Baby,  Kid's Boston,  Kindergarten

she’s going

Days and days of jungle humidity ninety-degrees here. Summery groceries: 1/ lemonade 2/ melon, tomatoes 3/ cold chicken, roasted in batches in the morning 4/ good cheese.

Unfairly to you my friend reader, I have gone from talking about homeschooling here to talking about the fact that big fish (Should I start using pseudonyms for the girls? They’re getting old for this, aren’t they.) is going to school.

The first thing that happened: back in March, I called the appropriate public school number on the appropriate day and they muttered over the phone to me that we got into the school we hoped to, but had always assumed we wouldn’t. Several of our neighborhood friends did not get spots, so believe me when I say we really didn’t think it would happen.

Then we started engaging with the school: a five day, 8:15-3pm program (those hours! heart stop). The meet-the-parents events, the meet-the-principal, visit the playground, etc. Then Lux started counting the days until kindergarten, and began telling me, every morning, how many days remain.

It started to feel like a great experiment, if not a great idea.

Maybe because homeschooling has always been an assumption for me, it was an interesting twist to consider public kindergarten instead. Underneath my curiosity about the program there was the shift at home too. Lux has been home with me every day for the past five years; it feels like I’ve watched in near slow motion as she changed from a quiet being who wanted to be only with me and resented intrusions to a girl who loved activities and became drawn to big groups with leaders.

It’s exciting to think how much she might enjoy the structure of school.

I ordered $300 of crisp, warm, adorable navy and white uniform clothing for the year. With the discount that Land End’s seems to circulate every other week or so, it was actually $200, but I’m putting it in the books as $300. 

Like a farmer muttering “Lord willing” over his crops, I’m remain internally watchful of it not working. My friends have warned me that there will be at least four weeks of exhaustion and adjustment. I get that, and I’ve got plans for our post-school afternoon relax and destress sessions, namely: begin with cookies and end with yoga stretches.

But the changes I’m watching for, that I would view not just as difficulties but as deal-breakers are: 1/ whether she became a poor playmate/partner to her sisters at home. 2/ if she became less curious in engaging new ideas than she is now. 3/ whether she becomes a shell of herself for the time she is with us—tired out, cranky, a slumped pile of oreo crumbs and uncombed hair awaiting the next morning’s challenge to begin again.

And perhaps most inconceivable, to me—if it was November, and she was asking not to go to school the next day, every day that week, we would be done.

And yet, I remain expectant l for it to be totally delightful. I think she’s going to find a gang of friends immediately. I think she’s going to love seeing them every day. I think she will laugh a lot. I think she will run victory laps around the playground. I think she will fall in love with her teacher and come home quoting her. I will hear confusing retellings of once factual stories. She will eye me with a worried eyebrow when I mention morning errands that we did without her. She will discover interests that we’ve never even thought to suggest. She will smile benevolently at Joan and the pudgy chocolate chip cookies Joan will offer her from our morning. She will take on school spirit like a new cape to be buttoned around her neck. Alma will keel over with delight when Lux walks back in, as she does now, even though it’s only been five minutes.

When she goes in September, I imagine it feeling like turning off half the lights in the apartment, and then going on with our day.

I hate that when Lux asks about fall habits—will we go apple picking? Will we visit that farm again? I’m thinking mmm…probably not. Joan maybe, but you won’t. But: perhaps Joan’s current three-year-old moody emotional spiral might be buffered with more of my patience to go around? Perhaps Alma will have a real afternoon nap and Joan will enjoy a quiet time again?

And the school itself, Joe characterizes it like Sesame Street—solid and urban, but soft around the edges. Worn-in bricks, stately fence, 70s tile cafeteria, the tricycles lined up in the hallway ready to race out into the playground. Amazing teachers, devoted parents, incredible principal. Who wouldn’t want to help their daughter engage with their city on that level?


  • Kristen

    Such a thoughtful post! I love reading your blog Rachael (even though I don’t have kids). Best of luck to you all as Lux goes through this exciting transition!

  • Heather Tencza

    Oh wow! I loved this even as I consider similar things about sending my preschooler to a 2 day/week program this fall. Loved your deal breakers! Those are mine exactly. I was the oldest of three and remember vividly simultaneously loving my kindergarten so much yet being so sad to miss out on things with my mom and siblings. It’s so strange to be the oldest! Hope it goes well, and thanks so much for sharing!

    • Rachael

      Such a sweet, vivid memory to share Heather! She has noted similar oldest-only type things, like that she’s the only one who ever did classes. And now Joan gets to do classes! I hope the two days are going well so far? (I responded to this last month, but it must have been deleted with my new system.)

  • Liz

    Such a beautiful post. Truly. Your heart and mind seem to be in the right place on all matters. We tried the public school with 2 out of 3 kids (3rd kid is 4) so I understand the concept of trying it to see if it works. I wish all of you the best this school year! I think she will do wonders. 🙂

  • elizabeth

    This made me tear up!
    When she goes in September, I imagine it feeling like turning off half the lights in the apartment, and then going on with our day.

    Best wishes to Lux on the start of kindergarten!!
    ps- Your writing is my favorite.

  • Tara

    From what you’ve said before, I think I know which school you have picked and I think you will LOVE it. Lots of our Charlestown friends send their kids there and I have never heard anything but wonderful praise for the principal, the teachers, and the parents. I hope she enjoys it and that it makes the time you are back all together even sweeter!

    • Rachael

      Thanks Tara! I responded to this but it must have been deleted with my new system, so sorry! Yes, she had a great week! I think it was hardest for me, after all.

  • Renee

    My three-year old started preschool today, and those deal breakers are in place at our house as well. I’m on board with an adjustment period (his teacher told me that enjoying preschool was “a work in progress” for him) and needing to have a gentle recharging period in the afternoon. Being a shell of his funny, sensitive little self would not be okay. At all. Best wishes for a happy school year!

  • Hannah

    What an exciting time! I experienced this with Violet this past year. She was in a part time, very relaxed preschool at the local Y and was thoroughly bored with it. She always replied, “Just sat around” when I asked her what they did that day. Her disenchantment with the program and some life changes led to her going to a full day, 5 day a week preschool starting last January. It’s the best decision I’ve made. She comes home energized and excited, singing me songs in Spanish and telling me which constellation is her favorite. She insisted I put a ‘Sycamore School’ sticker on my car and tells anyone who will listen about Mrs. Grau. It’s incredible to watch her love of learning get nurtured in this new way. I hope Lux loves kindergarten!

    • Rachael

      Hannah, I responded to this but it must have been deleted with my new system. So sorry! Anyway, I loved hearing about Violet’s “just sat around”, haha! That sounds like an amazing school move for her, and I know how much exhausting research and deliberation finding kind of thing can take. So fun to see her thrive. She must be so proud of her brilliant mommy who gets smarter by the day! xoxo.

  • Tennille

    You are making the right choice to at least try a good school. If it doesn’t work out at least you’ll be able to say you gave it a shot and won’t second guess or wonder what going to school would look like for her. I have to say that my girls did become a bit of a shell of themselves while at home when they first started school but in the best way. It was because they were so enriched at school and so exhausted when they got home. They were not as curious and into learning with me as they had been before (it did circled back around eventually) but it was fine because I knew they were getting so much wonderful enrichment and exploring time during the school hours. I also put so much weight on academic enrichment that I discounted the value of social enrichment (figuring out how to work with different types of teachers, working with kids with different personalities than our family’s, etc). A few years in I now know that for my children, the social component of school and figuring out friendships and working with different types of people is just as enriching and important as an enriching and open curriculum. Best of luck! Your writing is some of my favorite.

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