When I decided to homeschool Kathleen, I knew that some days I would think about my friends who had time for play groups and park dates while I was stuck inside on a beautiful morning discussing mixed numbers and telling Edwin to stop sticking his fingers in Joseph's nose. On those days I would wonder why exactly I had thought that this was a good idea. Downsides are what choices come with. It's just part of life.
One morning Kathleen got an invitation to take Sophia over to a friend's house. It was the friend's birthday and her mom was surprising her with a day of friends (this was during spring break). I sent the girls over and stayed home with the boys. As I fed only two people lunch that day, I realized that my life could be like this every single day - quiet, cheerful, manageable instead of chaos for four with a side of whining - if I sent both girls to school in the fall. I was very tempted that morning. Very. Tempted.
But this week as I took the children out for walks every single afternoon to enjoy our gorgeous spring weather, I thought that perhaps crazy lunches and busy mornings were a pretty good tradeoff for empty afternoons filled with hunting down turtles in the butter-yellow spring sunshine.
I try to keep our life fairly simple to balance out having four children under the age of seven home all day. Nobody has any lessons (other than what I teach them), sports, or 'after school' activities. In the fall I looked into enrolling the girls into a dance class sponsored by the American school here. The administrators were very happy to accommodate me (yes, we feel it would be good for them to spend time with their peer group [and not home with just their crazy mother to skew their world view and turn them into social outcasts]). But when I saw that I would be spending Friday afternoons from 1:15 until 4:00 at school trying to keep two boys entertained, I asked them to remove the girls' name from the list. If I had only had the two girls, it would have been no problem. But I don't, I have four children. So we stay home a lot.
But this means that every afternoon when every other mom around is going to pick up their child from school, I'm finishing my nap, or reading my scriptures, or sitting with Sophia while she reads. While the other children are attending Brownies or play practice or swim team, my children are riding their bikes around the neighborhood and creating contraptions that all three can ride on together. When it's homework time they're helping me with dinner or playing in the bath with their siblings.
I like to pretend that I'm being virtuous when I think about not having the children in more activities. After all, so many studies say that children are over scheduled and could do with a little more boredom. Childhood isn't the same as it was twenty years ago. Children are losing their ability to think creatively. All of those things make me feel better, and maybe a little smug (please don't tell anyone).
But really, I'm just lazy. After a long morning of school, I'm ready to have an empty afternoon to recover before we enter the crazy zone of dinner- and bedtime. And I love it. I love not having any commitments, not having to drive anywhere, not having to help children with homework while trying to make dinner. I love not having parent-teacher conferences (Ashley, how are you supporting your child's educational endeavors? Oh in lots of ways, Ashley). I love never. ever. having a school assembly. And volunteering. And fundraisers. I love having my day belong to me and nobody else.
And those are the upsides. Also a part of life. A good part.