August 17, 2014

What I Learned in Kindergarten

In the next three weeks I will have three first days of school. L begins first grade on tomorrow, Monday. The following Monday JF will begin pre-k 3 and the week after that Ben will begin pre-k 4.

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!"
 If you can't tell from my mantel, I am looking forward to it.

Last year I was so nervous, so sentimental. This year I am so tired. But I also understand things now that I didn't a year ago, especially after some recent conversations, one with some friends and one with a priest .

In kindergarten I learned that I am definitely an introvert and often I am shy, even if I sometimes test ENFJ. Even so, I want a strong community of women of all ages and stages - real, Catholic women who celebrate feast days and go to confession and are embracing their crosses or just trying to because it can be so hard sometimes, dangit! I want women who laugh and drink and pray and I want to them to exist as a group which is full of mentors. I want the older moms to teach the younger moms and the younger moms to teach the youngest moms. I also learned in kindergarten that such a group does not exist at my parish and I have no idea what to do about it. I just learned that maybe that's my problem to fix and maybe it's not and I need to pursue that answer with real humility. (Lord, have mercy and help me with that one, please.)

I learned in kindergarten that I'm looking for whole families of fellow parishioners (I don't even care if your kids attend home, public, or the parochial school) who will walk with my family as we embrace our faith which is true, beautiful, sometimes weird, sometimes hard, and often very fun.

Wise owls.
I learned in kindergarten that I am not the only one wanting my children's school to be a place filled with the Holy Spirit, engaging kids academically and spiritually. I also came to understand that there are parents at my children's school who have chosen it because they went to private school, liked it, and want something similar for their kids. I understand that all of us are at different stages of life, grief, holiness... we are all doing the best we can with what we have.

Politically incorrect chalkboard, anyone? Yes, please.
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.

I understand that through the next three weeks my life will be pretty rough. Grumpy kids, tired and worn out from new schedules, learning, playing, and new friends, will come home hungry and ready for a nap. I also understand that after those adjustment weeks we will hit a pace and we will all thrive.

JP's birthday present worked perfectly.
I was reminded recently that God called us to this school. He made it obvious that to me over the course of one weekend that my children should be at the parish school. Kendra told me recently that she thinks "some of us are called to a modified cloistered vocation and some of us are called to a modified missionary vocation within our vocation to motherhood. Both are good." Wow, I could not agree more and I'm so grateful for that perspective. Obviously because God has called us to our parish school there is some aspect of missionary work He wants us to do and to also be the recipients of. That's exciting to me and also a little intimidating but God is good and wants what is best for me.

In kindergarten I saw again and again how blessed we are and how good people are. In kindergarten I saw how wonderful a Catholic education* can be. Looking back at the last school year I can tell you confidently that this really is the most wonderful time of the year: school is starting and there are friends to be made, new learning experiences to be had, a little bit more quiet in my home. ;)


About my mantle:

My friend Amanda inspired my mantel with her awesome one:

I was so inspired that I literally pulled up her picture on Facebook and ran around my house, collecting things to use for my own.

I took some objects from other parts of my house - owl candle from the kitchen, books from the living room, chalkboard and alphabet toy from playroom - and put them all together. Not as cute as Amanda's but still pretty cute, if I do say so myself.


* I feel like I should make a disclaimer. I know that Catholic education is not an option for a lot of you. Some Catholic schools are more elitist private schools and they very much lack any sort of orthodoxy and faith. Some Catholic schools are just too expensive, have no scholarships or multiple-children discounts, or are too far away. This post is not to make anyone feel bad about not giving their kids a Catholic education. Public, private, or homeschool: you do NOT have to defend your schooling choice to me! No way! I support you! And salute you! And cheer you on!


  1. I was really blessed to have an awesome community when Daniel was in preschool. He starts Kindergarten tomorrow in a new school in a different part of the state and I'm reminding myself that God puts me where I need to be and right now, I need to be in the school Daniel is attending and God willing, some parents from his class will be a new community for me.

  2. This is so encouraging for me, Bonnie. Our kids start school in two weeks, and I have been equal parts soppy sentimental about it (since our oldest is off to kindergarten) and stressed about how the school schedule will change our summer routine. I love how you describe that the routine actually brings peace to your family's lives - this is exactly the change in perspective I need this morning.
    Also: I covet your mantel. ;)

  3. I think I'm starting to turn a corner about our schooling choices - homeschooling doesn't feel like a calling yet, we have "those type" of Catholic schools in our area - so public school it is. I'm hoping to remember that it might be a calling of missionary work to use those schools as long as they right.

  4. Every year as school starts, I get more and more frustrated at the fact that we "have to" public school. We could probably make it work financially if we made some sacrifices. Our parish school is not outrageously priced, and they do offer scholarships. But my husband refuses to allow our children to attend. He attended there for 3 years when he was a child (over 30 years ago), and because he had one grumpy old nun who wanted him to write with his right hand rather than his left, he doesn't want to send them there. Let's forget about the fact that there are no nuns teaching there anymore, and that the education is outstanding. Sometimes all I can do is shake my dang head.

  5. Ahh, back to school is the most wonderful time of the year!! My kids go to our parish school for Preschool through 8th grade, and my hubby and I work in our Catholic highschool. I love Catholic schools and we do anything and everything to make sure our kids get educated there. Good luck with all your first days coming up!!

  6. I love it when my kids go back to school. Love. It. We love the routine and the schedule. My kids love their friends. I love our options (Catholic school, good public schools that are "AAA" rated, whatever that means...) and it is so much fun watching my kids grow up year after year. Blessings to your family through this next school year.

  7. You know, sometimes when I see all my homeschooling friends gearing up for the year and talking about all the advantages about homeschooling, I get anxious that I'm not making the best choice. My oldest has always been homeschooled and thrived! Last year, my middle daughter was just not emotionally ready for kindergarten. She was dreading it, getting worked up, making herself sick. So, we kept her home. I homeschooled her and she loved it. This year, she is PUMPED about going to public school for 1st grade. I need to remember that each kiddo is different, each year is different, and to be discerningly prayerful each school year.

    That comment by your friend about some of us are called to be more modified missionary really hit home for me. I truly believe that my oldest daughter is supposed to be in public schools to be a beacon of light. Thanks for the uplifting post! May you have a great first few weeks of school with your little ones!

  8. Wow, that quote from Kendra is SO good! Saving that one for sure. We homeschooled for a while and now are at such a great Catholic school (run by the Dominicans). I agonized over sending our kids and felt like such a failure at homeschooling! But there have been so many fruits since sending them which has helped assure us that this is where God has called us. Ps-love your mantle.