Matthew had been ready for days, so when I finally uttered the words, "Okay, buddy, get your sister. It's time for school." he popped to his feet like a kernel of corn.
"Mary! Mary!" he called, ripping through the hall, "It's a real school day today! Come on! Let's go!"
Actually, it was just the orientation I talked about setting up a couple of weeks ago, but to him it was real because Mary would be there with us.
Before this, we've kind of "played" school in the classroom - just Matthew and I. Sometimes he'd draw out scenes from a story I was reading, and we'd spend thirty minutes a pop just talking about it afterward, thinking of anything we could add to his illustration. Sometimes I'd give him an actual activity from one of the history lessons to work on. He'd roll clay, and twist pipe cleaners and come shrieking for me to evaluate whatever he came up with as soon as he was done. I found my teaching voice, redirecting his attention when doing handstands in the seat of his desk wasn't part of a game, without letting on that it was my motive.
As elementary as the practice might have been, it helped me. I was able to see firsthand how letting the baby roam a little while in the adjoining room would work, and for how long. I was able to gauge how far his attention span had grown from last year, and what his maturing body language meant now.
As agreed, by the time we met in the classroom (albeit later than it will be on Monday) everyone was fed, showered, and dressed for the day. Matthew sat at his desk, getting to work almost instinctively on a ball of purple, fragrant dough. Mary twirled in her chair. And I talked.
I talked, without realizing it, until my voice did to my throat what truck tires do to a quiet gravel road. If it weren't for the fact that Matthew thought to bring a glass of water down with him, I might have had no voice at all today. Who'd have thought with a class of exactly two students, that could even happen? Suffice to say, Monday and everyday after that, I'll get my share of hydration. I also realized I'll need a bean bag chair or something. Pacing the room when I talked felt more natural than I expected it to, but I wound up sitting on the floor with a book between my knees toward the end, and that's just not a long term solution.
I can't believe how fortunate we are that it all fell together exactly the way I hoped it would. For the most part, Matthew stayed at his desk and Mary barely gave herself time to digest answers to the last question she asked, before jumping to the next. I had to keep her focused, but because she's easy to make laugh, that wasn't a problem. Sometimes Matthew would raise his hand, and as usual, it was hard for him to wait when waiting was necessary. But they listened - both of them, remarkably well - and the baby was such a non-issue that a few times I wondered if the sound of my constant talking wasn't as much a source of soothing entertainment for her as the T.V. would have been. I remember being distinctly happy that I hadn't jumped to the assumption she would need it. She kept herself occupied for the entirety of any time she wasn't napping, just outside of the schoolroom with nothing more than a few blocks.
Overall, the only surprises were good ones. Mary actually laughed at every attempt I made to snag a reaction out of her, and every time she piped up, it was to add something, not only enjoyable, but relevant, to the conversation. And a conversation it was, which was probably the best part. Anytime within the course of this summer that I thought about homeschooling in terms of it being worth any effort it took to set up; I thought about it happening like a conversation, one part unfolding into the next like no one had an agenda.
If there's any doubt left nagging us at all, it's from reading so many blogs that say: don't try to mimic public school; remember, they left for a reason! While that's obviously true, and something to consider, it's all we know. Plus, she's going back to it eventually, so I can't afford to get too lackadaisical. I want to focus of character building and togetherness and all that quiet, zen jazz, but I also want her going back to school in ninth grade knowing her shit, and knowing it so well that returning to the world of standardize testing and a cafeteria lunch won't completely derail her.
Arguably, one of the best parts of the day was just how much of it WASN'T spent with my drying eyes locked helplessly onto a computer screen, FINALLY. This past week especially has been the worst of it. Everything I've had to do toward to end was online, which I thought would probably be kind of nice since, after all, I do love to blog. Turns out, doing other stuff online -- even getting a facebook to help break the monotony of plugging assignment after assignment after bloody assignment into a gradebook -- not the same amount of fun as writing. Like, not even a little the same. At all.
By four o'clock we'd lost all track of time. I guessed it was probably somewhere around two, when Mary popped her eyes at me after checking. (Note to self: SET WALL CLOCK.) We still had our electives to discuss, so we woke the baby, grabbed a snack and headed to the park for what was supposed to be the last of our discussion, but wound up being just what it need to be - downtime. We instagram'ed it up all over the baseball field, playground equipment, and dandelion dotted grass. The day rounded itself out in such a bafflingly (wow, not a word) flawless way that not one of the kids - not one - even whimpered a sigh of complaint as we bid the park adieu. Like, what?
And just like that, we had done it. It's hard to tell if Monday will be any more difficult than yesterday, considering that everything we do will be 'on record', which sounds a lot more official than it actually is, or if it'll be a lot easier because at least there won't be so many kinda-sorta vague notions to cover. But if yesterday was any kind of a window into the soul of our post-September home, I'm glad. Yesterday was really fun.