This morning I am packing lunches. Spreading almond butter and honey. Cutting up carrots.
It’s the last week of our honey-sweet summer. Six days from now you will be walking into your first day of kindergarten. As I glance up at the two brown lunch sacks standing tall on our kitchen counter, it hits me. This is our future—for the next couple decades at least. Me, standing here, packing lunches and you, preparing yourself for a day you will spend somewhere else.
And suddenly, a wave of grief gently washes over me.
I wasn’t planning on a mourning phase before school started. I’ve been through the nervousness, the preparation phases, and recently we’ve been sky high with excitement and anticipation.
I know you are ready for this. But that doesn’t mean I am not aware of hard things that will be a part of your school experience over the course of the next several years. You will know bullies and excluders. You will hear inappropriate jokes, curse words and unkind conversations. At some point, you will become aware the things that can damage pure young bodies and souls that we have sought to shield you from. There will be first crushes and new feelings. Searching for identity, purpose and acceptance. There will likely be inadequate teachers and administrators, a lack of challenging material for you, and other learning obstacles to overcome.
I am aware of these things and more. There are unknown dangers and challenges that I cannot at this point foresee and that you may never even tell me about. I am fully aware of the risks for you.
But I had not thought about the loss for me. I had not anticipated the grief I would feel as this phase of your childhood comes to an end.
I will miss you here terribly.
But I feel confident that you stand to gain by going to school is greater than what I stand to lose by letting you go. And the power of your personal journey in stepping out of our little home world will prepare you for more brave things to come. If these things were not so, I would not send you.
You will make friends who are different from you. They will come from different backgrounds and cultures. They will have different religious beliefs, family dynamics and personal habits and values. You will learn from them and you will see that there are many ways to be a good person and there are many ways to be a good family. These friends will enrich your worldview. You will have chances to be a leader. To develop and demonstrate empathy. To stand up for the underdog when no one else does. To welcome the excluded and comfort the afraid. You will have the chance to tell the truth, even when it feels risky. To stand out when everyone else blends in. To stick up for what you know, even when others can’t find the courage. The social environment you have at school will provide a laboratory for the qualities we try to model, teach and instill in you here at home.
You will have teachers who encourage the potential in you, adults who will be powerful mentors as you develop the powers of your mind and your own leadership skills. The opportunity you have to see the world from other viewpoints will expand your own point of view. It will open your mind and help you to think more deeply about the experiences of others and the complex nature of human problems. I hope that you will learn that there are not truly any “sides” but that we are, in our deepest natures, one. I hope that your experiences with teachers and mentors outside our family will help you know that one “side” never has the whole story and that one “side” is rarely all right or all wrong. That the human family is not composed of “us and them”—but that we are a patchwork quilt. Each of us is our own ragged shape, sewn to those around us and connected, through each other, across the whole Earth.
You will come to know that your parents don’t have all the answers. That your teachers don’t have all the answers, but that you have the power to find out the answers.
I know, somewhere deep within, that next week—just as an exciting new door opens, a sweet, small door gently closes. It is the door from this life we have had for the past five years, all together here at home. It has been a sweet time. A time of intense learning for all of us. Filled with imagination, stories, and finding answers to every kind of question. It has been a time of building. Building confidence and self-esteem, respect and empathy for others, foundations of integrity and hard work. It has been a time of nurturing. Nurturing your natural curiosity. Nurturing your deep thirst for spiritual things. Nurturing the bonds between us that are deeper than time, space and place. Life at home with you and your siblings these five years has been a beautiful garden. Full of very hard work. Digging. Planting. Pruning. Watering. Feeding. Warming. At times laced with thorns and graced with fragrant blossoms at others. It is a place that is always teeming with life—ever changing, ever growing, ever becoming.
As we prepare for next week, when you will step out of our home and the wide world opens up to you, I hope you know some things. I hope you know that your home education does not stop now. On the contrary, we are still at the start. Your dad and I will continue to challenge your mind and encourage the development of your reasoning and critical thinking skills. We will still ask and answer hard questions together. We will talk about current events around the dinner table and work through the tough things we experience and hear about. We will read together. Get outdoors. Visit museums. Build robots. Delve into math problems and run-on sentences and science experiments. We will draw and paint, create and imagine.
I do not feel that I will no longer be your primary educator—I know your home education will continue in that deep, earthy place inside of you as we continue to learn together here. I do not feel threatened by the other adults who will become shaping influences in your life; I celebrate their contribution and thank them. While I will continue to be a watchful advocate and protector for you, I don’t feel the need to have absolute control over your environment. Rather, I rejoice at the diversifying of your world and your life experience. I trust your ability to make good choices with the tools you’ve been given.
This is an exciting step, and while I can’t walk through this next door with you, know that I will be here supporting you all the way. No matter what you encounter in this journey or how you may change, I know where your roots are. Because I planted them myself. And I will continue to nourish and prune and watch over my garden as you grow upward and produce good fruit of your own.