by Kim Blum-Hyclak
My house is a mess. I want to get down to the business of schoolwork with my children, but the clutter is getting in the way. Colorful Legos dot the floor like land mines ready to be stepped on. Books have escaped the prison of the shelves and lie open, hiding in freedom in the stairway alcove. The box of craft supplies exploded and the debris lies in creative concentric circles. The two dishes I left in the sink last night mated. Their offspring now enjoy the run of the table and the counter top. The piles of laundry I lovingly folded now lean like a famous monument, inching their way to the edges of the washer and dryer.
I survey the damage and feel overwhelmed. I yearn for the day when I can sit at the table with my kids and their lessons and open their minds to all the wonderful “stuff” the world has to offer, without the distractions that our daily living heaps upon us.
But after years of homeschooling, I know this is not the dream I want realized. I am living my dream. The Legos are not just creations, they are lighthouses. They are modeled after the lighthouse we visited on a trip to Florida. In one afternoon at Ponce Inlet, we learned about the inlet and its lighthouse, climbing its 203 steps to the top. We toured buildings packed with exhibits and learned about how the lighthouse works and its history, about lighthouses around the world, about ocean life and what it’s like to be a sailor, about how Cuban refugees escape to America and the courage it must take.
The books in the alcove had help escaping. There is never a complete set of encyclopedias on the shelves; my children squander them in their rooms. The delinquent books in the alcove are the remainders of the journey my children took looking for Alaska. There is “w” for world, “u” for universe, “m” for maps, and finally “a” for Alaska. Along their journey, I know they also found many surprises.
The other books scattered about are the pleasure books that I have to pry from their hands when it is time for bed. There are the lighthouse books and my ninth-grader’s John Grisham from the library. There is the young teen book my daughter absorbs, opening the door to questions and discussions that take place at the dinner table or wherever she needs.
Out of the creative explosion of the craft box comes a colorful “ojos de Dios,” eyes of God. My son has given me this offering to place alongside the other gifts of my children’s handiwork. Like an archeological dig, my bookcase and shelves are lined with artifacts from our various studies. There is the Egyptian pitcher molded from clay, the heraldry shield with our family crest, the quilt sampler from our American Girls Quilting Circle. There is pride in their workmanship and love in their offering.
The dishes were a lesson in science. Mixing water and flour makes paste. Mixing bouillon and water makes a solution. Heat from the stove causes a chemical reaction, the liquid of eggs becoming solid. They are also a lesson in math — figuring the correct amounts for a recipe and the correct time for cooking. Full meals have been cooked in my absence, including pasta sauce from scratch. The three kids help each other and divide the tasks.
The clothes would have been put away if we hadn’t had a field trip to the state park for a program on birds. They would have gotten put away later, but we had to meet with other homeschoolers for a Lenten activity. Later that night, they were still patiently waiting to be tended to, but I was playing Monopoly and reading to my children.
I would like my house to be neat and tidy, but now is not the time. Webster defines education as “the development of knowledge, skill, ability, or character by training, study, or experience.” He defines “learning” as “the gaining of knowledge or skill.” In our homeschool, we do this in the distractions of our lives, not exclusive of them.
My children have taken responsibility for a portion of their education and taken it out of the boundaries of the kitchen table. As I write this, my older son does Latin and Algebra in his bedroom. My daughter is reading on the deck. My third is in the clubhouse with the dog, writing a story with the words he knows how to spell. Work is still done at the kitchen table, but most of the learning is done around the house. And it is done in an environment that not only encourages, but expects them to be respectful, compassionate, helpful, and encouraging to each other.
These lessons, now being applied to someone older or younger, or of another sex, will easily transfer to others of a different race, culture, or religion. This is what education is all about — taking what is being learned and assimilating it into their everyday playing and living. So yes, my house is a mess, but more importantly, at this point, my children are not.
About the author…
Lancaster resident, Kim Blum-Hyclak, homeschooled three of her five children for over 20 years. She saw many changes in her homeschooling years, from being required to seek permission from the local school board and being advised to keep her children inside during the school day, to being on the board of one of the original Third Option homeschool associations. She still believes homeschooling was one of the most rewarding experiences she and her children had. Her youngest will begin his final year at USC Columbia in the fall of 2012. He currently works for the University. Her middle child has worked as a nanny for the past several years. Her oldest graduated from USC School of Law in May of 2012 and will begin clerking for the York County Circuit Court Judge in August. As her homeschooling years came to an end, Kim revived her writing aspirations and still enjoys learning – even without the kids going along.