This month, J returned to work after a full two months home with us as a new family of five. It’s been such a gift for us for him to have a long parental leave — and a perk for taking what amounts to a six-year low-pay apprenticeship.
We all recovered quickly from the whirlwind birth of our Elizabeth Ann, since I didn’t have any injuries this time and we are slowly figuring out how to handle this newborn thing, three kids deep. So we returned to Police Preschool sooner than I would have expected, and it was such fun to see how different homeschool looked with the papa on the premises.
Although we’d talked often about why we might homeschool and what we’d like it to look like, when J was actually home, it became clear he didn’t actually know what our day-to-day looked like. He hadn’t realized where our co-op was held, for instance, or what I do with Scout while I’m trying to knock out lessons.
But I hadn’t realized all the riches he had to contribute. I had thought, abstractly, that someday I could lean on him to teach geometry and my other academic weak spots, but the kids and I were delighted to see what he could contribute to our school day, especially during these weeks of frequent interruptions for nursing.
J has always been the border collie to my basset hound, so I wasn’t surprised that he often had the kids outside, romping on the playground or boisterously playing Swallows and Amazons. I loved that he worked more music into the kids’ day, teaching them Christmas songs throughout Advent so they could sing when Christmas arrived; I didn’t love that he got Pip playing a Chase McCain video game, but I try to remember that there are cognitive benefits to playing video games and that other people can love my children differently than I do.
With a strongly structured start that gave continuity to the kids’ new world, our days relaxed with Advent. While I baked cookies with the kids and read Advent books, J began to teach Pippin chess and tracked down movie adaptations of books P had heard read aloud — Little Women and Swallows and Amazons and A Christmas Carol — so that we’d casually discuss what changes the movies made to the books as we snacked and cuddled.
The season looked different than I would have planned it for our family — and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.