We went school shopping today. When we go all together, we make quite a sensation. The four girls, in stairstep blonde succession, alike but not quite, walking through the aisles, looking at things, exclaiming and smiling because we so rarely go shopping.

It was quite an ordeal. But eventually we got each a pair of jeans, a few shirts, a box of crayons or pencils, lined paper, and a bag or backpack. The sales weren’t great but the crowds were gone. I was glad to avoid the school list rush.

The other night, Dagne pulled me close to whisper in my ear. “I don’t want to go to school, Mommy,” she confessed.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I don’t want to have to wake up early,” she said. “I want to sleep in.”

I felt for her. We’ve always been good about getting our kids to bed at a decent time. We don’t let them stay up often. But sleeping in is a prerogative of the homeschooler. It’s one of the many blessings inherent in the choice.

I whispered back into her ear. “Let’s give school a chance,” I said. “Let’s give it one week. Maybe it will be worth getting up in the morning.”

She nodded and hugged me tight.

Powell Butte is a charter school with class sizes of only about 16 or 17 kids in a class. With class sizes like that I can assume that a good teacher can do a good job in giving my child a good education. Now, they serve kids K-6. In two years, they will serve kids K-8, so Greta can avoid middle school — that nebulous institution where falls the blame of people “losing” their kids.

Elsa won’t be so lucky. I’m glad I was able to wait until she was in 8th grade. She’s a mature, capable girl, but both Paul and I cringe when we think of her going. But like the song says, we can’t always get what we want.

The school shopping sort of set me to thinking that it’s really going to happen. Our family is going to split in all different directions — something we never wanted to do again.

It gets me feeling pretty down. So I try to cheer myself up with a “plan.” A plan is writing down all the things I can control — because right now I feel really out of control. I feel that I’m letting so much go out of my hands. I don’t trust others with my children or their education.

I think through the daily routines. I’ll assign the girls’ reading so they don’t get caught up reading trash or twaddle. At nights, we’ll read aloud — finishing ancient history and spending time together on the couch. I’ll fix their lunches so they don’t eat the government subsidized crap they serve at school.

And I’ll pray. I’ll pray that Dagne won’t hate getting up in the morning and independent Ingrid will be able to make friends. I’ll pray that Greta won’t get dragged into drama and Elsa will influence rather than be influenced. I’ll pray that Paul or I’ll get to have another chance at home with them to treasure the time together. That the little ones won’t grow up so fast we’ll miss it.

I make bargains — if I ever get another chance at home I’ll take the girls outside to do nature study everyday and I’ll teach them to write wonderfully and I’ll teach them Spanish. I’ll figure out a way to make an income from home so I won’t have to send them away again. I’ll never push Paul to do work around the house again because I know how tired I am all the time.

I wish I could go back and fix it all according to my own terms.

But it’s too late.

I’m working and Paul’s working. This is good. Bills might make more sense now.

But life doesn’t. This culture doesn’t. The whole world doesn’t make sense.

Life’s supposed to be like the cabin times. Cardamom-prune scones and coffee and walking to the school in the snow to visit Daddy.

Life’s supposed to have a constant parent in constant vigilance making sure home is home.

Life’s supposed to be full of simple pleasures: swinging from the trees, playing in the creek, and pretending.

Families should erect a shining barrier around themselves, a shining barrier of love and closeness to defend against the regrets that will come if they are divided.