That Kindergarten Hustle
We are into our third full week of kindergarten and we're all adjusting to the new flow of life. Jonah is killing it at school. He loves everything about it except having to sit on the carpet. He hates criss cross applesauce with a fiery passion. I've never seen him so worked up about something so silly. "I HATE it, mom. I hate crossing my legs. It's the worst." The only other thing he complains about is having to put his head on the desk because his classmates are quite rowdy and disrespectful. Every day he has another story about something someone said or did and every day I just want to hug his teacher and tell her she's a saint because she really is. Can you imagine having to deal with five year old drama all day long? NO THANK YOU. We've seen these kids FIST FIGHTING. Five year olds! Fist fighting! We're in the inner city, but we're not in a dangerous part of the city, so I'm not too concerned about Jonah's safety, but seriously. Five year olds fist fighting. What could you possibly have to throw punches about in kindergarten?
So there's that and the occasional mean comment from a classmate, but overall he's doing really well. So far the mean comments haven't affected him too much. He just chalks it up to those kids being bad kids and he's a good kid, so their comments don't hurt his feelings. Yet. If he starts coming home from school sad ... I don't know, ya'll. I may have to hurt somebody.
Anyway, I've been telling everyone on instagram for several months that I'd write about why we decided not to homeschool, so here we are. It was a huge decision that we made rather quickly, but we know it was the right call for right now. We've always said we'd take homeschooling year by year and kid by kid and this year with this kid in this season of life, public school was the best choice.
Since day 1, we've planned on homeschooling. Since day 1, people have been giving us grief about it. If I hear one more person talk to me about the importance of "socialization" .... grrr. ANYWAY. I could write an entire series on that but I won't. When we moved to Massachusetts, the pressure to put him in school was unreal. UN. REAL. People that we didn't even know that well would shake their heads at us and tell us that Jonah needed to be in a school setting. It was infuriating. It was so rare for us to talk to anyone who had any kind of faith in us to educate our children. When someone tells me I can't do something, all that does is make me want to do it even more. So that's what I planned on doing. I was gonna homeschool and I was gonna homeschool so hard people would be like, "Wow, you really showed us, Kristen. You're a homeschool pro! Teach me your ways!" And I would be all humble braggy like, "Who, me? Oh, no. I'm not that great. I'm just a natural, I suppose."
As you can probably guess by the fact that my son in now in full day kindergarten, that is not what happened.
What happened was this. I was talking to my mom (a 30 year teaching veteran--currently stationed in Harlem, NYC, (almost)Phd, and a big homeschooling fan) about how stressed I was about homeschooling Jonah. I was already overwhelmed, having panic attacks every day, basically DROWNING, and my fear was that Jonah was going to get a second hand education because I could barely handle life as it was. She said, "Well. If that's the case, I think putting him school won't be as bad as you think." That gave me permission to just consider putting him in school. Up until then, I'd ruled it out completely. And then a friend said to me, "You can always homeschool him later. Putting him in school now doesn't mean you're putting him in school forever." I mean, duh, right? But I'd never thought of that. In my mind, putting him in kindergarten at a public school was choosing public education over home or private education indefinitely and that's just not true.
The idea became more and more tangible, but this was something that Zach and I had never even talked about. We had spent years studying homeschooling philosophies, researching methods, listening to ted talks about the education system, speaking with educators and administrators, doing whatever we could to make the best decision for our kids. It wasn't just that we had this ideal that we were holding on to without any basis. We had developed an entire philosophy on education and had decided on how we wanted to educate our kids. Public school in an inner city went against everything we'd learned and believed in.
So I threw the idea out to Zach and he's always said that he'll go along with whatever I want to do, since I'm the one it affects the most. (He's a keeper, that one.) So we started talking more seriously about it. I felt guilty, but not guilty enough to change my mind. I just knew in my gut that I couldn't do it. Our thoughts on education haven't changed, but ultimately, my mental health ruled homeschooling out. I realized that the way we wanted to educate our kids wasn't possible with me being as stressed out and overwhelmed as I was/am. Something would have to give and because I know me, and because we homeschooled Jonah for preschool, I knew firsthand that his education would take a back seat to my mental health and I didn't want that to happen. I knew he'd be well taken care of and well educated at school, regardless of our reservations about it.
So, right before we went to Europe, we registered him for kindergarten. It was emotional. Part of me felt like a failure for not being able to homeschool a five year old and I felt bad that Zach was so sad. I felt like I failed him, but still, I knew it was the right thing to do.
On his first day of school, I was surprisingly ok. We were all three a little nervous, so we drew smiley faces on our wrists and told Jonah anytime he missed us, to look at his wrist and he'd know we were missing him too. Cheesy, but he loved it and asked for a smiley face every day that first week. I did get a little choked up when he walked into the building all by himself, but overall, I was relieved. Knowing that my son was being taught what he needed to be taught and that he was going to be well taken care of was a huge weight off my back. I had no idea how stressed I'd been about homeschooling until I dropped him off that day.
So if this is a lesson in anything, it's a lesson in setting aside your ideals and choosing what's best for your child in each unique season of life. Maybe next year we'll be able to homeschool, maybe not, but I know that I don't ever want what I want to trump what my kid needs. Jonah would have been fine if I homeschooled him, but by putting him school, we gave him the opportunity to thrive. He wouldn't have been able to do that at home with two little siblings demanding the majority of my attention all day long. I'm really looking forward to being able to homeschool one day, but for now, I'm content. He's doing well in school and I'm thankful.
And now that he's in school, I'm enjoying my days so much more. I don't feel as stressed or disappointed in myself at the end of the day like I used to. A lot of that has to do with me lowering my expectations for myself, but having that pressure to educate my kid off my chest has been wonderful. I am much more relaxed throughout the day and I'm pretty sure my kids like me a lot more now too. Now that I'm not yelling at them all day long ...
So that's how it all went down. From strict homeschooling advocate to parent of a child in a public inner city school. You just never know how your life is going to end up, eh?