I’m 39 weeks pregnant, waiting for baby, feeling huge and very slow and with lots of practice contractions slowing me down. Plus my daughter and I are sick. Which means we’ve basically stayed inside our house for two weeks. I was worried about this time period, and the time with a newborn, well over a year ago. Preschool seemed like such an advantage for these weeks and months when I’m physically not capable of doing even half the things my daughter might want to do. Just drop them off and they get playtime and seemingly “guaranteed” constructive learning, so you don’t have to feel guilty about being too tired to facilitate. Other parents say, “oh won’t that be hard with the baby” when they find out we’re homeschooling. It goes against all advice about “healthy” daily activity to keep her home all day. For my own sake, being solely responsible for her makes me less able to get the exercise I need. All the bending over and picking up and packing and persuading involved in just going for a walk around the block is so much harder with a giant belly in the way.
The thing I didn’t quite expect were the magic moments that come from boredom and staying home. Other unschooling parents talk about this, the value of a little boredom and total freedom to explore. Our first few days feeling stuck at home were antsy, and we definitely needed to find ways to get energy out and get a lot sensory stimulation. That means a lot of swinging. It means dad gets home and he does a LOT of wrestling and horseback rides, as in “no, 27 more horsey rides!” I’m no unschooling martyr–I love this post from “The Ugly Volvo” and often feel like, “Do I want to actively engage with someone who’s enthusiastically screaming for me to run around like a lunatic or would I rather just lie there peacefully as he steps on my eye?”
So there have been several days when we’re getting toward 6pm, my daughter has watched tv for 6 hours, and I think, “well these will just be the lost months.” Then I’m scrolling through facebook and she stops me, insisting “go back up go back up!” Because she saw the chalk drawing heading this article. And suddenly she needs to draw it. So I get her markers and paper and she looks up and down at the picture, telling me she’s studying the shapes and how many trees and mountains there are. And suddenly she’s drawn this.And I think, there is no moment for this in preschool. Sure, there’s plenty of art and inspiration. But there’s no moment where we’re both doing something we’re sincerely interested in, and sharing it together. And taking as much time as we want. And NO PRESSURE whatsoever to draw or copy (in fact I was slightly miffed I had to cut off my internet reading, ha!). And she’s learning–about art and representation and about making it her own with her favorite–a ladybug flying over the whole scene.
Then I’m ready for bed and find her up with her dad, again taking over my computer and typing all the numbers from 1-9 and then asking how to type those complex double digits from 10-20, then screeching laughing about the whole production and wrestling again on the floor. And I no longer feel guilty about the preschool thing. Aside from all she’ll learn with the new baby, it doesn’t matter if she learns her numbers in a classroom between 9-11am or on my old computer typing between 9-11pm while having crazy time with dad. It doesn’t matter if I can’t at the moment do everything I feel I should do, but rather that the people in her life listen, see her for who she is, and find ways to make life fun even if when we can’t give her every outing and every play date she might want. I told my husband that I realized there’s value to being bored, and as someone who didn’t work himself raw in school and has always made time for his own interests (hours in music stores just browsing etc), he responds, “duh.” I guess I’m still learning.