Friday, March 16, 2012

The Journey to School, Part I

Exactly one year ago today, Henry started attending school.

After my husband returned to work six weeks after the birth of Silas, things fell apart a little. Silas is and was pretty easy, but Henry can be needy and very loud (we never realized how much he talks nor how loudly until we had a baby in the house). I could not get the baby settled down to sleep with Henry jumping around and making noise. So...I found myself actually encouraging him to watch television.

I felt bad that we went from a TV-free household to one in which I was telling my kid to go watch a video so I could get some peace. At the same time, I was too tired and overwhelmed to take him to museums, homeschool playgroups, or on many other outings. We did continue to go to his art class at the rec center and to storytime at a local library, but I started finding these outings more and more tiresome. Henry was definitely the oldest child in both groups and I was feeling as though he needed more than these activities were offering him.

And, truth be told, I was tired of feeling like an oddity. An unschooling friend of mine kept telling me to "find my people," but really, I'm an introvert. I don't want to find people, mine or otherwise. I want to stay home and drink coffee. I began feeling like I was devoting my life to Henry.

Don't get me wrong, I love him to pieces. I love being his mom. I love attachment parenting and I still believe in it. I still think unschooling, in an ideal world where "your people" are around you and not off at work and school all day, is a wonderful philosophy. But I also started to think that maybe school wouldn't be so bad. We live in one of the best school districts in the state and I'm not just talking test scores. The parents are very involved and the teachers are dedicated.

I still also love Alfie Kohn's philosophy of not punishing or rewarding, and instead modeling good behavior and letting children eventually learn to do the right thing on his or her own. But believing in it and living it are two different things, and I began to think that maybe it wouldn't be so bad for Henry to do things just because we tell him to, or to have a little respect for authority and realize that he is not always in charge.

So my husband and I began talking about the possibility of sending Henry to school.

We went to the school's science fair and saw the neighbor’s entry. We went on a tour and were pretty impressed with what we saw. Henry seemed intrigued, but of course, he wouldn’t say he wanted to go. He said didn’t want to leave me. I think that was his biggest fear. But we decided it would be for the best, for now, to have him go to school. And rather than have him start out in first grade in the fall, which would be all day and involve him eating lunch at school, we opted to have him begin in the spring of senior kindergarten, when we had the option of him going only three hours in the morning.

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