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Enchantment

by Shelly Wilson

I wish I could say I have some magical or noble story to tell about how I came to be a homeschooling mom. Truth be told, it all originated in one simple fact: The astounding power of the love I feel for my son. One glance at him can bring a tear to my eye; within that tear is joy, wonder, gratitude and love. I cherish him and could not bear the thought of separation as he moved toward “school age”.

As his fifth birthday approached I felt myself growing more anxious of the events that seemed inevitable – the end of nursery school and the beginning of elementary school. Casey and I have been inseparable since the day he was born. When I went back to work in the fall of 1995, he was by my side in his stroller. When I dropped him off in his first nursery school class at age two and a half, I wiped tears off my cheeks as I walked through the one room separating his classroom from mine.It wasn’t until his final year of nursery school, at age four and a half, that he finally stayed in his classroom with his teachers for the whole day without coming to me for comfort or to care for his needs. He was growing up.

I teach at a children’s center that is located on an elementary school campus. There is before and after school care in addition to the nursery school.It is located in one school district; we live in another. One day I thought it might be a good idea to drive past our neighborhood school to give Casey an idea of where he would be going to kindergarten in the fall. He was not yet five, but I was already feeling the pain of separation that would come with bringing him to school.We would be at different schools, in different cities. We pulled into the parking lot and I said, “This is Oakwood School. This is where you will be going to kindergarten.” Casey took a look out the window and rather confidently said, “No I’m not, Mom.I’m going to Valley View, with you.” Hmmm ... how does one explain to a four year old about school districts and car pools and separation?I felt a lurch in the pit of my stomach. Oh boy, this was going to be harder than I thought, but we had some time to work on it.

In February 2000 I thought I’d better call Oakwood and see what I had to do regarding registration for the fall. Feeling fairly secure, I dialed the school office and asked about the kindergarten programs. There is an alternative learning program there; multi-aged, mostly hands-on. It reminded me of a Waldorf School I had previously observed. I eagerly inquired, “How can I sign up?” and was told bluntly that it was too late, the informational parent meeting was in January. Resigned, I asked about the other three classes. I was given the time of class, (“and parents can suggest what they think is the best time for their child, but the decision is ultimately up to the school, because parents don’t always know what is best for their child”), and I was told that promptness was expected (“it’s disruptive to the rest of the class otherwise”), and when I said I would like to come in to observe a kindergarten classroom I was told, “We don’t do that.” EXCUSE ME? “We have a tour that we arrange and you can call to set that up.” I’m sorry, did I just hear you say that I, a prospective parent and TAXPAYER, can NOT drop by the local public school to check it out? I felt as though all control was being taken out of my hands and given over to the state and I saw big red flags. There was more than a little dread in my heart as I set up the registration appointment. It felt so wrong, but I saw no other choice.

Onward. What I hoped for, I don’t know. How was I going to keep my work schedule around Casey’s school schedule? How was I going to be involved in his school life? How on earth was I going to drop him off that first day and not fall completely apart as the teachers pried him off my ankles? He was already struggling with separation issues, refusing to attend birthday parties or play dates unless I stayed with him. I made up my mind that I would not leave his classroom until he was ready for me to go. If it took a day, so be it. If it took a whole week, oh well. If I was still there a month into it ... well, I hoped that wouldn’t be the case.I felt a little better, knowing that I would not desert him in his time of need. (Thank you to the authors of Real Boys for that resolution). But my employer sure wasn’t going to go for that! Well, Casey is more important, so in a tearful conversation with my boss I resigned, to take effect the end of that school year. All was right with my world, right?

Wrong. Nothing felt right at all. What was I going to do for work now? I had to have SOME income, and I had to have a huge amount of flexibility to allow me time to drop off and pick up Casey, and work in his classroom, and do all those things that involved parents do. I figured I could nanny for a baby, or do some sort of work at home – I looked into medical transcription, I looked into any sort of at-home computer work, I prayed, I cried, I felt absolutely lost! Meanwhile, that registration date was looming. My anxiety level was increasing, and I was STRESSED! Casey’s fifth birthday came and went; we had passed a milestone. No longer a baby, now a little boy about to embark on a trip into the real world. A trip for which I was unprepared and he was too innocent to travel alone. Oh, God -- please help me with this!

Then one day there was some junk mail in the box. It looked interesting – educational materials. The teacher in me was intrigued and I opened the front cover. Inside was a letter: “Dear Friend,” it read. A skeptical snort from me as I read on ... “When our children were young, my husband had a friend whose children were homeschooled.” WHAT? How did I get this? WHY did I get this? The rest of the catalogue was irrelevant; what stayed with me was how that catalogue found its way into MY mailbox, the timing of its arrival, and that word: HOMESCHOOL. Well, whatever. I couldn’t do possibly do that anyway ... too bad though, it might be fun.

And then, sometime within the next week I read a letter to Ann Landers from a grandmother who was hurt and appalled by her grandchild’s treatment in public school. The mistreatment was significant but hardly earth-shattering, and it stayed with me. This was a young child, a child who had been emotionally hurt by her teacher, her classmates, and her school. The grandmother felt a need to rescue the child and did so, at some monetary expense to herself. It bothered me that a child should need to be saved from an esteemed public institution. It was a sign to me that there WAS another answer to public school. It had been put into my hand in the form of an educational materials catalogue and reinforced by an advice column – and I headedto the library to research homeschooling.

The first book I read was Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax. Oh my! Here was the answer! I got on the Internet and spent hours looking for any information I could find. I laid awake night after night, wondering how I could have missed something so obvious.Thinking, planning, wondering, worrying, praying, laughing – it all fit! I could keep my baby with me, I could still work at my job in the afternoons, I could be at home where I really wanted to be. I could DO IT. It was like the tumblers had just dropped into place in this giant cosmic lock and the doors swung open, wide and inviting. Peace, happiness, and joy reigned in my heart. I called the school office a week before my appointment date and canceled. “Would you like to reschedule?” Oh, no, absolutely not, no way, never!

I continued my research. Hours at the library and online, reading well into the night. Feeling a passion burn inside me that I had not felt since becoming pregnant and discovering natural childbirth. It was SO RIGHT, so unquestionably right that this was indeed my path, my calling, the destiny I would share with my boy. We have now gotten through the first year of homeschooling. There has been tremendous growth and change in that year but the one thing that has remained constant is my belief that this was the right choice. Even on the worst of days I know that being with my son is the best way for him to live and learn, and I am grateful. Our story may not be magical, but I am enchanted.

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media