Over the course of the last week or so I’ve come to the realization that things are feeling more and more conventional to me, homeschool-wise. Which isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it’s really thrown me for a loop.
Starting homeschooling 11+ years ago with an eclectic, creative and family-and-flexibility-above-all approach to educating my children didn’t really prepare me for what convention feels like today.
It’s not a bad feeling, nor is it a good one. It’s a “just is” feeling and it’s very awkward and unfamiliar and I’m not quite sure what to make of it.
We’re moving into the mainstream.
And that feels weird to me.
A couple of weeks ago the kids finished up their online science classes for the year. Last week they finished their history class taught by a friend. On Friday Aster finished her year’s math book and Caton is about three lessons away from wrapping up his algebra class.
His math class completion is on hold this week as the kids do their annual standardized testing. It’s the law in Virginia for the way we file our records as homeschoolers. It’s not how I would choose to spend our time and it’s not the only way to comply with the law, but for us it’s the simplest and most efficient. So each spring we take several days out of a week to finish the tests, then use the other days for relaxation and a field trip.
Then we’d resume our school subjects as usual, doing school through the summer but at a more relaxed pace with more time for swimming and socializing and fruit picking and just watching videos when the mood strikes. It’s been a nice mix of kicking back with some schoolwork sprinkled in that we’ve enjoyed from the beginning of our homeschooling journey.
But that’s not what’s happening this year. We seem to be on more of a public school kind of schedule now. We have the summer ahead of us as a blank slate, since all of their courses have ended for the year.
That’s weird. It feels so mainstream to me. I don’t really know what to do with three months of free time ahead. We could start on more schoolwork of course but that doesn’t really feel right either.
Then mainstream reality really slapped me in the face this afternoon.
Winnie applied to community college today and we’re getting all of our paperwork in order so she can start her first college class in the fall.
How the hell did that happen?!?!
This feels very big to me. Very very big. It’s not me facilitating a course for my kids, or me getting a self-study program for them, or a class taught by a friend, or even a class by an online vendor where I have my own parent log-in.
This is the real deal. Getting-ready-to-pull-on-her-big-girl-panties-and-go-out-in-the-real-world kind of big deal (or is it me that has to pull on the big girl panties?).
And for most kids doing community college as part of their high school studies, it’s not a be-all-end-all experience. It’s a way to take a step forward toward independence, a way to pursue deeper knowledge, or a way to ease into the collegiate mindset.
But for Winnie it’s a little bit different, and that’s where this mainstream thing is really giving me butterflies today. She’s taking her first college class in the fall (when she’ll be a high school senior) in order to make herself a more desirable candidate for a very competitive college program she wants to start after high school.
She’s playing the college prep game. The game we’ve railed against in so many ways for so many years. But she wants what she wants and who am I to judge and I totally support her and truth be told, this is still a huge difference from the typical college prep pressure cooker scene perpetuated by high schools today.
But it’s a whole sea change in the way we’ve approached schooling, that’s for sure.
So to that end, we need to make a transcript (yes I’m totally thinking “crap why didn’t I document more as we were going along” to myself in case you’re wondering), do the college entrance exam requirements, meet with the college counselor, get her registered, buy books and a parking pass, etc.
All those real deal college type things.
How did we go from happy little homeschoolers just a few months ago to playing the college game and bowing to the “spelled out to the letter on the website” expectations so quickly? And quickly as in over the course of a couple of hours this morning, in fact.
That’s what I think is so unsettling to me. It just happened so quickly. Not the plan, she’s had this plan in mind for a good long while now. But the reality of it came up on me so quickly.
The mainstream is a harsh reality for me and the daily rhythm and routine I’ve shared with my kids for years and years now. The rhythm and routine I created. Our rhythm and routine. Ours. Soon it will be someone else’s. Theirs.
As I was driving this afternoon “In the Air Tonight” by Genesis came on the radio (how often does that happen? not very) and it felt like a punch in the stomach that instantly landed me back in the middle of 1985.
My junior year in high school.
When I was playing all the college prep games myself.
And it all turned out OK for me.
So I suppose it will all turn out OK for her, too.
And it will all turn out OK for me too this time around (god it’s so much harder when it’s your kid and not you).
If only I can wrap my head around the fact that someone else is driving this bus now.
This mainstream bus into the future.