August 17, 2015

Heading back to school and flipping the bird at the Mommy Wars

Back to school is early in Illinois (mid August) but it makes me think Fall thoughts.

After a summer of playing in the sprinkler, eating drippy popcicles on the patio, and watching movies in the cool air conditioning during the heat of the day I am ready for the next season. It's much less sweaty for this pregnant woman.

I'm pretty pumped about autumn and what that means in my part of the country. I can't wait to get the autumn decorations out, but I'm also feeling a little emotional - just like I did when L started school. The same kiddos who went to school last year will be in school again this year, but Ben is now beginning kindergarten with the official school uniform and full school day. There's so much I want for all my kids, but this just about sums it up:

But this is not about me - this is about you and you, L, are about to do some amazing things. School is so much fun. Being a part of a school community is so much fun. You will learn, play, grow, and be loved. I hope you are happy and challenged and encouraged. Please know that your father and I expect you to always show compassion, generosity, and respect. We expect you to always be kind, good, honest, and hard-working. We want you to love and serve and glorify our good God.

As much as I am getting misty-eyed over milestones, I am also remembering that the schedule and rhythm school brings to our home is a huge gift for me - it is freeing for me. That's one of the things I learned in Kindergarten:

More than anything, what I learned in kindergarten, after two years of pathetic attempts at super basic "homeschool" preschool (we're talking letter, shape, and number recognition here along with a little catechism), is that I need structure and I am really bad at giving it to myself. Our days ran so much more smoothly when the school day made us get up, get dressed, and be out the door by a certain time. Our home was immeasurably more peaceful following the school day routine. And perhaps most importantly I thrived with that schedule. Thrived.

Next year may bring something different for us as we make decisions to keep James safe from his dairy allergy, but right now I feel really great about what we're doing right now:

I am " interested in educating and building up [my] children, family, and community through traditional school," and I'm seeing that happen in our family's life now, which is really wonderful.

At this time of year I see a lot of my friends beginning their homeschooling. My good friend Grete is in week 3 because my good friend Grete has got her act together! Sometimes I look at her life and her amazing kiddos and the wonderful things they are able to do and... I am so happy for them while not wanting that life at all. (Which I say with a laugh and confidence that Grete would laugh too. Or at least smile. Perhaps while shaking her head at me.) I've seen how the schooling choices they've made over the years have really blessed their family and I feel like I've watched my friend become a better and more truer version of herself.

It's been really beautiful and totally a flipped birdie to the Mommy Wars that her parenting choice has been so different than mine and yet we are both so happy in our vocations and homes, and we are friends.

Once I wrote about not homeschooling:

Having the desire for be part of a traditional school community, to have time to volunteer in your community, to create or work, and then using the time while your kids are at school to do those things doesn't mean you're selfish or that you care less for your children. God has gifted you with certain talents, convictions, and holy desires - be who He has made you to be and you will set the world on fire.

I 100% believe that is true, and it's been a gift for me to have the hours of the school days to spend more time with my littles, to work on and create things that I love, and to try to serve our parish, friends, and family. But I also want to stress that that's what works for me and you should see Grete and all the things she is able to accomplish.

Back to school time can be such a beautiful testament to the fact that God has made us each unique, that there are seasons in our lives, that we have been gifted with different talents and strengths, that we are all on a path towards holiness, and that when we embrace those things our lives will look splendidly different but equally good.

Today two of my kiddos have their first day of school with another beginning mid-week. I'll be laying low in internetland over the next couple of weeks, tackling various projects and obligations and helping my cranky, hot, tired, hungry kids re-adjust to the school year. By September we will be on a roll so you'll see more of me then. Have fun, keep cool, and be good. ;)

Tangent in question form: Do you think it's okay if I get out the lovely fall decorations for the August 22nd Blessed Brunch I'm hosting? I have a rule (that I usually break) of no fall decorations before September 1st... What do you think?


  1. I always love your school posts, Bonnie. :) And as for fall decorations.... Maybe a happy medium would be sunflower-ish decorations? They bridge the gap between late summer and early fall perfectly!

  2. Yay for school starting!! We have another week and a half to go...pray for me ;) And I totally get what you're saying about seeing other moms do things differently and being ok with that and happy for them. I think that comes with maturing as a mom. When I was younger and people did things differently, I either felt attacked or ashamed and now I'm like "Good for you!" and here's what we do! So much easier to get through life this way :)

  3. I am not quite where you are in terms of the Mommy Wars. I still feel guilty that I work full time and my 6 year old goes to school and my babies are home with my mom instead of me.

    But, I am getting there. I am seeing something magical happening between my mom and the kids. We weren't super close growing up and I think she felt some guilt for that, having to work all the time. But, we are closer now, and she is so close to the kids, in ways she might not have been if she weren't watching them. In some ways I can see she feels redeemed. And, being able to be a part of granting my mom those graces is important. Just as it is important for me to be vulnerable and need her again.

    It might be easier if my job felt important or fulfilling rather than something I do so we can pay our bills and have health insurance. But, that just might be my cross. Or, maybe I am laying the foundations to something fulfilling? Who can say?

    I do know that, even if I were to stay home, my kids would go to school. I thrive with schedules and do not do well at sticking to them on my own. We are lucky enough to have a fantastic Parish and get enough financial aid to make it work. And, I know I wouldn't be as active in that wonderful community if my son weren't in school.

    Sometimes your situation is what is best for you, sometimes it is what you have to do, sometimes it is a little of both and you just cant see it because you think you are supposed to look like everyone else. But, I am slowly realizing it is ok. You can work and still be the best mom you can be.

    PS. Fall is my FAVORITE season and I just LOVE fall decorations. So I say GO FOR IT. We are up in MN and this last week was icky hot and humid, but some cool air and rain is coming this week and it will be fall like and I am SO excited!

  4. Great post, Bonnie! We are homeschooling this year, but I have the same mentality as you. I think each family knows in their gut what will be best and they should go for it, no guilt needed! We have my kids home for a few reasons, but who knows what the future will bring? I'm happy to pray for direction (and then have peace about that decision, whatever that may be!) year after year.

  5. Meteorological fall begins September 1. You wouldn't want to NOT be ready, so bust out your leaves, pumpkins, and spice! ;-)

  6. Meteorological fall begins September 1. You wouldn't want to NOT be ready, so bust out your leaves, pumpkins, and spice! ;-)

  7. In my mind, Fall begins on September 21, and since it's hot down here in Georgia until at least then, it would seem really crazy to bust out fall decorations in August. But it's your house, and you're pregnant (and not in Georgia) so I say go for whatever makes you happy! - nancyo

  8. I too like to flip the bird at mommy wars. I homeschool, and all of my closest friends here do not. And it really doesn't matter. We are friends and our kids are friends, and respecting each other's choices and what works for each is just how we roll. As for the fall decorations, I say do what makes your home feel special to you. I'm still clinging fiercely to summer (my kids aren't starting school until at least next week!), but I love fall decor, and can definitely see wanting to go there :) I hope you have a wonderful time at your brunch!

  9. We are in week 2 here after homeschooling for 2 years and I'm starting to get over the panic and ride into the peacefulness!! I'm loving our school and so happy we can put the kids there (with Dominican sisters!!!) I saw a ton of leaves falling off a tree the other day AND found a red leaf on my walk. Definitely not too early for fall decor :)

  10. I cannot even think of fall decorations right now. My kids start August 25 and I'm still tying up loose ends on that and making sure the school shoes meet the handbook rules (this years handbook has a WHOLE PAGE on shoes.) I also go back to work August 25th and making sure my bus is clean and ready.

  11. This Floridian cannot answer your fall question.....considering we'll still be swimming in October. :)

    And I loved this: "I am so happy for them while not wanting that life at all." I can SO relate to this and it is FREEING!