Homeschooling. It sounds very Mother Earth-like. Actually, it is. The first teacher most children have is the mother whether she realizes it or not. My mother would describe children as “sponges” ready to soak up whatever was around them. I like to think of them as little tape recorders—maybe these days they’d be MP3 players with the ability to record. It can get to be a problem when they decide to play snippets back at the most inopportune moments. The thrill came from knowing what DD knew, I’d taught her.
She hadn’t been to kindergarten. She could count to large numbers and knew her ABCs. Her huge box of crayons contained all the colors of the rainbow and every hue in-between and she could identify all of them. We had a “rap” that went “Two plus two is four, four plus four is eight, eight plus eight is sixteen, sixteen plus sixteen is thirty-two…” It would go on to a ridiculous extreme but it was fun.
Our Bible class came from a syllabus that had stories for her age level interspersed with songs. There were memory verses and projects that made the people from thousands of years ago come alive.
The curriculum included phonics. That was fine with me. I had learned to read with phonics and while I hated it at the time, it stood me in good stead and I can still sound out words with the best of them. It was right up DD’s alley to learn to read. DH was reading The Children’s Living Bible to her when he was home and we took turns reading aloud the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. He’d assume all sorts of silly voices for Ma and Pa, Mary and the rest. That would aggravate DD so I believe she wanted to be able to read them for herself and put her own slant on the personalities. She started out with Dick and Jane but it didn’t take long for her to catch on. She’d been reading simple words for a long time, anyway. When she’d pick up a book and start reading, I’d marvel that I’d been the one who taught her. It was altogether different from when I’d be the “go-to” person for the boys’ homework.
We studied simple geography and learned about how people in other countries lived, worked and ate. When the focus was on farm life in America, we went to the store and bought a half pint of heavy whipping cream and turned it into butter with a “make do” churn. A quart jar with a tight-fitting lid and sore arms from shaking it for, seemingly, hours rewarded us with our very own spread for our bread.
Handwriting was a chore she didn’t enjoy and it was odd that cursive was easier for her than printing. She was an obedient child and did her best making her letters as neat as possible.
Art was a fun time with crafts and fingerpaints. One of DH’s old shirts served as a smock. DD had to learn the works of the Masters, too, which was more like school.
The real thorn in her side was math. It completely baffled her. We must’ve spent two days on 1 + 1 = 2. I got toothpicks out and laid one on the table while intoning, “ONE toothpick plus ONE toothpick (another toothpick goes down) equals HOW MANY toothpicks?” Time after time, she’d wail, “I DON’T KNOW!” Finally, I said, “You know what two plus two is. Can you tell me what one plus one is?” She sobbed, completely frustrated, “Two plus two is easy but one plus one is HARD.” I knew when she’d had enough so we went on to something else. One good thing about having a schedule was when a class was over, it was over until the next day.
There were a few activities we participated in with the “umbrella” school but her favorite days were when we’d go on field trips just the two of us. When DH was home, he would make it three. Her favorite place of all was Helen Keller’s birthplace. We had the movie starring Patty Duke as Helen and we watched it repeatedly. As we’d stroll around the grounds, we could imagine how Helen had been taken all over the countryside only to wind up in a place not even a stone’s throw from the main house. We touched the pump where she learned the word “water” and felt rather famous ourselves. Everything in the little gift shop was expensive but one day she picked out some paper dolls to take home. One of our long-range plans was to learn to sign. We practiced the alphabet until we could slowly spell sentences to each other. I’ve forgotten most of the letters. I should have kept it up.
Our trips would inevitably end up at Big K or the grocery store. We were doing some shopping in the early afternoon when an old man stopped us and asked DD, “Why aren’t you in school?” She answered, “We’ve been on a field trip.” “Ah!” he said. “What school do you go to?” “Hillside Day School.” He gravely nodded his head. “Yes, I’ve heard of that school. It’s a good school.” He went on his way and we went ours all the while keeping straight faces. When we got in the car, we erupted into gales of laughter. Now I knew why the counselor had said to name the school.
Besides the schoolwork, I was teaching DD to play the piano. It was rocky going. She wasn’t overly enthused about learning to play and I hadn’t inherited my mother’s talent for patience at the keyboard while listening to sour notes and grousing. That half hour every week was a trial for both of us and the half hour practice every day but Sabbath was a chore. It finally went by the wayside. We never sat down and decided she wasn’t going to have lessons. Some way it just happened.
There are pros and cons when considering homeschooling offspring but one definite pro for us was we could pick up and go at a moment’s notice and not have to be concerned about missing school. I had a large suitcase for the books. When we were home, it was beside the table where we had our classes. If DH had room for us on a trip, we’d zip it up and take it along.
Once a week I’d take all the assignments and put them in a manila envelope. Off it would go to HSI to be graded. Back it would come with smiley faces and notes from the counselor. “Good job!” “Way to go!” “Keep up the good work!” DD liked the faceless lady who liked what she did. I kept careful records so if there were ever any questions I’d have the answers. I still have the folders in the filing cabinet.
It was getting to be cold weather but we were prepared. DH’s hobby was to spend his at-home time cutting down trees and turning them into stove wood. The people we’d bought the house from had left a supply of seasoned wood and he was getting more ready for the next winter. The driveway had proven to be a pain in the behind. Whenever it rained, it was like there was an electro-magnet in the ditch that would suck the car right in. It was DH’s heart’s desire to cut a longer winding driveway through the woods. That gave him lots of wood to cut and split.
DH was away on a trip when the day dawned gray and cold. There was a freezing rain falling on the already frozen ground. It built up on the cypress wood until it looked like there was a quarter inch of polyurethane covering it. I’d already gone out and brought in armloads of wood. The end of the greenhouse was stacked with it. We had plenty of food. I went outside to see what the conditions were and almost fell. The ground was a solid sheet of ice. Then the sleet started. It kept up for hours until there were five inches of sleet on top of the ice. It was a good thing we didn’t need to go anywhere because we were iced in. And DH was iced out.