Mark was also actively involved in the reconstruction process. He assisted the workers from the heating and air company as they installed a new heat pump and new HVAC ducts. He played gopher as he catered to their every need, fetched tools, ran errands, and manipulated the heat pump thermostat at their request. Mark observed the installation of new padding, carpet, underlayment, and vinyl floor covering. He witnessed the installment of the commode, a new hardwood floor, and wood trim molding. Mark watched the plumber repair the broken water pipe. He helped Dad dig a huge hole in the front yard to locate the water line entering the house, watched the plumber install a new shutoff valve, and then helped Dad fill in the hole.

Mark became buddies with the cabinet man and helped him reinstall the kitchen cabinets and countertops. This older gentlemen, who was a former high school shop teacher, remarked, "Mark will pick up on this real easily. He has a real knack for this kind of work."

During our ordeal we were blessed with several Christian construction workers. Mark seemed to bond with these individuals best of all. Two husky individuals, who performed the floor rip out, come to mind. The name of their business partnership is "Two Brothers in Christ." These two godly men were very supportive of home education and provided Mark with some strong words of encouragement and advice. They stressed the need for Mark to get a good education so that he would one day be the boss and not a laborer.

Several months later Mark watched the re-plumb crew rip out the defective polybutylene piping, install PVC pipe all through the house, and pressure test the piping. He watched the wall people come in and repair the holes in the walls and ceiling.

Regardless of the crews involved, Mark was constantly observing and challenging the men as to why they were doing things the way they were doing them. Each night he would report back to me and ask, "Daddy, do you know why . . . ," or he would say, "Daddy, I bet they could do it quicker and better if . . ." Indeed, he proved to be an invaluable informant . . . uh . . . quality control inspector.

The only reconstruction phase that Mark missed was the installation of the ceramic tile floor in our kitchen. We thought it was best to send him to his grandparents for a few days. You see, Mark is the most inquisitive person I know. When he was 3-1/2 years old we replaced the carpet in our house. The little tike followed the carpet installer from room to room, asking one question after another. For a while the busy installer gracefully responded to his questions. After several hours, though, the installer began to hyperventilate, overwhelmed with the endless questions. Standing a mere 34 inches, this relentless bundle of energy had pushed the man to his limit. "Is that your hammer?" Mark innocently inquired—no answer—"Is that your hammer?" Mark asked a little louder—silence—"Is that your hammer?" Mark shouted. The carpet installer, red in the face and perspiring heavily, suddenly blurted a loud response, "Yes, that's my hammer!" Needless to say, it was time to put Mark down for a nap. Aware of his inquisitive nature and the meticulous and unforgiving nature of laying tile, we believed it would be wise to keep Mark away from the tile man.

Mark learned a tremendous amount as the result of "the flood," as did we all. He learned how to lay carpet, install and level cabinets, cement PVC pipe together, install a commode, pressure test plumbing, install HVAC ducts, patch sheet rock, install underlayment and vinyl floor covering, remove moisture from wet walls and floors, and install hardwood floor and wood trim molding.  Mark gained a practical knowledge of the planning and coordination required to carry out a major project by watching the general contractor. He understands the logical sequence and timing necessary for demolition and construction. As he watched and helped the various construction crews, he gained valuable and practical handyman skills. Regardless of his future career, he gained beneficial knowledge from this disaster that will help him as a future homeowner.

As I reflect back on this painful period of our lives, I can always find a bright spot. I am reminded of the unique learning opportunities it provided Mark—an educational experience he would have missed if he were attending public school. Nearly two years later after the flood, he still speaks of one day becoming a general contractor. I believe that he will likely fulfill that dream because he learned well the "lessons from the flood."

Terry Bowman is a part-time freelance writer. He and Karen, his wife of twenty years, make their home near Wilmington, North Carolina with their three children: Neal (16), Mark (14), and Lori (11). They have been homeschooling for over seven years.

This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb '04 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit