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The sun is beaming, the birds are singing and the cicadas are humming. It is a hot summer day and the kids may be driving you nuts by now. You glance at the calendar and feel a moment of joy, because the first day of school is just around the corner! That’s right! It is Back to School time! Time for the buying of the supplies, the juggling of the dollars and the pleading with your child to ‘just try it on!’ outside a Target dressing room. Aren’t we all just so excited?!
It amazes me during this time of year how often I will hear how nice it must be for us, as homeschoolers, to not have to deal with Back To School shopping and the sudden busyness of getting ready and then going back to school. First, I want to ask, “Do you think we write on slates? And you don’t see us walking around naked, do you?” I usually just say, “We need things, too.”
The truth of the matter is though, that as homeschoolers, our Back to School looks different from a lot of our Brick-and-Mortar school friends, but in some ways it is very much the same.
- Not only do we shop for the typical Back to School items like new markers, pencils and paper, we are doing it on a tight budget. We are shopping the best deals, looking at the tax-free holiday sales (Georgia’s Sales Tax Holiday this year is July 30-31, click HERE for a complete list of what is tax exempt) and making all kinds of lists. Our supply budget is tight, because we are also shopping for curriculum. Public, and even private school children are given the curriculum that the educators have selected on a much broader scale. I am taking the subject that my homeschooler and I have agreed on (which basically means at this stage that it is a subject she wants to take and I have agreed; it is her education, she has the biggest say in what she studies) and researching every publisher of that curriculum for that subject as much as possible. Some times I find the perfect fit, sometimes I have to piece together my own to get to what we want it to be for her.I also have to buy the curriculum that matches any classes she takes at our homeschool co-op type center, The Learning Village. Many people are amazed to hear that we buy all curriculum and school needs ourselves. There are no tax breaks, no true free curriculum. Yes, there are other options, like online school which can offer free or discounted curriculum and materials, but that doesn’t work for her and so we go with her needs and that means what she studies is entirely on us. Customized education. Since once size doesn’t fit all.
- We are scrambling trying to fit it all into the last weeks of summer, too. Sure, we can go places and do things when our friends are in school, but a lot of places actually curtail their hours and some even close up shop during the school year! For example, if you’re a homeschooler and want to see the Cherokee Indian outdoor drama, Unto these Hills, in Cherokee, North Carolina, you better do it now because once school starts and the summer ends, so does this. One thing that is different though, is that on your first day of school your pictures will have happy shining kidlets, ready to voyage off on the school bus for the first time, or the shy smile of a new middle-schooler. My photos will be of a relaxing high-schooler, standing in a mountain stream, or a coastal tide pool. There may be a tent involved, or a few nights at a family member’s waterfront home. Maybe we’ll go back to help at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center in Jekyll Island, we could clean Tybee Island beaches again, or explore historic forts and lighthouses. We may even stay in town and hit a museum or other area attraction**, but whatever we do, our focus is that we ARE NOT on the school bus, sitting in a classroom, lining up for everything. We made the decision to homeschool, and as homeschoolers we are different in some ways, and sometimes we just have to embrace that difference. First day of school for us will be different from yours. Doesn’t mean it is better or worse, it is just different and that is okay. I am going to enjoy all your back to school photos, I hope you enjoy ours.
- Doctor’s appointments, physicals, eye exams, dental cleanings? Yep, us, too.
- The feeling of more money flying out the door than coming in, what with camps and summer activities plus all the prep for back to school? And let’s not even discuss the new instruments and extracurricular sign-up fees, but we can definitely talk about the amount of food we all go through in the summer! Pool food, play date food, picnic food. Movie food, games food. Food for the kids who hang out in your house all summer. Wasted food. Ugh. Yep. Totally us, too.
- We are also excited to get back to school. Back to work. Routine is good. We miss our co-op friends, the field trips when the public school friends are in school. The kids have driven us nuts, too. Target is also our sanctuary. That mom you nodded to over your Starbucks Venti Caramel Latte in the Back to School aisle? That was me. I nodded back. Sisters in solidarity. I saw your school list, I have one, too. Home school, public school, we are still educating our children in the way we see fit. Here’s to us. And that new box of crayons, the one we bought for ourselves.
No matter how we go about it, we all share the common goal of having our children educated and setting them out on that path of greater education in the best way we know how. We aren’t so different after all, no matter how unsimiliar it may look from the outside.
**Special note to Atlanta area businesses: Hey y’all, wake up! We want Back to School events, too! Metro Atlanta is covered up with homeschoolers and their families. Kids who also want to feel like they are special in their town on that first day back. Offer us free (or deeply discounted) admission on the first day of school with our DOI (Declaration of Intent) and be excited to see kids that want to go to the museums while all the neighborhood kids climbed on a bus that day. You’re missing a big market!
I hope you enjoy all your Back to School preparations, I know I am going to make the most of mine! And until we meet in the supplies aisle, remember,
Just keep swimming!
The Peachy Queen
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