I am forty years old. For as many of those years as I can remember, I have hated school. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it, but I hated school. I was an A-B student. I made straight A’s in college. Yet, I still loathed every minute of it.
This time of the summer always reminds me of that fact. When I see commercials about back to school sales, my stomach automatically ties in knots. When I see school supplies in stores, my palms start to sweat. In fact, when I was little, I used to get mad when I saw the displays of school supplies that the stores set up in June. I would ask my mother why they had to start selling them so early in the summer. We had just escaped prison, and already, the stores were hinting at the fact that we had to go back. Kill joys. On a side note, I also always hated Vacation Bible School because they scheduled it for the week after school got out. Why, oh why would we want to sit there all day right after we had escaped?
When I was little, I would cry myself to sleep the night before school started. Then, I would cry myself to sleep the night before the second day of school. And the third. And the fourth. By about the fifth day, I would run out of tears. And, actually, let me correct that statement. Even when I was in college, I cried myself to sleep before school. I hated it that badly. Really. In case you think I'm exaggerating about the crying, let me assure you that I'm not. My mother could attest to that fact. She got to listen to me cry.
I don’t know why I hated school. I was a good student. I behaved. The teachers liked me. I wasn’t picked on. I had a few friends. Life at school shouldn’t have been that bad, but it was. I hated the routine. I hated the rules. I hated being away from my mother. It was all bad. In 6th grade, the addition of having to change clothes in the locker room with other girls took my disdain to a whole new level. By high school, the social clubs and pep rallies sealed the deal. School was awful.
As I hear other mothers rejoicing over the fact that school is starting back soon, I am secretly in mourning. I’m sad for all the little Al’s out there who cry themselves to sleep before school. I’m sad that the routine is about to start back. Even for homeschoolers, the start of the school year means the return of routines and schedules and having to remember small details. Summer is almost over. Books and pencils will soon take the place of sunscreen and bug spray. (Actually, that’s not true in Florida. We’ll still need both for many more months, if not all year.) The lazy days are almost over, and “back to the grind” will take on a whole new meaning.
I still have dreams about school. I frequently dream that I have lost my schedule. In my dream, I apparently have not been to school for a while, because I can’t remember where I’m supposed to go. I’m going from room to room, asking if I’m supposed to be there. I’m panicked because I know I am going to fail. Then, I find the room, and I know it’s the room. When I go in, the teacher asks if I’m in that class, and I tell her I am. She doesn’t believe me but looks at her roster. Sure enough, I’m supposed to be there.
Actually, come to think of it, that really did happen to me once in college. It happened in the math class that I only went to for exam days. Halfway through the semester, the professor asked me if I was in the right room. I told her I was and gave her my name. She found me in her gradebook and said, “Oh, here you are, and you have a 99% average.” She looked very confused.
Another dream I frequently have is that I have a paper due. In the dream, I haven’t started on it, and it’s due tomorrow. I can’t find the book I’m supposed to be using. I can’t figure out what the topic is. I just know I’m going to fail. Then, I wake up and kiss my old wrinkly hand, because I’m forty and not in school! (See? Forty isn’t so bad after all.)
The last dream that I have occasionally is that my best friend, Willow, convinces me to go to school naked. It’s Naked Day at school; everyone is going to be naked, she tells me. So, I show up in all my glory, and I’m the only one who is naked. I walk around, covering my vital parts with my hands and my elbows, and I look for Willow. When I find her, she is clothed. She looks at me like I’m crazy but loans me her jacket. (She’s a good friend.) In my dream, it isn’t like she has betrayed me. It’s like she honestly doesn’t remember that she told me to show up naked. She tells me I must have dreamed it. That’s just great. I even have nightmares about school in my nightmares.
Even now, at the ripe old age of forty (Forty! Bleh!), I hate school! Now, before you ask me, no, this is not why I chose to homeschool my kids. In fact, it did not weigh into my decision at all. Actually, I homeschool them despite this, because my initial selfish belief was that if I had to suffer through school, all other children should have to suffer through it as well.
I will say that I think my children should be much more grateful for the fact that they don’t have to dread the school supplies. I tell them, each and every time we walk through Wal-mart, that they should bow to me and adore me for keeping them home from school. So far, there has not even been a curtsy. Usually, instead, they roll their eyes and say something like, “Yeah, yeah. We know. You cried yourself to sleep. Blah, blah, blah.” Ungrateful little twits. It’s a good thing they’re cute. -Al