“If we get lost, let’s meet by the big tree where we play,” my 5-year-old, Ezra, said to his 8-year-old brother on their way to school. It was my younger son’s first day of kindergarten.
Listening to his sage reasoning – reasoning I’ve long suggested about what to do in a crowded space where we might get separated: pick a meeting spot – wrenched my maternal heartstrings. What was I doing, sending my youngest child off to school? All year, I’ve wrestled with the decision of whether to begin by teaching my youngest child at home, as I did with four of his siblings.
My motives for homeschooling are not purely academic. As a writer who works from home, I enjoy having my children near me. Reading together, snuggled under a blanket on the couch, is one of my favorite activities. And I’ve learned from experience that once you send children away, you don’t get them back in the purely devoted way they needed you before.
Yet, my life was changing too. And, with no other siblings at home, who would keep our youngest entertained while I worked? Wisely or not, I let Ezra decide whether to go to school. “Let’s add up all the things that make you want to say yes to going to school and all the things that make you want to say no,” I suggested over his favorite sandwich, peanut-butter and mayonnaise. “Which do you have more of?”
“Yeses!” he said.
One month later, as summer rounded the bend toward fall, I asked, “Are you sure you still want to go to school?”
Ezra screwed up his mouth, thinking long and hard. “I still have more yeses.”
Running out of time, this month I threw in a bribe. “What if we got a puppy? Then would you want to stay home?”
“Maybe,” he said.
“What if we got two puppies?” I appealed to his older brother, Asher. “Would you both stay home?”
“Really?” Asher’s eyes flashed with excitement. “You’d get us both a puppy?”
But in the end, even I knew that wasn’t reasonable. How would I possibly get any writing done while homeschooling two children and raising two puppies? Which is how I found myself driving all three of my school-age children to their first day of classes this week, with plans to meet at a tree should any of them get lost.
But what of me? Where shall I meet and whom, should I get lost in the loneliness of an empty house after more than two decades of working and teaching and living with my children scampering all about? I jot these thoughts in a notebook, given to me by a friend. Then I read the words printed beneath, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart and lean not on thine own understanding, Proverbs 3:5.” And I know that is the answer. When life is changing and the future seems unclear and summer is rounding the bend toward fall, look to the Lord and keep on trusting.
And perhaps bring home one – just one – warm, wiggling puppy.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Her Lantern Hill Farm picture-book series releases this fall with The Christmas Cradle.