Sometimes, things don't work out as you expect. Sometimes, life throws you a curve ball and you are totally unprepared to face it head on. Sometimes you end up flat on your back. This week that is what happened around here.
I was fully prepared to write a post about our homeschooling plans. All the books were bought and lined up on the shelves. I had pretty pictures to go with it. Tree study, rocks and minerals, astronomy! An excellent Canadian geography unit that my friend planned. A great math and language arts curriculum. Art and music. Herb Fairies. Nature study. Home skills. It was going to be an amazing year for both of us. 4th grade is a big year!
The first day did not go as I planned. One of the dogs barked at a perceived threat for two hours straight the night before, keeping us all awake. We got a late start. I was discouraged already but managed to complete the day with a positive attitude. The next day started out much better. English for the Thoughtful Child seemed like it was going to be a good fit. She wrote a letter to my sister and illustrated it as well. We listened to the second CD of Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. We read about deciduous and coniferous trees and I asked her to write a few lines about each type in her notebook. Then it happened. She said she had enough writing for the day. And I lost it. It wasn't my finest moment.
I told her to write down what I told her and I went to the kitchen and ground up a weeks worth of coffee beans. I knew this would happen. I knew it at the end of last year. I knew that our run of home education was coming to an end. I thought that I could extend it a few more years. I wanted to give her a good foundation. I know her better than anyone. I know what she needs and how she learns. When we started homeschooling way back in Kindergarten I planned to take it year by year. Each year, at the end of May I would ask her if she was ready to go into public school. Each year it was an emphatic "no way". I asked her this May and received the same answer.
Somehow I already knew this would happen. When I told her that second day of school that I think she should go to public school she said that she thought so too. Later that day we drove to the school in the nearest town and registered her. She would start the next day. We bought her supplies and a shiny new pair of gym runners and a backpack. That night she nearly scrubbed her skin raw and rubbed her hair out. She wanted to be shiny clean for her first day. She was giddy with excitement. I thought she would be nervous and change her mind. After all, we talked about this a lot. When I was a kid I LOVED school. Even in high school I loved it. I told her this but she was unmoved. She wanted to stay home with me. The next morning I drove her in. She didn't look back. She said "Are you proud of me for my good decision?" I told her I was but was worried all day. I had a tension headache. I thought about her non-stop. Would the kids make fun of her? Would she be scared? Would she know what to do when the bell rang?
I picked her up later that day. I was not so secretly hoping that she would tell me she hated it and she wanted to come back home. That was not to be. She loved it! She said "Public school was way better than home schooling!" And I went outside to feed the dogs and I cried. I cried because I was scared for her. I cried because I thought I could be everything for this little girl. I cried because I thought I had failed her. I cried because I thought I was shirking my responsibility to her. I cried for so many reasons. I also cried because I didn't know what I was supposed to do next.
And today I let her walk down our hill, across the grid to her friends house. I made her take the dogs for protection. She played all afternoon and was invited for supper and a movie. And now in the span of three days, my little girl is growing up. I am excited for her, and scared for her and I will worry about her for her whole life, just as I do for our other three daughters. And now... and now, what will I do with this next phase of my life? That is the question.