Jump Down, Turn Around

by Stefani on 4-September-2007

Would you know what this stuff was if you were speeding by it at 70 miles an hour?


Here, let me get ya a little bit closer.


How ’bout this?


That’s right sister, it’s about cotton pickin’ time! I think, actually, that it will be another month or so until it’s fully ripe, but those fields are looking awfully fluffy!

Just a little Northeast of Austin, there’s rows upon rows of the stuff. You can’t imagine how excited my boys were to find out that clothes grow on bushes!

I did one of my famous homeschooling mama, cross three lanes of traffic, throw on the hazards and pile everyone out of the car moves, so that we could take a closer look. It was everything I could do to keep them from stuffing their pockets with “the touch, the feel of cotton.”

Well, as you might expect our adventures in the field have led to lots of further investigation. We’ve learned all about how cotton is made into thread and woven into cloth. We brought out our plastic loom, of course.


My little skeptics weren’t real sure that I was telling them the God’s honest, that this is actually how cloth is made, though.

So, I brought out some fabric and we took the “deconstructionist” approach to problem solving. 🙂


While we were knee deep in cotton, I taught my guys to dance the “Cotton Eyed Joe”, which is the one line dance that every self respecting Texan should know, no matter how stupid you look doing it.

We broached the subject of slavery with Follow the Drinking Gourd, by Jeanette Winter.

That led us down all sorts of roads including ethics, equality, the civil war, spiritual music and modern machinery. Then that, of course, led us to You Tube, where we found this highly educational video. which was kind of slow for me, but completely wonderful to my machine-loving men.

Then, there was this little diddy, that has taken up permanent residence in my head (consider yourself warned.)

I can say, with coviction, that I am clean cotton pickin’ DONE with cotton for a while!

leslie September 4, 2007 at 6:39 pm

holy toledo that was cool! i have done that slam to the right across three lanes with the kids, hazard lights on to pick up stray animals, limping birds and of course anything cool left by the curb thrown out.

Sarah Jackson September 4, 2007 at 7:12 pm

Fantastic! That’s exactly what I want to be doing with my kids. It’s also fun to do the same thing with wool.

Thanks for the great inspiration today.

kirsten September 4, 2007 at 7:46 pm

an awesome example of homeschooling – or afterschooling – or just good-mama-learning! 🙂

mountain mama September 4, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Nothing like seeing it in person to make an impact! No cotton this far north, or at least none that I’ve seen, but we have lots of other stuff to see. We are going apple picking soon and will make a stop at the local apple cider place to see how apples get “juiced”! And of course, gotta buy apples to can and make applesauce, apple butter, apple pie, apple crisp…..

Anne September 4, 2007 at 8:51 pm

Your boys are lucky to have a mama like you. Nothing can replace learning something by touching it. Thanks, now I have that song in my head too.

Jody September 4, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Cool lesson! I’ve never seen cotton on a plant before. I wonder how many people guessed you were homeschoolers while you were on the side of that road … “you homes school, don’t you?” seems to be a question we hear when doing lessons in the middle of everywhere.

michelle September 5, 2007 at 3:37 am

I don’t know how any of you resisted stuffing some of that in your pockets. At least one tiny, little wisp!

Upon seeing the picture I had an immediate desire to pull that tuft right off of the plant. Had I seen it in person, it probably would have been quickly followed by guilt at plucking someone else’s cotton and I would have put (probably not very neatly) back.

What a great learning experience. I wish that cotton was grown up here so I could show my daughter. She loves fabric and would be fascinated to see where ‘it comes from.’

Diane September 5, 2007 at 4:52 am

Oh lordy! Let me tell you what: LAST NIGHT the children and I were singing that song along with Leadbelly at full volume before they went to bed! The Leadbelly version has a little more… oomph… than ol’ Lonnie but what great pictures. I just played your post for them and now they are singing it. Again.

Maybe we should all get bumper stickers like the mail carriers have — you know, that we’re homeschoolers and we may stop suddenly…

Amy September 5, 2007 at 6:25 am

Yep – you are the homeschooling godess for sure.

When we were down in Kingsville at the end of July, driving past all the flooded fields, we had to really think what that crop could be! The white hadn’t started showing yet and I don’t think I’d ever noticed how beautiful the leaves were. I’ve always noticed cotton fields nearer to harvest time when it is quite obvious what it is.

Molly September 5, 2007 at 12:40 pm

We drove through miles and miles of cotton last October on our way down south. Avery and I went to a weaving guild event last winter and found out that cotton comes in different colors – golds, browns and sage green. After reading your blog out loud to the kids last night, Aidan went around pointing out all the things made of cotton. It truly is the fabric of our lives.

bigbucketgirl September 5, 2007 at 1:21 pm

What a lovely post…we saw cotton when we were in Malaysia, and the winds would just blow it off the trees onto us as we walked! We have photos to show it, but our kids think we’re deluded and that someone must have crept up on ladders and stuck cotton wool on the trees when noone was looking!
What a fantastic opportunity for you and yours. My kids will love to read this in the morning. Thank you.

Shelley September 5, 2007 at 6:02 pm

When we lived in Maine last year, I ordered cotton online from Mr. Cotton – somewhere in the south (Alabama maybe?). Anyway – we made cotton boll wreaths for Christmas and gave the rest to the 2nd grade class. They were studying slavery, and the Civil War and the Underground Railroad, so they really got alot out of it. Mr Cotton sent me a whole dried bush – bolls still on the branch. It was a great lesson for the kids – I bet yours really got a lot out of it too. Sadly I can’t get “jump down, turn around, pick a bail of cotton” out of my head now!

Sarah September 5, 2007 at 7:33 pm

how adventurous you are in your schooling! you are a lovely example to us all.

kristin September 5, 2007 at 7:34 pm

well, well, well…


i will wear cotton differently tomorrow.

brit September 5, 2007 at 8:20 pm

I love following the drinking gourd I went through a whole phase of researching underground railroad quilt stories, and children’s books are the best resource…

jean September 6, 2007 at 6:11 am

that is really amazing. I think about how difficult that work was, and in that heat.

Tara September 9, 2007 at 8:33 am

What a great social studies and science lesson. I think this is what schools are missing now…applicable cross-curricular lessons that make sense rather than 24/7 test prep that teaches nothing.

I love it.

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