Fourth grade was a monumental year of my life. It’s been on my mind lately, and I’m not entirely sure why. I think part of the reason is that my youngest cousin has been staying with us for a few days, and I was realizing that I was her age in fourth grade.
You see, up through third grade, I loved school. I had wonderful teachers and some wonderful friends.
Then there was fourth grade.
First of all, my two best friends were put in the other fourth grade class. I have a fairly distinct memory of the feeling of watching the two of them walking through the halls. They were together and happy and I… wasn’t.
I did find a girl with whom I felt friendly enough that I had someone to sit with at lunch and such things. I was thankful for her, but I knew we weren’t going to be close friends.
Then, for the first time, my teacher and I did not click. At all. I don’t know that she especially disliked me, but it wasn’t the best of relationships.
To top it all off, I had to get a backpack with wheels because my little fourth grader body couldn’t carry all my homework. It was a cool backpack – it had Winnie the Pooh on it – but it was the principle of the thing.
I have no doubt I’m far from the only person to deal with such problems in or around fourth grade. But I’m one of the lucky ones, because I got out of it.
One day – out of the blue, as far as I was concerned, though I know it couldn’t have been – my parents took me to Eat-n-Park, which was my favorite restaurant, and asked if I wanted to be homeschooled. I didn’t really know what that meant, though I’m sure they did their best to explain. But I said yes, and I can’t recall one moment of regretting that answer.
After Christmas break, I didn’t go back.
I tried to keep up the friendship with my friends from school, but it didn’t work. But it wasn’t long before that didn’t matter. We started going to a homeschool group in the area, and the first day, another girl asked if I would be her friend. Apparently, I was already a bit cynical about the whole process, because I thought, “Nothing’s ever going to come of this; that’s not how making friends works.” But I wasn’t going to be mean and say so, so I said yes again, and again, I can’t recall one moment of regretting that answer.
I no longer had to worry about not being able to carry my backpack. I got along with my teacher just fine. There were many days – even in much higher grades – when I was done with school by noon. In high school, I did a yearlong literature program based on The Lord of the Rings, and yes, that was as awesome as it sounds. When we moved, I didn’t have to cope with transferring schools twice in one year. There was the year where our dictation one morning was a quote from Mom – at which my brother and I rolled our eyes – which turned out to be, “School is done.” And yes, that, too, was just as awesome as it sounds.
We all have parts of our lives by which we define ourselves, and for me, one of those parts is being a homeschooler. Most of my close friends have been other homeschoolers – and I don’t do that on purpose, it just happens. It’s one of my favorite parts of my life.
Fourth grade was rough. I’m sure it would have been a whole lot easier for my parents to decide that all kids have rough times in school and I would just have to deal with it. Instead, they had the courage to decide that was not okay and do something about it, even though it made some people think we were weird.
Fourth grade, for me, is a reminder that sometimes the hardest parts of life exist to lead us to some of the biggest blessings of life. So even though it wasn’t fun at the time, I’m thankful for fourth grade.