Dirt Under Our Nails

by Stefani on 8-April-2010

Squash Baby

From time to time curious folks ask why we homeschool. It’s understandable really. Honestly there are days when I wonder myself why we would do such a thing. 🙂

I often have a tough time with that question because the answer is not so much comprised of big, overarching “This We Believe” convictions, as it is.. well just the way we live.

Our reasons for homeschooling are not bullet points in a business plan, they’re more like photos in one of those accordion style wallets. You know the kind I mean, right? I’m thinking of the sort that grandma carries around so that when someone says, “And how are the grandkids?” she can unfurl a length of smiling faces as long as she is tall.

Our reasons for homeschooling are snapshots of our days – all the little ways that being together and learning together lend a space, time and closeness to our lives that I’m just not willing to part with.

Granny’s Garden is one of the photos in our “why we homeschool” album. From late winter to early fall, we make monthly treks to visit with my grandmother and help her build and tend to her garden. She lives about a 4.5 hour drive from us, so it’s no small endeavor to make regular trips. There’s no way that we could visit her nearly so often if the boys attended school.

Lessons From Granny in Pea Planting

I think too that there are lessons to be had in that garden. Lessons about food production, dietary considerations, soil pH, photosynthesis, the water cycle, the lifecycle of insects, all of that more, to be sure… but more to the point, there are more lessons about heart, history, tradition, connection, roots, and the joy of hard work. There is the feel of the sun on your neck, the soil between your toes, the sounds of birds mingled together with the laughter of your loved ones.

Lessons From Nana in Onion Planting

Could they have those things if they went to school? Absolutely. I did.

But I’m greedy. I want more of that for them, more of that for all of us. I want our heads full of knowledge – equations and poetry, dates and theories – yes, but I also want dirt under our nails.

For the green thumbs that are present (or those, like me, who are trying ever so hard despite a completely BLACK thumb). I thought you might like to hear what we planted this year in Granny Garden:

Turnips (for the greens, of course)
Texas Sweet Onions
Purple Hull Peas
Yellow Squash
Jalapeno Pepper
Bell Pepper
Basil, Parsley, Oregano, Lemon Balm, Mint, Thyme, Cilantro

And something new this year, a flower garden!
Zinnias, Fire Wheels, Morning Glories, Coneflower, Daisies, Sunflowers, Azaleas and Roses!

Wish us luck!

Cassandra April 8, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Love this little snapshot! What wonderful lessons come from a simple garden! We’re itching to get ours started, but we have a good month or two yet before we can start (though we’ve got some lemon balm on the windowsill smelling up the kitchen.)

Stefani April 11, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Mmmmmmm Lemon Balm! We just planted some. I don’t know what on earth to do with it, but it’s nice to have anyhow. None of us can pass it by without rubbing our fingers on it’s leaves 🙂
Hang in there, mama, it’s almost spring!

Eren April 8, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Oh Stef, this is such a great post…I want it all too…poetry and prose, numbers swirling all around in their little heads, and questions about why this and that.

Much love to you mama. You are oh, so good!

Stefani April 11, 2010 at 9:16 pm

With a mama like you, dear, I’ve no doubt that your boys have all those things and more!

Stefani April 11, 2010 at 9:16 pm

p.s…. I think we’re long over due for a phone chat, don’t you?

Visty April 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm

You nailed it, dear. Nailed it. YES, they can have that at school, or after school, or on weekends, but it’s never enough. Never. I mourn our homeschool days in my heart every single day.

Stefani April 11, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Oh Visty.
I’m sorry, hon.

You’re such a fantastic mom though, to let your kids have the freedom to make choices about their own education. I can only hope that, should the occasion arise one day, I handle it with as much love and grace as you so clearly have. It took real guts and a healthy dose of selflessness to let your kids make that choice, and I so admire you for it.

And for the record, I don’t think its ever enough even if you homeschool. Try as we do, there’s still laundry, and karate and grocery shopping and the post office and and and…. a million and one other ridiculous time eaters that sometimes leave me feeling like my days were stolen right out from under me.

Hang in there, girl. It’s almost summer!

Lisa Clarke April 8, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Well said. It’s exactly this that sometimes makes me wistful for the idea of homeschooling! I don’t think it’s a practical idea for my own family, but I do get pangs sometimes…

Stefani April 11, 2010 at 9:48 pm

You know, From time to time I try to imagine what it would be like for my boys to go to school too. I wonder what it would feel like to be able to get the house picked up, run errands, and fix dinner while they where at school. Sometimes I think that it might even make our time together more meaningful. If I could get those things done when they went to school, then when they were home I could relax and enjoy them more. Right?

Honestly though, I kind of think mothering and managing a home is tough work no matter how you school. Sometimes I don’t think there’s much about raising up a family that does seem practical for anyone! It’s messy and loud and hard no matter how you slice it…. but awfully wonderful too 🙂

Lisa Clarke April 12, 2010 at 8:59 am

It just goes to show that we all have those “grass may be greener” moments now and then no matter *how* our children are schooled 🙂

Dawn April 9, 2010 at 3:05 am

Beautiful post Stefani! So true…
Such a wonderful experience for your boys… Time they will treasure for all their days!
Jalapeno’s… I used to grow them in Cali… we made Jalapeno jelly. Soooo yummy on cornbread! Seeing it on your list just brought back some fun memories with those little peppers!

Stefani April 11, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Wait, do they not have peppers on the outskirts?
We LOOOOOOVE jalapeno jelly. I’ll tell you what. If we manage a decent crop and get to make some this year, I’ll send a jar your way. Okay?

Dawn April 12, 2010 at 5:27 am

Yay for jalapeno jelly!! I should have known you guys make it 🙂
We are going to see how peppers will grow this summer. It’s a little wet and cool for them here. Our summer is like a California winter…sigh…
I might try to make little hot houses for them. They would be more than worth the effort!
You are too sweet to offer some of yours… I can just taste it!

Nori Coleman April 9, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Really enjoying your blog, great photos and writing!!

Stefani April 11, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Well thank you, Nori! I’m pleased to have you here!

lolo April 9, 2010 at 2:19 pm

your posts are always so uplifting! we just finished planting our flower garden, and now onto the vegies!!! Boys, digging, dirt and water? Who could ask for more!!!!

Stefani April 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm

What’s in your flower garden? Ours is such a comedy right now. We’ve planted lots of little seeds, but we also have some coming up that I think are reseeded from last year. The weird thing is, we can’t figure out what they are. They are growing so well, lush and green and tall, but I don’t have a clue what they could be. They don’t look like any of the things I remember planting. I keep on watering and hoping that they’re something that’s worthy of all the pampering I’ve been giving them. For all I know I’m growing the most gorgeous crop of weeds in the neighborhood!

lolo April 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Your reply has me giggling! Just last year we planted a huge vegie garden…but the seeds got spread all around, I think the chi.ckens might have helped. Anyway, I was particularly proud of me greenest spot growing better than all the others, and just about gave my son a heart attack when he tried to pull the plants up..as if they were WEEDS!!!! Did he not understand that this was proof of Mama’s green thumb, and wasn’t this gardening thing a whole miracle?! Well, as you probably guessed, after my lush, green plants grew to about knee high, this poor old mama had to concede that ,Yes, I DO have a green thumb….I can grow the healthiest weeds around! Ha,ha! Good luck with yours!

Diane April 9, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I think that is a wonderful explanation of why your family homeschools. I totally agree. There would be so much I would miss if my daughter went to public school and the funny thing is, if we had never homeschooled I would never know the joy of spending time with my children.

lolo April 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Stefani, I know you might be a bit tired of my comments, but I just had to reply about wondering of sending your kids to school and getting things done, etc. Well I did that with 6 of my kids for years, and ya know what? When they get home you get tired, cranky kids who have been cooped up all day, delt with “clicks” and social issues, felt not smart, etc. I r3emind myself of this fact, the school got the “best” of my children each day, and I got the “fall out”. So when I am dealing with all the not so fun times, I remember that at least this way I get the “best” of my kids as well as the “rest “of them,too!

jen April 14, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I love the notion that homeschooling is a greedy thing to do! 😉 I often think about how blessed I am to have my kids with me and learning things that they otherwise wouldn’t, but to think of it as greedy just makes it all sound so delicious!

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