Katie's first day of fourth grade, August 12, 2015, age 9
Katie's excited to be back in school. Fourth grade. Wow! How did that happen? We must make life pretty boring at home during summer vacation. What else could explain her desire to go back to school? I dunno? Maybe she's a good student? Weird that I'd have a child who is a good student. My mom could not say the same about me. School was too structured for me. I was never happy unless I was doing my own thing, which was frowned upon in the suburban Kansas City school district I attended in the late Seventies/early Eighties. When grownups would ask what my favorite subject was, I said lunch and recess.
I see now that I would have made an excellent candidate for homeschooling, but that wasn't a thing when I was a kid. Everybody went to school, whether it was public or parochial. I didn't know that a kid could just stay home and read books and explore and be curious.
When we first enrolled Katie in public school, I told myself I would never make her go to school if it turned out she doesn't like it. If she wanted to be homeschooled, I was fine with that. But we enrolled her in school because she wanted to go. She felt lonely at home. She wanted to be around kids her own age. And honestly, it felt right to send her somewhere where she could broaden her mind and her experiences. I liked the idea of her learning different ways of learning, from other teachers who have different insights than just Will and I. I still think parents are their children's primary teachers. I also know that Katie is a separate individual than I am, and that my negative experiences in school will not be her experiences. She'll have her own, both positive and negative, and hopefully she'll learn from them.
One of the biggest things Katie seems to appreciate about school is the structure. How is it that I gave birth to someone who is obsessed with punctuality and organized time? Which is probably why she gets excited to go back to school toward the end of summer vacation. There are only so many days of sleeping til noon that even the slackeriest of kids will abide before they grow bored and want to get out and do something productive.
So Katie's back in school and she's all excited. When I got home from work, I asked how her day went.
"It was great! Mom, when you were a kid, what was your purpose?"
Whoa, no time for chit chat, let's just get right into the heavy stuff. "My purpose? I guess my purpose was to play."
"No, no," Katie said. "I mean, when you were a kid what did you want your purpose to be when you grew up?"
"Huh." I had to think about it. When I was a kid, I didn't really think about what my purpose was. I just wanted to be around people who love me and to have fun. "What do you mean?"
"Like, what did you want to be when you grew up? Like, as a job," Katie said.
"Oh! Well, when I was really young I wanted to be a nurse. When I was about your age, I wanted to be an artist. Then by about seventh grade I wanted to be a writer."
"What do you think your purpose is," I asked.
"My purpose is to go to college and get a degree and become a teacher," Katie said.
"Wow, you no longer want to be an astronaut? Or a chef? Or, what was it?"
Katie looked at me pitifully and reminded me, "A baker?"
"Yes, a baker. You no longer want to be a baker?"
"No, I want to be a teacher when I grow up," Katie said.
I don't remember as a kid thinking much about what kind of career I wanted when I grew up. I lived way more in the here and now. Katie lives in the world of possibilities. I'm happy for her, no matter what she wants to be when she grows up.