The aisles are packed with colorful notebooks filled with fresh pages of possibility.
The still unsharpened pencils dangle enticingly from their overstuffed hangers.
The pristine bottles of glue stand at attention in hopes of mixing it up with that sparkly bottle of glitter.
A new school year is just around the corner.
And I am at loose ends.
I have always loved this time of year and for as long as I can remember, I was the one who became quite giddy at the prospect of starting a new school year. As a child, I loved school. My Mom would threaten me that I could not go to school unless I made my bed. Horrors. Strange child? Perhaps, but don't judge.
Then as the years passed, we were blessed with two pretty amazing kiddos and before I blinked twice, they were traipsing off to school. The gathering of school supplies was an adventure.
Alas, the actual sending them off to school...not so much.
The over 3 hours of commuting each day...not so much.
So I became a substitute teacher every day and ran the reading program when DH did not require my assistance on the ranch until the good Lord pointed us in a new direction and we began to home school. The kids were 7 and 9 and adventure was just around the corner.
To say that home schooling was a great fit for us would be an understatement. Oh the fun we had! Yes, there were tears. Yes there were days when the books were slammed shut in frustration. But those days really were few and far between.
Still I was frightened at taking control of their education. What if I did it wrong? What if I wasn't smart enough? My degree was in Animal Science. Was I qualified? What about socialization? These questions and countless others swirled and collided in my head.
Then I realized that I wasn't in control anyway. God was. I often relay the story that I didn't want to homeschool, but He wanted us to.
He tossed a pebble to get my attention and I brushed it aside.
He threw a rock and I rubbed the sore spot.
He lobbed a brick and I wondered how the lump on my head got there.
He heaved a boulder and I listened.
And thus we began to homeschool. A dear friend, Amy held my hand and guided me through the murky waters. I will be forever grateful. The adventure was on! We scribbled letters that were insanely long back and forth by snail mail.
I read voraciously about learning styles and teaching styles and just HOW to homeschool the 'right' way. I quickly learned that the 'right' way for one family was not necessarily the 'right' way for ours and that I was learning as much as the kids were.
I eagerly made weekly lesson plans and I quickly learned to make them in pencil because life happens and on a ranch, the windmills and livestock and water gaps, and cow works need to be penciled in as well.
We did not 'do school' from 8 to 3:30. 'School' became a lifestyle.
The kids practiced their skip counting with mesquite beans while I hoisted a block and tackle in place to help DH with a windmill.
We used an old ranch rope to learn our spelling words while waiting on a cattle truck:
I read aloud daily until I lost my voice because books like Summer of the Monkeys were too good to put down.
We wrote newsletters. I put together unit studies where we made disgusting Barley Cakes
and wonderful butter. We made models of the ear and of the Nile River and we laughed when we ended up with a 'plague' of crickets which really was comprised of only one cricket.
Our tummies hurt from laughing when we looked up what a puffin sounds like. This new fangled thing called a computer had arrived on the ranch and we had this very cool interactive encyclopedia. :) The kids ran to call Daddy and when he heard it, he said, "It sounds like Mama when she wakes up in the morning."
We learned about simple machines:
participated in community service projects:
presented projects for the Science Fair:
And the blessings overflowed.
Then the kids grew up. Just like that. And they were off on new adventures which have brought me great joy and great sadness all at the same time. I did not teach them everything they needed to know, but I hope that I taught them how to learn the things I did not teach them on their own. They are lifetime learners.
My lesson plan book lies empty, but my heart is full.
I think I'm going to buy myself a new box of crayons. After all, new masterpieces will not draw themselves. The kids are off creating their own and the possibilities are endless for all of us.