She carefully picked out her clothes and donned her backpack with excitement for her Junior Kindergarten interview. She met the principal, secretary, and teachers, saw her siblings' classrooms, and spent some time in the classroom that would be hers. All that remained was the moment of truth: when the first day came, would she climb on the bus with her big brother and sister?
This morning the verdict was in: no. No, she would not.
She woke up crying this morning, and her tears quickly gave way to that inconsolable, incomprehensible sobbing that children in hysterics do: "I don't want to go-ho-ho-ho!!" I took her on my lap and spoke calmly to her, as her older siblings tried to sell her on the idea of school with enthusiastic promises of new friends, birthday invitations, kind teachers, and recess. All the while I examined my motivations for sending her to school when she's been insisting all along that she wanted to stay home.
A primary motivation was to help her get past her anxiety when it comes to new experiences. Since she was a baby, she has been afraid of: men (especially with beards), dogs (especially big black ones), horses, boats and water, and being away from me/Nanny/Daddy. I wanted to see if hanging out with children her age would end up being fun enough to outweigh her misgivings. I'll admit, the idea of being home with just one child to care for for the last two months of my maternity leave had its appeal as well!
Those ideas flew out the window as I looked upon the distressed, mottled-with-crying face of this little girl. I don't want her first memory of school to be that she was forced to go when she didn't feel excited and ready. I'm home anyway, and when I go back to work, first Nanny, then Daddy will be home. She may decide to come with me when I return to work (as I'll be her teacher), or she may not. Either way, I know she'll be in the loving care of those she loves most.
A butterfly of joy and anticipation opened in my chest when I called the school to say, Not yet. We'll work on early literacy and numeracy concepts here at home, arrange play dates with her four year old friends, and maybe she'll be ready in November. Or maybe not. But I feel that this is right for this individual child, regardless of what was right for her siblings at the same age.
So. Unexpectedly I'm homeschooling, for a few months at least.
Interestingly enough, her mother (who was also a third child), felt the same way about Junior Kindergarten. Every morning, I'd cry as I boarded the bus. I can remember my mother waving to me from the porch, my baby brother in her arms, and all I wanted to do was stay home. Eventually, my mother let me stay where I wanted to be, and I started Senior Kindergarten without trepidation.
And now, that Junior Kindergarten drop out is a Kindergarten teacher!