I just sent a message to my dean at the community college to let her know I'm not planning to teach the summer session this year. I planned to take the summer off last year, too, but ended up teaching. I received the "Teaching Availability Form" yesterday that has the same sentence as the form last year, "If not returned by this date, we will assume that you do not wish to teach this semester." I tossed the form in the recycling bin last year because I thought it was time to take the summer off--after all, isn't that one of the perks of teaching? In most of my years as a work-at-home mom (I teach distance education courses), I have worked throughout the summer, in spite of saying every February and March that my plan is to have fun with the kids and work in the garden all summer long.
Even though the form promised otherwise, my neglect to send any communication regarding my teaching preferences landed me a distance education summer session. I know that the distance courses fill up first and I felt duty-bound to accept the course and not leave the college without a section for eager freshman composition students.
My youngest will be 8 at the end of summer. I've worked every summer since he was born--it's time for my sabbatical! Instead of assuming that the absence of a form would guarantee my break, I put the message in writing today that I'm taking off this summer. I started to elaborate, and got teary-eyed. I deleted the extra details and decided to leave it at "I'm taking this summer off."
So, why now? I have a few reasons. The first four are my children. My oldest started attending a public high school this fall after several years of homeschooling. He will be a senior in the fall, and when I write those words my eyes fill with tears. I can't believe it will be our last summer before "The Summer before College." My only daughter has opted to attend the big public high school (2000 students!) next fall as a freshman after 6 years of homeschooling. My sixth grader may be going to the same 6-12 grade Magnet School that my oldest son attends. That will leave my 2nd grader at home with just me for the first time since he was a toddler. The older children started homeschooling when he turned two. We'll have a different sort of empty nest in September.
I don't imagine that the kids will want to hang out with me all day every day this summer, but I want to have the flexibility to get up and take off with the kids to the park or the beach or to hang out and watch a movie in the air conditioning on a hot, rainy July day without worrying that I have papers to grade and emails to answer.
Next school year will be full of changes, but I'm hoping the memories of a summer full of love and togetherness will make the transition smoother for all of us.