Tidepool day

I am watching Ducky hurl himself across rocks. He is trying to beat an incoming tide while on a quest to identify the large mass of scurrying creatures that are fleeing in his wake. I’m not sure if this behavior would be approved by naturalists of old, and I’m enjoying the mental image of men in full Victorian garb trying to keep up with my jeans-clad son.

There are sea stars the size of dinner plates in rich hues of maroon and orange. The former ones are hard to see nestled beneath their brightly colored siblings. The anemones here are also larger than life: touch-tank specimens have nothing on them. Their long stalks jut out from the rocks like tree trunks with leaves made of sticky, fern green tentacles. Sinuous strands cling gently to our explorative fingers when we reach into the cool saltwater. We are seeking connection amongst these elegant ambassadors of the sea.

I hear a yell and suddenly my boy is off like a shot, carrying our large hiking pole above his head like a spear. He is running to impale whatever beast has been sent from the depths of his extensive imagination. I wonder if other kids his age still play these kinds of games.

Times like these I have none of the doubts that often assail me about what we are doing. Homeschooling is so clearly the answer for a kid like this. How could I ever think otherwise?

I can no longer picture him sitting in a classroom, being beat down for his enthusiasm, told to “sit down, keep quiet, and learn.” I know that’s no good for him and am no longer sure that’s good for most children. This feels odd to admit because I used to be anti-homeschooling.

Ask the me of last year and I would have said it was completely ineffective way to educate. That it was populated by a community made of the privileged. I pictured nothing but anti-vaxxers, born again Christians, and confused hippies.

I loved being involved in our school. While not a full-on PTA, fundraising, show-up-to-every-event-volunteering parent, I did do my fair share and loved the community I had sort of found. It was a tenebrous experience for me due to the fact that many of the more involved parents were SAHM’s and I was a very busy single mother with then as yet undiagnosed disabilities.

Those disabilities affected my son from both directions. Affecting my ability to parent along with my genetics which handed him a stew-pot of mental health challenges.

The sky is turning coral with streaks of gold and dolphins play in the surf while Ducky tackles seaweed underfoot wearing slippery shoes. My alphabet-soup-of-labels child is safe within his “nature cocoon”- a space that nurtures him as well as I do. Perhaps better.

I am getting cold but don’t want to pull him back to camp, where the dog, campfire and dinner await. I want to watch him bounce about, his arms waving frantically when he calls me over to see the next great discovery.

This is homeschooling. The thought comes from nowhere, ephemeral and strange. Up until now I have only been identifying the classic work as school. English and math, grammar and Spanish. These are “school” in my mind.  Moments of running and playing on the beach might stretch into the area of “field trips” to me, but somehow not School. This, in spite of my constant complaint about how kids his age need to move more. That sitting in a classroom lined up like assembly line wasn’t going to teach them anything but how to conform. That they need to go outdoors, run, navigate pocket knives and trees, and bugs.

How did I let myself remain so divergent? I have no idea how I wasn’t able to see both side and suspect it has something to do with my overwhelming literalism. I am often hamstrung by that.

It’s time to go back to camp. I need to stoke the fire, wrestle the huge iron grate over it, go fetch water from the pipe, and attempt to make Mac’n’cheese. It’s pretty much all Ducky will eat these days which suits me fine. Our footprints in the sand are the only ones present and we comment on that while we make our way back. We hear a sound and freeze watching a rabbit hop into view, the brave little bunny refusing to move until the last of a fresh green snack is done.

The campsite is deserted. After cooking we settle in with nature books identifying birds, shells, and plants found during the day. The full moon rises over us, waves crash nearby, our fire is crackling and popping.

I take a deep breath and look around.

This is our school.

Picture Day for Homeschoolers

I remember the stress picture day used to cause. The very notice used to send me into a flapping tizzy, often dealt with by my completely forgetting about it until the day before… or after. There were at least two years when Ducky went off to school in regular clothes. Ironically enough, those ended up being far better pictures than the ones where I freaked out over putting together a perfect outfit.

Today I went online and plugged in my ten minute reservation to show up in a town a few miles north. We will have pictures taken and posted online for family to peruse and purchase. That’s it. Sweet and simple. 

This is the best idea ever” I thought when I read the invite “Homeschoolers have picture days, who knew?”

We are still brand spanking new to this world of homeschooling, a world that I swore I would never set foot in. I was also, for the record, never going to be a single mom, never going to be a vagabond, never going to medicate my child, and was also never going to “go casual” (wearing nothing but tees and jeans.)

Yeah. You know what they say. I’m not going to say it. I’m just not.

*whisper from the crowd, “Never say never…”*

Sigh.

Teaching at home was something I felt I would not ever be able to do, “We can’t spend that much time together, we will kill each other.” “I can’t be his teacher, I dropped out in the fifth grade.” “I can’t teach math.” “I can’t teach English.” “I can’t afford it.” “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have the self-discipline.” “I am way too scared I will fail him.”

Many of these fears are still present. However, financial woes are greatly lessened when one only needs pay for gas and food. I am also now afforded the luxury of time and therefore am able to give more of myself. The school we have enrolled in helps us get supplies with the state allotted amount of funding Ducky’s entitled to. A brick and mortar school would have claimed these funds and then pooled them as resources for all their students. Now, with the approximately $2200 hundred we get annually I am able to personally tailor programs and curriculum to suit his exact needs.

Our journey seems much brighter than before. For all the times I’ve had to say “No” to points of interest, I can now say “Yes.” Field trips are covered, as are music lessons, sports, summer camps and of course textbooks, online programs, and science kits.

I am in heaven.

Today Ducky has worked on Math, Spanish, Language Arts, & is about to go do “P.E.” with me (walking along the beach for at least 5,000 steps. We will likely play PokemonGo and discuss the pros and cons of desalination for drought conditions. ) I have gone over his draft for his English report (he will have to submit a report every week on anything from articles read online, to books, to field trips.) I am also searching for the best math textbook for sixth graders.

I think this is the most involved I’ve ever been in my child’s education. I have an honest to god syllabus! I have a daily schedule! I have 10,000 emails from the wonderful program we have selected and am about to curl up in the fetal position!

Okay, so it’s a little overwhelming too.

I am taking deep breaths.

I’m also contacting his teacher near daily- oh, yes, we get a teacher, did I mention? She is a rock star and I am giddy at the thought of having guidance from a degreed instructor. I am also slowly exploring which textbooks I will actually need vs. the ones that we want.

But first I am going to hit the van’s teeny tiny closet and pull out Ducky’s lone collared shirt. I will take him for a haircut this afternoon and maybe even let him get lightning bolt fades on the side. We will purchase gel, practice spikes (or perhaps even a fauxhawk,) and talk about background colors.

After all, it is picture day on Friday.