O N T H E O T H E R H A N D
a contrario sensu
Home Schooling on Weber's Mountain
Our family recently moved from Cincinnati to Estes Park, Colorado. One thing about living in the mountains is that you do not get good television reception. But we are able to get The Waltons. On occasion we allow our children to stay up and watch this show. During one episode, John Boy was having difficulty at college where people were making fun of him. Our oldest daughter, Ashley, looked at me and asked, "Mom, can we home school [through] college?" I just laughed and said, "Whoa, let's get through second grade, first!"
Some would probably say that she has been sheltered too much. I, however, was grateful that she has an environment that is stable, encouraging, and loving at this early stage in her life. We are giving her a firm foundation to face life's hard knocks some day. She is able to progress at her own pace academically, which is faster than the pace of school curriculum, and pursue her God-given talents and interests. Ashley is also able to go visit elderly people at the local nursing home. She enjoys mom's cooking for lunch and asks to take on more responsibility with chores at home. She has built in playmates with her brother and sister. For now she is missing being made fun of and the hard knocks of second grade in public school. That doesn't seem so bad. . .not bad at all.
Contributed by Scott & Lori W., Estes Park, Colorado
Free To Chase a Donkey
We are a family of eight, home schooling in an ultraconservative, traditional, uneventful Iowa town. Population: 700. About 250 people live in the city limits, and there are only 220 kids in the entire school, grades K—12. We are the first and only home schoolers in our district. Even though we have lived here for nearly five years, we are considered foreigners in this little out of the way place. And we live smack dab in the middle of town, in front of peering eyes. It isn't uncommon to see curtains move and heads turn when all eight of us pass by, or when we have school—especially music lessons—in the yard. We are used to it, even amused by it. It gives our elderly neighbors and the business people "downtown" something to do and talk about.
It is hard to "hide" here because my husband is the minister of the only "non-traditional" denomination in town. But I have to admit that when we first moved to Dows, I did hide a little. People were hostile about our school choice because of the size of our family and the fact that the school would receive no money for our kids. The Superintendent at that time was less than cordial, and had publicly decried our choice in a school newsletter. But eventually, I began to realize that hiding would only feed their suspicion and make us seem as if we were doing something illegal in our house. I began to see that if we would go to the store, library, and post office when we wanted, the community would grow accustomed to us as they were to good ol' Verl who went to the mail box and cafe every day. Little did I dream of the ways in which God would make us visible.
At Easter time, my husband and I produced a full-scale Easter play at our church with sets, lights—the works. The works included a live donkey that "Jesus" would ride during the "Triumphal Entry" scene. Since it was my idea to include a donkey in the play, and there were no volunteers to care for him, Dusty came to our house to stay.
We got the mayor's permission to park a large cattle trailer in our tiny front yard, to take Dusty for walks, and tie him in the church lot. The trailer we gave Dusty seemed very nice, and we fed him oats and hay to his heart's content. Still, Dusty wasn't satisfied with his accommodations and hit the trail at least once a day—alone.
Around 8:30 one school day morning, Dusty ventured forth and four of my children took off after him in the April snow. He led them shouting and laughing like hillbillies through downtown, past the post office, bank, cafe, grocery store, and library. I joined the chase, Dusty leading through yards and gardens. Dozens of unit study ideas popped into my head to maximize this teachable moment: construction of the Erie canal; transportation; apologizing for something that isn't your fault (such as Myrtle's smashed irises); the Gold Rush; and the sociological effects of donkey chasing in rural Iowa communities. As I fell on my face in Opal's herb garden, I wondered if this might be one of those experiences that qualified me for writing a book and speaking at conferences.
The chase finally ended. We caught up with Dusty in the public school parking lot in clear view of every classroom and school office!
I laughed. Not only at the irony of the moment, but also at the sight I saw. There we were: the town's solitary, upstanding home school family, standing triumphantly in the public school parking lot, donkey leash held like a trophy in mom's hand, hair askew, pulling and pushing a stubborn donkey home. In front of everybody.
It reminded me of the scripture in the Old Testament where Saul was chasing his father's donkeys and on his way was anointed king by the prophet Samuel. I looked at my sons and daughter, aglow with the merry chase in the April snow. The stunning beauty of the liberty we were literally experiencing outside the walls of the public school struck my heart like a bell. My children were free! Free enough to chase donkeys, and laugh, and run barefoot on a cool April morning during school hours.
I give thanks that on this journey of molding and shaping my children to come before kings, they will carry with them this marvelous memory of donkey chasing through a sleepy little Iowa town. They will remember that while other children sat at cramped little desks, they stood just yards away, with their laughing mother and a naughty donkey in the parking lot. It is a moment that happened because they were home for school. It is a moment I will ponder in my heart forever.
Contributed by Karla A., Dows, Iowa