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Above and Beyond the Wall

  • Mary Biever Contributing Writer
  • 2006 17 Apr
Above and Beyond the Wall

There's that perfect lesson plan, the ideal curricula, and the greatest of schedules. Springtime means sunny days; I can get so busy I smack my forehead against....The Wall. Did The Wall suddenly land in front of my kitchen sink and deliberately hit me?

No. It was built, a row of bricks at a time, after a few bad weeks. Those are the times not described in "You Can Do It" homeschool books.

Maybe we should play a game of how many bad things can happen in one week and you keep schooling? Daughter tripped playing basketball and sprained her foot? No problem. She sits during school. Our cat suddenly died in the middle of the week? Yep, it's a problem. We buried the cat, had a funeral dinner of pigs in a blanket and tater tots (the kids chose the menu) and watched Milo and Otis together. School resumed the next day.

Then my husband got sick. He's not the main teacher, so I can keep going. Yes, he coughed all night, but moms handle to sleep deprivation. Note: the wall was two feet high, smack in front of the kitchen sink, but I hadn't noticed it.

Add in extra activities. A choir festival. Talent show rehearsals. A homeschool convention. My husband's business is run in our home, so there are always client deadlines.

Other schools' spring breaks hit. During Spring Break Week I, neighbor kids knocked on the door at 10, 11, noon, and later, "Can you come out and play?"

"No. We're doing school."

"It's spring break week. There is no school."

"There is for us."

"That stinks."

Put another six inches on The Wall.

My extended family's kids had spring break another week, and this time I put school on hold for a day. There were only 20 days of Language left, and I knew every single day I delayed was another day I would go in May – or June, kids will cry, when I get so irritated I might quit. If we took off for every spring break, minor catastrophe, and more, we would get in 20 school days in a year.

I hit The Wall the morning my husband was so sick I didn't get to sleep until 4:30 a.m. and woke up at 7:30, feeling rested. Had it been two weeks since I got a full night's sleep? When was the last time I colored my hair – or shaved my legs? When was the last time I combed my hair? Did I brush my teeth? Do I have a toothbrush, or is that what I used cleaning last week? When I stumbled into the kitchen, I smacked my forehead into The Wall and burst into tears.

That stopped the kids cold. "I'm tired, my voice hurts, I have to sing in church on Sunday, and I don't know if I'll be able to." I simply stood in the kitchen and sobbed. This happens maybe once a year. Once I let down my own wall, things got better.

My husband worked with the kids on group work for half an hour. The kids took turns reading their history and health lessons. Somehow, they finished seatwork. A foot fell off The Wall. Now I could see the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes.

My husband knew I needed some down time – some time alone. He did the dishes, took the kids for the afternoon, and told me to get some rest/do no housework. The Wall shrank two more feet.

A little rest added a lot of perspective.

I still had a knee-high wall, but could reach the sink. It was near the end of the school year, and soon we would shelve the books for a summer of fun, gardens, and 4H projects.

My daughter still limped, the cat was still dead, and my husband was still coughing. We would manage.

The academics are important with our homeschooling. However, more important is the way we build our family and learn to work together when things go wrong. As my children learn to work together as a family, they learn to create a community far beyond the simple walls of our home.

They learn that when we help each other, we see and help build a wonderful world - above and beyond The Wall.

Mary Biever, a homeschool mother of two, serves as the secretary for Southwestern Indiana Home Educators.

Read her blog in Blog Towne: