When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the idea of becoming a teacher. I loved the supplies, the smell of chalk, the crinkly way worksheets felt as I thumbed through lesson books. I also enjoyed feeling important as I stood in front of my “classroom” of stuffed animals. Even the minutia of grading papers seemed fun to me, as there was no better feeling than holding that rare red pencil between my eager little fingers.
On weekends, when I could beg and plead my way into altering my parents’ plans, I would angle for a trip to the office supply store where I would get my “lessons” printed onto transparencies; I’ll never forget how they used to come out of the printer so warm!! Inevitably, my role-playing became so hardcore, I even asked Santa for an overhead projector for Christmas…for two years running! I drooled over the perfect model that my teacher used and had dreams about how I would use it. (Lots of marker scribbles and wet paper towel erasures, I’m sure.)
Unfortunately, when Santa failed to comply with my wishes – giving me a Nintendo NES instead of my desired projector – I ended up using its box to make a homemade version for myself. Carving a hole in one side, I stuck a camping light at the bottom, affixed a page magnifier over the hole, constructed an arm with mirrors and magnifying glasses over the top and, VOILA, I had a workable (albeit unsightly) machine! I don’t think my stuffed animals learned much better than they had before, but at least I felt somewhat accomplished.
To say that my “teaching” game was insane was an understatement. I had never met another eight-year-old so dedicated to the craft. And, boy, I thought I had it all figured out! But, as I continued to grow, my interests changed, and teaching fell in with all sorts of other outgrown hobbies from my past. By the time I graduated from high school, I wanted nothing more than to get as far from another school as possible. Because of that, the notion of ever being a teacher in real life seemed beyond preposterous. I mean, really, it was fun for a while but let’s leave some things to the professionals, eh?!
At the dawn of my time as a parent, I toyed with the notion of homeschooling my firstborn only briefly. As with all first timers, there was an idealization that took place in my mind; a notion that I could manage to offer her more of the world in the small confines of our living room. However, after her first few months of shrill and torturous colic and the later development of a rather clingy personality, it was decided that her best education would be to give Momma a break by being around other people for a change. And, as expected, it did us both a world of good!
When my son came along, therefore, there was never another question about the greatness of sending kids away to be somewhere else. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Because of how easy it was to send them to school and how well they were doing in the care of others, homeschooling was never thought of again. Not seriously. But then Covid hit!
In the first fourteen months of the pandemic, our kids’ schools were online. Virtual learning was challenging but doable, and the kids had no problem staying up on their assignments. Even from a distance, they were in the care of others and their needs were being met well, even if only through a screen.
However, by the end of the last school year, our district decided that the online option would be discontinued as well as the mandate to wear masks. And that’s all well and good, but things are still far from normal. The Delta variant is raging and children under the age of twelve still do not have access to vaccines. Couple those things with the fact that everyone will be starting school, together, in person, in a couple of weeks and it just seems like the makings of a disaster. And so, my gut instinct has been strongly urging me to do something I would have loved as a child, but never would have imagined myself doing as an adult - I WILL BE HOMESCHOOLING MY KID.
Just for my 3rd grader. And just until he is vaccinated. But still. He will be my stuffed bear come to life, listening intently (I hope), watching carefully (I wish), and learning eagerly (I pray). For all the years I practiced my best teacher moves, let’s hope my body remembers and my mind grows firm again. It will be a challenge given the pandemic slack that has taken over my entire being, but I’m slowly getting a plan in order.
I will keep reminding myself, at the start of this journey, that it’s only temporary. All of it. And it will be okay. Somehow. We will just do the best that we can with the teachable moments as they unfold and try to view them as an opportunity instead of a frustration. I can imagine the days will grow long and the patience will grow thin, but hey, at least it’s only one kid instead of an entire classroom! And, if all else fails - if the learning gets hard and the listening peters out - maybe I can offer him a Nintendo and hope he does something cool with the box.