Thursday, July 24, 2008

The End of Homeschooling

Our youngest child, Alanna, will turn seven soon. Nothing too remarkable about that: it's a pretty normal thing for those between six and eight. What's remarkable, at least in our family, is that Allie doesn't have a little brother or sister to follow her around, as her five older siblings did. She's the caboose baby, a little more cuddled and petted-and teased- than the others.

Alanna is growing up. She can read, and though she really is still best with the mid-level readers, she insists on easy chapter books because she doesn't want to read 'baby books.' Her math is nearly as good as her ten-year-old brother's and she tries to emulate his immersion in science. She admires Helen Keller and Mae Jemison, and she designs very detailed house plans. She's already discussing her college plans, because her oldest brother Evan is in college, and her older sister Claire is going back for nursing school. She wants to be an architect or a scientist. She's really thrilled with her Brownie troop, and she loves homeschool gym day at the Y.

She's growing up and blooming into her own world. And that's as it should be.

Sometimes, thinking about that makes me sad. At other times, I thrill with the possibilities. After all, I have actual free time now, often several minutes in succession. This should, most likely, increase with the years. What will I do with it?

I could think about finding uses for the leftovers of my kids' crafts and crazes, collected over years and years. It might take a while to think up good ends for:
  • my daughters' fingerknitted coils - all 827 yards of them.
  • 1386 mostly-blurry photos of our cats
  • 14 stuffed boxes of cartoons, house plans, finger paintings, old math papers, coffee-filter butterflies and smudged copies of textbook pages.
  • our collection of hamster toys
  • the attic shelves of lint sculptures, play-dough creations, and broken trophies
Then I could branch out to passing along homemaking tips for very busy people. Gems like:
  • Clean your kitchen floor easily by 'allowing' a child to pour a few glasses of water on it. Turn a blind eye while they slide around, spin on their stomachs, etc. When the fun is over - or the first child cries - announce that they 'got away with it this time', and assign them the job of mopping up the water. They had fun, you have a (relatively) clean floor!
  • Really chic houses are decorated not with expensive paintings or time-consuming murals, but with overstuffed bookshelves, lego sculpture, petri dishes full of micro-organisms, and educational posters. A world-map or periodic table shower curtain is a plus.
  • Small animals of various types are great additions to any room, especially rodents, reptiles, and the occasional insect.

Somehow, I don't think House Beautiful would be impressed.

Of course, I could look for a real job (as opposed to my current unreal one?) Here are a few appropriate jobs for a long-time homeschooling mom:
  • Office manager. If I can keep six kids of six different ages, birthdays,school levels, sizes, etc., somewhat organized, then that must count for something!
  • Computer technician. Not only have I been installing components and tracking bugs since a 1200 modem was considered fast, but I can even tell you how to get jelly out of keyboards, and what happens when a handful of oatmeal gets in your CD-ROM drawer.
  • Educational adviser. I've been doing it a while, have advised many families, and I have ideas that are a bit...different from those of the educational establishment. My ideas about children's educational autonomy (unschooling rewritten) would shake things up - if they listened.

So, the opportunities for life after large-scale homeschooling are many, but I'm glad they're a ways away. It will all pass too soon, even though it sometimes seems like it's taking half of forever. Right now I'm happy to explain long division (yet again), read about the Battle of Hastings, find the lost hamster, play 'geography bowl' on the shower curtain, and fit in all the kisses that Alanna will give.

Happy Birthday, Allie!
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