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New beginnings: my thesis, my daughters’ first time in public school

By Amy Nielsen

This year may well see a ginormous shift for us. It has come to my attention that the master’s degree I am pursuing is going to take a whole lot more concentration as we progress toward the walk. Coupled with a change up in the neighborhood dynamics, it looks like we will be moving to a more traditional schooling pattern for my girls. My two kids are currently reporting in grade school as homeschool students in our district.

Yep, my kids are gonna hit public school after only ever having experienced pre-school many years ago.


My greatest concern is not that they will be under stimulated after the dynamic day we usually have at home. It’s not that they will be unable to complete the work because we have deviated from the scholastic norm so much. What I am worried about is their growing sense of self and their ability to make it through a year still smiling. School is not what it was when I went. It’s much worse now.

I have one kiddo that is the life of the party. She is the class clown when we meet up with other friends for group classes. She has the spark of every rainbow ever created bursting from her little body. She is smart and creative and powerfully athletic. She is also physically disabled and is often chasing toads in her wheelchair.

My other one is a dreamer plain and simple. She is the kid that watches how it’s done so they know exactly how to do the thing right - that when they finally get to do it, there is nothing left to get. She is the one with the light of distant stars in her eyes with a touch of moon dust and clover in her pocket.

Thankfully our school system is tiny. When I say tiny, I mean one elementary school and one middle school small. The kids go to a county high school small. The elementary has 10 classrooms for six grades small. Classes of under 20 small.

I mean no metal detectors small.

This move to public school affords us to tackle two different conundrums with one proverbial stone. I need concentrated school time for my own studies as I begin earnest work on my thesis. My kids are interested in exploring learning in a more structured style. It helps that our neighbors’ kids are going back to school from homeschooling and will be in the same school and possibly in the same class.

I know that the life dreams my girls whisper at bedtime are beyond my current abilities to support them to. It might be time to reach out to those other resources that a school environment will provide. Beyond the social experiment in peer to peer socialization everyone is so worried about when we homeschool. With several friends who are teachers throughout the U.S., I know that there are opportunities afforded only to school kids that are feeders to the kinds of programs that will get them better positioned to achieve their dreams.

Having a science teacher plugged into the pulse of extracurricular activities is something missing from our current structure. Having a district to be able to help support my athlete in her competitive goals is something homeschooling has a hard time replacing. There are just some things that are better taught in a group setting. Gathering homeschoolers for a project is like herding cats into the bath. Rarely do we have the numbers or regular availability for team sports.

Homeschooling has given us the ability to see this opportunity as a social experiment of sorts, as an investment in learning how “the other half” learn. A tenant of our schooling has always been that to learn by experience is always the best practice.

It is important to be able to walk a mile in another’s shoes when given the opportunity, and this is that chance. If it goes south in a hand basket, being homeschoolers, we will just continue our current curriculum at home with the interim school time chalked up to something to revisit with a better plan in mind.

What do I most look forward to – six hours of uninterrupted writing time and new friends.

What do I most dread about this experiment, early morning school buses and IEP meetings.

Send coffee and wine.

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