Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Treasures at the Kitchen Table

Twenty years ago I tucked a crying 5 week old baby in my lap, sat down beside my first grader and said, “Let’s practice writing your name”
We became homeschoolers.

We did school work in the kitchen. We did school work at the dining room table. We did school in the van, on vacation, at church, in the orthodontists office, at Granny’s, and even in mom’s bed in between bouts of morning sickness.

We learned phonics and look-say. We sounded out and guessed the words. We bought new books and used ones. Library trips often ended in math lessons on how many books one family could carry without breaking the book bag. We read about Wild Things and Runaway Bunnies. We read about Motorcycle riding Mice and Secret Gardens. We discovered British children who talked to Lions and little girls who traveled in wagons across the Prairie. Then we cried over Diaries and concentration camps and lawyers who defended the innocent and Mockingbirds.

We made volcanoes with kool-aid and baking soda lava. We made paper-mache puppets and masks. We counted real coins and tried our hand at selling toys for a profit. We watched sugar plum faeries dance and marched with revolutionary minute men.

We were awash in music. We played piano, guitar, and sang. Three children each taking piano lessons one day a week means 2 hours and 15 minutes of practice every single day. I still hear the echo of Christmas carols being plunked out. One. Note. At. A Time. We also began a kid’s praise band for the children’s church and then sang and played and led worship in the youth band at several churches.

 We worked to accomplish our minimum of 180 school days with a vengeance. We worked through colds and flu. I would wipe their brow give them a Tylenol and ask…Couldn’t you do just one more math problem? We worked through broken wrists, braces, concussions and torn tendons.

We worked hard. But we also took time to play. Every Christmas a blessed 3 ½ weeks of cookie making and gingerbread house assembling. We made paper chains and decorated every square inch of our little house.
Then when little sister came in October we took a baby vacation to make sure everyone got well acquainted before we got back to the books.
And Thank God for Summer Vacation!

We didn’t just sit around. We took swimming lessons and played soccer and football. We took dance lessons and horseback riding. We formed metal head banging bands and bible studies. We worked at church as leaders and mentors. We learned how to build robots and cardboard boats. We worked for Dad’s business and cut mom’s grass. We kept busy.

We made friends. We made friends at church,at field trips and in our neighborhood. We celebrated with a dozen girls at pony themed birthday parties and ran around the park dressed as pirates on a treasure hunt. Most of the kids who joined us for parties and sleepovers when they were 8 are still coming over to our house at 18.

Most of all we learned to love each other as a family.

The decision to begin homeschooling when the oldest was 5 and his baby brother was on the way was just as much about keeping brothers together as getting a better education. I will never forget the little one pulling up on his toes to join his big “Bubby” at his piano practice. Or the way lessons would stop if the boys heard their little sister start to cry from the next room. Every one of us celebrated teeth that were lost and first wobbly steps that were taken. Piano practices that were difficult were made easier by a big brother’s patient explanation. Ribbons won at a horse show, tackles at football games and talent show band performances always brought a minimum of 4 others screaming their approval, cheering the other kid on.

I am beginning my baby’s Senior year of high school tomorrow. Probably will be my last year as a homeschool mom. I am excited for her but pretty sad that this season is ending.

I do clearly remember the days when I would look out the window and watch the big yellow school bus drive by and think…life could be sooo much easier if I just…
Or the days when I would grab the phone and slam the front door behind me as I called their dad and when he answered, burst out crying saying I just cant do this, it is too hard, they don’t listen to a thing I say…
The years when I had to write my own curriculum because our one income family just couldn’t afford another penny for school.
The “mom van” I drove
For. Ever.
It just wasn’t easy. But we were convinced that this was God’s passion and purpose for our children, our family. And so it became ours.
20 years later, I don’t have a career, a degree or a pension… but I have a treasure that moth and rust cannot destroy. I have three beautiful, smart, loving, amazing, God fearing homeschooled children. I am blessed.