It’s been a good few years since we last went back to school, but September energy is powerful. The idea that this is the month of new beginnings is deeply ingrained in me, and I can’t quite shake the idea that we must all get busy again. And so, although I love reconnecting with people after the summer and all the possibilities that September brings, I can also feel that it could easily sweep me away with its sense of purpose and doing. This year, the feeling is amplified because of all those months of stillness we’re emerging from, and because this is my first September in the UK after 25 years living in Spain.
Here, I am still amazed by all the different activities my children can join, the friendships that are being made so easily and by the community around us. In these Covid-19 times, things are lower key, but they’re still there in some form. In Spain, despite many wonderful friends and neighbours, my September fire was dampened by the lack of daytime activities and other non-schooling families around us. It was simultaneously frustrating not to be able to jump on that busy train with everyone else, whilst also admittedly restful.
In a recent post I read, someone pointed out that September is a strange month for new beginnings, and that perhaps instead of getting caught up in the action, we should consider what Nature calls us to, and connect with what the season brings. This obvious but enlightening thought made me wonder how much of my September expectations come from years of school and social conditioning. If we were to follow Nature’s lead, surely springtime would be the time for us all to burst into life. Now, as the days get shorter and colder, it feels more like a time for hunkering down together after the dispersion of summer, for togetherness, warmth, cosiness and nourishment.
In Spain, with the lack of busy activities to join, the hunkering down happened naturally. We collected wood for the fire, we baked, toasted marshmallows, binge-watched television series, did lots of crafts, played board games and just spent those slow autumn days at home, doing whatever we felt like doing. Mushroom pickers heading past our house into the hills, corner stands selling sweet potatoes and roast chestnuts, the changing colours of the trees in the woods around us, and the smell of woodsmoke in the village. We were immersed in the season. The calm was punctuated by visits from friends and family, a walk into the village for fresh bread, regular trips to Barcelona for a thick hot chocolate in a century-old cafe, and going riding in the hills in the chilly autumn air. Although in some ways we were disconnected from regular life, in other ways we were more connected than we had ever been, but to a deeper, more natural, rhythm.
I’m wondering if unpicking this familiar September feeling is part of my own deschooling. As a child, I liked the idea of it being a time of new beginnings. There was something deeply satisfying in the ironed uniform, my perfectly organised pencil case, and the unblemished exercise books. It appealed to my most perfectionist traits. But, on reflection, I know this had far more to do with fitting in and being approved of by others. A desire to get everything just right. If anything, it was all a distraction from my deeper interests and desires.
And so, I suspect that September still triggers that perfectionist streak in me. I have a list on the table here of all the things that my children could join this month, from forest school to gymnastics, drama groups and a tech club. I’m trying to figure out who wants to do what and how on earth it will all fit together. It is a bit overwhelming and I am aware that I am at risk of moving into a stressful space with this for all of us. I am certainly more concerned about it all than they are. They have their usual desires and interests, and the fact that this is the month of September makes no particular difference to them.
I’m reminded that the first rule of this life is that I keep my balance. So, I’m thinking about what I need in order to be healthy and present with my children, whilst also tending to my own work and the general admin of life. How to latch onto September’s heroic energy, without it wearing us all out. How to be mindful in our doing. My memories of Spain are helpful to me right now. I find my mind returning to Nature, warmth and nourishment. I have found that missing element of community here and I already know that our autumn and winter will bring new friendships into our lives. I’ve met many wonderful people, and in the non-schooling community I find there’s a common desire for connection rather than filling our lives with activity. I know that when we focus on creating the right space with the right people, all sorts of things arise that couldn’t ever be scheduled or organised.
So, this September our lives will be inevitably busier with new activities, but I hope they will also be filled with people we care about, baking, long walks, playing on the beach, boardgames, and lots of other things that have no particular purpose but mean everything. I know that each child will decide to do the things that appeal most to them. Without the years of social conditioning, they are far more in tune with themselves and with the changing seasons than I am ever likely to be. Perhaps if I follow their lead, I’ll finally shake that September feeling.