Among the excavators and the backhoe, sat the boy. Slowly bits of stone were being excavated from the construction site, piece by piece. It was the makings of an archaeological dig to explain the history of the bit of sand near our raised septic tank. What might be found within that raised septic mound was something no construction worker, or his mother, was prepared to find. The boy is an expert at turning anywhere into a schoolhouse.
I observed all this from leaning out the back door, after I’d called the boy to the table for school five minutes earlier. He was playing the I can’t hear you because I’m so far away game. The boy’s next tactic was of the I’m so tired variety.
“Good news! It takes about an hour to go through math, reading, writing, and grammar! You will be done in no time.” The boy has no idea that regular kindergartners spend eight hours at school, and accomplish way less.
That is the first year of homeschooling, in a nutshell.
The Schoolhouse in the Woods
Fast forward one hour. We were standing on a boardwalk over a pond, heading to the woods. It was Nature Walk Day, and our curriculum had us examining the weather.
After a bit of walking we found our tree, where we had observed moss two weeks prior, and lichens the week after that. We sat down in the pine needles and got out the nature journals so that the boy could document his observations. Meanwhile, the tot stole colored pencils, demanded snacks, and stomped around our pine needle floor like the Godzilla version of a toddler. Toddlers without naps morph into all sorts of unpleasant creatures.
Fast forward another half an hour. Out of that woods sat a playground. On it sat a contraption made for a mother to swing while facing her tot. And on that swing, sat us. I love the feeling of the stomach flying up into the throat as the swing offsets the body’s equilibrium. The tot’s face was spread with a wide smile. As she veered upward, her blue eyes met the background of the matching blue sky. Those blue eyes were like two windows of blue sky in a field of blond daisies blowing in the wind. It was a sight so beautiful, it could make a person laugh. I laughed, while my stomach flew into my throat, and then back down again, over and over.
The Schoolhouse at the Park
Meanwhile, the boy was struggling to pull his short self onto the high swing adjacent to us. He succeeded. Then he asked for a push. I told him the only way he’d ever learn was to do it on his own. I coached him while my stomach was bouncing up and down, and then the magic happened. He figured it out.
In the span of two hours: learning to capitalize the months of the year, observing the raindrops in a spiderweb, and figuring out how to swing. A healthy mixture of school and home, well blended—discipline and fun.
The Schoolhouse in the Dining Room
Fast forward another four hours, back at home. The boy, the tot, and the boy’s two best friends were standing in the dining room. The boys were squirming, almost tackling each other as I clapped my hands and spoke loudly above the ruckus.
“Later this week we will be getting together with family to celebrate Thanksgiving. Tonight we are recreating the actual first Thanksgiving meal. It took place very near our home in the year 1565, when the Spanish landed here and the Timucuans welcomed them.” I passed out some copies of the sketches made of the natives in that time period. Handsome, chisel-muscled, nearly naked natives stood at attention, their bodies covered in tattoos and their hair tied up in topknots.
I was telling a half-truth. The actual first Thanksgiving probably took place about five years prior, when the French landed just a bit farther up from us on the first coast of Florida. But the French were lacking in food, so the natives were kind enough to provide for most of their feast. I didn’t have any gator tail on hand, so we were sticking with the other, easier first Thanksgiving.
“The Spanish brought ashore soup made of salted pork and garbanzo beans, dry biscuits, and red wine, which we will be eating tonight. The natives offered several things, including squash, which we will also be eating tonight.”
A Schoolhouse Everywhere
My short speech was complete, and the boys went back to wrestling like wolf pups. I sat down at the table with my red wine and very good friends, musing. Homeschooling is historically relevant dry biscuits dipped in ham and beans.
Simply put, homeschooling is a complicated act of love and devotion to the future, accomplished in schoolhouses located everywhere.