Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The best thing--the deepest, most lasting thing--that homeschooling has given my children is one another.
Tonight, as I prepared to send the oldest three off to bed after our reading time, Logan cast a long glance sideways at his big brother and sister.
"Do you think," he asked, "we could have a sleepover in Jo's room?"
Jo is the only member of our family who enjoys the privilege of her own bedroom. The four boys occupy what was once our master bedroom: Atticus in a single bed, Manolin in a crib and Logan and Oliver sharing a set of bunk beds. It is a decidedly unequal arrangement--four boys in one room, one girl in another--but this is what works for us.
Jo can feel left out of the fray, all alone when the boys are sharing hushed giggles across the hall as the lights go out. She is always eager to host one or two brothers in her room for the night. She says hearing them breathing is somehow more comforting than the sound of her clock ticking in the stillness.
My children--all five of them--are together all day. From sun up, when Manolin stamps his time card for rooster duty by crowing happily until one of the older boys stirs ... until sun down, when the last chapter has been read and the oldest three make their way up the stairs ... they are together. They are side by side as they unravel math problems. They are draped over one another as they read. They are being throttled by a toy truck as they try to build with Lincoln Logs.
Always, there is someone else. A sibling.
Personal space is precious in our house. There is no bus ride to a place where you might happen upon your sister in the hall and be able to pass her by. There is no separate life that intersects only at mealtimes. The same five people are constantly rubbing against one another, telling the same jokes, struggling with the same character flaws, testing the same buttons. A room of one's own must seem like an oasis, a set apart place to shake off the hurts and blisters of a day spent being jostled and questioned by younger brothers.
A person really couldn't blame Jo for drawing the line. For staking her claim. For protecting the small slice of the world that she inhabits alone.
After Logan's question, Jo threw her arm over her brother's shoulders. She is so tall now, so slim and feminine when compared to the lanky, Great Dane puppy of a 7 year-old that is Logan. Her head flopped over against his, their hair color a perfect complement but nowhere near a match.
"Can they, Mom?" she asked, throwing me puppy dog eyes.
I looked at Atticus and saw him cracking his Kid in a Candy Store grin.
"Let me grab your pillows and blankets," I told them, without reservation.
This is what I want my children to remember: a warm summery day giving way to a cool, slightly damp night. The sound of a fan humming downstairs. Jo draping herself half off her bed to talk as the night grows dark. The feel of a cool sheets spread out on the floor. A joke about bears and rabbits. Logan dropping off to sleep in spite of himself. The nightlight casting a barely-there glow across a pink room.
And each other. Always, each other.
This is the precious gift that homeschooling gives to children: the simple act of growing up in the arms of the people who love you. No barriers. No separation. Just togetherness, and the easy-going comfort that comes with truly knowing someone inside and out.