Last year, I enrolled my daughter in preschool. It was a small school (she was in a class with ten other kids), and the kind where the teachers would greet each child with a hug every morning. She loved it and can't wait to go back again this year, so I signed her up without hesitation. But I know that this will be her last year of preschool, and in a matter of months, my husband and I will be expected to register her for kindergarten. And I don't think that I can do that.
I still remember so much about kindergarten. I remember my bus driver — her name was Maria, and I was fascinated by the rose tattoo she had on her ankle. I remember my teacher, who held up one of my pictures for the class before ripping it in half and dropping it into the garbage can because I had put too much glue on the back of it. I remember the music teacher standing in front of the room and singing the most awful songs to us (Waltzing Matilda, anyone?), and how excited we all got when the art teacher came in with her cart. In short, I went to kindergarten, had fun, and turned out just fine. But the thought of sending my daughter terrifies me for a few reasons and makes considering homeschooling her a very real possibility.
I have a crushing fear of sending my daughter to school and her not returning home.
The main reason being school shootings. They seem to happen almost daily now, and I have a crushing fear of sending my daughter to school and her not returning home. We live just a few miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, and there are still constant reminders of that horrific day around here: signs in storefronts, plaques and flags that list the names of the 20 children and 6 teachers who lost their lives, various annual fundraisers and events honouring the victims, and so on. The world, and more specifically Newtown and its neighbouring communities, will never forget what happened that day, and the fact that so little has changed since then makes sending my children to school a terrifying prospect. The threat is everywhere, not just in our community, and as a mother, I'm so afraid I won't be able to get over it.
And I'm fully aware that I sound like the worst kind of helicopter parent, but I promise you I'm not. I've never been too overbearing or overprotective, and I don't mind dropping my daughter off for a long playdate or a day at Summer camp. But kindergarten is a whole new ballgame. In addition to my never-ending fear of school shootings, kindergarten is also an all-day affair. It's putting my vivacious daughter on a school bus, which she'll ride for 35 minutes before being cooped up all day before getting back on the bus for another 35 minutes. She'll walk in the door as I'm getting dinner ready. We'll eat as a family, and then it'll be time for a bath and bed. If we keep our routine as is, I'll only have about four hours a day with my firstborn. It's a realisation that already breaks my heart.
I'm also afraid of her coming home from school and telling me she was bored or didn't learn anything. Our school district is small, so all classes are considered inclusion classes. This means that birthdays are to be celebrated at home because bringing in cupcakes is a thing of the past. I'm afraid of sending her off to school and her losing her innocence. I'm afraid of the kid on the bus who will tell her that Santa Claus isn't real, and the mean girls who will make her feel left out. I'm afraid of not being able to protect her from all of these things.
My husband and I also discussed the option of private school, choosing a small one that matches the values we hope to instill in our children should we decide to go that route. But that school is also over 40 minutes away, and I would likely have to drive her there and back every day. Not only would that get old fast, but she'd be even farther away from me and for the same length of time. So I'm almost right back to where I started.
The thought of homeschooling is relatively new for me, and, to be honest, I'm not even sure I could handle it. Maths is not my strong suit, history [mostly] bores me to tears, and I need socialisation as much as my daughter does. Luckily, there are great resources for homeschooling in our area, which are also available in every state. Our library hosts a regular round table event and information session for those who homeschool as well as those who are interested in trying it, so I'm grateful to have a place to start.
At the end of the day, my biggest fear is failing my children. It's either making the wrong choices or making a choice for the wrong reasons. Hopefully, whatever choice we make, our children know that it was made out of love.
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