Tuesday, December 27, 2016


OMG what is that? My baby has been napping for the past hour and the older kids were entertaining themselves (except for one tushie that needed to be wiped). I was not rushing to do chumash with 12 year old, I was not hustling anyone to do schoolwork or finish something or other that is hard to do with an active toddler. (The chicken in Moana is clearly modelled after a toddler: same freak outs, same ridiculous repetitive behaviors.) And all of sudden I find myself finally calling a handyman to install the blinds before too many neighbors diplomatically suggest that we do it for our own good. And I'm making lasagna noodle roll-ups with tuna and spinach, using up leftovers. And I'm getting on IKEA home planner to figure out how to fit in a few more kitchen cabinets while thinking that maybe I should look into design or architecture classes. Is there a market for 40-year-old architects? And I finally threaded the washed 3 year old's car seat after a too-close encounter with raspberry jelly. The wipes did not cut it, so it had to be washed. Pesach came early, and I did it. And I'm thinking what else can I do with the kids around their 3 pm dentist appointment: drop off DVDs at the library because there is a branch not far from the office, stop by Aldi, run to IKEA to replace a vital screw that $%#$& movers did not put into the bunk bed? I did not realize that 10 yo telling me about his fear of the whole thing crashing down was not based on overreaction, but on solid engineering reality that a certain amount of supports is needed for the top bunk.

And I finished two books this past week: "Hillbilly Elegy" and "Run" by Ann Patchett. I cannot recall what was the last impactful book that I read before these two.

My time is slowly coming back to me. My time can also be snatched at any minute by a baby awakening from her nap, spilling pasta all over the floor, dumping cups of water, just screaming to be held. My time is also carved from the hours previously spent homeschooling. There is a misconception that unschooling means not doing anything with the kids, so why are the moms complaining that they are so busy? However, when you unschool, you are still in the picture, still available to answer questions, help with projects, do research, drop everything to read, etc. I am not currently unschooling. I am letting the older kids marinate in their own juices while I go and do my own thing. It is not clear-cut, as 10 yo, after this morning marinade, came to inform me that he and his two older siblings are about to produce Illiad , but a Wild West version. Ok, kids, I can write this down as an educational activity. I can boast about it: hey, my kids know enough about both to synthesize their own mashup. But I cannot call it unschooling, as I am refusing to participate more than a spectator.

Am I too high-strung to even unschool? Am I too controlling? Too worried about the outcome? Do I have too few resources, too few other adults who can spell me for a bit as the adult on duty? I don't know if I failed my kids by sending them to school, failed the ideals of homeschooling, failed myself. I do know that we, as a family, are ready for a new chapter. 12 yo is starting in a week and he is eager to have friends, hang out with friends, do things with friends, be in a class with friends. 10 yo came to terms with his new school reality. 6 yo is happy to have her girls back. And I am grateful for renewed energy and renewed ability to dream. I do wish so badly that my dreams involved homeschooling, spend long intense periods of time with the people that I birthed, educating them, learning alongside them. Right now, that is my fantasy. Right now, I need my space. I wish I did not have to carve time out for myself. I wish there would not be implied violence to time, but a peaceful flow.

Monday, December 19, 2016

not following the rules

I've sent my baby girl to school. (I have been working on a blog post about sending kids to school, but it does not seem to get materialized). She has been going for a week. This is my six-year-old, my ideal homeschool candidate, the child whom I've been dreaming about homeschooling because she was easy, eager to learn, eager to please. There was just one big hole in my plan: she wanted to be with other girls her age more than anything else. And she had this perfect dream about school. So I've sent her.

Since sending her, I have been driving her and her brother every morning and picking them up every afternoon. It is December, so most other parents have worked out their carpool routine months ago. First I had 10 year old in one carpool, then, when we moved, a friend found another parent who drove for me. But she only had one spot, so with two kids in school, all of a sudden I had to be driving. But I still have two small ones at home, two kids who take naps and do not need to wake up at 6 am to do this drop-off and pick up.

On Friday, I asked 10 year old time and again what time is early dismissal and he confidently assured me that it is at 2:30. I got a phone call while I was driving at 2:15 that the dismissal was at 2 and the teachers need to get home to get ready for shabbos. I felt horrible and very embarrassed. I even offered for my kids to sit on the bench in front of the school, as I was on my way, but I could not make traffic move any faster. Today, Monday morning, I hustled and hustled everyone to get out the door at 7:20 so I would have plenty of time to drop off 10 yo at shul for his minyan with the classmates and then get 6 yo to her school. I ended up dropping off 10 yo at 7:45. It was freezing. I told him to go inside, not stay in the cold for 15 minutes. Then I drove my daughter. I got her to school at 7:54 and hustled her out the car. As I watched her walk to school, alone, I sighed about this little first grader. Then she pulled on the door. Locked. She banged. Locked. Teachers were walking inside, bustling, getting ready. I saw them. She saw them. She pulled and banged. And I remembered an e-mail from months ago asking parents not to drop off kids before 8, as the teachers needed to get ready for their day. I sort of ignored it at the time, as I was not the one driving in the morning. So there we were, my little kid standing in the cold, knocking, and adults whom she was supposed to be trusting, asserting their rights to five minutes of quiet before the kids entered. I realized that other parents sat in their cars in the parking lot, keeping their kids warm. I just did not notice it before, being so excited to get her somewhere on time and even early. (Till fairly recently, she did not know the definition of early, as were always late).

And then the tears came. Homeschooling was not going smoothly for her because I do not have a gaggle of girls her age up my sleeve. She was not reading and I had little time to read to her. We were butting heads. It was easier to send her to school. But now I have a kid who has to get up and get dressed and have breakfast and put up her hair and run to the car in the morning to be left in the cold banging on the doors of her school. She is a fairly early riser, but she likes to chill, lounge in her pajamas, snuggle on the couch, have a good morning story. She likes to have her breakfast late. I traded one set of things that are not working for another.

I am not blaming the school for their policy. I am blaming myself for not remembering what that policy was. With so many kids doing so many different things, it is very hard to remember every single detail. It was easier to keep them at home, minimize those external rules and regulations to abide by, but it was not working. So now we will be "those" parents", the ones who are chronically late, and chronically bending the rules.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

not good enough

I'm taking my kids to the zoo
Because it is finally sunny
Because tomorrow is a school tryout day
Because soon I will no longer be homeschooling.

We are going there quickly
So that we will all properly miss this time
Of freedom to get up and go.

As I tug on jackets
And pack up snacks
Ignoring academics
And Torah learning

The words of my upbringing
Pound through my head
Like train wheels:

Not good enough not good enough not good enough