Our first year of homeschooling was spent on an 18-wheel semi truck. During that year we saw 47 of the contiguous states. I had to wait until I was 15 to make it to Florida. There are so many funny stories from that first year. One morning my dad, excited about a beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty in the early morning sun, woke me up so I could look at it. My little six year old self just grumbled, “I’ve seen it, Dad.” Another time, we stopped off in Washington DC to see the sights and I was so excited to see the Lincoln memorial. Lincoln was my greatest historical hero. I wanted to call someone, so my dad put some money in the payphone and I called my best friend back in New Mexico. Her mom answered the phone and then had to go find her. When she finally got there, I excitedly exclaimed, “Nicole! I’m at the Lincoln memorial!” “The what?” she asked. “The Lincoln memorial.” My enthusiasm was beginning to wane. “What is a linken memorial?” she wondered. “You know, the memorial for President Lincoln…” I explained. “Who is President Lincoln?” “Oh, never mind.”
My parents could not have bought any curriculum which would have taught as much about history and geography as I learned that year. I was often the navigator for one parent while the other slept. My dad likes to tell the story about one time when we were going to a place that he had been before. I told him to take a certain freeway exit. He was certain that I was wrong about where we were to get off. Until right after he passed the exit and realized I had been right.
It was a fun and amazing year during which many many good memories were built, but by the end Mom and I were ready to go home. We headed home just before Christmas and settled in for the next chapter of our homeschooling experience.
In the next year, we got involved in a local homeschool group and began making friends and connections there. Some of the friends from that group are still in my life to this day.
Shortly after we settled back in at home, my parents decided to purchase a computer. It was still a fairly new phenomenon to have a computer in your home. They headed down to the local Apple store and talked to the salesman. The first thing he asked them was why did they want a computer. “Well, why do people have them? What do they do with them?” my mom asked him. We ended up with an Apple IIGS with a word processing program and a spreadsheet program and a Tetris game. (My new Mac has quite a few more programs!) Sometime before that my parents had hired a tutor to teach me a bit about computer programming. He taught me the basics of the Logo programming language and how to draw with the “turtle.” It wasn’t very long after my parents purchased the Apple computer I was playing around with the Apple BASIC programming language. I was thrilled when I was able to get the computer to output “Hi, my name is Tonya” from a PRINT command in a four line program I devised. The practice I got with the BASIC language beginning at age 7 was definitely in my favor ten years later when I took a VisualBasic course at the local community college and the instructor had me tutor some of the other students on the programming concepts.
Another great learning opportunity that arose around this time was my grandparents opening up a thrift store. That store along with a retail business my mom had owned several years before and a couple of antique stores she owned subsequently were great training grounds for concepts I would later use in my career. Things like inventory control, accounting, and customer service. Adults were often surprised when I processed their sale on the cash register and counted back correct change to them. Once again, my parents could have found no program to teach me as much about these real world concepts as I was able to learn just by living life with my family.
Along with all of those experiences and learning opportunities, my mom continued to read and research everything she could get her hands on regarding education and learning styles. She wasn’t afraid to try something different when it came to helping me learn a concept. Once she either devised or read about a method for learning multiplication tables. She made ‘hurdles’ out of folded card stock and laid them out in a ‘course’ throughout the house. On each was written a multiplication problem. When I had the right result I hopped over the hurdle and moved on. It was a great and kinesthetic way to ingrain the facts into my head. My mom was a big believer in the now widely regarded Charlotte Mason idea of ‘real books.’ Not a textbook was to be found in our house unless it had been purchased at a yard sale to use as material for cutting out the pictures to use in art projects.
Around my twelfth birthday, we learned that the company my dad worked for was shutting down their New Mexico operations. They gave him some options of places we might be able to move. They included north-western Arizona, Las Vegas and south-western Utah. We were about to begin a whole new chapter.
To be continued…