My own education is somewhat colorful. I don’t think I was schooled so much, as unschooled. I attended public school from kindergarten through tenth grade, but the work was always easy for me. I got As in everything except physical fitness. I was often bored, and faked illnesses so I could stay home and do something far more interesting with my time.
My mom wasn’t really in favor of public schools, either, as she felt they stifle creativity. She didn’t discourage me from staying home. When I was little, I had to stay in bed if I was “sick”, but she’d bring me paper dolls, crayons, paper, scissors, everything I needed to create my own little world. When I was in high school (and too big for paper dolls) we would go up to the donut shop together. We’d eat donuts, drink coffee (mine was sweetened and doused well with crème, this was before Starbucks), and talk on a thousand different topics.
Mom always seemed interested in what I had to say. She didn’t interrupt, or tell me my ideas were stupid. Because she was so easy to talk to, I learned how to talk in public. I breezed through my college speech class, and standing in front of a room full of indifferent adolescents never intimidated me. Strangely, my mom never felt she was very smart. Her older sisters both graduated from Radcliff with honors, while she was a C student in Art School. But she has done so much with her life. She’s sold oil paintings for nearly sixty-five years. She had a children’s book published, and one of her paintings even hangs in a museum. But what she seems most proud of is her children.
We’re nothing special. We’ve made mistakes. We aren’t doctors or lawyers, and all of us have had financial problems. But we know how to get along. We’re still close, even though we still squabble like we did when we were children. We all believe in God. We respect the dignity of the individual. We don’t do drugs, and we know it’s wrong to drink and drive. Most of us could stand to lose a few pounds. Still Mom is proud of us. Do you know what it is like to have your own cheerleading squad, encouraging you every step of the way, especially when you just fell flat on your face? I wish everyone had a mom like mine! Quite frankly, I was stunned (and I was in my twenties) before I realized that everyone did not!
Anyway, after tenth grade I dropped out of public school. I had made all As on my report card (again) but I was being flunked because I hadn’t met the minimum attendance requirement. Oops! Too many trips to Dunkin Donuts that year! Then Mom heard about the alternative school, Madison, City School. I signed up, but I’d heard that if I worked hard, I could finish the last two years of high school in one year. So I signed up as a senior. That’s probably why I was accepted. They didn’t have many seniors switch over, and there was an opening available.
City School believed that there should be no grades, as most drop-outs already felt like failures. Some of the students were there because they were just bored by a curriculum that could only cater to the needs of the slowest kid in the class, but the majority were the slowest kids in the class. Most of my new classmates had deplorable home situations. Some of them, at thirteen, were already living in the streets. Many of them had done drugs or alcohol, or both. They were lost souls, but something happened to me at that school. I’m not sure how to explain it. But always before I was labeled a P.K. (preacher’s kid). I was expected to be better, because of my father’s occupation, which always seemed odd to me. No one expects a doctor’s daughter to perform surgery. But anytime I got in trouble at school, it wasn’t just the students who would shake their heads and say, “and you, a preacher’s kid!” The teachers were just as bad! But at this school, for the first time in my life, people accepted me just as I was. I didn’t have to try to be someone different.
I didn’t really get in trouble much. Not like my siblings. I was “the good child”. I didn’t like to cause problems, so I was very careful not to get caught.
About the naughtiest thing I can remember doing was in junior high school. (It’s called middle school now. But when I went to junior high, it was seventh, eighth, and ninth grades). The building was old, and rumor had it that it had been condemned several times, but the city never got around to rebuilding it. High schools have football teams and get more public support. Junior highs just have little delinquents in the making.
The lunch room was disgusting. This was back before schools had cafeterias. Everyone took a bag lunch to school. There were cartons of milk for sale. White was three cents a carton, chocolate was four cents. Believe it or not, I couldn’t often afford to buy the chocolate. This large room doubled as the study hall. There was a stage at one end, and about two hundred desks bolted to the floor. They were old and made of wood. The lid did not open, but there was a cubby-hole opening to stuff crap inside. Some of the desks had antique lunch sacks in them. Some of the desks had mouse turds, or sometimes even the mouse.
My girlfriend Vicky and I did not want to eat there. I don’t remember how we did it, but we would slip outside and sneak across the hedgerow into the cemetery. There we would spread out our lunches on the clean headstones, and enjoy a breath of fresh air. If we had ever been caught, we could have been expelled. The cemetery was forbidden territory. But I believe that those magical lunches were a big part in forming the person I became.
I learned from Vicky that it was okay to sometimes be naughty. I learned that imagination was more important than money, status or grades. And I finally learned what it was like to have a best friend.
There’s a lot of coverage these days about the importance of friendship. I’ve read that women have better friendships than men. That people who have friends are healthier and happier. And yet, I’ve met so many women who feel lonely and isolated.
If I could wave a magic wand, I would grant every young mom a mother like mine and a best friend like Vicky. But in the real world, all I can do is share myself. My life, my experiences, and what I have learned over the years.
My children are grown now. Two are in college. One is a shepherd, raising a small flock of sheep and spinning their wool. (Her website is valhallahills.com!) and one is a single mom of a two year old. Suddenly, my days were open, and for a little while I got a job in a day care center. But my granddaughter was in that day care center, and I did not like what was going on. She would come home with bruises on her legs or forehead that could not be explained. She always came home with a filthy diaper and developed a bad rash. She always came home crying.
And I thought “what good is my education?” What good am I doing, working in this day care center, helping the children of strangers, while my own granddaughter is miserable? So I tendered my resignation. Now I’m teaching my granddaughter.
It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching a classroom of a hundred, of ten, or of one. You still need to write a lesson plan. So I got to thinking, what if I published my lesson plans for free? If I teach my granddaughter, I help one child. If I teach in a day care, I help ten or twelve kids. But if I publish my lesson plans on the internet, I might help thousands.
When I dig my diplomas out of storage, I’ll post them on my webpage. I was listed in the Who’s Who in American Universities in 1981. I made the National Dean’s List about that time. Maybe it was the year before. I’m a member of Alpha Chi honors fraternity, and I graduated summa cum laude. For five years I ran a licensed day care home. I have worked in day care centers for four years. I was a Tot Lot instructor one summer. I know preschool children and I know how to write a good lesson plan.
It is my hope that I may be able to help at least one young mother the way my mom helped me. If I succeed, then this blog has all been worth it.