I must be crazy…
Their yellow and blue uniforms lay folded on the bed and I shook my head wondering what I was thinking. I have been an avid homeschooler for the last 17 years. My oldest daughter went to one semester of high school in grade 12 but other than that, not a single one of my kids had ever set foot in a traditional school building. And now here I was and in the morning both my 9 and 11 year old would be going to school for the first time.
Their smiles, and absolute amazement when they asked if they could attend the local village school and I said yes, made everyone laugh in the family. We shopped for the matching uniforms together and filled their backpacks with pencils and paper. I’m not really sure why I said yes, but it felt like the right thing at the time.
At home in Canada there is a tremendous amount of pressure and shame if a mother enrolls her child in school and then takes them out early. The opposite is true here. Kids drop in and out of school as quickly as flies. If they can’t afford school one month they are out, and if they can the next, they are in. I’m sure it isn’t very helpful for their educational experience, but for my purposes it worked quite nicely. No upset teachers or frustrated principles. Pay $50, buy the a cute little uniform and voila they can go to school for as long or short as they want. Yes, this was going to do just nicely.
I explained to my friend over text, that I didn’t sign them up for school because homeschooling had disappointed me or because I was overwhelmed. Quite the opposite, actually. Our homeschool school house has been a diverse, exciting, and fun learning place for all my kids. I think that I signed them up because it feels like it would be a great homeschooling experience to go to a local village school. Isn’t it funny that I view ‘real’ school as part of my homeschooling experience? I’m laughing, that’s for sure.
When they finally got out the door to school, they were scared and excited. They arrived in time for classes to start and both got settled nicely in their classes. During the class the teacher, who rules with a stick and threats of the principles office, was extra nice to the two little girls, who of course, were the only white kids in the entire school.
Emma said that lots of kids didn’t have lunches so she shared hers. This was amusing I thought because I hadn’t sent her with a lunch, I was up with a sick baby all night and so the only thing I could find to shove in their backpacks was an apple and two cookies. She shared her lunch?
Frizzy haired, brown skinned girls and boys lined up to talk with the girls. Sarah and Emma had plenty of friends to spend every minute with, and Emma who is only 9 had little boys finish the homework that she was having trouble with, so that when she returned to her desk it had all been scribbled in for her 🙂 Priceless. Their first day of school was priceless. At lunch when the girls wanted to play the local game ‘butterfly’ they had at least 20 kids line up to play with them. I don’t think making friends will be a problem for these young ones.
There was a sad spot in the day when the boys in the class were talking too much and so as a punishment the teacher told them they missed going out for lunch or recess. About an hour after lunch, Emma the poor dear, who hadn’t had breakfast or lunch yet, just couldn’t bear the hunger any longer and began sobbing at her desk. When the teacher saw her crying she asked her what was wrong and after finding out that she was hungry and wasn’t used to skipping meals sent her outside to eat. The kindergarten teacher saw her going to eat by herself and left her entire class unattended while she joined Emma for a snack, and kept her company.
Once the two older girls heard about the little girls going to school they wanted to go too. Their friend down the road told them about a school that teaches 1/2 an hour of math and then your choice of: basketball, piano, sewing, cooking, fire dancing, weaving, story telling, drama, traditional dancing, beach volleyball, and art. It cost $1 for the year. I was sold- and suddenly not just 2 of my girls, but 4 of them were starting school for the first time!
Walking home will take them an hour, but they will be with lots of other children who are walking home too. And at nighttimes when they get home from school we do the ‘real’ learning, that they would have been doing during the daytime- exploring beaches, researching turtles, and swimming with the fish- oh and taking their college prep courses online.
Back at home, during the hot, humid day, I alternated between, sitting at home holding my 2 year old who was sick and chasing after my 4 year old who told me plainly “school’s garbage, I miss my sisters.” I agreed with him. It was no fun being without my kids today.
I think I can last for a few weeks, and then I am pretty sure it will be back to normal in our fun, busy school house. But until then, I think they will have a memorable, and spectacular experience going to school on this beautiful island, and I think it was the right thing to let them all go to school this month!