It's our second year to homeschool, and we haven't started yet. Like last year, we're starting in September instead of August. I made this decision months ago, but I still feel a bit left out and "behind" as I watch all of the photos of backpack-toting children fill up my Facebook and Instagram news feeds. It's all so new each year - the notebooks are flat and unmarked, the pencils are hazardously sharp and ready to go. The backpacks are free of sharpie marks and crinkles and lunch leftovers from the week before. I love it. Even though my kids don't really use new backpacks (since school happens in the dining room), each new box of crayons sings to me of possibilities. I'm still a child like that.
In all of my excitement, there is an undercurrent of realism. Last year was hard. It was also great. A newborn, angry and tormented with colic and silent reflux layered over our first school year experience. There were a lot of sacrifices made, and a lot of items on my list that had to be removed or adjusted. Fun activities weren't as frequent as we'd hoped, and field trips were practically a joke. But we finished, and at the end of the year when I assessed Micah's understanding of all of the skills we'd learned that year, I was absolutely proud.
But I know - I know that my fun activities will start strong each new school year and there will be fewer of them in the second half of the year. I know that even though everyone clears their calendar for the first weeks of school year, the supplemental commitments and activities creep back in and that is life. I understand that in the first part of our school year, lunches will be more interesting, lessons will be more fun, and everyone will be more excited.
And I don't feel bad about that anymore. Something clicked for me last year. Even if we are eating ramen noodles for lunch and having pizza for dinner by May, I will probably still be on Pinterest looking for fun First Day of School activities come the end of June. Despite the jokes about getting lazy toward the end of the school year and our humorous self-deprecating remarks, I think maybe it's just supposed to be this way. I won't feel guilty for being tired as we pull the rear wagon wheels over the finish line at the end of the school year - my kids will be "done" and weary, too. We're in it together. Whether it's public school, private school, or homeschool.
We start strong because it's a new beginning; a new start. There will be hard days, but we anticipate and celebrate the good moments we can immediately appreciate and the memories we gain from pushing through the hard ones. We start strong because our kids are important to us and their education and future is something we invest in fully and unapologetically. We finish tired because we worked hard.
So here I am, excited for our curriculum to arrive on my doorstep, deciding now not to let the guilt creep in right on cue after Christmas break. Whether lunch is sandwiches cut into the shape of diagrammed sentences or ramen noodles with sausage thrown in so we feel like we've had some protein. We're going to do it, and we're doing it together. All of it.