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It's that time of the year again already - Back to School! I thought I would share some of my memories of going back to school - both as a kid and as a parent - and then ask you to share your memories in the comments below.

For most of my school years, I loved going back to school. I loved the new fall clothes and I absolutely adored new school supplies. I couldn't wait to put new pencil to new notepad. My absolute favorite, however, was the 64 color set of Crayola crayons. I wanted to use them as quickly as possible so that I could sharpen them with the tool that came in the box. I can still name some of my favorite colors, Burnt Sienna, Cornflower, Raw Umber, and, of course, Silver, Copper, and Gold.

I especially loved the opportunity to start over - to tackle the school year with fresh zest and to improve in those areas where I might have struggled the year before. I still feel that every year. Sometimes in the months of August or September, I will dream of entering classrooms and of sitting down at a desk and wake up missing the feeling of being in school.

Of course, there were always those years that going back to school wasn't fun, usually when I was brand new to the school. As a military kid, I was fortunate not to move tons but I moved often enough that the memories of being the new kid are harsh. I especially hated it when we moved from a location with a heavy accent. England to California was the worst. I was six years old and developed a stutter because I was absolutely petrified of speaking. People either laughed when they heard my accent (mainly kids) or thought I was incredibly cute (mainly adults). It didn't help that the local school system didn't know which grade would make the best fit and I was juggled around for a bit. My place of solitude was the speech counselor's office. There I would practice relaxing and keeping myself calm. Overtime, I learned to speak like a Californian and interactions with others became easier. I learned to adapt. Which meant when we moved to Louisiana, I began to speak with a Southern Drawl, only to lose it again when my dad finished his career and we found ourselves back in California for his retirement.

As a military brat, I understood how tough those moves could be and as an officer's wife, I knew that several moves at the end of my husband's career were not only possible but extremely likely. It's part of the reason we decided to homeschool - to provide stability in a less than stable life. But I didn't want my kids to miss out on tradition either.

Our back to school practices have changed throughout the years but in the beginning, we were pretty traditional - German traditional that is! For first grade, we gifted both of our sons with Schultütes, gigantic cones full of school supplies and candies. Each German child is given one on their first day of primary school. We were fresh tranplants from Stuttgart to Las Vegas, NV and my kids still spoke German like natives. It was a natural fit. If we had stayed in Germany, it's likely we would have sent our kids to the local primary school where school hours were short and play was still considered a part of the school day. Parents actually attend the first day of school with their children - it's a cause for celebration and for great pride. I think many American schools would benefit from trying something similar.

The beginning of the homeschooling year is often met with the same kind of excitement I had as a child. I will admit, I still love to buy school supplies but I was no longer limited to pens and pads of paper. I could buy games or curriculum or books. At first, we played a lot at real school in the home - sitting down to work on math or reading with myself as a teacher and the kids as students. But each year brought a more relaxed attitude and the idea of traditional school went to the wayside. I followed my boys' interests more and more and followed curriculum less and less. But that didn't mean we abandoned the idea of a starting the new school year with a little excitement!

At some places we've lived, the local homeschool group holds a Not Back To School picnic - sort of a counter culture approach to the school year. We would chose the date the traditional public school started, then go to a local park and celebrate our choice to homeschool. We would often question those parents that were celebrating in a different way, those parents who were more than happy to get rid of their kids at the end of the summer, those harried and frayed by the constant push and pull of their children. We would feel sorry for those parents who wanted to spend more time with their kids and those who felt that the summer was too short. We would celebrate not only our choice to homeschool but be grateful that we had faith in ourselves and our kids to do so.

Now that my kids are older, we actually have less freedom in our schedule because the things they chose to do are closely tied to a traditional school schedule. Gone are the days where we would take a vacation in the first weeks of September and wonder at the peace and quiet at the beach. We can steal a few days here and there but we have lost that freedom to take weeks like we once did.

One of the things we still do every year is set goals. Sometime in the late summer or early fall, I sit down with each of the boys and we discuss what they would like to accomplish in the next year. My reasons are two-fold. One is that as their official teacher, it's my job to guide them. I may not teach much to either of them anymore but I am able to provide them with sources of information that can further their education. As they get older, they need this less and less but they need to know that their father and I are there for them. Second is that I think it is important for them to realize their goals in a concrete fashion. It's easy to have a vague idea of what you might want to do. But it's more likely that you will succeed if you make your goals concrete and if you share those goals with other people. At the very least, I think everyone should write those goals down for themselves so that they can read them a few months later.

We haven't had that conversation yet this year though both have had on-going conversations about the generalities. My oldest will be attending community college on a dual-credit basis so obviously one of his goals should be to pass his classes! My youngest has mentioned interest in learning about the flora and fauna of Ecuador. We're headed that direction for our next assignment.

We don't have a Not Back To School Picnic planned this year. I'm not sure how we will celebrate. Maybe you have a few ideas for us? Please share them and your own memories of back to school in the comments below!

Thanks for reading Education Alternative's Series on Homeschooling!

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Originally posted to Education Alternatives on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 09:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  have you looked at the yahoo groups (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, puzzled, llbear, angelajean

    for homeschoolers in NoVa?  I know they frequently include DC folks as well.

    Also, the author of Teenage Liberation Handbook runs a "Not Back to School Camp" in Sept that can be really cool.

    I think a dinner out with Kossak homeschooling friends is in order!  hint, hint.

  •  Our tradition is... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bnasley, llbear, angelajean

    to start school the day after labor day. School here goes back the week before, so they feel like they are getting an extra week's vacation. I also start it back in steps, I don't hit them with a full course load from day one. We start with one or two subjects and add a subject a week up to a full course load (which gives me more time to get an curriculum I'm buying as well).
    Of course they never stop doing educational things in the summer, from videos to science projects, to games, etc. My daughter was asking about division the other night so I started her on that as well.
    This week we're making home made bread, I bought the ingredients today, we'll probably make our first batch tomorrow.

    First day of school when I was a kid was always a mixed bag. By the time school started I was ready for it, but I always dreaded dealing with the bullies, especially on the school bus. But I was ready for the heavier chores and yard work of summer to be done, my dad picked up more of it once school was in and I had homework and papers and such. I was also ready for a break from my little sisters LOL.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 11:50:58 AM PDT

  •  I have one left in public high-school, and am not (6+ / 0-)

    enjoying the feeling of the approaching deadlines and homework and obligations, and the waning of our nice, relaxing summer days.  Very much how I felt as a student, too.

    The other is off to college, and I must say-- both of us are ready for that :) It's time for a little break from each other and new directions for her.

    I think I would have enjoyed homeschooling if I'd gotten on board with it much earlier.  Ah well...maybe in the next life. . .

    If the plutocrats begin the program, we will end it. -- Eugene Debs.

    by livjack on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 12:16:43 PM PDT

  •  I feel exactly the same about the color box (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, bnasley, llbear, angelajean

    but you must be younger than I am.  When I was young , the 24 box was for the frivolous.   Sixteen was good enough for burnt or raw sienna..NO cornflower (I think that came out later.)

    Ben had such a hard time in school, we always dreaded the beginning and celebrated the end.  We always went out to eat anywhere he wanted on the last day of school.  We still do, even in college. Frankly, I look forward to it, he has good taste.  When he took his last GED test (he passed with ease) we went out to the best BBQ in town.

    Ann Dorwart was a military brat whose dad came back to his hometown when he retired.  She was wonderful, funny, talented, and we all loved her.  She had been around the world, too.

    If you starve the middle class, whose gonna pay for your crap?

    by rosabw on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 12:29:48 PM PDT

    •  I am so glad to hear that the GED went well! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      We have yet to tackle that battle but it will be coming soon.

      My oldest did get 2 of the 3 classes at the Community College that he requested. For some reason, the Biology Lab is not attached to the Biology Lecture and he didn't get it. My experience with college makes me think if he shows up the day of classes and lets the prof know how interested he is that there is a good chance he will get in the class. Especially when there are no shows.

      •  Yes, and there will be drop-outs (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and if the professor knows ahead of time...

        Biology?  I LOVE biology.  My major was special ed, but I took science just to keep my mind alive.

        Some people think it is "beneath them" to start out in community college.  I don't think it makes a damn difference where you start out.  It's where you end up!  Community College is the perfect place for Ben to get used to the rigors of college life in an ideal environment: small size classes, get to know professors well, competition not as cut throat as at universities.  I always felt so bad that he didn't have a "graduation ceremony" ---come to find out, he chose NOT TO for his GED.  Guilt erased on that one.  

        I have known a kid whose mother worked to get them into MIT for the prestige and he is flunking out.  No shit. Too much, too soon.

        Our kids are lucky we love them enough to give them time to grow up on their own schedules in their own way.  Honey...he scored very very high 95-98%tile in reading, history, and science without studying.  He scored in the 66%+ in math and language. YET, this is the kid who was doomed to flunk 9th grade Algebra, which he taught himself online, something the school couldn't do because he didn't learn the way they taught.

        Good luck to your son.  He is lucky to have you.  God love you all!!

        If you starve the middle class, whose gonna pay for your crap?

        by rosabw on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 09:15:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  not just for kids!!! anyone who has to go to work (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, bkamr, llbear, angelajean

    on Monday deserves a Schultütes.

    Dear trees, YOU SHALL BE AVENGED!!!!! sincerely, papercuts

    by bnasley on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 01:51:45 PM PDT

  •  I enjoyed going back to school (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, llbear, angelajean

    as do my kids in this location, so I can just imagine your bag of tricks as a kid..just not knowing what
    you were getting.  I felt school was a social opportunity of civics of sorts.  The politics of it was intriguing to me.  The school paper, the dance committee and the different clubs such as FBLA..Future Business Leaders, Chorus, and that sort of thing.

    My older kids were homeschooled some because the schools had gotten so bad and I mean bad under Bush.   After we moved to Florida, school became a thing of interest again.  The teachers, the principals and all are very nice, even though they work for peanuts.   I want to campaign for our Dem superintendent and our sheriff.  The kids started back to school Wed.  I am still getting used to the absence of the kids but I know summer is not over.
    It just feels that way.
    Good diary Angie.

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 02:14:00 PM PDT

  •  I used to despise (4+ / 0-)

    the back to school ad from one of the office supply stores that was done with "It's the most wonderful time of the year..." playing in the background as a gleeful parent tossed school supplies into his cart.

    As a homeschool mom, the idea of being happy at getting my kids out of the house seemed repugnant.  I always liked being with my kids.

    We used to start school early, because schools here start early, so they'd be kind of on the same schedule as their public school friends.  I also wanted to be done with a lot of the heavy lifting by the end of November, so December could be more fun stuff, particularly when they were smaller.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 02:37:51 PM PDT

  •  We just hit the local public library to check out (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, llbear, angelajean

    all the new editions of Bill Nye Science Guy Greatest Scientific Discoveries series. Astronomy, Physics, Biology, and Earth Science. They had some new NOVA flicks too. We watch them over and over until it's time to take them back.

    And we have also brought home a huge pile of books.

    We have bought some new little workbooks and there are some larger purchases to be made as well. We homeschool year round with frequent little breaks.

    When it cools off and maybe rains a bit, we might be able to squeeze in a camping trip or two. And we have actively begun saving up change for gas money to go to the Grand Canyon.

  •  Our homeschool support group (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, llbear, angelajean

    does a "not back to school" picnic on the first day of school for the local district.

    The first year we were homeschooling, it was only my oldest, with the younger two wanting to stay in school.  T had met a few kids because he was on a First Lego League team, and so we went to the picnic.

    It was in a park with a wildlife area alongside, and about an hour in, a whole bunch of deer turned up on the other side of the fence.  30-40 homeschool kids TIPTOED over along the fence, with older siblings whispering to younger kids so they were all quiet and they stood that way for quite a while until the deer moved on.

    I sat watching, realizing how many kids were sitting in a classroom, probably reading about deer, while here were all these kids out here doing it, seeing it, and I knew we'd made the right decision!!

    If you took the greed out of Wall Street all you’d have left is pavement ~Robert Reich

    by k8dd8d on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 06:17:26 PM PDT

  •  My youngest is heading off to the dorm (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For his freshman year. I adore buying both guys school supplies. The other one is a college senior and he asked for the 64 box! He's pre-law and really loves drawing comics. The younger one is starting art school.

    I am sure I will continue to indulge in school supplies for myself every year. This year I got a groovy spiral noebook with peace signs on the cover.

  •  We moved a lot (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llbear, angelajean

    so much so that people ask, "Where you military?" No, we just moved a lot. I think now, looking back, it was a combination of economy and my dad trying to better his prospects. Every year or year and half, we were somewhere new. It was almost easier coming in during the middle of a school year because people made the effort to include you as the new kid. Anyway, I totally get your yearning for stability for your kids.

    We homeschooled through sixth grade then the kidster started seventh grade in a public charter--her choice. Then, the dreaded happened: we moved! Not something I wanted to do to her but the economy.... We finished out that year homeschooling and she spent last year in a small neighborhood Catholic school. Not the best experience, but it had its good points.

    Tomorrow, she's going to start high school at an all-girls Catholic school. I'm still not sure how we got to this point! I still have yearnings to homeschool, but she is happier in school so that's what matters. And we're excited about the school. It's run by some of those renegade nuns we've been hearing so much about lately. I don't think we would have considered any other Catholic school in town. The school is lovely. It's about the size of my high school, 150 to 200 kids per grade level. Her small school last year didn't have the diversity of thought that I expect she'll find with a larger group. It was very cliquish. We went to a parent meeting recently and someone told me they chose this school for their second daughter because of the lack of cliques.

    As far as school supplies, what stands out is the Macbook that the school issues which holds some of her textbooks. We didn't have that! And the uniforms. It's a lovely plaid, really. Understated. Classic.

    I miss homeschooling though. I miss the variety of people and their independence of thought. I think she'll get a good education, or I wouldn't be sending her there, but I miss the idea of her interests driving her education. It served us well.

    Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. --Mark Twain

    by Debby on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 07:23:40 AM PDT

    •  Remember, homeschoolers are always there (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      even when you've made other choices. We support you!

      Your daughter's new school sounds like a great place, especially when the school supplies are so useful. A Macbook? I mean, really, I think I want to go to that school!

      I have year of Catholic High School under my belt as well. We lived in Louisiana during desegregation (1979!) and my parents were very worried about the local public high school. So off to parochial school I went. Talk about culture shock. We had hardly attended church going up and my Dad had always called himself a  self-excommunicated Catholic. Wow. Sounds like your daughter won't have the culture shock and that her more liberal instructors will lead her straight. Good luck to you both! If you every feel like writing about the experience, we would love to hear more! Seriously.

  •  Angela, home schooling has always been some (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    something I've questioned. Aside from relying on the parent to deliver a competitive quality education, I've always thought that homeschooled kids miss the chance to learn how to deal with other kids. Then, in less than 2 minutes, I saw how that may not be a problem. I met your kid. He seemed so mature, and so socially adept - I mean what a great first impression! So, now my question is, how did you do that?

    Bring those still in Afghanistan home NOW . . . It's long past time.

    by llbear on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 08:49:19 AM PDT

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