Back to school time has arrived in our county, and pretty much everyone we know of Facebook posted smiling kid pictures, children posing in new clothes, new haircuts, smiling faces, with new backpacks, new shoes, and new hopes for the coming school year. I wished them all well, and thought, "Aaaaah . . . we still get to sleep in most mornings! No school bus scramble!"
Well, I mostly thought that. There was one, small pang. Many posts from my contemporaries noted that they had a son or daughter making a major step forward in life: a first day of either middle or high school. I looked at those photos, and marveled at these strange, grown-up looking kids, ready to head off to lockers, changing classes, and new adventures, and had to admit that I felt a small loss.
My older son, had he remained in public school, would have set off for his first day of sixth grade this past Monday, and begun that rite of passage known as middle school. This is a rite of passage he will never experience. Many homeschoolers turn their noses up at this notion, but I am not among them; my middle school experiences were not the muddle of horror that many describe. Our school was not so bad; most of our teachers cared, and a few were even pretty good. My former 7th grade math teacher is now the principal. One of my former school mates is now a math teacher there. We still live not all that far from that school, and could theoretically move there if we wanted to do so. Middle school would not necessarily have to be a horror. But my son will not experience it, at least in a school building. We have elected to opt out of that experience, in exchange for what we view to be the benefits of homeschooling.
I was a little startled when I showed my husband a photo of a friend's daughter, celebrating her first day of high school, and remembering when we took a group trip to Washington, DC about nine years ago, and all the kids were so small; my oldest was a mere toddler, and this beautiful, mature-looking ninth-grader would have been about five or six years old. He made the comment that echoed my feelings: that there was a small sense of loss that we don't have a picture to commemorate our son's entrance into middle school, because he is not doing so.
In a few days, this too shall pass. We have continued with school throughout the summer, so we are not experiencing a transition for back to school time; we are merely experiencing a transition of our friends not being around when the kids are finished with their school work during the day or when we take the occasional day off (something we can afford to do, as we completed 42 full weeks of school last year after all days off were accounted for). We enjoy having the pool to ourselves, having our choice of seating in the theater, enjoying Longwood Gardens during the day without crowds, and other perqs. However, I would be lying if I pretended that we had not noticed the passing of this missed milestone for us.
For everything you gain, there are often things that you do give up along the way.