Today my four-year-old and I curled up on the couch while the toddler napped. We flipped open my laptop and put together our tentative Thanksgiving menu. We watched as Alton Brown demonstrated how to prepare the perfect pecan chocolate pie. We observed how to flatten pie crust and he helped me write down ingredients, sounding out the words. We investigated the fridge. We revised our shopping list.
I looked down at his small frame as he examined the butter. Dark black hair curling at the ears, blue sweater with a splash of yellow, and a smile the size of Nebraska to do what we love to do best together, cooking. I felt both blessed and a tightening in my chest about how temporary this is and what looms ahead.
Looming. The word conjures images of a distant shadow. An inevitable something that awaits with a crooked wagging finger.
Kindergarten is looming.
As much as I’d rather not think about it, I know I should. And we’ve begun exploring our Options. We took a tour of our local school. Nice enough. Books stacked in the library for a Scholastic fair and an exceptionally kind principal who returned my call later that day to discuss my concerns.
Because there are twenty-four five-year-olds in a kindergarten class. One teacher.
A good teacher can have 24 kids or 14 kids, it won’t make a difference, she will accomodate all her students, the principal assured me.
It’s a nice thought. Except I was a teacher who taught 24 kids. And I was a teacher who taught 14 kids. And I was a student in small classes. And I’ve been a student in large classes.
Words are nice. Reality is different.
So we are exploring other Options. Juggling kids we do private school tours that we must take turns visiting because they don’t allow you to bring kids and don’t understand all parents don’t have child-care alternatives. And we walk down the halls of schools we could sell our souls to and still have no chance of realistically affording. I mean, really. 22K a year. Per child. Sure they offer scholarships because they Value Diversity. But do I want my kid the token? The one they stick on brochures to reflect their all inclusiveness because look! He’s brown! [and I don’t know, maybe that is a small price to pay for a world-class education] But there can only be a few tokens, so what if he’s not picked? And what about hidden costs? Uniforms and field trips. And comparisons that will make a trip to Disney pale when Bob and his family are flying on their private jet to Europe [yes, really, have talked to moms who have confirmed this]. Not to mention private school financial grants one year don’t guaruntee them the next year, and so you bite your nails and wait every year to see what will happen for all 13 years of their schooling.
We are also still exploring the current Option in progress: Homeschooling. It’s been a great year homeschooling. It’s been downright amazing. And I love love love the organic learning. I love that mid-sentence reading a book he notices a period, or a question mark, and we stop to learn sentence structures. I love that he knows his tablespoon from his teaspoon, and that we can read piles of books and head to the library to collect even more towering stacks.
I love it all and my plan was to continue homeschooling in kindergarten, joining up with local homeschooling moms and making sure he goes to Sunday School for more kiddo interactions. But he asks me when he can go to “big kid school”. His eyes lit up at our tour of the local public school. He said he can’t wait until he has a teacher like the ones he saw. And the friends. He just can’t wait to have so many friends. He loves order and routine, he adores worksheets, and so while he has no complaints about preschool home school [what else does he know?] he watches schoolchildren and he feels wistful.
So what does mean? Do I home school kindergarten because I love it? Because I think it’s a better alternative to large class sizes? Or do I factor in his desire? How do I balance my fears of a huge class size with his longing to attend?
I don’t know. I still have no answers.
When you are pregnant a team of people monitor your every fetal movement. They will be on call with you 24/7 if you feel so much as a funny sensation. They take all your concerns seriously from whether you can have pasteurized mayo to hiking up a hill. But then you have the child. They make sure he’s okay. They push you out a wheelchair and out the door to live your life completely unmonitored.
It’s still surreal to me that I am the one who decides. That I make decisions as small as reserving drinking juice for special occasions and as big as what school he will attend. He’s his own person. But I’m in charge. That is such a huge responsibility. It’s one anyone who is a parent has, but it’s hugeness still never fails to overwhelm me if I think too long about it.
And looking back some decisions I ruminated on and agonized over seem so silly in retrospect. But some feel very important. And I wonder what this decision about schooling is. It feels desperately important. And I’m not going to lie. It is damn frustrating to want to send them to the fancy school with second-language immersion, or the even fancier school with 8 kids to a teacher who spend their days problem solving and getting trained to be the leaders of the future, because you have a masters in education and you know of all the traditional schooling options, these schools are objectively just the best, but knowing you just can’t. It’s not the end of the world. But it is frustrating because every parent wants to give their children the best. And it’s sucky when you believe you know what the best is for them. And you can’t do it.
I guess in the meantime I’ll remember to focus on those dark black curls, the dancing to the beat of his own drum [literally], roasting pumpkins, making pies, and snuggling under blankets on cold mornings reading books until our hearts are so very full. I will take deep breaths. I will tell myself that no matter what it will be okay. We’ll figure it out. That either way, public school, or home school, or private school, we are blessed. Because we are. I’ll be the home room mom. I’ll supplement at home. When all is said and done, public, private, home school, they will be okay. It’s what I will cling to anyways.