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How We Survived Our First Year in Public School



What you may or may not know about our family is that we used to homeschool, and by homeschool, I mean myself and my daughter working through subjects and predicates at the sticky kitchen table while one little boy would climb up on the counter, in nothing but a pair of Minions underwear, to take one bite each out of no less than seven different apples (then lay them bite mark down back in the basket, of course), and a second little boy that could be found peeing off the porch, chasing chickens, and a host of other Lego building and world domination activities. Did we master flash cards, work on addition, and throw in a little Spanish in there? You bet. But, needless to say we needed a little structure. So we delved in to the land of public school. You know, the place where you sit in a desk and have to remain fully clothed, the entire day.

On the very first day of public school, the first person to panic was not one of the neatly dressed, slightly nervous children, it was me. In the drop off/pick up line. There were numbered lanes for vehicles likened to a track meet. Which number am I? Is it based on how I am feeling that day? Am I assigned a number? (Turns out, you stick to the number of the youngest child in your family. The numbers are GRADE LEVELS. This was mind blowing to me). The kids rolled out of the vehicle and I sat there and watched them slowly walk into the door. Turns out, you are not supposed to sit there and reminisce about the first time they uttered mama and how they used to cling to the coffee table at the old house when they took their first steps. People waiting behind you in this numbered line of cars say nay, move it or lose it. So you roll on and out of the car chaos line. You also do not walk them in to the building, give them a lipstick printed kiss on their perfect pale cheeks and introduce yourself to their friends that could one day be groomsmen in their weddings. (Not that I would ever do such a thing. I am of the understanding that this is a first grade faux pas).

When I went back to pick them up on the first day, still uncertain on where to go to gather my younglings, they hopped in, ruffled and excited and full of conversation. Holding my breath, I asked, “How did your first day go?” They sat in silence for a moment, when finally, one of them replied, “The day was great, except lunch was a little weird”. “Yes”, I replied, “remember when I told you that school lunch is made of magical things like rectangle pieces of pizza that people dip in French dressing?” “No, this was a weird rolled up thing with meat and cheese inside”.

Like any responsible mom would do, I asked the school. Not about the snow policy, or after school programs, but what was served for lunch on the first day of school in 2016. Turns out, the weird roll up thing with meat and cheese inside was a soft taco. A SOFT TACO. The next day, my kindergartner said they ate “a giant chicken nugget on a bun”. That was a chicken sandwich. Yes, we homeschooled. But we definitely fed our kids a chicken sandwich or two. After day three, in lieu of a bedtime story or lullaby, I started pulling up the school lunch menu on WLAF’s website and reading it to them before bed. Nothing helps you drift off into a blissful sleep like your mother reading the words, “chilled peaches”, “whipped potatoes”, and “Manager’s Choice”.

We also quickly learned that small means big in public school life. So, when you receive a paper in your child’s folder that shares info about an in-school Christmas parade, and to create a shoebox sized float, you do exactly that: you find a sturdy box that is just large enough to house footwear, you wrap it in holiday themed paper, duct tape a battery powered tiny strand of twinkle lights all around it, and place a Ninja Turtle on top. Done and done. Except when you go to be in the hallway crowd of this school parade, and all the floats are like ACTUAL REAL LIFE FLOATS that you see in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and you are fully expecting Al Roker to jump out in his wool coat and spout out some history on the school and now kids are tossing candy that I am about to fight a first grader over. There is not an age limit on fun size candy bars, just heads up. Also, my kid brought candy canes. What happens when you toss hard candy on a harder floor? IT BUSTS INTO A MILLION PIECES WITH EACH TOSS. Lesson learned. Go big or go home, and purchase soft candies next year to toss instead of the peppermint shrapnel that my child with a Christmas float made for ants tossed at strangers.

Then: enter the homework log. This piece of strategery is designed as a hard copy accountability to ensure the child did indeed do the work assigned to him or her. For my oldest child, she basically did her homework before she ever left the building, for my youngest, I forgot to sign the log so many weeks in a row that I am assuming the teacher wondered if I had hopped a plane for Paris (because: no drop off / pick up line) but for my middle: where is this log? Every week we get the assignment sheet. We do the assignments. But I never could find the log to sign. Until one fateful day about a month before school was over, I texted  my sister in law to ask what the homework assignment was for that evening, because my son left his backpack at school, and he realized it once he couldn’t find his five pound quartz rock. (Really? That was the giveaway?). She sent back a screen shot of my niece’s assignment sheet, with my sister in law’s initials on each night’s assignment. The log WAS the assignment sheet. They were one in the same. How did I miss this?

Then, of course, the book fair where my child drew butt cheeks on kids’ hands with an invisible ink pen, how I put red shorts on my child for May Day with his green class t-shirt, causing him to look like a Christmas tree competing in the tug of war event, when my kindergartner cut his shirt with safety scissors and told the teacher, “Meh, my mom can just hot-glue my shirt back to fix it” (translation: mama can’t sew), and when a kid at the Valentine’s Day party came up and asked for my phone number, then gave me his, including the area code.

But, we came away with straight As, new friends, and a new place to call home. Homeschool isn’t heaven, and public school isn’t hell. I am blown away by the education they are receiving, and could not be more pleased with our school. Homeschool works so well for many families, but we are excited to be Eagles again this year. So, as I pull up in the correct lane of traffic this week, check the nightly folders and read that school menu, just know that there are teachers and administrators working diligently to make this year the best yet for your child.

And there are parents like me, holding up the drop off line.




2 thoughts on “How We Survived Our First Year in Public School

  1. I love you. You are hilarious! You write about what we all have felt or experienced in one way or another. Motherhood is a daring undertaking. It really is a relief to know that I am not the only one utterly confused by what other parents seem to have mastered.

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