When mom decided to pull my sister and I out of private school and homeschool us, she ended up having to do some really quick thinking. Janine and I dove into the remaining quarter of school work that the school sent home with us. In the span of a few weeks, we had finished all that was given to us. I was ravenously digesting assignment after assignment. Janine would check it then hand it to mom. Mom’s eyes kept getting wider and wider as she realized we were about to run out of things to do.
A note about my mom. She made an incredibly brave decision to take my sister and I out of school and figure out how to homeschool us. One thing she has always been really good at is innovating on the fly – figuring out what to do with what she has. So, with that in mind, let us continue.
At this point in the story, Janine and I have blazed through all the curriculum we were given. Mom didn’t expect it to go that fast. When she looked around to figure out what to do, inspiration struck. We lived in Kansas at that time in an area that was criss-crossed with the remnants of the westward expansion of the early 1800’s. So, she led us on a learning expedition of discovering the history we were living in the midst of. At one point, she took my sister and I to a place where you could see the old trail wales, which in my head was going to be one of two things. 1 – a whale, because it sounds the same as wale. 2 – a beat down road that had graves, ox skulls, and broken wagon wheels by it, because that’s what it looked like on my Oregon Trail computer game.
Here’s what it actually looked like. We drove into Missouri, parked in a small gravel area that had a historical sign marking the numerous pioneers who made their way through here. We got out of the car and walked into this hilly grassy area. Mom was hit with the profound weight of what we were seeing. Meanwhile, I was in shock. There were no remnants of anything. My expectations were dashed. All I saw was this depression that was carved into the middle of a hill because of the masses of wagons that had come through, and what looked like rural car tracks in a field. That’s it? My 1st-grade mind couldn’t fathom it. We learned all of this just to come out and see…CAR TRACKS? I walked away from that experience in the doldrums.
There were a few great things that came out of learning about the trails. Mom got us involved in volunteering at a local historical stagecoach stop. We spent a few years running around there, educating visitors on pioneer history, wearing period-correct clothing. I applaud my mother’s ingenuity.