There is a palpable buzz all around us right now; I feel like we are tucked safely and cozily into a nice comfy cocoon, getting to avoid most of the noise. Kids up and down the street are being shuttled by their parents to stores for the annual back-to-school shopping extravaganza. School supplies, school clothes, school lunch boxes, sleek folders, perforated notebooks, bottles of Elmers, packs of unsharpened pencils, boxes of Kleenex are all being piled high into shopping carts. Parents are wandering the isles carrying the lists from their school districts that tell them what they need to buy, right down to the type of handi-wipes or hand sanitizer (which isn't all that helpful, by the way - soap and water are more than adequate for killing germs) that the teachers appreciate. Of course it's always nice to find a little something extra special for the teacher like dry erase markers that fluoresce (do they make those?) or some other little nifty doo-dad that will hopefully put a smile on an educator's face. A dark chocolate bar would be a nice way to start the year, don't you think? The all-important backpacks! New water bottles! Not to mention all the new clothes, socks, shoes and underwear that will get the kids off on a fresh start into their new year. I swear, two years ago, we went to school the first day with two grocery sacks loaded to the brim with supplies and I remember feeling a bit bitter about the whole ordeal, too.
Max and I stand on the fringes of all of this current hullabaloo and kind of happily ignore what is going on in that designated section of the store. It all doesn't apply and I'm blissful about not having to tote that list around and cross off items as they are found and plunked into the cart. I also don't have to feel angry that my school district cannot 'afford' basic supplies for the classroom, yet they can find the money to put up a fancy $25,000 electronic sign at our neighborhood elementary school and run it around the clock. Ack - don't mean to be negative, but that's just stupid and wasteful. The neighbors have filed a petition to make the school shut off the sign after 7 p.m. because it glares into people's windows. And does it really need to run all summer long? I think the last thing kids want to see right after they get out of school for summer vacation is a flashing sign that says, "First Day of School August 16th!" What a fun-breaker.
I'm not feeling rushed. I'm not feeling a strain on the checkbook. Max is not trying to adjust his sleep schedule to better fit the 7 a.m. craziness that would ensue if we had to get out of the house at 7:30 to make it to the school building on time (he attended a charter school about five miles away from our home prior to our homeschool adventure - we often took the scooter to school to try to conserve gas because it bugged me to take the car for such a short distance). Ooo, that morning rig-a-ma-roll was not fun! I am not having to psyche myself up again for PTA chaos, volunteer time in the classroom, those daily drives back and forth (sometimes several times in one day if I had meetings, which were most decidedly unproductive anyway and could have been conducted online or via well-written emails). I don't have to pack lunches and then forget them on the counter :). That's the best! I tell you, all of that stress surrounding the entire school package added up and made a not-so-happy-mama which in turn affected our household and made everyone around here a little bit on edge.
I am, technically and according to categorical tables, a stay-at-home mom, but I got very involved as a PTA president and then eventually transitioned onto the governing board of the charter school - many hours were consumed with details all in an effort to help the school and to supposedly make a difference for Max. The irony was that as much as I wanted to help Max and his school, he was the one who had to deal with my absences and sometimes grumpy/exhausted demeanor - all because I thought I was putting my energy into the right stuff. Not so. Hindsight is a gift that we need to unwrap occasionally and examine! Looking back at all of that craziness, it's clear that my energy was inappropriately metered out and my family suffered because of it. I paid a price, too.
Life is VASTLY different and better now that we homeschool!!! Now the energy I invest is having a positive and direct impact on Max - it's not deflected because of all of that administrative man-made gobbeldy gook that I used to float around in. I feel like the energy I now expend is more in tune with my values and desires for our child. It's closer to the vest, so-to-speak. This could not have worked out any better.
Moms up and down the street are rejoicing the onset of school - I can hear it in their voices and see it on their drawn faces. They are tired. One mom in particular I don't think really enjoys her kids, at least that's the impression I get. She is always needing them to play with other kids, schedule activities out of the house, get them into summer programs - when I talk to her, she does not seem to be happy. In fact, she's kind of whiney. I'm not her, her kids are not mine, her attitude is not mine, but I can't help but think about the situation she has created for herself and the choices she is making. Maybe, just maybe, the outcome could be different if she were to restructure the way they do things. I don't know - everyone's different. But unhappy people, as much as I don't like to be around them too much, do make me think. I'm not saying that I'm happy-go-lucky and giddy about life constantly, but I do feel a certain sense of peace and well-being inside that has had to be cultivated, kind of like my garden. You plant things and then help them to grow - and that includes thoughts and actions. All of this internal stuff needs to be nurtured for a bountiful outcome. It's a result of making conscious choices over time instead of blindly following the masses; getting down to the nitty-gritty and deciding how we wish to conduct our days.
I realize that homeschooling is not THE answer to happiness. Of course it isn't. I'd be silly to presume that and tell everyone that it is. Homeschooling is not a good fit for some families for a variety of reasons; sometimes it's just completely unrealistic for finances or for family dynamics, although I do tend to think that it has the potential to help improve relationships in the family. It's one way of educating a child and it's a choice. For us, it's a great fit and it has led to some marked changes in our lifestyle.
Yes, we are still paying taxes to benefit the public school system, but that's about all I'm doing these days to 'help' the school. I am so thankful that we homeschool. We are excited about school starting this year, too, but for different reasons. I am happy - to not be at Target shopping for school supplies for starters. My happy list is extensive at this point; homeschooling has become a foundational piece in the contentment puzzle. There are innumerable benefits to homeschooling, some of which are quite obvious, more of which are subtle and harmonious. Here's an older post about what we've seen in our family as a result of homeschooling. It's titled Why I Homeschool