Thick blond eyelashes covered over his big hazel eyes, like curtains over a window. The little boy slept soundly, exhausted, while the cicadas sang their summer song outside the window. As I gazed at him, the words the little boy ran back through my head. At some point in the last year my son’s brain made the transition from clumsy preschooler to inquisitive kindergartner. What’s more, the long Florida summer has reached its final month—the first day of school is already here.
Back to School is a little different in our household, because we don’t leave home on the first day of school. Our work is done at the kitchen table, where we are slowly rubbing the sheen off the faux-granite top. I remember this time last year when my son was four years old—the age most kids start VPK. I stood my son up against the front door with a miniature backpack, told him to smile, and took the iconic pictures. First Day of School, I titled them in my head. In the pictures he has a somewhat forced smile on his face, wondering why he was wearing the backpack used exclusively for packing toys to visit grandma’s house.
I remember the combination of excitement and nervousness over my first days of school. The sun would be soft and golden that early in the morning, and sleepy looking. I clearly recall the bad words scratched into the back of the school bus seats. The hallways of the school looked so big and foreign the first time I saw them. The smell of early morning was in the air, which always seemed to smell a little different once school began. Everything and everyone seemed busy, rushed, and full of possibilities.
My son’s first day of kindergarten is special to me, despite the fact that we have been doing “school” at home for a while now. It marks a new beginning, and I’m big on beginnings. This one in particular, is important—it means that this is finally the real deal. When my son was a baby I researched homeschooling, and I became quickly enthusiastic about all the possibilities. It was thrilling. My enthusiasm spilled over into putting together Montessori-style preschool materials for him at age three. We spent so much special time together tinkering and playing with those materials.
Throughout these five years that I’ve been planning to homeschool, there has always been a lingering feeling of worry. I’d heard stories. Somehow I felt that the school board was out to get me. I knew I would be crossing all my t’s and dotting all my I’s, but still, I felt anxious about it. I discovered something wonderful about St. Augustine this summer, while I was facing my fears and researching exactly what I needed to do to sign us up as homeschoolers. The department that handles homeschooling was quite helpful, and almost…friendly. The Notice of Intent form was filled out, mailed in, and I let out a sigh of relief.
I thought that when we began kindergarten I would feel that the pressure was on. Instead, I feel a sense of peace about it all. We are doing nothing new—the important thing is that my son is learning to his greatest potential, and that is something I have been working with him on since birth.
We do not take the summer off from school, preferring to reserve time off periodically throughout the year. So, we will be trucking right along, continuing to rub that dining room table raw with eraser smears and dried glue peelings. I think I will have my son pose for pictures by the front door again for the first official day—he has a bigger backpack for taking toys to grandma’s now.