A little research proves that we live two blocks away from the best elementary school in Somerville. Everyone in the neighborhood raves about it, their test scores are on par with Arlington’s elementary schools, they go all the way up through 6th grade and their school theme is “Global Education”, which they say means organizing all their academic subjects around teaching children about the interconnectedness of all things and how to be the kind of ethical, planet-saving, social-justice-demanding, global citizens I’d want to hang out with.

If we are ever going to go the traditional schooling route, this appears not a bad school.

I should be feeling deeply blessed, not anxious. Public school was not on my radar at all when we chose this house. I just wrote it off as an impossibility that we’d ever use the school system and chose a house my housemates and I liked near ‘s office. It’s simple luck that we landed next to what seems to be a pretty great school.

And I have So Many Resources. I have a kid who knows herself and her needs well enough to talk about wanting to try kindergarten and see if it works for her. I don’t need to worry about her getting brainwashed by school. If it doesn’t work for her, I’m totally prepared to homeschool her and if *that* doesn’t work, I already know a lot about all the area private schools and have bought myself a little time to figure out how to pay for one.

No matter what, Rio will be *just fine*.

And yet…

As any regular reader of this journal knows, I had a pretty rocky experience of public schools. I attended schools in six different districts in four states. I was diagnosed as ADHD and put on Ritalin when I was 4. I was just before the wave of that diagnoses being popular, so I got to deal with a lot of teachers who had never had an ADHD student or did not believe the disorder “existed”. I was often the only kid in my class on any medication. I didn’t socialize well with my peers. I was too smart and too weird.

Even before conceiving Rio, I have always been clear that I’d spare any child of mine the suffering I went through in schools. So Rio wanting to check out our neighborhood school is Very Stressful for me. How do I lead her into the lion’s den and keep her safe there?

Then there’s all the resources I’ve put into creating my home-based Waldorf program, and preparing to homeschool her. There’s a big investment there. If she goes to school, I’ll do it for a few more years, as long as my current kids need me anyway, but at some point the gaping void of those potentially kid-free mornings will call me. I’ll have to do some Hard Personal Work to find out who I am when I’m not covered in baby food and craft glue. Probably I will also have to get much more serious about my “writing career”.

And can’t forget the shadow voices: who will I be if not her every-waking-minute-mother-teacher-entertainer-playmate-mother? What will I do when Serena follows her down the block to that little brick school, should it come to that? Will I just totally seize up? What will I use as an excuse to cover my weaknesses – my messes, my lateness, my forgetfullness, my unemployment – when my kids are no longer my sole, all-consuming responsibility? What if I never write anything good again?

And then that other shadow: Will she be hurt? Molested? Killed?!?! Will she be spoiled? Become *gasp* normal? Learn to believe Columbus discovered America and war can be just and math is harder than shopping? What if the kids don’t like her? What if they teach her to hate herself? What if she cuts her own hair in the girls’ bathroom? What if she lights a trash can on fire and gets suspended? What if I let her wear crazy clothes to school and she gets picked on?

Can I bear to watch school change my jewel of a child?

All that shadow stuff is mine. It’s the fear any parent feels letting their child grow into her own person, I imagine. My task here is to acknowledge it, and give myself space (this space, incidentally) to name it and feel it and say “Yep, you feel that way. That’s cool. This is a scary prospect in some ways.” And then let it go.

My task, in other words, is that impossible work of letting Rio be Rio, and not reenacting my own childhood on the canvas of her life in an effort to heal myself. She’s not my chance at a do-over of everything that ever hurt me. She’s a person who is Not Me, and we’ll get along better if I can Always Remember Never Forget that.

I know I just referred to this as impossible, but of course I will do it. Before breakfast even. I’d never consider keeping Rio home from school to gratify my own ego or shield my own frightened inner child. This is just the part of the process where I give myself a little room to express some of the fear and confusion I feel about it.

When I get anxious, I immediately start thinking about options. I could say no and work to help her get her needs met through homeschooling. I could try again to get a scholarship for her at one of the several good alternative schools in the area, like Fayerweather or the Friends school.

I could send her to Sudbury Valley. We could afford that with some clever budgeting, and probably could hook up with a carpool. It would totally queer my local low-impact living scheme, so I think I’ll hold this as the back-up trump if she ultimately wants school but not public school.

Right now she’s not so picky. She wants to get out of the house more. She wants her own cohort of friends her age who live nearby. She wants to play different games than I’ve got in my treasure chest. She wants time away from her little sister, to be read a storybook in peace or do a craft without having to wrestle her scissors away from a toddler.

Kindergarten would, almost certainly, meet those needs for her.

Rio’s not asking for a custom-made, idyllic homeschool experience. She’s not asking to commute two hours a day to a free school on a gorgeous outdoor campus. She’s not asking me to fight for a scholarship at an elite, alternative private school. She just wants to visit the local kindergarten and see if it works for her.

So we’ll try it. Open houses are next week.

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