Since we moved to Vermont in August, we have struggled with the idea of sending Simone to school vs homeschooling. The reasons for homeschool have more to do with keeping her free of anaphylaxis and less to do with education. Can we homeschool her? Yes. Do we want to homeschool her? No.
I know that sounds mean, but it isn’t.
Simone is a gregarious child, curious and filled with wonder. She epitomizes true childlike innocence, thirsts for real connections with others, and is an all-inclusive kind of girl.
I have been reluctant to talk about her pure and beautiful nature because this is the internet, and there are things I would rather not have the whole world knowing. Unfortunately, in our world, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE who has come into contact with Simmi will understand that this child is different.
She marches to a heart song that echoes out a melody so few have ever heard. The joy she brings to all she lays her eyes on goes beyond just a curious greeting-she longs to know you. It is a need as deep as breathing.
Can you see how my discussion of her deeper side could be troubling in the online world? We have often worried about her personal safety because she sees everyone she meets as friends and family.
Black, white, Asian, old, young, deformed and missing a limb or two, homeless, smelly, troubled, angry, sad, crying, happy, elderly, and even infants are not out of her line of inquiry which leads to her asking these questions:
“Hi, I’m Simmi, what’s your name? Would you like to come to our house for dinner? How about a sleepover? Can you come over for Christmas?”
No one can escape her innocent questions.
While shopping for food, she must say hello to every single person she sees. If it’s a child, she will approach them, and if they have a sour nature wanting to be mean, it will only take about five minutes for my kid to turn sour into sweet.
Its amazing to watch. Its beautiful to be a witness to her light in an ever darkening world.
Adults often struggle to speak with her. They will look to me as if to say, “You do know she is talking to me right now, and she wants to physically hug me even though she has never met me before, don’t you?” They seem disarmed, filled with fear and looking for me to remove my child. Some of them even ignore her, refusing to make eye contact.
Stranger danger, god, it’s everywhere. They seem to apply it to my kid. She’s the stranger. How weird is that? Adults having a difficult time with an eight-year-old seeking to know more about a complete stranger. I guess that is strange in our often anonymous world.
Why am I saying all this and what does this have to do with homeschooling coming to an end? Well, there are a great number of reasons we want her to go attend school. First and foremost, however, is that the children in school need her, and she needs them.
Simone has what feels like a unicorn soul. A rainbow of feeling and emotion that borders on the magical. She has a way of reaching even the most hardened 7-year-old.
It sounds strange to say that, doesn’t it? That a 7-year-old could be hardened? But many of them are. I’ve seen it first hand while we are out at the stores. Parents on their phones or other devices, their child angry and scouring, or sad and sobbing.
I’ll give you one example of hundreds of stories I could share about how the world responds to Simone:
We were in Hannaford (grocery store if you don’t live in New England) and walking through each aisle as I shopped for food. It was Friday, October 30, and a little girl was shopping with her dad. She was around Simmi’s age, very overweight, and busting out of her large blue Disney princess costume. Why do I say it this way? Because that is what I saw. A child, very uncomfortable, and extremely aware of her surroundings. She held onto the shopping cart as her father spoke on the phone the whole time they were in the store. From the moment he brought her in, until after he left, he at no time put the phone down.
The little girl walked beside him, and with her eyes squinted half shut and with an almost smug look, refused to acknowledge Simmi as she said, “Hi, my name is Simmi, what’s your name?” The little girl wouldn’t answer her. She wouldn’t look her directly in the eyes. She had this weird grin on her face. I wanted to judge this little girl. I mean, who does that right? When someone is being nice and saying hello, do you really turn up your nose and walk away?
When we were finished shopping and at the checkout counter, we just happened to be right behind the man and his Disney princess daughter.
Would you like to know how Simone reacted to the snooty rebuff?
To her, there was no rebuff. Remember, I’m the witness. I’m the observer. I remained silent as I watched the icy world melt from around this girl.
Simmi approached the girl who stood just a little taller and about three sizes bigger than her. She said in a soft and loving voice, with eyes warm and inviting, “Hi, my name is Simmi, what’s your name.”
The little girl looked to her father who was STILL on the phone and completely oblivious to the fact that his child was talking with people. Then the little girl looked to me. I smiled at her, and the girl opened up and told Simone her name. Simmi talked about how beautiful her princess dress was, and how pretty she was.
Then it hit me. This child is probably relentlessly bullied at school because of her size. She was a large little girl, and unfortunately fat doesn’t work. It didn’t work when I was a little girl, and it certainly doesn’t work now. Obese children are often targeted.
Being fat was never a part of the conversation between these two little girls. It was about how pretty she was, and how special the dress was, sparkly and new. It took everything inside me to NOT cry at what I was observing.
This little girl was broken inside. She wasn’t a snooty little snob. She wasn’t trying to be mean. Her guard was up because she was afraid some little girl her age was going to say something horrible to her. Have you ever put your guard up as an adult?
Simone brings down the walls of hatred. She melts even the coldest of hearts.
This is a profound gift that has come into the world. She is a gift. A miracle.
She is almost always prepared. At home, she will color hearts, pieces of paper, create stitch work on felted hearts, and shove them in a bag or pocket. When we go out, she pulls out these creations to give to anyone who will accept them.
She doesn’t know who she will meet, but when she does, she has a gift for them and an invite to join us for dinner, lunch, the holidays or her birthday.
I’ve had people show up at the farm because she told a stranger with children where they could find us. And you know what, they came and we invited them in.
Can that be dangerous? Perhaps. But lots of things can be dangerous.
Loving from the heart is a miracle as well as dangerous, but I’m not going to stop her.
In her fearless pursuit of loving others, she will approach homeless people. She rolls down the window to ask them how they’re doing.
She has no fear of rejection and has no idea what that even is. When someone is ignoring her, she doesn’t feel rejected, she just looks for another way to reach them.
She is a pearl.
Our choice to school her isn’t to “socialize” her. Believe me, she’s about as social as they come.
We can’t keep her from sharing her beautiful soul with others. At the same time, we also have that other problem, her life-threatening food allergies.
In weighing all the options such as where the nearest hospital is, how long it would take for paramedics to get there, and the best place to get her the educational help she needs because of her neurological disorder, we keep coming back to Montessori School.
Even though it will take an hour to drive her to school each morning, putting me in the car for four hours a day, and the fact that we will be extremely financially tight, we feel good about our decision.
We want other children to experience the feeling of being completely accepted. We want her to grow her friendships, achieve academic success, and learn how to work with her disabilities.
Her strengths far outweigh her weaknesses. We want to support her in that.
So we’ve been saving money for her tuition, and for a while, we’ll be struggling with driving Sweaty Betty, our gas guzzling snow beast. We need to get some sort of used hybrid car that handles well in the snow since I’ll be traveling 160 miles per day in the car.
Somehow it will work out. My rainbow unicorn will start school in January and I couldn’t be more thrilled (and terrified).