Even before my first child was born I had a vision of the kind of parent I wanted to be…
I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. A domestic goddess. A homemaker. A homeschooler. I would quit my job and spend my days raising and teaching my kids everything they needed to know.
Then “real life” happened.
My husband lost his job soon after we found out we were pregnant with our first child, and we were dependent on my income for a while. Even though he is working now — at a great job he loves! — five years later my income is still a necessary part of our budget.
Not part of my original plan.
So here I am, three kids later … and I’m still working. But you know what? I’m okay with that. Just like plans change and life doesn’t always go according to plan, I realized the ideas of how I wanted to be as a parent has changed too. I like my job. I love the flexibility it allows me. And I love getting a break from my kids. Don’t get me wrong — I love my kids but I’m finding I’m a better mom when I have dedicated time without them.
Homeschooling Dreams Turn to Public School Reality
I wanted to homeschool for a long time for a whole host of reasons — I like the ability to tailor the content, context and format of the subject matter to best meet my individual child’s needs. I love the ability, with homeschooling, to be organic in my approach, to be spontaneous, and to be able to follow my child’s lead and his individual interests.
However, the more I looked into it, and the more I got to know my own child as he grew, I knew I really couldn’t provide what he needed while also working full time. And I needed to work.
So public school, here we come — even though it was never my intent.
I have to admit, the idea made me nervous at first. Sometimes you hear terrible things about public school when you follow homeschooling pages and are friends with homeschooling families — how the kids are being brainwashed, tested to death, their creativity stifled. And yet … I know many families with happy, healthy, creative, individually awesome, thriving children in public school. So I have hopes that I, too, can manage a good balance for our kids.
When I came to the realization that public school was probably the best choice for our family, it felt a lot like the decision to have my son by c-section. Circumstantially necessary, but oh how I’d hoped and planned for it to go another way. I grieved the necessity of his surgical birth, and the loss of my natural, medication-free vaginal birth. And now I’m grieving now the loss of the educational journey I initially imagined for our family — the freedom, exploration, and discoveries I thought we’d have together. But we still will do a lot of learning together on our own time, making the moments we have together even more precious.
Luckily, when I started looking at public school, I realized we are fortunate to live in a great school district — one of the best in the state. The school we are zoned for offers a Mandarin partial immersion program starting in kindergarten. This sounded amazing to me, and it is not something I would be capable of offering as a homeschooling mom. The opportunity for my children to be a part of this program has made me infinitely more excited about public school.
Is Mama Ready? Is My Child Ready?
Now that everyone knows our oldest is headed off to kindergarten, at a public school, they ask me, is he ready? But no one asks me if I’m ready.
Am I ready to hand over my son, my firstborn, the first child I carried under my heart and fed at my breast? The child I have watched over for nearly six years as he learned to crawl, to walk, to run, to climb, to do daredevil stunts as he pretends to be Spiderman? The child who I’ve agonized over what and how much he eats, when he sleeps and how? Am I ready to entrust his well-being, educational growth, and social experiences to complete strangers?
Am I ready to see him grow beyond me in knowledge, make friends outside our own social circle, learn concepts and aspects of technology that I may not even be sure of? Am I ready to no longer have all the answers? As if I ever really did.
The short answer is no. No, I am not. I am not ready for my firstborn to be launched into a world that I can’t really be a part of. I am not ready to let go of him.
And then I realize why no one asks me if I am ready. Because it isn’t about me. This is about him. And he. is. ready.
Ready for more rules, ready for more structure. He is eager to learn, to be given responsibility, to gain independence. Ready to become the person he will be.
And so, I need to be ready.
I need to be ready to be his soft place to land, his home base. I need to be the place where goes when he has questions school can’t answer or doesn’t have the time to explore. I need to be ready to be the place he brings his baggage of hurt and fears, and hopes, and dreams. I need to be ready to be the place where he can be free to be completely himself. And I am ready for that because that is what he’s been teaching me to be, in the years he has spent by my side, in my shadow.
I am ready.