Friday, August 31, 2007

The School Buses Are Out Again......

The school buses are out again, those yellow beacons that remind us we’ve chosen a different path for our children. There’s a certain energy floating around during these first few weeks of school that can be felt as the buses drive past, or when you’re in the school supply section of Target, surrounded by other parents with their mile-long preprinted school supply lists, that can make you wonder if you’re doing the right thing by keeping your children home.

Don’t let that energy fool you. It’s an annual occurrence, and within a month or so, it will be replaced by the boredom of school. I still remember the hope I’d have as a child on each first day of school: maybe this year will be better. I’d arrive at each class optimistic about the school year. Maybe this class will be fun. Maybe it will be interesting. Maybe this will be the year that it gets better.

But by the end of that first day, once the last class of the day was over, I could see it would be just another year. Sure, there would be the occasional interesting class, and once in a while I’d get a teacher who was really into the subject and sharing his or her enthusiasm about it. But by the end of that first week, I’d find that I had lost all hope that things would be much different than the year before.

Our kids have no way of knowing this if they have never been to school. They grow up accustomed to learning on their own timetable, and take for granted the rhythm of day-to-day family life. School (particularly these first few weeks of the school year) can look like something foreign and exciting to them. They may feel like they’re missing out on something good.

They don’t know the truth, but we do, and if they feel like they’re missing out, they’re just going to have to trust us that we’re doing the right thing by keeping them home. Usually it only takes a few years before their neighborhood friends begin to discover what I discovered: that for all the hype, the shiny yellow buses and the new school supplies, school is no fun. It quickly becomes monotonous, a sameness of day and situation that runs on endlessly, while out in the real world, people come and go and do interesting things.

Our family was fortunate, because by about third grade, the neighbor kids had not only discovered this truth, but were more than willing to share it with our kids:

“You’re so lucky you don’t have to go to school!”

“I asked my mom to homeschool me and she said no. Could your mom homeschool me?”

“I hate school.”

This certainly made my life easier, because as my children’s eyes were opened to the reality of their friends’ daily lives at school, my concern that they felt they were missing out was erased. They could plainly see that they were not missing out on much.

Before long, the annual first day of school in our neighborhood became our cue to celebrate our family’s freedom. We started to take vacations in the fall, when it was still nice outside but all the crowds at the tourist attractions had disappeared. As we’d drive along, occasionally the kids would see a school bus full of children. And I’d usually hear a comment from the back of the van along the lines of,

“Aren’t we lucky?”

They certainly are, and the return of the yellow buses each fall has become a reminder of that fact.


Janet said...

I have to admit that each year I watch the yellow school bus go and pick up our neighbour kids and I suffer from "school bus envy". I think, "wow, what would it be like to have them gone all day...? How much would I be able to get done?" Then I remember WHY I homeschool,and why I LOVE it. I remember all the great things, and I remember not to complain. :-)

Barbara Frank said...

You make an interesting point, response, I think I feel another post coming on :)

lynnak said...

The yellow bus doesn't come down our street but our kids would see their friends crunch through the dimly lighted snow, their breath hanging in the air, and down the street to meet the bus. They would often express their gratefulness and then go on to say how their friends wish they were homeschooled.

Surprisingly, homeschool envy increased as the kids entered high school. Their friends saw the freedom, the fun courses, the part-time jobs, and sports. The lack of choice and waste of time in a public HS became very apparent.

Cheryl said...

Having ridden a school bus for several years when I was growing up, all I feel when I see one is pity for the poor children (especially the little ones) who have to ride the thing. For me it was one of the worst parts of going to school. I suppose I should add that when I rode one I lived out in the country. The bus ride was 45 minutes one way and there was one bus for kindergarten through high school. It was a hot, noisy, smelly, unpleasant ride every day for three years.

the Fish said...


Just know that having them gone all day, does NOT necessarily make it any easier to get stuff done. Between school and homework, and being tired from both, the kids can pull a lot less of their own weight around the house. And don't forget the time you'd spend reteaching AND doing homework the school sends you!

Deirdre Mundy said...

I have younger children so we haven't started with curriculums and whatnot yet...

But my 3 1/2 year old is DEFINITELY energized when the school busses start to roll.


Because now we can go to the playground during the day again, without worrying about the daycares and big kids who aren't very nice to the little ones.

And when we go to the library, it's not crowded.

And we don't have to share the zoo anymore-- it all belongs to us!

So for our family, the yellow busses mean a sigh of relief... no more trying to protect our kids from the rougher, older, more worldly children who live around us..
(we live in a small midwestern town, but even here the decay of the stable family means that a lot of the "normal" kids tend towards cursing, hitting and other unsavory behaviors.....)

Deirdre Mundy said...

Oh-- and we LOVE the school-supply aisle at walmart -- when crayons are 20 cents a box, we stock up and buy a year's worth!

Rebecca said...

We were in a grocery store in Co this week, and the checker was asking my kids the usual questions about the new school year. When they told him they were homeschooled, he replied, "HOMESCHOOLED! Wow! That's great! I BEGGED my mother to do that, but she wouldn't!"

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I guess that since my son was schooled for six years, we have a different reaction. When I see the school bus, I remember my own school days, and then I remember his. How stressful it was when everything cranked into high gear. How little time we had as a family. How tears over homework replaced family reading and projects. How unhappy and anxious he was by the about the third day!

And N. remembers this and being bullied on the bus.

We look at each other and say with feeling: "Thank G-d, we aren't doing that anymore!"

Barbara Frank said...

Lynnak, your kids are very astute. Mine had to see their friends' unhappiness before they realized what a good thing homeschooling is.

Cheryl, I feel especially sorry for the littlest children on the bus, who never look happy, do they?

The Fish, you are so right. I wrote about "The Freedom You'd Have If You Sent Your Child to School" at my old blog:

Deirdre, in a similar vein, our hearts sink when we pull up to a museum and see a herd of empty buses, and we cheer when we arrive just in time to see loaded buses leave!

Rebecca, in our new town, we have already met a bank teller who was homeschooled and very happy about it.

E.H.L., you obviously don't need to reassure your son that he's not missing anything. I'll bet he's a great homeschooling advocate.

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by and commenting :)

Lori said...

School started yesterday in my town. We're homeschooling (or home learning, as I'm trying to teach myself to call it, even though that's not entirely accurate either) for the first time this year. The neighborhood children are envious of my kids, and at least one of the mothers is just plain threatened by our choice, to the point that she tried to undermine it by talking to my kids about what she thought would be better for them (school, of course!). Unbelievable gall.

My kids have mixed feelings right now, especially my son, who was going to be in first grade and "get my own desk, and go to the computer lab, and, and...." He really feels like he's missing out, but as it usually is with kids, it's all the stuff that has nothing to do with learning. I acknowledge his feelings and tell him I understand; whenever you make a choice, you gain some things and give up some things. And I've asked him to just keep an open mind and see how the year goes.

We have a big adjustment year ahead of us, but I think after a few months of freedom and some new homeschooling friends, my kids will worry a lot less about not being in school. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Barbara Frank said...

Lori, congratulations on your decision to homeschool. That mom certainly had a lot of nerve to talk to your children that way. She obviously has issues. How did you counteract what she said?

You know, we always took homeschooling one year at a time (the thought of doing it long-term was too overwhelming). And yet we're still at it after 20 years. I hope you and your children have a fantastic year!

Lostcheerio said...

The best way to combat that bus envy is a trip to the zoo on the first day of everyone else's school. Look, the zoo is EMPTY. The animals are waiting just for us! Huzzah! Let's stay as long as we want in front of every exhibit, and then have ice cream. Still miss the school bus? Hehehe. :)

Barbara Frank said...

LC, you're right, a little P.R. never hurts, does it?