Then: Sometime around the turn of the year when my son was mid-way through kindergarten at public school, I glanced at the calendar and felt a gnawing dread twist in my stomach. Still twinkling in the living room, the Christmas tree stood green and perfect while outside its living counterparts shivered and groaned underneath a caul of ice. But my thoughts weren’t on the bitter temps, the squealing wind, the seemingly endless cloud-gray days. Because I knew they weren’t endless. I knew that eventually summer would come.
I used to wonder when I’d lost that eager anticipation for summer time, when I stopped yearning for the lazy warm mornings, the hours of freedom and leisure. After two years of sending my son off to preschool each morning, summer meant surrendering my life for three long months to cater to him. Summer was the three month-long period in which I didn’t have time to blog, to read, to write, and getting any housework done first required a lengthy negotiation session in which I agreed to play games and buy ice cream in exchange for the privilege of scrubbing pee-drenched toilets. I learned to dread summer, starting right around New Year’s Day, and to see each sunrise as one more step closer to my own armageddon.
But that was then.
This is now: Since we started homeschooling last month, my son and I are around each other just as much now as we usually are during the summer time. But I don’t wake up filled with dread anymore. I don’t find myself wishing his favorite TV show would come on just so I could have 30 minutes to shower, dress and maybe do laundry. The kid who drove me crazy whining and intent on consuming every ounce of my patience is now relaxed, centered, even happy. As am I.
In this, our first month of homeschooling, I have learned both about my son and myself. I have learned how much my little boy and I think alike — both of us are adamant and assertive kinetic learners. (According to my mother, when I started speaking it wasn’t merely a word but a sentence: “I do it myself.” Thirty-eight years later, my attitude has not changed.) We are doing this together, my son and I, and it is working. He seems to have embraced the concept of school at home… at least for this year.
I expected just the opposite.
On our first day as we sat down at our kitchen table for “class”, he got out his pencil and crayons while I silently reminded myself that the key to making this all work was patience and a positive attitude. I expected a red-faced tantrum punctuated by stomps and screams… from both of us. I need not have worried. My son has taken to homeschooling as if he had just been waiting for me to take the first step.
Our days have fallen into a happy pattern, far more leisurely and content than ever before. Now that he can wake at a time of his own choosing, he sleeps later and wakes with a sweet nature I’m only just now beginning to recognize. He likes an hour or so to himself before we start our school day, which means that I now have an hour or more to myself each morning, too. Then, when he’s good and ready, he takes his seat at the table and informs me it’s time to start school. By then, I’m glad to get started, too.
But the most miraculous change is in his behavior. See, I can’t remember the last time he misbehaved. Oh, sure, there are times he wriggles and gets distracted when we’re doing schoolwork, or even the occasional tussle over picking up his toys or going to sleep. But their significance — and intensity — pale in comparison to the fun-filled hours we spend reading and coloring, playing “Word Bingo” with his vocabulary words or “math-facts hopscotch” in the living room to reinforce addition and subtraction skills.
Had you told me a month ago that my son could be such a non-stop joy, that I’d relish every moment of our day and find myself preferring his company to any of my solitary pasttimes, I’d have thought you a liar. Now, I know better.
If I’m dreading summer-time now it’s only because I wonder if we really need a break from all this. According to my boy, the answer is a resounding “NO!” And I think he might have a point.