It has always been important to me to not be the modern-day family. While I am glad to take my kids here and there as needed, the emphasis has always been on "needed." I recall the first year we began homeschooling, comforting my sons with the promise that fall soccer season would soon be over, and we would be able to concentrate just on school and outside play again.
This year we have two regular outings during the week. One is spent doing volunteer work for two hours, and the other is for the art lessons I prayed would be provided for A. It is a lengthy drive for the latter, but the lessons are an hour and a half long, and the teacher is a gifted Christian artist, so I find the sacrifice well worth it. Plus, it gives L and I some individual time together which is treasured by us both.
More than casting envious glances at the Joneses, my eyes tend to look back wistfully at my own childhood. There are any number of fond memories of skating and biking and swimming and games of kickball and freeze tag. But my favorite "growing up" year was the one we spent living on the island of Crete. I was nine.
There were no other American families stationed there when my Dad accepted his appointment. However, my gypsy Mother was not going to be left behind for a year or more, especially at a time when she was expecting their sixth child. So once Dad left, she sold the house, boxed up our things in storage, packed us all up, and we went sailing through the skies to be reunited as a family on a far distant shore. She homeschooled me and my two younger sisters, with two little ones underfoot, and soon after our arrival gave birth to the last baby - in a Greek hospital amidst people who knew no English. From the fertile soil of these memories sprang the courage to homeschool my own children (half in number at the time) many years later.
We had such amazing freedom! We lived in a village called Kounoupidiana (translation: cauliflower, ???), and roamed its length and width and breadth, and a bit beyond its borders as well. At our little girlfriends' houses we did our best to fork snails out of their shells, and ate soup containing the heads and feet of chickens as well as the familiar parts. We saw women gathering greens for dinner out of what we considered "empty fields." We raised fertile chickens and cats and rabbits and experienced all manner of strange situations that come up in animal husbandry. Shepherds herded their flocks of sheep through the village. We drank goat's milk delivered by a village woman each morning. I attended my first wedding - a Greek one - and it formed my impressions of what a wedding was like... lots of crowding forward. Our favorite place to go was the nearby olive grove, a beautiful gnarled woodland on its own, ripe for the imaginative creativity of childish minds. And when Mama wanted us, she rang her large brass bell and we came running home. I have chosen to share just a few memories from among the garden of delights that remain within me; my roots, as it were.
I have my own bell now, yes I do. ;D A friend purchased it for me on a trip years ago, and I have used it many days to call my own children back from their play. Times and the world have changed since I was a child, but we have tried to give our kids as close to an upbringing as we were blessed to have. We have lived in a few places that have had nearby woods for my kids to explore with compasses and lanterns and packed up lunches.
We are big fans of the Food Channel, and have all been impressed by the recent show, Chopped! We cheer our favorites on in this fast-paced, challenging contest. Our most beloved was a contestant by the name of Johanna who wanted to win in order to go visit her Grandmother in France. She was so sweet and humble and gifted. I wanted to bring her home here. So this past week, my girls have created their own version of the show during their outside time. They choose four different ingredients: three from the yard and a piece of chalk. They and their friend from across the street create fantastic and unique assemblies for a dinner entree and call one of us to be the judge. We take it all very seriously (and in great fun), and choose from among them who will be Chopped. The remaining two chefs get to duel it out for the dessert round, then call us to judge this as well.
And none of us misses where we might be driving to instead. It is my hope that afternoons and days of freedom will leave a deep and lasting impression upon my children's minds; that they will work good things into the fertile soil of their memories for the day when they will be nurturing their own children in years to come.
And if they want, I'll buy them each a bell.