One of the most momentous moments of my mommy career was that auspicious occasion called First Day Of Kindergarten (another first and momentous occasion was First Day of Preschool, but that day only gave me three and half hours of not having my oldest home with me, so kindergarten was a whole new ball game). How exciting and anxious I was for the First Day of Kindergarten! My precious little son was beginning his scholastic career, and I went from being a new mommy to being the mother of a school aged child! It all happened so fast, too. The notion of having a whole day to myself was a bit of a fairytale… and it was a fairytale, actually, because I totally had a baby at home with me when my first went to kindergarten. Although it was beautiful to have some alone time with my new little one, I wasn’t totally, you know, alone. When she went to kindergarten I had another new baby at home. And, when she, my youngest, went to kindergarten I started homeschooling the older two... Hmmm… I might be a bit of a kindergarten "failure", actually… as a mom, I mean. I’ve never really been at home without a child (or two, or three) being at home with me.
So, another momentous occasion was the occasion called the First Day of Homeschool. I love, love, love to talk about homeschooling. I actually did not really ever do a kindergarten year of homeschool because Katie was a first-grader when she started homeschooling, but it was still a first, and it was so fun, and continues to be fun, really! Danielle was in third grade, and Tommy was a seventh-grader, that year. We did have one year after we started homeschooling that they all went back to public school for a year (and it didn't go so well, which is why we committed to homeschool again). While Tommy went to public school for high school because it was best for him, the girls and I continue to do school at home to this very day. We celebrate the first day of school every September, too, even if we never really stopped doing school in June, because summer is so, so, so relaxed school-wise.
So, the first day of school is always the best day of school! We celebrate at home a lot like people do that go to school away from home. We wear cute outfits (or pajamas-a new tradition), we have a fun breakfast and lunch, we organize our desks and use new notebooks and pencils. Lesson planning still happens, schedules get put together, and we go to work, together. We have some trial and error days as we figure out the first few weeks of school, and which days are the best days to do extras like art and music. I used to be really uptight about schedules and school work, and the first day, but I’ve learned that we all learn best together when we figure out what works best together, and that takes time. Since we’ve been doing this awhile now (eight years, I think? How is that possible?!) -I’ve become less intense about it all. It has taken a while to get to the less intense state of being, though. I think my kids would probably report that I'm still pretty intense, but I think I've chilled a bit. Perhaps receiving and listening to some advice would have helped. So...
Here is some advice I wish I’d gotten early on. Sit down, and get ready, because this is the best advice ever. Ready?
That’s it. For real. Relax. That goes for all first-timers be it whatever kind of school: private, public or home.
I know it seems too simple, but especially with kindergarten through fifth grade, just relax. Did you know that colleges don’t look at elementary school grades at all? They don’t look at middle school grades, either, for that matter, unless your child took a high school-level class during this time. In fact, grades, honor roll, SOL results- none of it matters until your student is in high school. Of course, the elementary and middle school years are important to establish good habits, like studying and learning the basics, but grades don’t really matter. So, relax. Also, if you are homeschooling, you don’t even do SOLs.
Another bit of advice I wish I’d gotten is that not all homeschooled students are geniuses. There are many, many reports that espouse the genius-level intelligence of kids that are schooled at home. There is actually a lot of perceived pressure in the homeschool circles to have super smart, gifted kids. Let me tell you, I’ve got three kids, and they are all at different levels of scholastic ability, and only one is what I would consider gifted in terms of school-work type activities. Mostly, though, the homeschooled kids I know, are typical, in that they aren’t going to college at age fifteen, nor graduating college before they are eighteen. It happens, I know, but those cases are few and far between. It helps (me) that I belong to a co-op, because it’s nice to be around other homeschooled kids (and their parents) once a week. It’s nice to know that everyone is struggling with a lot of the same issues, like the kids that read well but can’t do math and vice-versa. Everyone, including the kids and the parents, have strengths and weaknesses. We (we parents) are all trying to do the best we can, and we want the best for our children, but it’s nice to know we’re all raising pretty typical kids in this arena.
I think there is a lot of pressure to make the first of anything great and fun and fantastic. I know I seem to want everything to be just perfect on the first day of school. Can I tell you something? The first day of school is special, and new experiences come with a bit of anxiety, so I think I've learned to go with the flow, so to speak. Don't give in to that pressure to be perfect! Hug your kids, have some tissues ready and let everyone know you love them, period. Authenticity is the real winner of the day.
So, no matter what school or ‘first time’ parent experience you are getting ready to have, enjoy it! Take pictures and post them for friends and family to see. If you are truly alone and are able to, go see a movie, or get a pedicure, or go on a date with your spouse. If it’s a moment to have some alone time with a younger child, enjoy that, too! First days are awesome. New moments are only new for a short time, and then the newness wears off, so be happy, keep calm, relax, take pictures, and parent on!