Happy Homeschooling

My mom planned on ordering workbooks for me, but I had my own ideas of what I wanted to study. So she set me free to learn all about the things I was interested in. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with learning. My parents were serious about the math curriculum, but my interests inspired the rest of my schooling. I woke up most mornings excited to start the school day, and my family had to call me away from my studies to come help make dinner. I studied ancient Egypt for several months. I took field trips to a few museums that had Egyptian exhibits, learned how to write in hieroglyphics, and even made a model of King Tut’s mummy case.

A page from the scrapbook I made when I was about 18 – 20.

When I was tired of Egypt, I studied the history of women’s clothing and had lots of fun creating my own book of fashions, beginning with fig leaves in the Garden of Eden. I remember spending hours designing Victorian dresses. My family traveled to Washington D.C. so I could view the First Ladies’ Inaugural Ball Gowns exhibit. I wanted to learn to sew, so I joined 4-H and began making my own clothes—with no intent to give my family a matching set!

I also experimented with genetics through a mouse-breeding project. I collected a variety of mice, some with spots or long fur or even glossy fur. I made a deal with the local pet store to trade baby mice for store credit. My mouse, Big Mama, had about 100 babies. My goal was to breed mice until I came up with a shiny, spotted mouse with long curly fur. I wanted to name her “Taffeta.” I spent hours drawing a family tree for all my mice and entered it into the county fair. I was shocked when my mouse-breeding project won first place in the county fair! For a child who had always failed in school, I was amazed that I could succeed at anything.

I’ll never forget all the things I learned in that first year.

At the end of the school year, my family prepared for our annual state-by-state art fair tour. I decided to develop my own trade with hopes of selling my artwork alongside my mother’s. I was tired of being poor. I never had any spending money, but I was too young to get a job. So my parents helped me start my own business selling my clay jewelry. The earrings I fashioned looked like tiny fish, dogs, and cats. People loved them. Success again! Not only did I make over $1000 in that one summer, I also learned more math skills operating that little business than I did completing the whole year’s workbooks.

One of my favorite aspects of attending the fairs was the opportunity to explore the historic neighborhoods in city centers. I was fascinated with architecture, and I would often sketch original historical homes in my spare time. It became my dream to design and build my own little cottage in the woods behind our house. My dad thought that building the cottage would be a fun homeschooling project he and I could accomplish together. By the end of the summer, I had saved up enough money from my jewelry business to begin the cottage. With my parents’ help, I did the design work. Next, I built a tiny model cabin, and finally my dad and I constructed the to-scale structure together. I’ll never forget the fun we had working together. I learned a lot more than math in the process. School became part of real life, and real life was a big part of my education.

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