Our decisions for this year’s schooling unfolded in the weeks leading up to the school year starting. We decided over the summer that Lola would attend our neighborhood school (where Harper and Everly had previously attended) for half day Kindergarten while keeping our homeschool routine for Harper and Everly. This would allow us to continue to camp and travel throughout the year and I’d teach Lola on the road when we were gone.
As the weeks unfolded though, we had to pivot and make some major changes that we didn’t foresee. We’d signed up Harper and Everly for a homeschool enrichment program for homeschool kids in our district where they would attend 6 classes on Fridays while homeschooling with me on the other days. They were flexible with our schedule and we’d still be able to camp. There was a school we had chosen in the spring that turned out to not be a fit as we learned more about them, so with just weeks before school was to start we looked at another similar program that also turned out to be not a great fit for us. So we were back to homeschooling Harper and Everly full time with Lola in school 4 hours a day at our neighborhood school with plans to travel which was fine for all. It was a plan we were all excited about.
With all of the camping and homeschool prep, I didn’t fully absorb that Lola was entering kindergarten so the week before I started feeling really nostalgic and sad as I was with Harper and Everly when they started Kindergarten. Lola was always my little buddy who was with me for years as I’d run errands and shuttle her sisters to their activities and now she was going to be in school herself. New chapters are hard. Her first day came and we all 4 marched her up to her door with so much familiarity on her side. She knew the school, Everly first had her teacher when she was in kindergarten, and a good portion of the faces were ones she knew. She was proud to be there and we all watched her strut into her classroom without looking back.
After that, we went home and had our first day of homeschool with Harper and Everly. We had a big trip planned for camping that we put together 6 months ago when we hadn’t thought we’d send anyone to school, so we had canceled that first week so Lola could get her footing while still preparing for the second leg of it after Lola’s first week of school.
We headed out for our midwest trip stopping first in Nebraska, then Iowa, and then to see family in Wisconsin following that same route back again. It was a great trip filled with things we didn’t always get to do since we had family on the other side and spent a good amount of time with them rather than in the the camper the whole time. This included laundry and home-cooked meals which felt amazing, more on that later. When we returned home, we had a week until we left for another trip that would span 3 weeks in September across different lakes in Colorado. Fall camping in Colorado is the absolute best.
During that week home, we started our mornings with Harper and Everly coming with me to drop Lola off at school. They would see their friends and hug them hello as they’d zoom past heading to their doors. They were sad to see Lola go into their school with their friends and really looked forward to dropping her off and picking her up with me every day. They missed being there, it was clear. We had a family meeting and asked them if they wanted to return to school and after some discussion they said that they did. And that was that; the girls would start in 2 days.
We scrambled to get their school supplies together and I started packing up our homeschool room and we went to the zoo for our last day together. Then the morning came when we were to drop off all 3 girls for the first time at the same school. Lola was delighted at the realization that her sisters would be at school with her at the same time, while Everly struggled to find a familiar face in her class. She hadn’t yet completed a full year of elementary school having the pandemic end her first year of kindergarten early. Harper’s transition was the easiest since she has been in school the longest and had a teacher she liked and friends in her class. She was ready to go. We walked Lola to her door, then I walked Everly to her door while Mike walked with Harper. Everly hugged me and then her teacher who she knew and really wanted to have, then she began walking in the door and came back to hug me again. I could sense her hesitation as could her teacher who told her that she understood why she was nervous not having been at school for a whole year. She gave me one last hug and walked in.
And it was over.
Our year of adventure. Our plans. Our schedule that felt so nice and so easy allowing us time. Being all together. Looking forward to travel for this coming year and seeing new things. All of it was, for now at least, done.
The house felt quiet that morning after drop off, even with Mike still working from home. Without any homeschool, or big trips to plan for, I was left just wondering what my days would look like for a while before getting back into a routine.
I’ve had time to look back at homeschooling and our camping adventures and have some thoughts. First, I wouldn’t trade homeschooling last year for anything. We wanted to camp and be free in a time that felt really heavy and scary. People would ask all the time what I did for curriculum and there isn’t a map or a website that tells you exactly what to do. You know through their district what their learning targets are, but then you piece together what the curriculum looks like and the lessons you teach and where to buy it. Then you figure out how you teach it. And asses it. And when/how to quiz and test. When to push and when to let up. And how they’re doing when you don’t have 25 other students to gauge their learning against. It’s hard. So that part of it is what I won’t miss at all. As great as it was to be together and see them learn, having to be solely responsible for their learning was really very challenging and daunting.
And now here I am. I’m happy to get back here to writing with SO dang much to talk about over the past year when I didn’t have the head space to put thoughts into words. I have our month of October full of pumpkin patches and Everly’s birthday and sports. I’m also back to making the girls’ costumes which is something I haven’t been able to do in a few years. Time is a gift and I want to put it to good use while also investing some of it back into me.
So that’s where we are. Back to school, activities, and all that it brings. I have some posts coming up about camping, and the pros and cons of homeschool with some real thoughts that I’ve had some time to reflect on and of course some beauty finds.