Anymore, I don’t run errands during the daytime with my children, mostly because schoolwork and activities have increased as my twins have gotten older.
I have also become more conscious of the attention we draw. If I am with only one child, it seems that onlookers assume my child is out of school for the afternoon because of a doctor appointment or some other issue. However, two or more children together with mom somehow seems to attract more attention.
All of this circled through my mind recently as I made the decision to head over to Walmart at 1:00 p.m. Offering a little pep talk to the kids, I strolled out of the house with confidence.
Along the way, my attention was attracted by
a pumpkin stand selling big, glorious pumpkins
for an amazingly low price.
A list began to form in my head: Grandma, the elderly couple down the street, my aunt, my best friend who has lots of little ones under 4 years old. All of them needed – NO, must have – a bright, cheerful pumpkin.
We pulled up alongside the stand and started our search in and around the large wagon stacked high with shining orange globes for the best pumpkins to give to our friends and family. Focusing on my list, I allowed the children to explore.
There it was! The perfect round pumpkin for my beloved aunt. As I was completing my inspection of this successful find, a gentleman walked up to me.
"Is that your son over there?" he asked.
"Umm...yes..." I answered, not sure what was coming next and struck by the sudden thought that perhaps I should have just stayed home. Why had I thought it necessary to go to Walmart before the afternoon rush instead of ordering online?
Interrupting my thoughts, he said, "Your son is the nicest young man.
I asked him if he was in school, and he said, 'No, sir. I am homeschooled.' That just made my day."
"Oh. Well, um, thank you," I replied.
As my defenses came down, I extended my hand and introduced myself. We chatted for a few minutes. He shared that he had been a school principal and taught wrestling for over 30 years. Conversation flowed easily, and as I wished him a good day, he pulled out his wallet.
I raised my hand in protest, but he insisted.
"How many pumpkins are you getting?" he asked earnestly.
"Ummm...just a few," I hesitated.
Strolling quickly past me, he went straight to the attendant and said, "That young lady is buying five pumpkins."
I know I muttered some type of surprised and shocked “Thank you” and continued making our remaining selections.
As the attendant loaded my van with the generous gifts, the gentleman was loading his. Once again, he said that we made his day, and we exchanged a few pleasantries before departing.
I continued to ponder this random act of kindness throughout the afternoon. I have never been on the receiving end of a “pay-it-forward” gesture.
What struck me most was not the monetary value of his generosity, but, rather, the significant differences in our “school” experiences.
He was a retired professional educator with many years of experience in the public school system. I am a young homeschooling mom, who was homeschooled in my youth. Yet, despite those polar-opposite differences, we both were a blessing to each other.
How quickly our walls can come down.
With all the negative attention that has been directed at home education in the news this year, I know lots of homeschooling parents are asking "What can I do?" How can I change the situation? Maybe, for most people in most situations, the answer is simple: Be a positive example, show respect, and don't be afraid of who you are as a homeschooling family.
Jennifer Ciha is an Iowa home-educated graduate who is currently homeschooling her two children. She shares practical advice and inspiring images to encourage families to learn and explore across Iowa on her blog fieldtripiowa.com.