It was crowded in the hallway. Hundreds of fellow conference attendees were bustling by; a family in matching homeschool academy shirts, a gangly teenager carrying a replica of Gimli’s ax, three girlfriends giggling loudly together from the delirium of being childless for a three day conference. I was on the floor, weeping.
Weeks after a string of scary evaluations, doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions for our youngest son, we were still feeling shell shocked and overwhelmed. The thought of sending my baby to the state run special education preschool in our area depressed me. My one visit there left me with a hollow feeling in my chest. I had carried those worries to the conference. Hoisted on my back and festering with every passing minute.
Every session left me wondering, how can I give my other children this beautiful education, but then turn around and surrender my son to a broken education system that does not care about him as a person?
After the 12th lecture of emotional turmoil, my husband found me sitting on the ground in tears. Frantic words started tumbling out, “I have to keep him at home. I have to do this myself. Can I do that? I’m not a therapist. We can take him to a speech therapist. But he needs to be at home. What do I teach him? How can I teach 2nd grade to the older boys, teach K-4 and then somehow squeeze in something else for him? I’ll just have to write something out. Plan my own curriculum for him. Something beautiful and meaningful with lots and lots of play. You remember the book by Anthony Esolen that I was reading? Or “Last Child in the Woods?” Fred Rogers and Anthony Esolen would have a baby and that baby would be my curriculum. (Sniff sniff) Leigh Bortins would be its fairy godmother and it will live in messy haven of finger paint and mud half the time and a woodland cottage the other half…. (sniff) You get that right? I don’t know how or when I’ll find the time, but I have to do this for my baby!!”
My husband held me, said all the reassuring things he knew to say (really, what could he say to all that craziness?) and then we parted ways for the next seminars. I looked down at my program and saw “The Homegrown Preschooler” circled twice.
I found the correct room and sat down and prayed that God would show me what to do.
Then Lesli Richards fired up the power point and CHANGED. OUR. LIVES.
Turns out I didn’t have to write a curriculum because Leslie Richards and Kathy Lee already did it (and waaay better than I ever could have!).
A curriculum that my two youngest could use together. A perfect fit for our little boy and all his needs. A blessing for our lately overlooked third born. It was beautiful and heartfelt and loving and jam packed with PLAY.
Every slide in the presentation echoed my personal philosophy of education. Every. single. one.
Throw some Esolen quotes my way, read a passage from ND Wilson’s Death by Living, a few classical models for child development and you will have my undying affection. Before the session was out I was contemplating naming our next child after Lesli.
Of course, I walked back to The Homegrown Preschooler booth and waited like a sad puppy for Lesli to return from her lecture. She let me cry all over her and she encouraged me. I looked through the curriculum and realized everything we needed was addressed and covered through skillful play. Hallelujah! I bought the entire curriculum and the following day I went to Kathy’s lecture.
Kathy made me laugh. She reminded me to keep having fun. Undertaking a child’s education is a serious endeavor, but it is also a joy-filled wonder! What are my kids experiencing each day? What sights, sounds, smells, tastes will they recall from their childhood. It was the kick in the pants I needed to stop crying and keep experiencing life with my children. I walked out of there desperate to find lightning bugs, bake gooey chocolate cookies, knit a soft blanket and sit in the woods with my kids until the sun set. I’m told this side effect is totally common after experiencing these particular lectures.
So we said “YES!”
YES to puddles and dragonflies and painting the driveway with pastels. Yes to blanket forts and s’mores at 9AM. Yes to amphibian guests at our daily tea party. Yes to reading our favorite book again and again and again.
We watched the YES effect spread throughout the house like a domino rally. It tumbled into every room of our home and oh, how these children began blossoming and smiling and playing.
I’ll be recording our journey through Homegrown Prescooler’s curriculum, “A Year of Playing Skillfully.” We’d love to have you follow along!