Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The First Day of Kindergarten


Today it began. We had been preparing for this day for years and all at once it was upon us, Clara's first day of Kindergarten. It was just last week that it dawned on me, if we hadn't chosen to homeschool, today, the day after Labor day, we could have been sending Clara off into some unknown world, a classroom filled with new faces led by an adult that we knew very little about. She could have been stepping onto that school bus full of kids, most of them much less innocent than her, while I stood on the side of the road bawling my eyes out, but trying not to let it show. Upon this realization, I breathed a sigh of relief. Of all the fears I have of homeschooling, none could compare to the fear I would have in sending Clara off to school where for several hours each day,for thirteen years, it would be someone other than myself that would be the primary influence in her life. I had determined that even had we found the greatest school on earth, this five-year-old still needed her mother. "Ahh, she's home forever," I thought, (or for at least the next thirteen years or so.) Then suddenly, "Aak! She's home forever!"

We chaotically corralled the children to breakfast amidst the normal shrill screams of Eleanor and the "roars" of Aidan in the face of Lucy, our portly cat. Max did his usual gurgle in the Bumbo seat as Clara dressed in her new school jumper from Mimi, her grandma, and debated about which style of hairdo best suited the outfit she now donned. Dad brought out the holy water, gave blessings to each member of the family, and asked for God's grace upon the new school year. Finally, the interview. Dad pushed "record" on the camcorder and said, "Today is Clara's first day of Kindergarten." No one could see my eyes well with tears as I hid behind the cameraman nursing the baby. Imagine if she had been getting on that bus. We took every imaginable grouping of photos, minus Eleanor who was now in the crib, her tantrum muffled behind closed doors. Finally, when we'd exhausted the battery in our camera, Daddy left for work and it was time to begin our first "real" session of school.

We reviewed the date and the weather, and for Aidan's sake, the alphabet now posted on the kitchen wall. Math went well. Even Aidan quietly did his own work at the little table. (By this time we had tossed a few books in Ella's bed and she had ceased her screams and Max was sleeping soundly in the nursery).

Then came handwriting. Clara has been writing "C-l-a-r-a" for over two years. She's quite proficient in most of her letters. One forgets, however, when it's been over twenty years since she's learned to make her letters, how difficult drawing a "K" can be. But if one's name is Clara Koop, she must learn to make a "K" at some point, no matter how much she might dislike it. "Great job, Clara. You've done a super job with those K's! Let's try it now without the dots." (I have been making three dots vertically on the left and two dots in the same fashion on the right to guide her.) "Noooooo!" she yelled. "I NEED THE DOTS!" I'm sure you can imagine all of the kind and patient words I said to encourage her. After all, it's only the first day of school. It shouldn't be too hard to keep my smile sweet. "Remember, Clara, I'm here to teach you how to make your 'K's'. You can do this."

"You're not my teacher! You're my MOM!"

Eventually, we made it through our first stumbling block. She actually ended up making her own dots and using them to guide her strokes. Fine. It's only Kindergarten. Our poetry lesson went much better. She has an incredible gift for memorization and is developing a knack for performance. (She's obviously got a dramatic edge to her personality. I wonder from whom she acquired this.)

So, on to tomorrow, the second day of Kindergarten. I feel the sting right now. Somehow the first day of college doesn't seem so far off.


Cathy_of_Alex said...

Awwww..touching post, Dad.

Brendan Koop said...

Actually it was Molly who posted, but it was a great post!

Debbie (Nana) Koop said...

Thanks for the pictures and the post. They help me to feel like I was almost there with you. I love how Clara used "You're not my teacher. You're my Mom" when it suited her not to listen to the teacher. She's been telling everyone that Mom is my teacher for weeks and as soon as "teacher" wanted her to do something she didn't want to, she said you were her mom as if that meant she didn't have to do it your way. Children do try the patience and even more so the home schooling parent. You're doing a great job, Molly. I pray for God's grace to envelope you and Brendan as you take on this extra responsibility.

Kristi said...

Ah, I remember like it was yesterday. My oldest son's first day home-schooling. Now he's a senior taking college courses. Where does the time go. But I still get the joys... my 4th son started Kindergarten today, though it wasn't as dramatic as that first child, he was proud of his new books, until he got upset at not being able to make an 8, threw a fit, and was sent to his room for a nap ;-)
Kristi - homeschooling now for 13 years - 5 in "school" at the present - 3 young ones to get into trouble while I teach - and one bun in the oven.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Oops, I thought you did all the posting. See, how closely I read!?!