Some of us begin the countdown to school starting when the last bus drops the kids off at home in the spring. We cannot fathom how teachers do this day in and day out 180 days each year.  We love our children, but we love when they aren’t with us 24/7 too. If that’s you–enjoy your “First Day of School” brunch with your girlfriends, pedicure, or simply a peaceful drive in solitude to work. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad or like less of a mother for enjoying this time.

Some of us count down to the first day of school in much the same manner as an inmate on Death Row counts down until it’s his day in “The Chair”. We cannot bear to send our kids off to someone else for seven hours a day. If that’s you, first–have you considered homeschooling? 🙂
Secondly, let the tears flow. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad or less of a mother for struggling to send your child(ren) to school. However, if you have teenagers, you might want to wait until you’ve pulled out of the drop-off line before letting the tears flow. They might not think it’s cool that Mom’s crying in the carpool lane. Even so, they’ll one day understand that the tears that were uncool as a teen were tears of love for them.

Some of us don’t count down to school starting at all. School is so interwoven into life that arbitrarily announcing “The First Day of School” feels more than a little odd. If this is you, enjoy “The First Day of School” today. Or tomorrow. Or next Thursday. Or some arbitrary day in November that just feels right to your family. 🙂

To all of my fellow mothers out there, whatever Back-To-School looks like to your family, have a great one!

988268_10151538159251951_1037776178_nPart of my crew last week in our “classroom” at our little house on the prairie.

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Fairy Godmothers and Fairly Good Mothers

I am raising three daughters. Yes, I’m also raising a son, but today I would like to focus on a lesson that I’m learning from those three sweet girls that I’ve been entrusted with raising.

Namely, it’s my youngest gal who has brought this to the forefront.

Peanut is 2.5 and has become fully engulfed in the princess phase. While spending much of this past winter and spring at Walt Disney World (roadschooling has many perks and making the “Happiest Place on Earth” our family’s classroom for the better part of 5 months is certainly one of them!) might have been a catalyst to propel her there a bit sooner than our older daughters, it’s a natural phase for little girls to go through. We read many fairy tales and fables together and the theme of princesses is woven throughout these story books.

Not a day goes by that Peanut does not dress herself in play silks, place a tiara on her head, grab the nearest stick or other wand-like object and prance about the RV announcing, “I’m a princess! I’m a beautiful princess!” Then she proceeds to frolic away to meet her imaginary price, Prince Frog, of course, or asks me to be her Fairy Godmother and join her in play.

It was one day last week, while I was acting the part of the Fairy Godmother, that I started to realize that I often forget that my role in Peanut’s life is not to be her Fairy Godmother. While we are in her land of make-believe, re-enacting Cinderella’s story together, that’s totally fine (and if you ask Peanut, expected of me) to play the role of the Fairy Godmother. However, when the scene ends and play has moved onto the next act, I return to life as Peanut’s mother. I need to take off the Fairy Godmother hat and remember that my role in her life is not to give her a charmed existence, nor is it my place to solve every one of her problems and challenges that comes her way.

While it is my desire to give her (and her sisters and brother as well) the best life that I am able, that does not mean catering to their every whim. While Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother had the best of intentions by giving Cinderella a quick fix to her problems, when the clock struck midnight, Cinderella found herself scrambling and unsure of what to do next.

Instead of acting as my children’s Fairy Godmother, my hope is that I might simply be a Fairly Good Mother.

I’m not trying for perfection, because that’s a recipe for failure. I’m not trying to give my children a charmed existence, nor a quick fix to all of the problems that come their way. Instead, it is my role to walk with them, gently guide them along the best path for them to walk. My role is to prepare them, as best as I know how, for what lies ahead and help them back onto their feet when they stumble.
Because they will stumble. We all do.
And they need someone who will be there throughout the journey, not someone who sends them off in a golden carriage into the unknown, only to find a pumpkin in its place and confusion at every turn when the clock strikes midnight and reality stares them in the face.

Because that’s just how time works.
Midnight will eventually strike for my Peanut.
Reality and adulthood will one day stare her in the face.
While 15-16 years seems as far away now as the strike of midnight seemed to Cinderella when she set off for the ball, it’s coming.

When that day comes, a Fairy Godmother will have proven inadequate for Peanut and the rest of my crew.
However, my hope is that she’ll be able to look to me and see that a Fairly Good Mother helped prepare her for that day, and that instead of waving my wand and disappearing, as a Fairy Godmother does, I’ll still be right by her side, walking the same path that we’ve always walked together.

Peanut, my littlest princess.

Peanut, my littlest princess.