Second-guessing my parenting choices is my poison. As much as I'm certain that we made the right choice in sending The Boy to preschool, there is a certain wistfulness about the whole thing. Even though he's happy, and he's obviously learning and growing and thriving, somewhere in me there's a homeschool parent yearning to be free. After all, that was the plan. "Oh, we'll probably homeschool," I'd say blithely when anybody asked me. And I meant it. With 13 years of teaching experience and a healthy disdain for both authority and the state of our current education system, why would I do anything else?
Why indeed. Longtime readers remember the guilt I felt when The Boy treated every encounter with another 3-year-old like he was being rescued from a desert island. The army of imaginary friends he created for himself was another factor, as was the way he had no clue how to conduct himself at library events and martial-arts classes because he'd never had to line up or raise his hand. And before the militant homeschooling parents start the write-in campaign, I know that there are plenty of organized activities available for homeschoolers, and I might have been lax in the number of structured events I attempted before declaring him in need of the classroom experience. Were I the perfect parent, we probably could have filled our schedule with homeschool co-ops and lessons and groups and never darkened the door of a preschool. But I'm not perfect, and since I'd found a preschool that was as close to it as I could hope for, I opted for that choice.
And here's the dilemma. Our perfect preschool? It's actually part of an elementary school. So as the school year draws to a close, we're faced with the decision of what to do come fall, when The Boy officially hits school age. Do we send him to kindergarten, or is it time to revisit the homeschooling option? We do love his school, but how can we be sure that the right combination of co-ops, meetups and private lessons wouldn't be even better? It's that never knowing what's behind door No. 2 that gets you every time.
The thing is, we have lots of happy homeschooling friends with smart, well-adjusted children. Recently, I had coffee with friends at Stir Crazy. They had their 9-year-old daughter with them, and for the length of our not-short visit, she stayed happily curled up in a comfy chair in the window, enjoying a scone and reading a Harry Potter book. Both the parenting part of my heart and the book-nerd part felt all warm and fuzzy. So much better than rushing through a peanut-butter sandwich in a loud, drafty cafeteria, miles away from her parents! It just seemed so toasty. Sign me up, I thought.
But I've also seen the homeschool horror stories, the kids who cower behind their mother's skirts at the first how-do-you-do, and the ones who melt down in fabulously showstopping tantrums when asked to participate in something that isn't all about them. And worse than the kid horror stories are the parent nightmares, ready with self-righteous excuses for every antisocial trait and unbecoming habit, because to do otherwise would dishonor their special snowflake's spirit. They remind me of some roommates I had who refused to housebreak their dogs or stop them from dumping over the kitchen trash cans every day, because they wanted to "respect their dogness." I respect The Boy's Boyness immensely, but as part of that, it's my job to teach him that acting like a butt isn't going to get him very far. I certainly don't expect the rest of the world to honor his buttness.
It's a relief to know that I don't have to make this decision today, and even more of a relief to know that when I do make it, I can always change my mind in a week, a month or a year. Unfortunately, that also means the second-guessing never ends. At 180 school days per year, I'll have to make this decision 2,340 times between now and when The Boy graduates. That's an awful lot of peanut-butter sandwiches to pack or not pack, depending on how this plays out.