Full disclosure: I am still (stuck) in transition. It’s been almost five years of homeschooling and now it’s all in past tense. I miss the boys, their pitter patter around the house and the whole bouquet of adventures collectively known as learning at home. Rainy days make it a bit more evident. Maybe it’s the strong smell of wet sagebrush. Or the Saskatoon leaves turning.
Yes, it is fall, and the house is silent. A different reality for me, and a much bigger space that I find myself in. It’s not an empty nest, really, but a half-day empty nest. For the last two years it’s been Sasha and I; and the dog, of course. And lots of music; early morning guitar and afternoon piano.
Becoming comfortable once again with having both boys leave in early morning for school… It’s getting better. Still, I miss the presence of little people keeping themselves busy with all sorts of things that pertain to learning and beyond; I miss the chuckles over this or that, and I miss knowing them at the mercy of their own curiosity. I do not miss the squabbles; but I do. If I learned one thing during these five years is that the package has everything in it: good, bad, gracious, ugly and plenty how-do-I-handle-this.
I knew this day would come and I kind of knew that I will have to sort through the amalgam of feelings. That, and books too: I am left with a few shelves full of books and a whole bunch of memories attached to most.
Regrets? Maybe a few: that I didn’t do it from the very beginning; that I did not trust myself when I started and that added a few helpings of anxiety; that grace and gratefulness were sometimes shattered by worries and stress. And yet. When I draw the line, that’s not what’s visible.
OK, let me say it again then. Regrets? Nope, none. Because, as I so often told the boys and I still do, what’s done is behind us and you can only work on what’s coming. So I do.
As for the lessons I’ve learned along the way, here they are:
- There is nothing that compares to having unhurried time with my children. Should I take you to the very statement that goes something like ‘I have always wanted to be a mother and then one day it happened…’ OK, you are yawning. How about: I love being a mom, and the occasional falling from grace, plus attached humbleness, more so while wearing the teacher hat…well, let’s just say the mirror showed it all. Having the courage to show up every day, faults exposed, is what made it memorable. Not having to worry about time was the solid ground we got to run on in search of the next adventure.
- Having the boys learn at home could happen because I was not alone in it. Having financial and emotional support while attending to their learning made a world of difference and for that I am eternally grateful. I worked part-time (or less at times, depending on the load) while homeschooling and that helped a bit financially, but not being forced by circumstances to do so was a gift in itself. (A personal bonus: writing is never a chore, except for those few times when I was assigned topics I wanted nothing to do with.)
- Learning is not a show-them-how affair, but an interactive process that takes a different shape every day. In short: I learned so much. About them, about myself, and about everything else. There is no better way to get to know children than to have them be in their own element, uncovering likes, dislikes and those personal quirks that become who they are, or at least an episode along the way. I got to see it all: the frustration of not being where they wanted to be, the joy of getting ‘it’ and the magic of putting together elements of the big picture and being able to show it. As for myself, learning alongside the boys revealed how immense the volume of knowledge is and why learning is a continuous affair or nothing (at any age.)
- If I could do it again, I would not change the timing. I had contemplated homeschooling from the very beginning, but we jumped into it when Tony started grade 7. So late, I often thought. But… Having Tony in school back when he started kindergarten allowed me to spend time alone with Sasha (they are four years apart.) Having them both in school after we moved to Kamloops gave us a chance to know people, some of whom have since become pretty much family (you know who you are!). It also made for lots of walks to and from school, and the many stories we weaved along the way. The things we saw; the laughter we shared; the morning rush to school versus the lazy, slow walk home after school.
- Whatever happens, we can learn something from it. Don’t roll your eyes yet (the boys did that a few times, yes.) That thing we’ve all heard and possibly said at least once: ‘I am who I am because of the choices I’ve made along the way, good and bad.’ It’s true. We are the result of each and every experience, and all of them put together. So yes, I learned a lot while homeschooling: about patience, trust, resilience, and gratefulness. In no particular order. Funny fact: it takes a lot of repeats to learn it well, and even then… It’s called being human.
- It’s never about perfection, but about presence. Because I am human (yes, that came up a lot!), I admit to thinking more than once: if I had another chance to do this, I’d do it better. Because hindsight. Because like most humans, I am cheeky that way, but what matters is not doing it perfectly (even thinking it is a joy killer) but giving it your best. If I managed to convey that to the boys, I have succeeded.
- Childhood and puppyhood go well together. It would have been a sin to not have it happen. So we did. The chance to snuggle with the puppy and learn her silly ways, the daily walks on trails we discovered together, the many swims with the dog at the river as soon as summer came…it happened during homeschooling when time was stretched like a piece of chewing gum. I could see no better way of doing it, though it was as far from perfect as the rest of our adventures. Which, really, is perfect!
It will take me a while to get used to the silent house. Dog and I share the load…that eeriness that comes with a recently-turned-quiet home. I will miss the morning pitter patter of bare feet in the morning, the occasional heated discussions, the rainy day snuggles, reading quietly and wondering about how much snow there will be, the morning sunshine and guitar songs mixing with the smell of coffee and a couple of tears here and there. Happy ones.
There will be other times of wonder as we go on. A different kind. The kind that points to growing boys, to the way they see the world and manage to sift through its many and complicated stories, picking the ones that match their view of the world. Which grows with each day; like mine. The trust seeds we planted during the many years at home will keep on blooming. It’s all a bit of magic… the steps from there to here and from here onwards. The ups and down, the laughter and tears. The Journey as it happens.