Mourning the End of an Era

The school year finishes today and Ella is officially done with kindergarten.

There have been a lot of great things about this school year, but frankly it has been somewhat of a difficult year for me.

I’ve always been someone who liked a schedule (so much so that when I was a child, my mom had to basically avoid ever HAVING a schedule because it made me so insane if we didn’t follow it to the letter – as you can imagine, I was a delightful child to have), so I assumed that I’d love the structure of school.

Instead, I’ve been surprised by how sad it’s been for me to have our family tied to a school schedule.

Even homeschool, which gives me a lot more flexibility than public school, still needed to be done on a daily basis.

Combine that with being back to a baby’s two-a-day nap schedule for most of this year, weekly dance classes for the two older girls, and my increased workload, and suddenly our regular schedule seemed very tight.

Since Ella was born, I’ve enjoyed the leisurely schedule that being a stay-at-home mom with little kids allowed me.

We’ve done preschool co-ops and paid preschools is the past, but they were never more than twice a week and just for a few hours, so we still had a lot of free time.

In Texas, we went on four-mile walks with friends a few mornings a week. Jessica and I went out to lunch with our crew of little girls nearly every Friday while our husbands were in grad school in North Carolina. In London, we headed out on adventures nearly every day and I savored those free mornings where I could explore the city with my two little sidekicks.

We could wander over to the park or hit the library. Every morning seemed to stretch out with hours to read books together, meet up with friends, try a little craft project, or run errands.

If Ella did a few pages of her math book, great. If we skipped it? No big deal.

Now those days are gone. We have so much less ability to have spur-of-the-moment outings or long leisurely stretches of time. When someone asks if I want to get together, we almost always have to schedule at least a week out.

I’ve found myself looking at my friends who didn’t yet have children in school and feeling so envious that they could go and do whatever they want, whenever they want.

Part of it, I’m sure, is that it’s just really breaking my heart to see my girls grow up so quickly.

We’re into the school part of our family life permanently now and we’ll never go back to those days of little kids with no school schedule, and I think this has been the year for me to mourn that a little (or a lot).

I’m so happy that summer is finally here and we can enjoy a few months of more relaxed life, although the downside of summer is that we don’t have Target or the library all to ourselves.

I’m determined to savor every unscheduled minute of it.

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  1. I totally agree with you on this! I loved having the freedom to do things as we wished and I mourned the loss of that when my daughter started Kindergarten this year too. I hate how we can never go back to those unscheduled days!!!

  2. So true! My oldest is starting full-time kindergarten next year and I'm already missing the free afternoons and open Fridays we had this year. And although I love summer, I wish the parks/ libraries/ children's museums didn't get so crowded during those months (basically I wish things could be 'just so' 😉 ).

  3. This. This is exactly how I feel. I HATE the thought of a school schedule governing the rest of our lives. I have seriously been dreading it all year. My only consolation is A Jilly will love school and I know it will be so great for her and B I really feel like I enjoyed and appreciated these schedule-free days. I think I'll always wish for more time like this but I'm glad to feel like I took advantage of it and enjoyed it. Waaaaah, must they grow up?!

  4. I can relate to this so much! I miss the days when my boys were small and we could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. Because of that, I really savor the summers and try to keep them fairly unscheduled. I even stop teaching piano lessons because I don't want them to infringe on our spontaneous activities. I love summer!!

  5. We felt similarly. Something that has helped us is to plan to use up all the days off school we can each year. This means every year I get a letter sent home from the school district warning that if my children miss any more days of school, possible legal action could occur. The letter sounds very scary, but I know lots of parents who get it and nothing's ever happened to any of them.

    Anyway, we take the kids out of school to go to museums in the early fall before the school groups start coming, and then we'll take them out to go to the zoo in the spring. We take them out for family trips or just because we're tired of doing the school thing. I love the rule that you have to keep your kids home for 24 hours after a fever because that means I've got a day where my kids are healthy again and we can do something fun and relaxed together.

    It's certainly not as flexible or spontaneous as our time once was, but it helps to ease the strain of packed schedules. Good luck! Enjoy your summer!

    1. I know that this is well-intentioned and I am really impressed at your dedication to enhancing your children's education with outings that also provide valuable family time, but I would caution against this approach in the long run. When children get older (and I'm talking 3rd and 4th grade older, not high school or anything) every absence places undue stress on both the child and the teacher, even if the absence is for something that is educational itself. Teachers have to dedicate extra time to ensuring that each child has the necessary make-up work, and the children may miss lessons that become increasingly difficult to make-up after the rest of the class has moved on. Many schools follow a very strict schedule of lessons to prepare for standardized testing, and while I know that no one likes standardized testing, it is something that kids have to do and that teachers are trained to prepare them for.
      I apologize if this is overly harsh, but I really do feel that taking kids out of school for these kinds of trips is ultimately disrespectful to their teachers and potentially harmful to the children's education. However, I also recognize that every child, every school, and every situation is very different and I don't know the details of yours. I acknowledge that it is really hard to balance finding time to have these special moments as a family with their school attendance. I'm just trying to provide a slightly different perspective that I hope may be helpful to someone 🙂

    2. I am glad to read your perspective, Caitlin. As a kindergarten teacher, I see how much hands-on learning takes place in the classroom. Even if I send home make-up work, the absent child has missed the main, most important part of the lesson which is the direct instruction from the teacher and practice in the classroom. I now have my own kindergartner, and my goal is to instill the importance of being in school all day, every day. It is especially hard because I teach in a different school district than my son, but even when our spring breaks happened during different weeks I sent my son to school (it was tempting to have a play day!). Every time a child misses a day of school they come back the next day and feel off-balance because they missed the previous day's instruction and have a hard time making connections to what their classmates learned. I truly hope that parents take a moment to examine the underlying message their child receives when a parent removes them from school because THE ADULT is tired of the school routine (that school is not important). I value my time with both my children more than anything in the world, but I also know that they need to be part of a classroom community every day that school is in session (baring sick days).

  6. Aww no – I really hope over summer that you guys get to spend loads of time together doing fun, un-scheduled activities. I've been schedule-free for a few months now, and going back to the schedule of a full time job is really something I'm not looking forward to!

    Steph –

  7. I REALLY miss our nonschedule from before Wes started school. No one had to be anywhere in the mornings so we'd all stay up super late watching movies or playing then we'd sleep in. We had our big meal together at lunchtime and a lighter dinner. It was the best.

  8. The more kids you have in school, the more and more you come to cherish school breaks. My baby will be starting full-day K in a year, and I'm so dreading not having someone home who wants me to play with them. On the other hand, I do get to volunteer in the others classrooms, go on field trips, and be a part of their school lives a little, which gives them a chance to have some individual attention, and me a chance to see what their day is like and how they are interacting with their peers. There's good in all of it. The adjustment is what is most difficult.

  9. I've been feeling this and we're still 2 years away from kindergarten! I think it's knowing that his time fully at home is already more than half way done that makes me sad. Definitely treasuring these last years not being dictated by a school schedule – both during the day and over the year!!

  10. Don't remind me, I think my heart rate just went up a little. I totally feel the same. I love the freedom. That's why I love having a professor husband who has lots of flexibility and never has to request time off or accrue vacation days. He just goes when it works for him.I hate being tied down to something, and i don't like being a busy person. I feel like even if I do my best to fill this time, I will still feel regretful that we didn't do more, that I didn't spend enough quality time with my Littles.I at least have one more year, he starts kindergarten in the fall.

  11. Oh dear, now I'm crying because I remembered how it will be too soon that Atticus stops asking for mommy time and I'll feel like I didn't give him enough while I had him! I feel this way with everything as a mother, never enough snuggles, never enough playing, my bucket is bottomless and can't be filled!

  12. I just finished my Masters for my Family NP degree this May at NYU. I had two babies during the program and took me 4 years to finish. My oldest is starting public Pre-K in NYC which is full time 8:30am-2:30pm every day this September. I decided to delay job searching until early Fall in order to spend this last summer with both kiddos when I know life is much calmer without added school stress. I know once I start working I will never have this time with them again bc even when they're off for summer breaks I'll be working. It's been such a treat to be home this last 3 weeks and I keep telling my husband how amazing it is to be home, and wondering what was I thinking when I decided to get this masters because being a stay at home is the best! 🙂

  13. I agree. A lot of my friends said oh you will love school because the kids are gone all day. But I really missed them and the schedule is so restricted. It is hard to let them grow up.

  14. "Part of it, I'm sure, is that it's just really breaking my heart to see my girls grow up so quickly. We're into the school part of our family life permanently now and we'll never go back to those days of little kids with no school schedule". THIS! This hit the nail in the head. I'm in the same boat, my little girl is in her first year of Kindergarten (though for us, it doesn't end for another 5 weeks), and all year I've been feeling… odd?… about it. I feel annoyed about the schedule, or like I have no control over the things we want to do but can't. I hadn't been able to pinpoint what it was that was bothering me so much, until I read that sentence in your post. I suddenly had the AHA moment. That is EXACTLY it! My girl is growing up, and since she may be the only baby we ever get to have, I'm having a hard time accepting it.

  15. I remember those days well. I'd be counting down the days until my first born was done kindergarten and our days would be totally ours! The sky was the limit (around naps, of course). I'm a total schedule lover but I like to be able to plan fun things and make the schedule (not follow the school day routine lol) – Trips to the zoo, park, splash pad, swimming at my parents', hanging with my sister and her kids … So much fun and time together.

    I'm so happy that I got to spend 12 years at home with my kids. Now that my kids are older things are even more crazy with various work schedules, socializing, school etc. But it's a good kind of crazy (usually). Enjoy your little ones while you can. My oldest will graduate high school next year. I cannot believe how fast time flies.

  16. I also really liked not having a school schedule. The year we did homeschooling was wonderful in terms of all the field trips and excursions and lazy mornings we had. So many of my friends (even SAH friends) talk about being so relieved when school holidays ended, but I always dreaded the start of school as much or more than my kids did.

    I still feel this way, and they are in high school now, so I can't even blame it on nostalgia as they grow up. School schedules make life harder and less joyful — that's just a fact that I've come to terms with.

  17. Somehow I missed this post in my feed. Your blog is one of my top favorites. You post about all of my favorite kind of things and I just love your voice. And this just is so TRUE. My oldest two are well into their elementary school years and I still miss terribly the years when we went to the beach in August on everyone else's first days of school. There are wonderful things about them growing up, and I know you recognize that too. But those young, pre school years are so special and it is sad when they are over.

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