We’re exactly two full weeks into the new school year, and already I’ve gotten approximately two dozen emails and countless texts from my “mom friends.” We’re all struggling with the same thing: getting our kids to feel normal in the least normal year ever. But, as the Rosé gives way to Pinot on our weekly video calls, the conversations have become more focused on me.
Sure, we spend a fair amount of time discussing the uncertainty and confusing stops and starts around getting back to public school, but they’re reaching out to me as a “new school” or “homeschool” or, more accurately, a “microschool” mom. And I’m glad they are, because in some ways this damn pandemic is bringing us a little closer—the irony isn’t lost on me. A few of them have even taken my lead to try something different for their kids this year.
My friend Amanda has lived in my subdivision since I was a teen. She’s a working mom with three kids, two of whom are already in college. That said, she had what she often refers to as a “whoops” baby when she was in her 40s. Whoops is also arguably the most intelligent 13-year-old I have ever met. Whoops is struggling, and uncertainty of attendance has made an inflexible education even more rigid.
Amanda essentially wanted to know if “my way” would be any different for Whoops. I wasn’t satisfied with the one-size-fits-all textbook, sit-and-get, rote memorization my kids were getting. It just wasn’t the right fit. In their microschool, my kids are able to work at their pace and dig deeper into subjects that interest them most.
Amanda and I have taken the conversation sidebar, digging deeper on a couple Zoom hangs. She’s ready to make the move. And mightily in the new-norm public schools. The confusion around models, inexperience on virtual platforms Whoops is soon to get the individualized education that’s best fit for her. She will not be denied. LOL
Stephen is a “dad friend” amongst “mom friends.” He and his partner have a six-year-old son, Trevor. For Trevor’s school this year, they’ve explored what seems like every possibility available to them. They’re notoriously slow to make a move.
Although Trevor has enrolled in public school kindergarten, the experience has been nothing short of traumatic for them already. Stephen has been a mess in our last few calls. I’m guessing that they’ll eventually decide to homeschool.
At our weekly chats, Stephen is kind of the “mom” we all lean on for those big picture answers. In a past life, he was a college admissions officer, so he knows the little tricks. He’s also helped me to shape my understanding of homeschoolers. He frequently mentions just how impressed he was with many of the homeschooled applicants he saw in his office.
As the youngest and most recent addition to our mom hangs, Cailyn has brought a lot to the group. Her addictions to flavored sparkling water, Lizzo, and boxed wine are among my favorites. Cailyn has two little ones (ages five and seven). Her youthful naiveté is equal parts frustrating and inspiring during our recent calls. She’s ready to take on the world (and the local school system) on behalf of her kids, both of whom she’s pulled out for the foreseeable future.
Her family and our little friend group are chipping in to ensure Thomas and Everleigh get the attention they deserve this year.
Our little motley crew has taken a lot of shapes over the years—pizza and beer Wednesdays at Tomato Bar, Salmon Bennie breakfasts every Saturday, and the weekly one-off lattes. During COVID, it has taken yet another form and has taken a bigger place in our hearts. Our conversations, while a bit heavier, are more important than ever.
I’ve had literally a dozen other examples of conversations over the last month or so with my “mom friends” as we all get moving in earnest into the “school year.” And yeah, I enjoy talking about my experiences as a “nontraditional” education parent. But you know what? I also really enjoy talking about being a mom. I enjoy the connection and camaraderie I feel when I’m actively helping with fellow moms. And I learn so much from each and every one of them.
Our group is the scaffolding that keeps us all sane right now. As we dream together of a day where we can, again, enjoy our PSLs together, we’ll spend this fall leaning hard on each other. I can’t help but take a moment to be thankful for my mom friends . . . the pandemic brought us closer. Go figure. Actually, I don’t know how I’d do this without them.