I have been home educating since 1994, when my eldest turned 4. SHe had been part time at nursery for a few weeks, and we had toyed with teh idea of home ed, but didn't really know much about it. During the Christmas holidays, after she had been at nursery for mornings only after one term, we talked to her about it, and she jumped for joy at the idea. Not that she was having a bad time at nursery. It just seemed nicer to not have to go.
Since then, we haven't looked back. As each of the new ones came along, we just didn't think about school.
Now that same big girl is a university graduate, Number 2 daughter (the Changeling) starts uni within the next fortnight, and today is induction at music college for the Boy.
That leaves me at home with the Meister, who is nearly 13 and loves the idea of melodrama and being a terrible teen, and the Babe, who is nearly 3 and showing all the signs of being just as independent and pig-headed as certain of her older siblings.
And I am having to figure it all out all over again.
I have talked a lot about how this year is a year of change for me. And I am not done yet. I do feel that once September is over, things will begin to settle down. We are starting up home ed activities; I am building a new network for the little one; I am getting on with things. I am slightly worried that come December, I will be burnt out and ready to chuck it all in again, but in the meantime, we are making plans and timetables and hoping to get out a lot. The Meister has a list of GCSEs she wants to do. We have several social activities to attend. And it seems that I am going to be as busy as I ever was when I was actively home educating 4 children.
The most important realization that I have had recently is that the Meister is growing up. I know that seems obvious, but it is still something I am thinking about. I had always thought that she and I would have this time together to do all sorts of things - when the older siblings were not around. I don't feel that I have had that much time for just her. I don't feel that I have had that much time for all of them, but particularly for her, and her eldest sister. I feel that the eldest got pushed out too soon, and the youngest got left to fend for herself. ( I know that isn't really true, but we are talking parental guilt here.)
It turns out, that now that I am ready to have all of this wonderful time with her, she is ready to do other things. Go figure. She has had her two terms of school, and is back in the realms of the real world now. But she is building her own networks and her own life, and I am really just a facilitator. I went camping last week, and she didn't want to come. So the Boy and the Babe and I went and had a nice time. She made the right decision as she had a nice time here. But I missed her and was sad that we weren't together. She is sleeping in late, which is what all teenagers need to do as they grow, but I am downstairs wanting to wake her up to "do things" which I wasn't when the eldest was the same age. I used to just leave her to sleep as I had other kids to sort out. Now I need to stop myself from nagging.
I have realized as well, that I think there was a part of me that was hoping to do all of the things with the Meister that I wasn't able to do with the others in a way that was almost like redemption. As if I could make up to She Who Has Flown the Coop, by spending time with the Meister. And hey, guess what? They are two different people. I am home educating the Meister, and she is a young woman, and a stroppy cow, and a little girl, and a bit too clever sometimes, and a pain in the ass, and a bookworm, and she is her own person who is growing up. I am not getting to make up for lost time. I am not getting live the perfect home ed experience that is in my head. I am not molding anybody. I am spending time with this person who pisses me off on an almost daily basis, until the time comes when she, too, will fly the coop, and then I will cry and feel guilty all over again.
So September for me is not just all the physical changes in what my children are doing, and what journeys they are starting out on. It is about the changes that I have to make in my head to adjust to the ever changing people that I live with. It is about getting ready for yet another adventure with yet another teenager, and no doubt doing some of it well and some of it crap. I am not coping well with the sudden desire of hers to act as if she is 17. I am not coping well with the messy room, and by messy, I mean health hazard - fruit flies, mouldy food, the general smell of decay. I am not coping well with her demand for money when we have so little of it. But I am hopeful. September does always feel like a bit of a beginning. And at least I realize that I am actually starting on a new journey, and that I don't have all the answers. I do have a lot of answers, but to all the questions that this child is not posing.
In a way, it is like I am a new home educating parent, and I have to figure out how to do it. All over again.