Let me just start by saying, I don’t even know where to begin.
In some ways, it’s as simple as this: a birthday cake.
It’s as simple as deciding between store bought and homemade. Both will get the job done, one is tried and true and the other is a mess and stress just waiting to explode all over my kitchen.
One is predictable. I know certain stores are better for their icing, some are better for their decorations. All will hold candles just fine and have a certain moist density that seems to defy drying out (the secret of which is certainly somewhere in the lengthy list of ingredients stuck on the side of the plastic lid.)
The second option, though in the end more expensive, both in time and money, is the route I typically go. I love about being a part of the process, right from scratch, from flipping through recipes for the perfect mocha butter cream to choosing the color schemes to roll into the fondant.
It takes longer, and may or may not taste better, but in the end, it is something that could not have come from any other kitchen. It is mine.
I’m the same way with my annual Christmas goodie box extravaganza. Sure, I may not be the best whipper-upper of sea salt sprinkled fudge or white chocolate dipped pretzels, but when I am carefully assembling the boxes of treats for family and friends, I feel, corny as it sounds, love.
Here, I am not just giving you a million calories wrapped neatly with a bow – I am giving you my time. I am giving you my creativity.
And in the process of either, the Christmas cookies or the birthday cake, I am left with a house that looks like it has been overrun by a gang of misfit Keebler elves who trashed the joint (not to mention my own children floating on sugar highs, their cheeks and fingers sticky from taste-testing.)
So, that is where my head and heart are at, put in the simplest way I have found yet. However, rather than weighing the pros and cons of buying a Hannaford bakery creation or making my own, I am considering the pros and cons of homeschooling my (completely well adjusted, thriving in their current classrooms) children.
Maybe it’s because I am still, in some ways, the same girl who wrote papers about the counterculture movement in high school, the girl who loved the adventures of Kerouac and the spirit of the whole beat movement. Maybe it’s because I have never been one to like someone else telling me what to do (and running my family on the schedule of the public system, rather than what works naturally for us or having to call and leave a message on an automated system because my daughter has a fever and won’t be in class to do her “dramatic play” today, to me, falls under this category.)
Or maybe, it’s because I like my children. My children are a mess, but they are amazing.
After shuttling Alex and Lila to the bus this morning, I walked into the kitchen and found Asher, kicking his feet under the kitchen table, Special K sprinkled all around, a spoon in his fat little fist, smiling. I saw the mess, sure, but more importantly, I saw him.
When I send my children on the bus at eight in the morning and they don’t return to me until nearly four in the afternoon (and the rest of our day is spent on homework and bathing and preparing for the next day when they will be not with me) I don’t SEE them. Cramming in anything family-related at the end of their long day becomes exhausting and frustrating and I can’t help but feel that this is not how it is supposed to be.
We are a family first, we are humans learning to navigate the world together, first. Vinnie and I aren’t just breeders, we are our children’s guides, their protectors, and the ones who should be molding their hearts and minds. We didn’t just go to the store and buy prepackaged children, we created them, because we happen to think that our recipe is pretty good and that we could raise good people.
Faith, love, respect, honesty, hard work, life-long learning, can-do attitude, having a servant heart, these are all good things. In fact, these are all far more important things, to me, than the fact that Alex can memorize his way to near perfect state test scores or Lila getting to choose a new bouncy ball from the prize box for getting her clothespin to the top of the behavior chart (again.)
Of course, I can’t deny that I also see the benefits of public school. My husband and I are both products of public school, both hold degrees and turned out just fine. Most of the people I know, most of my close friends, same deal. We all turned out well enough to function, well enough even to stand apart from what one might consider the store-bought molding of a system designed with specific tracks before you’re even aware that you have been branded as “advanced, average or slow.”
So, I realize that traditional school works. Yet, this is where I am.
I am praying. Contemplating. Worrying about failing, if we do make such an attempt. Wondering if now is even the time, or if I should wait. Wondering if I could do it all, even if I was 100% sure that I wanted to.
And yet, every frantic morning that I (almost literally) toss my children out into the cold to stand in line with our neighbors, to ride on a bus that takes them from me for the bulk of the day, it seems less and less crazy. It seems more and more like this is just a natural progression of me, that counterculture-hearted teen, now a mom, who wants so much more than the comfortable, acceptable, cultural normal for her own children.
Because there is so much more out there for them, for us.
I just know it.
(Not that I’ve made my mind up yet. I promise.)