Yesterday I joined the throngs buying 17 cent notebooks, and I realized that even though we’re homeschooling and have observed many years of Not Back to School, this year, the returning-to-school season has swept us up. Our oldest son has graduated from college, but our middle son is in the thick of university study.
Today is his last day of work at his summer job, and his attention will turn to packing to go back to campus, a new roommate, and a slate of new classes. When I brought home the first batch of 17 cent notebooks, he said he could use more.
(I think it’s interesting that with a smart phone, tablet, and laptop, all well-used — he still has a use for the notebooks that, for him, the technology does not duplicate).
Our youngest son, now well into the high school years, has continued his studies throughout the summer, but the emails are flying about the re-start of his academic co-op, and we’re finalizing plans for how he will focus on academics for “the school year.”
It hits me that he only has a few years left homeschooling, and then it will really be Not Back to School for me.
Or will it?
I remember when I was teaching at a small university, I thought, “This is my life — I will always be on a semester calendar,” and I loved it. Little did I know that my own children would tug me away from that with nothing but their births. Then I would hop back on the school train with them, for my oldest kids’ beginning years in public school. And then off again, as we undertook homeschooling and learned to learn less hemmed in by a school calendar.
But for our family, the pendulum has always swung back. During our homeschooling years, I also found myself doing a lot of writing, speaking, editing — and teaching at a Virginia community college — and I was on the semester calendar once again.
Many times, my kids sought learning experiences that were on a semester plan — classes, co-ops, “school discount days” at museums or parks. I have usually taught or organized some of these activities, and despite being open-minded about what time of year we could begin or what schedule we could use, it seemed that most of them roughly followed the traditional school year.
We have frequently laughed, though, about how homeschoolers who do follow a school year lop the academic year off for their own purposes — frequently starting organized activities not just after Labor Day but the next week after Labor Day, and usually aiming to finish before Memorial Day — if possible, by mid-May or earlier. The truth is that some of Virginia’s best weather is in September and May, and we don’t want to miss any of it.
And I recently laughed at a homeschool dad’s slip of the tongue, when he talked about taking time off when the kids were little–for “the month of Thanksgiving.”
Not all homeschoolers follow any kind of school calendar. I wrote about varying approaches to The Homeschool Year over at TheHomeSchoolMom.com last fall, and there you can read about what goes into deciding how a year in homeschooling works, depending on kids’ ages and the family’s approach to homeschooling.
On reading that post again while preparing for another year of learning, I’m struck with how clearly semesters have returned to our family.
There will be a few more semesters for me as a homeschool mom as my youngest son finishes up homeschooling his high school years.
Who knows whether the tug of the semester approach to life will persist for me personally after that? I don’t feel like a reluctant empty nester, but like a mom excited about her children’s independence and opportunities.
I look forward to the possibility of a new and interesting chapter of life, wondering whether semesters will be important to me after the youngest completes homeschooling. And I take nothing for granted — knowing that life has definitely provided some unexpected turns so far.
Sure, I’ll miss some of the amazing aspects of being able to spend generous time with my kids. After I read this blog post to my youngest for his review, he responded by sitting at my kitchen table, playing and singing a cover of “93 Million Miles,” by Jason Mraz. Listen to Mraz singing the original here to understand Nick’s response.
Yeah, it’s not perfect — no approach to education is — but this homeschooling thing seems to have some benefits.
“You can always come back home.”