My sister, Melissa, and I with the support of our husbands have dedicated ourselves to home schooling our children. Both of us understood from the beginning that the road could get bumpy and that from time to time we might even want to turn back. With a total of eight children between us (I have three, and Melissa has five.), we are still pursuing the course.
Our brother and sister-in-law, Alan and Beverly, have chosen to keep their four children in public school in a small town in Missouri. While they have not opted to home school their children, my sister and I have their wholehearted support in our efforts.
Our parents have become an integral part of the education process in our homes. When they express a fervent desire to spend a little time with their grandchildren during the school term, they are keenly aware that it will involve bringing books, lesson plans, and other supplies. They welcome this additional responsibility and relish the time spent together. While visiting my parents with my sister’s three oldest children, our boys have honed their music skills by forming a band and writing some of their own compositions. My son, Jason (15), and Melissa’s son, Stewart (16), both lead youth praise bands at their respective churches on Wednesday nights. Courtney, my 12-year-old, and her 13-year-old cousin, Amanda, also sing with the band and occasionally perform solos in church on Sunday mornings. My husband, Clay, once playfully packed up the drum set Jason had received from his grandparents for Christmas and sent it with the kids to Grandpa and Grandma’s house along with guitars, etc. Little did he know that revenge on my parents would birth a group of musicians. The girls also write scripts for plays and enact them for my parents and an occasional guest. Ten-year-old Clark helps with the band as well as the plays; he is just happy to be with family and have a part to play. Sixteen-year-old Bradley also serves both groups. He is an excellent writer of songs and plays. He is also a great mediator when any conflict rears its head.
During the summer, our parents take the ten oldest children for extended vacations. This time is traditionally called the Grandkids-R-Us vacation. Much planning and forethought is given to this time together. My parents research travel books and websites to determine possible vacation destinations. The information is then forwarded to the grandchildren via e-mail. After their research is concluded, a vote is taken to prioritize the choices. Through this process, computer skills as well as communication and organizational skills have been developed.
In recent years, much emphasis has been placed on historical sights. The kids have camped at Goliad State Park, where they rang the bell at the Mission Espiritu Santo de Zuniga, saw many artifacts on display in the museum, and learned from a park ranger how to start a fire with flint. They have also visited the George Ranch Historical Museum in Richmond, the Lone Star Flight Museum on Galveston Island, the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory, and the Monastery of St. Clare miniature horse farm in Brenham. Side trips to plays for young people by the AD (Anno Domini) Players in Houston have been on the agenda as well as a trip to see The Promise in Glen Rose.
When the children were young, my parents dressed them in matching shirts in order to keep track of them in crowds. Now creative and artistic skills are being developed as the young people design their own T-shirts for the trip. Once the designs and logos are complete and the sizes and colors chosen, my parents have the T-shirts made. More than once, someone has stopped the group to inquire about where to purchase a shirt like they were wearing.
Recently my parents moved from Texas to Pennsylvania, but the history lessons have not ended. This year my children have learned about the history of the railroad, portage canals, and even the Johnstown flood. They traveled back in time on an old, narrow gauge steam train and a turn-of-the-century trolley. They also visited the Hershey Candy Museum. (It is important to know what goes into your favorite candy!) They toured the Gettysburg Battlefield and saw the place where Abraham Lincoln stood to make his famous Gettysburg Address. On the way to Niagara Falls, they discovered a beautiful, old, covered bridge and even visited Gobbler’s Knob in Sportsman’s Park in Punxsutawney where the famous groundhog, Phil, either does or does not see his shadow each February 2nd.
With an occasional stop for a burger or pizza and a lot of ice cream, the educational process goes on. I can honestly say both the kids and the grandparents have learned a lot.