Changing a personal narrative

Today is a hard day for Mama. After homeschooling all fall, I finally buckled and put the kids back into the public-school system. We’d planned on homeschooling throughout the pandemic, and to be honest, I was tickled at the chance to have the “excuse” to homeschool again. I’m a homeschooling mama at heart. I loved every minute of it with Addison and Rebecca, and Miles in those first two years of grade school. I relish picking out curriculum for the kids’ specific needs, and the two hours I spend each day with Ruth just has me want to hug and snuggle her, grateful for the one-on-one time. I even made sure all my records were tight this year (a far cry from Miles’ first couple of years, where I leaned more into unschooling).

We had a bit of an epiphany yesterday, though. Evidently Flashplayer is no longer supported, and the math program Miles had been using (which he already fussed over since August) completely revamped their design. He didn’t like it. As with most McGuires, change is unwelcome. Change is to be resisted. Well, he was resisting. After about 2 hours of, “This is just how the program is going to operate – accept it, and get the lesson done” and it not resonating, I was about to pull out some gray hairs. I’d been emailing with the school to see what 4th grade was using for math and thinking of changing to that curriculum to try and stay consistent.

At this point, I’d already come to accept that these kids just don’t like homeschooling. They don’t enjoy it. While the flexibility and autonomy were welcome to Addison and Rebecca, these kids want no part of it. On top of that, Nathan is about as regimented as a civilian could be, and *needs* structure. I’d been using a schedule for the kids, but some days we’d shuck it and go play Pokémon Go, or head to town for grocery or library pick-ups. He doesn’t like that. He wants them up at the crack of dawn and following the orderly steps for how their day should run (consistently). Ruthie still regularly cries while we’re homeschooling, not because she doesn’t understand the content, but because she misses her classmates. Miles is, every darned day, an uphill battle to *teach*. With him, it’s the incessant argument of “why do I need this knowledge?” that I combat (for every lesson, for every subject). They’re both very clever, so it’s not about the academics, but I’ve had to let go of the beautiful image in my head of them choosing homeschooling after the pandemic. We were not going to be cozied up in Mom’s bed reading Henry Huggins during a snowstorm. We were not going to plan field trips to the Zoo and tie it into science lectures. These children are just different and have different needs. On top of that, it’s a different era technologically, and the virus has impacted each of our mental health needs in some manner.

I figured that out about 2:30 yesterday afternoon. I discussed with Nathan, “Should we just start them back at school since it’s a new semester?” and he was fully in favor of that (having never wanted them to be homeschooled in the first place). I spoke with the kids about wearing masks (Higbee requires all day now), and they assured me they would still rather do that then be “stuck at home”. We spoke about the changes to school – how busing works, how water bottles work, how kids eat in the classroom, or must stay spaced throughout the day. They were so excited at the option. I called the school, submitted the paperwork, and then worked all last night to compile their academic records from this past fall. I got a call from the school about 4:45 p.m. yesterday afternoon that they were ready to roll in today.

So, they went to school today. I’m not ready for this. I anticipated the school would be efficient enough to process reenrollment expediently. I am reassured that there’s only been one window of quarantine this fall for Miles’ class – they’re managing protocols well. I’m absolutely comfortable with the teachers – both women I’m familiar with, and Ruthie has one of Miles’ old teachers who I just adore. I know they’ll be happy (despite my health concerns) and I know that millions of families across the country don’t have the opportunity to choose to homeschool children through the pandemic, and they’re mustering along just fine. It’s just hard.

It’s hard to really let go of the idea that I could be my kids’ teacher. I love teaching. I love it for my college kids and my own kids. Modesty aside, I’m good at it. I have to work to not internalize their desire to be in public school as a failure on my part as an educator. More importantly, I miss them already (it’s been about an hour and a half). I know I’ll have more time to concentrate on my work and have my evenings again for the family. In my heart, though, I’ve been a homeschooler since 2006. I always envisioned after wrapping up the doctorate I’d be able to homeschool. I always assumed my young children would want that and would benefit from that. I’ll have a bit of an identity adjustment, reshaping my expectations in that regard. I’m going to need to reframe my ideas for the future, my role as a parent and wife. I can do this because I’m a resilient woman, but it will be a process.

I’m going to go bake something or clean something now.