It's the night before public school starts. I'll admit that there's a little nostalgic twinge of excitement I feel for those who will be beginning a new school year tomorrow. I remember first days of school. The fuss over what I should wear, the giddiness about seeing friends again, the anticipation of using fresh new notebooks, sharp pencils, and backpacks not yet scuffed and stained. I see all those joys shining in the eyes of my children's traditionally schooled friends. And for just one, tiny, whizzing-by-so-fast-that-you-will-miss-it-if-you-blink moment, I think maybe my kids are missing out. After all, for a child, the First Day of School Eve is second only to Christmas Eve in heart aflutter expectancy. But for my kids, tomorrow is just another Monday. Tonight is just another Sunday night.
But as all the children in our neighborhood and beyond gathered their school supplies, laid out their clothes in preparation to be roused before the sun, washed behind their ears for the first time since June, and laid tucked in their beds before dark with visions of assigned seating dancing in their heads....we headed out for adventure.
Straight from our favorite pizza joint after a day at the pool, ungathered, unprepared, unwashed, and untucked, we made a spontaneous trip out to our 30 acres of happily ever after (land we have purchased and hope to build on some day). The golden sun was already hanging low in the sky, lazily dipping behind the treed hill next to our future home site as we bumped down the rocky dirt road. Windows down, a warm breeze caressing our cheeks, fireflies dancing, kids giggling, and the sounds of endless summer nights emerging from the branches and brush around us. Grasshoppers assaulted Helga (our mammoth van) and we all dissolved into fits of laughter as Daddy bid them adieu with a flick of the windshield wipers, sending them slipping across the glass like tiny bulgy eyed cartoon characters. We parked Helga beside our creek and the kids rambled one by one out of her doors and windows and climbed to sit on her roof. We sang a few songs and made silly jokes. The boys got a little rowdy and someone may or may not have tumbled off the top of the van and and someone else may or may not have gotten a "talkin' to". But as the sky grew darker and the night sounds more pronounced, everyone turned their attention upward as the stars of the show we had come to see finally emerged from their secret summer roost and appeared all around us.
Bats! Wings furiously flapping they flew over us, beside, in front of and behind us. Dipping, lurching, careening, cutting through the cool dusky air like furry kamikaze pilots. There were shrieks of delight, pointing, giggling, and at least one choke hold of surprised uncertainty...
We spent about a good while enjoying their antics, with Asa bouncing around on top of the van, the girls sitting cozy under a sleeping bag, and Ethan relaxed on his back with Ezra beside him, snuggled close for big brother protection. We searched the sky, each trying to be the first to spot another bat, talking about what they eat, where they live, why they only come out at night, and how they find their food. We decided we would build a bat house on our land as a "thank you" to these tiny magical creatures who come out to dine on the mosquitos who would otherwise be dining on us!
When the coyote's howling began to punctuate the darkness, we loaded Helga with sleepy little sun kissed and night enchanted bodies and headed for home. We stopped to admire the almost full moon. Ezra yawned and asked if we could follow it all the way home. Justin said of course we can Ezra, you just watch and make sure it doesn't get away from us...and we did. We followed that bright and shining Night Before School Starts moon all the way into our driveway, passing by homes in which slept children brimming with anticipation. We carried drowsy little ones up to their rooms and put them in their beds. Unwashed, unprepared, and unaware of tomorrow being anything other than another Monday. And tonight being anything other than another Sunday night.
As I kissed them goodnight and my 10 year old almost grown up boy asked me to hug him just a little longer, I was sure. Sure that no matter how many First Day of School Eve's end with just another goodnight kiss and a "what are we doing tomorrow Mom?", I need not give a second glance to that whizzing-by-so-fast-that-you-will-miss-it-if-you-blink little doubt. There is nothing that can take the place of the untethered life of a homeschool family.
My kids aren't missing out on a thing.