Twas the Night Before Public School Starts

Twas the night before public school starts … and I’ll admit that there’s a little nostalgic twinge of excitement I feel for those who will be beginning a new school year tomorrow. I remember first days of school. The fuss over what I should wear, the giddiness about seeing friends again, the anticipation of using fresh new notebooks, sharp pencils, and backpacks not yet scuffed and stained. I see all those joys shining in the eyes of my children’s traditionally schooled friends. And for just one tiny whizzing-by-so-fast-that-you-will-miss-it-if-you-blink moment, I think maybe my kids are missing out. After all, for a child, the First Day of School Eve is second only to Christmas Eve in heart aflutter expectancy. But for my kids, tomorrow is just another Monday. Tonight is just another Sunday night.

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twas the night before

But as all the children in our neighborhood and beyond gathered their school supplies, laid out their clothes in preparation to be roused before the sun, washed behind their ears for the first time since June, and laid tucked in their beds before dark with visions of assigned seating dancing in their heads . . . we headed out for adventure.

Straight from our favorite pizza joint after a day at the pool, ungathered, unprepared, unwashed, and untucked, we made a spontaneous trip out to our 30 acres of happily ever after (land we have purchased and hope to build on some day). The golden sun was already hanging low in the sky, lazily dipping behind the treed hill next to our future home site as we bumped down the rocky dirt road. Windows down, a warm breeze caressing our cheeks, fireflies dancing, kids giggling, and the sounds of endless summer nights emerging from the branches and brush around us. Grasshoppers assaulted Helga (our mammoth van) and we all dissolved into fits of laughter as Daddy bid them adieu with a flick of the windshield wipers, sending them slipping across the glass like tiny bulgy eyed cartoon characters.

We parked Helga beside our creek, and the kids rambled one by one out of her doors and windows and climbed to sit on her roof. We sang a few songs and made silly jokes. The boys got a little rowdy and someone may or may not have tumbled off the top of the van and and someone else may or may not have gotten a “talkin’ to.” But as the sky grew darker and the night sounds more pronounced, everyone turned their attention upward as the stars of the show we had come to see finally emerged from their secret summer roost and appeared all around us.

Bats! Wings furiously flapping they flew over, beside, in front of, and behind us. Dipping, lurching, careening, cutting through the cool dusky air like furry kamikaze pilots. There were shrieks of delight, pointing, giggling, and at least one choke hold of surprised uncertainty . . .

We spent  a good while enjoying their antics, with Asa bouncing around on top of the van, the girls sitting cozy under a sleeping bag, and Ethan relaxed on his back with Ezra beside him, snuggled close for big brother protection. Then we searched the sky, each trying to be the first to spot another bat, talking about what they eat, where they live, why they only come out at night, and how they find their food. We decided we would build a bat house on our land as a “thank you” to these tiny magical creatures who come out to dine on the mosquitoes who would otherwise be dining on us!

When the coyote’s howling began to punctuate the darkness, we loaded Helga with sleepy little sun kissed and night enchanted bodies and headed for home. We stopped to admire the almost full moon. Ezra yawned and asked if we could follow it all the way home. Justin said, “Of course we can, Ezra, you just watch and make sure it doesn’t get away from us,”…and we did. We followed that bright and shining Night-Before-School-Starts moon all the way into our driveway, passing by homes in which slept children brimming with anticipation. We carried drowsy little ones up to their rooms and put them in their beds. Unwashed, unprepared, and unaware of tomorrow being anything other than another Monday. And tonight being anything other than another Sunday night.

As I kissed them goodnight and my 10-year-old almost-grown-up boy asked me to hug him just a little longer, I was sure. Sure that no matter how many First Day of School Eves end with just another goodnight kiss and a “What are we doing tomorrow, Mom?” I need not give a second glance to that whizzing-by-so-fast-that-you-will-miss-it-if-you-blink little doubt. There is nothing that can take the place of the untethered life of a homeschool family.

My kids aren’t missing out on a thing.

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Emily Brooke Allen lives on 30 acres of wonderful in northern Arkansas. She and her husband, Justin, have the privilege of leading 6 super cool kids (Ethan-11, Julia-9, Asa-8, Astrid-6, Ezra-4, Juniper-2) into adventure, creativity, and a quest to find God’s calling for their lives. She loves books, photographs births, believes in a relaxed and natural approach to homeschooling, and blogs to document the simple joys in her life.

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  1. This is such a beautiful story it brought tears to my eyes! I feel the same way sometimes. I have been homeschooling my oldest for a couple years now. She has a Nov birthday so she would have just missed the cutoff last year and this would be her first year of public school. All my friends were taking their kids to buy backpacks and school supplies. I wanted to join in, so we did! We just bought a backpack and filled it up with all sorts of school supplies (some conventional some not so) and took it home for our new school year. I figure she can use the bag as her overnight bag when she stays at my parents house who are now retired. On a “school night”. 🙂

  2. Love this! Brought tears to my eyes, thank you! After the day we had yesterday, I really needed this!!

  3. Awesome post! Very encouraging. Makes me even a little more anxious to build a house on our 25 acres of “happily ever after”.

  4. Wow I love this! It’s my frirst year homeschooling and I have felt kind of sad seeing all the first day of school post on Facebook but reading this is very encouraging. Thanks

  5. I so needed to hear this…this is my first year homeschooling after my kids have spent 4 years in the public schools. Last night was open house at their school. I admit, I was a little depressed not going this year and all the excitement that the first day of school brings. in fact I questioned God’s calling and said ‘why did you call me to homeschool?”…look what my kids are missing out on.” But I woke up this morning, looked at my kids and decided this is where I want them to be.

  6. Such a beautiful picture of the integration of family and learning that takes place when you homeschool. I am so blessed that after two grueling years of public school we are able to return to the realm of homeschooling. It is truly a blessing to be enjoyed with no regrets! My sons last two years before college will be spent where it matters most! Thanks for sharing your beautiful words of encouragement.

  7. wow, thank you so very much. we have homeschooled off and on for several years …. always i get that feeling of “feeling sorry” for the kids and just had this feeling yesterday watching the bus pull off of our road. all the posts on facebook saying how excited they were for their children to start their first day of school…. we attend a very small church so friends are no aplenty… we also live on 30 acres in the middle of NOWHEREVILLE…. lol. we have farm animals and the usual puppys and kittys…. reading this truley made me choke up as we LOVE LOVE watching the bats scoop up the mosquitos each night and staring up at the sky until we all almost fall asleep. i say to the kidos.. see we are so blessed… we can set out a tent and listen to those coyotes howl out in the middle of NOWHEREVILLE… and we can do it on a school night… yay… lol. thanks so much for sharing… it really blessed my soul.
    Britt from LAWLEY ALABAMA

  8. Loved this. I think that fleeting moment of what-my-kids-are-missing grows even MORE fleeting every year! While I have some fond memories of a few of the happier aspects of my public school education, when I really stop to consider it closely, I’m flooded with memories of the BAD aspects of it as well and it makes me so thankful for the things my children, by the grace of God, will NEVER have to experience there. And I remind them often, because I know it from my own experience, how blessed they are to be homeschooled!

  9. Your post captures the essence of how homeschooling can be on our best days and inspires more of these days filled with whimsy and grace. 🙂

  10. I seem to never ever be able to make up my mind for my 4 year old, homeschool or public. Just when I thought I had made peace with public, I read this. Now I need to cry a while and change my mind again. It is driving me a hair from insane. No peace. Pray for me. I need peace about this so bad. No matter what I decide, the other side seems to haunt me. God bless you! Wonderful story.

    1. Hi, Freda, I’ll be praying for you as you figure out the best choice for your family. It is a big decision, but remember that neither choice has to be permanent. Hugs to you!

      1. Thank you Cindy!!!!!!!!!!!!! Right after I wrote my last reply here I had an big emotional……well, moment. Cried out to God for help with my weeping heart. Had a long talk with my husband. Realized that while my head can rationalize public school and try to become convinced it’s ok for me and maybe best, my heart just cannot follow. I’ve had so much peace for the last 2 days about choosing to homeschool! I’m so excited to see what adventures and wonderful things God has in store for us! In my heart, I just cannot “let go” of them in this way. It feels totally wrong to my heart, no matter how much I may be sorry for a moment over what “they’re missing” in public school. I know God has for us what He wants for us and will make sure we are walking in it. I thank God for whoever posted this a 2nd time on fb late in the day Friday, which resulted in me reading it. I thank God that He talked me down from the public ledge once again! 😉

        1. Wow, that’s amazing, Freda! I’m so happy to hear you’re feeling peaceful now, and I completely understand about not wanting to let your kids go. God gave them to *you* and it’s right for you to stay close to them during their growing up years. God is faithful to lead us!

          1. Yes, it’s so good to see personally in this experience the work of God as he is indeed faithful to lead us. I have never, ever had as much peace as I do now about it all. I thank Gos so much for this peace! What a wonderful feeling after the horrible angst of trying to decide to public school. All I can say is God helped me get there. I’m so glad they will be home with me! I won’t have to worry about their safety near as much, both physical and especially spiritual. And I believe with all of my heart they will be able to be children for as long as God wishes it, instead of being pressured into adult things much too early. Thank God. 🙂

        2. It gives me peace too. I drive a school bus and I’m never sorry that my kids have not been part of all the bustle and stuff that goes with public school.

  11. Such a wonderful way of putting it. Part of what my husband and I love about homeschooling is the sense of innocence and freedom that our children have. Too often I see children the same age as mine already pulling away from their parents, turning away from a “Mommy hug” because they are embarrassed by affection. We love that our little ones are still just that, “little ones”.

  12. What a wonderful article that expresses exactly the emotions I’ve experienced the last couple of weeks. So nice to know I am not alone! As an educator who has spent the last 15 years in and out of public schools, both holding a job and/or sending my kids there…………I can tell you that each family has to make the decision that is best for them and go for it. Just remember…………….as a good friend once told me ……………it doesn’t have to be permanent! Thank the Lord we live in a country where we still have freedom to choose! If one or the other is not working and God lays it on your heart to do something different you CAN! I have 3 daughters……….12 yrs., 10 yrs. and almost 3 yrs. old. and we are beginning homeschooling for the second time. What a privilege! I am thankful to have found this website to lend encouragement and support. Blessing to all…………….Julie

  13. LOVed,Loved,Loved this!!! Thank you so much for writing this! I’m so glad I found this also! This is my first year homeschooling my girls that were previously in public school. I know in my heart that this is what we are supposed to be doing. I was a little sad also not sending them back to school with the friends, but we have been loving it so far. I am stilll nervous that I am not going to be able to teach them everything they need to learn, but am trusting God to equip me for this. When I decided to do this I also thought I could still work part-time as a Massage Therapist, but am finding that is probably not going to work out! Still praying and seeking God’s direction on this. Not having this extra money coming in could also be a problem. I guess we will see what happens. My priority right now is my girls – that I know for sure!

  14. Beautiful post. <3 And that "whizzing-by-so-fast-that-you-will-miss-it-if-you-blink"…so true. As a homeschool empty-nester I encourage all young moms to treasure the days. (Even the roughest ones are realized a treasure one day.) And now I have the great JOY of seeing my grandchildren beginning the home education journey- the journey of lifelong learning. <3

  15. You painted such a beautiful and realistic picture of the homeschooling family life, with your words! I think I smiled through the whole thing.
    I grew up not much liking school. Any grade, ever. Until art school following high school. But I DID always love ‘playing’ school as a kid, and I always loved everything about the ‘back to school’ season. Turns out, I was bound to have a heart for homeschooling and be a teacher to my own children, and now I couldn’t love school any more! And I STILL love the back to school time! What is humorous to me is, we actually home school year round; just more lightly through the summer. And yet, both the kids AND I still get the ‘back to school’ excitement butterflies! Because it’s the turn of a grade, all new books, fresh supplies, and fresh plans for a whole new year. We even take photos. So despite no having really stopped schooling since last year, my kids keep saying, “I can’t wait for the first day of school!”….which will be the 5th. And they are dying to get their hands on their new books. But I have them wait.
    I’ve happily let a lot go, in regards to what my kids are missing out on by not going to traditional school. But I was not letting go of the fun, of the first day back to school! (You know, since 3 days ago. ; )

  16. I don’t normally respond to the hundreds, no thousands, of posts that I read but I couldn’t let this one go by without a comment. Your initial question of “are they missing out” comes to mind often with so many things and what a wonderful reminder of what our homeschooled kids are actually getting from not going to school everyday and what those who go to school are actually missing out on. Thank you.

  17. I love this story. There are moments like this that remind you why you homeschool! We were created to enjoy life and it doesn’t get much better than that!

  18. Beautiful! We’re not officially homeschooling yet because our little guy is only 20 months old, but we know that we’re going to. Most of the time I feel excited about our future journey. But sometimes I wonder…is he going to miss out? And I doubt myself just enough to wonder if we’ll be able to do it. But when I read things like this, that doubt disappears. Because I want THAT life. I want it for my kids. I feel so lucky that I’ll be able to give it to them.

  19. That was sweet. I have 2 in their 20s and I have never regretted homeschooling and being with them. I am very in-tune to times that won’t re-happen and fleeting moments for families. I’ve been fortunate in that because I have been able to throw caution to the wind and enjoy moments and tuck them in my heart.
    I drive a school bus now, this morning I left my 12 year old sleeping and I’ll still let her sleep because she doesn’t have to start school until August 20th (by our calendar) and even then we have a bit of lazy time in the mornings, unlike those little kiddies waiting on me this morning in the early morning light.
    It’s a lovely thing, enjoy 🙂
    This is what our school year look like (I noticed you have on close in age) http://www.notquitewonderwoman.com/7th-grade-homeschool-finally-and-subject-to-revision/

  20. We have homeschooled since after Pre K and now my daughter is going into the 7th grade. I also now have a two year old, so school has become a new interesting journey. I used to wonder if she was “missing out” on the excitement of the first day of school as well. This year I got a great affirmation. Last year we had a less than spectacular year of school because of rebuilding our home after a tornado last spring. School was in the rental house, in the car and on good weather days outside/inside the house we were working on. This year, we picked a starting day (this morning actually) and I got everything planned. We got a new backpack (yes, we don’t really NEED a backpack, but she likes to take stuff to the library to work on and it makes her feel more ‘schooly’), what school supplies we needed together last night and she wanted to help get the classroom set up. She says, “I don’t know if I can sleep tonight, mom. I”m so excited for school to start!”. This made me VERY happy. 🙂

  21. Gah!! LOVED this!!! We’re gettin’ stoked (ok, maybe it’s just me – LOL) for another year at home – it’s my 19th year, and no 2 have ever looked the same…just as no 2 years in any of our lives is…

    Yes, there have been milliseconds when I thought maybe they’d be better off “out there”…but they were in the early years. Having already sent two into the world (they’re 25 and almost 28), I’ve been so happy to see them thrive!

    Unless the Lord physically sat down across from me at the kitchen table and told me to enroll them, it’s my heart’s desire to see the last one graduate from our classroom-at-large!

  22. Love love love this article. We are starting K this year…at home!!!!! I know exactly how you feel. We are from NW Ark. We love those nights too. Thanks for the wonderful thoughts. I too have pondered the thought, is our daughter missing out on something?!! Nah!!!!

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