I pulled the snug packet out of my mailbox, its thickness signaling something important and urgent — even before seeing the familiar school district logo stamped across the envelope.
Here it is, I thought. Time for Kindergarten.
I assumed I had until March, maybe April, to absorb the fact that my son starts Kindergarten in September — rung #1 on his climb up 13 long grades to graduation. Rung #1.
You see, it’s not the separation that gets to me — we’ve been saying goodbye since he was 7 weeks old.
It’s not the mental image of my little boy waving his tiny hand back and forth behind a school bus window while it slowly pulls away from me. (Although, okay, that gets me a bit weepy.)
If I’m being honest, it’s mostly the public school system.
I have this unnerving, nagging anxiety that we should buck the system. That cramming a large amount of kids into an underfunded classroom and expecting them to all learn and conform to static national standards is fundamentally flawed. That the typical public school experience (that I had, that all of my friends had) won’t engage his full potential, or will — at worst — water down his innate curiosity and independence. That the school district that he’s going into is BIG and crowded, and I’m scared that he’ll fall through the cracks. That getting in that registration line is the easy, but maybe not the best, option.
Luckily we aren’t dealing with any known learning disabilities and, for the most part, his brain works the way the system wants it to — meaning he’s interested in learning the things that he’s supposed to be learning, and he’s really good at memorizing facts. That’ll be to his advantage.
But why does my anxiety spike every time that I think about him sitting in a formal classroom? I think about that low frequency learning method of memorizing facts for a test and watching the clock through blurry and bored eyes, and my heart aches. Right now, at 4 years old, he’s this fiery ball of potential who craves answers and knowledge. I love that about him. Will the monotony of standardized tests and standardized lessons squash that fire?
I know I’m not the only one to think this way. More and more families are homeschooling or finding alternative co-ops, beyond the traditional religious or cultural reasons. They’re doing it for a better option, to buck the system.
I so badly want to join them, but it won’t happen — especially not by September. Intellectually I have a certain vision for my son’s education, but realistically it isn’t possible.
The stakes seem too high and, after talking it over (ad nauseam) with my husband, homeschooling our only child doesn’t seem to be in his best interest either. We don’t have any co-op options around the area, and even if we did, could I take that giant leap of faith and trust a bunch of unaccredited strangers with my child’s education? We can’t afford a private school education and — for Kindergarten? — I’m not sure it’s even worth the yearly cost.
So I registered my son for Kindergarten.
I’m stepping up on that first rung, inhaling and exhaling with an open mind. But if my nagging fears develop into a growing reality, we’ll jump off that ladder and look for a different way up.
There’s always a different way up.