Little and I are coming to the end of our homeschooling time together. Just before Thanksgiving, Joe and I decided that the time had come for Little to go to school.
It's good news, really. When Joe first lost his job, we really didn't know what to expect. We knew I needed to start substitute teaching and looking for a permanent teaching position, but we didn't have any idea what Joe would be doing. We thought it was possible that he would be collecting unemployment and homeschooling Little. That was, I admit, not our first choice, but it seemed entirely possible.
Instead, he's found that there are lots of people who would like to have his research expertise and insight on their new projects, which means that he's busy. He still doesn't have a job, and the day when he gets one is probably still a long way off, but he has lots of consulting work. That's the good news. We are both delighted that he's got plenty to do.
But it means that Little is going to public school as of the first of the year, simply because there won't be anyone at home who can pay attention to him, let alone school him. I am of several minds about this. I am delighted that I'm not going to be stuck at home all day, all week anymore. For myself, the news that I can now resume my teaching career and get the hell out of the house is nothing but happy.
But for Little, I wanted something different. I believe he'll be fine in public school. He's reading, he's very socially aware, he genuinely likes people and is looking forward to making new friends. He's excited about the change, and I'm sure this is partly because Big has made such a beautiful transition to public school. As a sixth grader, he's around a bunch of other guys all day, he's learning some cool things from some fabulous teachers, and he's loving it. Not every aspect of every day, but the benefits far outweigh the problems.
However, Little will be starting school for the first time as a first grader. When Big started, he was already well on his way. He has enough of a background in progressive education that he knows to value autonomy and an intellectual challenge. He also has the maturity to suck it up when those features of an excellent education are absent.
Little has no such grounding, and no such maturity. He's going into a system much larger than himself without the tools he needs to negotiate it when things don't go his way. I really wanted for him an early elementary education in which I could count on the adults in his life to be conscious, intelligent, attentive, and flexible. Also one where he got to play a lot and spend lots of time outside.
Certainly there are many families who manage to raise awake, alive, interesting children, even as they send their kids to public school. Perhaps ours is one of them; Joe and I both survived the experience more or less intact.
I admit that my fears of public school for Big have not been borne out in his experience. I have every reason to hope that school will go swimmingly for Little. Perhaps the professionals at my neighborhood elementary school are there because they care about elementary education just as much as I do. We shall see.