I don’t remember too much about my first three years of school. Nothing really sticks out in my memory from them, other than the usual of having to get up early, the scratchy uniform socks, the noisy cafeteria, and the notion that the first day of school was something to dread. While I was never quite scared of going to school, I don’t even remember having warm and fuzzies when I thought about it either. The first day of school in those early years meant that Summer was ended, abruptly and completely. It meant that I could no longer run free with my friends and siblings, barefooted, tan, and covered in dirt. It meant that the long evenings of catching fireflies and eating ice cream were over too. And it meant that for what felt like forever would go by before I could enjoy any of those freedoms again. The first day of school meant the last day of fun. It was a fact, as unavoidable as the rising of the sun.
When I was in the third grade, my parents decided it was time for a change. So, with little ado about anything, they did not enroll us in our school for the following Fall, and instead, placed an order for our books from Seton Home Study School, based in Front Royal, VA, and that was that. We were being homeschooled. In the many years to follow, I never once experienced that sense of impending doom or dread over the start of the school year (that is, of course, until I started college, and there it was, back again, like a familiar frenemy).
Why the difference? I think I can pin it down to the simple fact that we weren’t “going” to school. We had a “first day” of sorts, at least through grammar school, but it wasn’t anything kept hard or fast, and it wasn’t something that I, at least, disliked. In fact, it meant a return to normalcy for me. I still loved Summer, but I learned that just because school was starting didn’t mean Summer (and therefore all the fun times associated with it) was definitely ending. We still got to run around in sandals if the weather warranted it, and only starting putting on “Fall clothing” when it actually started to get chilly (in NJ, that’s usually more than halfway into September, so about three weeks into the school year). We also knew that, if the weather was simply to gorgeous to waste by sitting inside at a table, we weren’t going to waste it. We were going to enjoy every last day of good weather while it lasted, knowing we could always make up for it later in the year. In fact, because Mom always took us on our yearly trip to this great little stationery store nearby to pick out our notebooks, pencils, STICKERS!, and other supplies, the start of the school year was something to anticipate. We were active participants in the scheduling of our school year, so we didn’t feel trapped by it. For me, the differences between homeschooling and “regular” schooling made all the difference between that awful I-can’t-believe-Summer-is-over-and-btw-where-did-the-time-go? feeling and one that was more of Yay!-Our-box-of-books-just-got-here-now-when-do-we-get-to-start?!
In response to prompt number 3 in this weeks edition of Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop. Head on over and check out the awesomeness.