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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