I love homeschooling, but I originally only planned on homeschooling my academically precocious son. In November, Kelly joined Charybdis and Scylla when I saw her class and couldn’t leave her in there. But it was tough. No matter how we framed it, for Kelly, being pulled out of a class with her peers seemed like a huge punishment.
I did all I could to mitigate it. We joined our fellow homeschoolers on nature hikes. We went to the early elementary age park day every week; we joined academic group activities, like Math Out & About; we had two storytimes every week; and we had lots of field trips, both as a family and with other homeschoolers. Kelly made friends and went to their birthday parties; set up a homeschooler Easter party; and joined clubs, in particular the local Junior Grange, which functions as a loose educational co-op.
In the meantime, my focus on Neil’s school work lagged. All the activities slid our lesson days from 4 times a week to 3, and our extra PE/field trip day was replaced with a storytime. I only had to spend an hour on Kelly’s actual lessons, but she hates working alone, so when I turned to having lessons with Neil, we’d be interrupted multiple times by Kelly wanting to show her half-done math pages, or a story she’d just come up with while finishing a science worksheet. All too often, Neil’s lessons degraded into “you’ll have to complete this on your own now…” as the day dragged on, or his friends appeared to play.
It all came to a stressful climax when I got a job. Yes, a job, a good one which I didn’t expect, not only appeared, but fell right on top of me, and oozed down in front of my eyes. Nonetheless, I was torn between a really cool job and my commitment to my family. I insisted I could only work part time, on evenings and weekends. I was near to quitting after going full throttle on my antidotes to the Ghastly Powerpoint. However, when I returned from Albuquerque, my boss as much as implored me to go full time. I was ready to flee screaming, but Peter offered to come home earlier to take over child care,and helped me come up with a schedule that might save my sanity. And it really is a neat job: I get to learn new exciting things, I get to write in my own voice, and my manager’s even nice and intelligent. But it was pretty obvious the one thing that would have to give is Kelly’s social activities, even though she would take my calendar and fill it with her plans for sleepovers, parties, and playdates.
It was a sad situation. I have to confess that one day I dressed Kelly in the San Jose Unified uniform and when the lunch recess began, I sent Kelly to play on the playground of the local school with the other students. I had some quiet lesson time with Neil, and when I went to fetch Kelly, she told me how she’d seen her friend Lauren from last year, and was heartbroken she couldn’t go into a classroom, no matter how dysfunctional. While I was tearily working away, Peter popped by the local Catholic school, which wasn’t that impressive. We could take it or leave it for $9000 a year with Kelly in a class of 35.
It was pretty dire. Just before I got started on my first full day of work, I thought I may as well call Apostles Lutheran, where Kelly had gone for Vacation Bible School, another school substitute that let Kelly have some time with peers while I had some time for lessons with Neil or work. I was pretty sure they’d be either full up or too expensive.
To my surprise, their 5-6 year olds kindergarten class (where Kelly fit and wanted to be) had openings where she’d be in a class of 12; there was a part-time option which would still leave her free for storytime with Andrew; and I could afford it, thanks to my new job. On the Friday afternoon before classes began the following Monday, the principal was interviewing us in our home, and making sure we’d be ok with all the Lutheran stuff that we and Kelly would be exposed to, like singing songs in church, and having some snacks with nice people afterwards. Are you kidding? That’s like Kelly’s dream life. Peter and I would have to take a Bible class; I have to admit the Christian philosophy lessons at Charybdis and Scylla have been sorely lacking, so I’m actually looking forward to it. Personally, the principal had me hooked when he regretted the lack of sauerkraut at school potlucks.
And so, as on Monday, Kelly is going to private school. Sometimes I still feel like a posh snob, but I have to say private school is wonderful. The class is open before lessons begin so the children can play together; the teacher lets us know the lesson plan for each day; they have milk service.
Best of all, she’s happy. Every day she comes home and writes in her kindergarten journal. Neil gets my undivided attentions for his lessons again, and I can make them as challenging and focused as they ought to be. In fact, last week, Neil modeled and recreated the fall of Constantinople, which even impressed my Greek neighbor, Demeter. I feel less guilty about working, and I have a purpose for earning money.