Take a deep breath mama. Back to School madness has descended and we know what that means. ALL the posts on social media from happy parents chomping at the bit for the big yellow bus to collect their children. Complaints about long school supply lists followed by the chastising responses to shame parents back into silence for daring to complain. Then next comes the posts that beatify the school teachers who will undoubtedly be purchasing a ton of stuff for their classroom out of their own pockets. So much back and forth. Complaints about the inability to get a straight answer about what kind of T-XX calculator their student needs and how they are all sold out locally. And, when did the cost of the parking pass go up? I can't log in to my student's account! The Community FB boards are buzzing. New hair cuts, new clothes, new before and after school care needs, social media makes Back to School look like a Zombie Flu Panic. First day photos with moms sweet and emotional messages and then videos of moms proclaiming they will buy ANYTHING just get my kids out of my house! Gifts for all the teacher (get in good right out of the gate) new backpacks, PTO sign ups. There is a lot to do. If you are like me as a homeschooler you just hunker down and wait for it all to pass. Admittedly, I scooped up school supplies for cheap - paper, notebooks, pencils, glue, folders - we never have enough. I also always found it to be a great time to buy jeans and shoes. Not clothes necessarily but jeans and shoes, we can always use those. Outside of that we just counted the days until everything about our community changed dramatically. Counted the days until the zoo, the Science Center, the bowling alleys, pools, the amusement parks even the grocery stores had emptied out. The world seems emptied out of all its' children when school begins. So much so that my own children were always an oddity when we were out. "Why aren't you in school?" we would hear over and over. I know nothing is meant by it and I've been doing this homeschool thing so long that it was fun to come up with answers. But it was never lost on me, how uniformly we have come to accept as a society that the children all get rounded up and carted off all day everyday away from society, for all but a few weeks out of each year. No one even bats an eye. People often talk of saying goodbye to summer and getting back to the routine, the normal. Normal is for the kids to be gone. I always felt like I was the only one thinking, "That doesn't strike anyone else as weird?" It really doesn't. School is so ingrained in us (institutionalized) that as a culture we are kind of thrown by those who live life outside that reality. I think that's where most of the baseless homeschool kickback comes from.
Summer was actually some of our favorite time to do the more school-y things. Midday it's hotter than Hades if you aren't swimming. We were stationed in Texas and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi where summer don't play for many years. The kids liked to come in and cool off from 1-4. We went for morning bike rides, horseback and farm activities early and we ventured back out in the cool of the evening but generally we stayed in the AC during the heat of the day. Summers are great for hammocks and reading in the shade. I much preferred to take luxurious days off in the spring and fall when the weather so perfect and irresistible that we could spend the entire day outside. Reading in the park beside the lake, fishing, exploring, riding the trails, taking day trips.
All our vacations without exception were in spring and fall because nothing was ever any fun in the summer. Everything was jammed with people. We love Disney and unless it's a free trip, I can't imagine going in the summer. Nah, we're good. See you in October! For many years we had season passes to our local Six Flags and we go all the time from mid-August to the end of October. We loved in late April and May but June and July, we let it be. Moms, even in homeschooling circles, are talking about "When are you starting back to school?"It's a good time for buying after market curriculum and all the co-ops launch right alongside the school schedule but I always found this strange. Opting out of the system but then seeing how so many of us still import the system to their home and their life? The same philosophies just different Geography? Homeschooling is about freedom, so if someone wants to do it that way, or even do school at home, they have my support. It's still worth discussing. For me, when are you starting school, began to hit me as such an odd question to answer a few years into our journey. We never stop learning, reading, exploring, practicing, studying, and growing so we never stop "school". Hard to reply to a restart, or stop really. It's a dicey time on social media - post something about enjoying the emptying of our favorite places and you're being mean. Respond with a sad face to a post cheering that the kids will be gone all day again soon and you are called out for being shaming and judgmental. Choose a sad face reaction to the kids-are-gone-pass-the-wine Mommy posts and you are just being superior. It's not necessary, don't do it. Scroll. Just scroll. Opt out of the social media Back to School drama. It's really best to just quietly enjoy your own reality. I really don't wade into homeschool vs. school battles ever on social media anymore. I don't wade into too many keyboard battles period. Nothing is changed, least of all hearts, by posting zingers on Facebook. What has changed hearts is a faithful, beautiful witness. I can't count the people or the times my children or my family has been complimented over all these years. The number of conversations that have risen from interactions with us. People who are around my children (while they are socializing) find them to be very special, remarkable even. They aren't impressed with their rote memory skills, or the way they can do complex math in their heads (they can't). They are impressed by the kind of human beings they are becoming. I drink a lot of coffee. Out, on coffee dates. Because women who homeschool and women who don't want to know my secret. They want to know how my kids aren't driving me crazy? How we don't have constant sibling warfare? How can you find joy around your kids all day? How is your marriage so happy? Your house run well? (It ain't perfect sister, but it's good) Over all these years of homeschooling I know we have made a greater impact by living our lives well, sharing our struggles and successes and engaging with all the people in our circle of influence, than we ever did by commenting on a social media post. So, soak in the benefits that come this time of year that most people won't even talk about. We all know what they are, we don't need a meme to highlight it all. Shop some good sales and do not, I repeat DO NOT be in any hurry to emulate the public school schedule. Not anymore than you emulate their education process. Just Relax, and do you. Summer actually stretches all the way to September 23rd followed by a glorious fall season! Focus on learning, not schooling and those arbitrary schedules become less and less relevant. Don't succumb to the Back to School madness. Opt out entirely. Oh and one last thing - don't even try to get a doctor's appointment. Health and sport physicals are booked out for weeks!