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The Principal


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When I was in elementary school, our principal, Mrs. Boynton, would often substitute when a teacher was out.  She was much nicer than that mean old substitute, Mrs. M., or our regular 6th-grade teacher, Mrs. J. (both of whom shall remain anonymous because they weren’t very nice).

The Principal

We used to love when Mrs. Boynton would substitute!  She’d come in and completely toss out the teacher’s lesson plans.  No math!  No spelling!  Can you imagine showing up to school and finding out that you were getting a break from book work?  It was almost as good as a snow day!

We’d spend the day writing haiku poems or reciting poetry such as The Visitor in Church by James S. Hyde, Jr., which I still remember in its entirety.

The Visitor in Church
by James S. Hyde, Jr.

Ah! Place to listen, pray, and sing
Soft organ playing all the while.
Whoever expected such a thing,
A slick, black hound came down the aisle.
Oh, never was such wild commotion
In member’s pew or pastor’s perch,

Nor sermon stirred such high emotion
As when the dog came into church.

by James S. Hyde, Jr.

Yes, that’s exactly how we recited it – title and author first and author again at the end, all said in little sing-song voices so that we remained in unison. And, yes, that entire poem was typed from memory.

As much as I’ve searched, I can’t find the poetry of Mr. Hyde – a friend of Mrs. Boynton and, interestingly, a member of my grandparents’ church – online or in print. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in 6th grade, but it made an impression.

We’d do artwork, or Mrs. Boynton would read – sometimes outside! One of my fondest memories was the time in 6th grade when she subbed for a few days.  We were having a new library built and, Mrs. Boynton decided that we needed some good topsoil for the new flower bed. In a move that would never fly in today’s public schools, she sent us kids out to look for it.

The lot on which our school was located was rather wooded, so she suggested that we go dig up dirt from around tree bases and in a couple of ravines in the woods. We had a great time! Groups of friends armed with buckets wandered around the school grounds in the warm sunshine searching for top soil.

It’s also the source of one of those “oops” stories from childhood. After the top-soil-hunting incident, my best friend was absent for the next couple of days. Something to do with a severe case of poison oak possibly originating from a “vine” that I asked her to hold back while I dug some dirt from the base of a tree. Her mom didn’t even sue the school or anything.

The Principal pin

You’d think that our poor educations would have suffered, what with all the throwing out of lesson plans, reciting of poetry, writing of haikus, and digging up of dirt, but – wonder of wonders – I graduated very near the top of my class. (I missed the top 10% by a hair, thanks to a C in a certain Advanced Algebra I class, which I totally blame on the teacher who knew the material, but couldn’t teach it to save her life, but, again, another story for another day).

I think Mrs. Boynton would have made a great homeschool mom. She knew that there is more to a good education than 180 days of studying textbooks.

Sometimes we homeschool moms – because surely I’m not alone in this – get a little too stressed about lesson plans and completing book work each day.  It’s good to remember that learning happens in so many ways and so many places – and often there’s not a textbook in sight when the best of it occurs.

Learning happens in so many ways and places – and often there’s not a textbook in sight when the best of it occurs. Click to Tweet

I just thought some of you might need a reminder as you start the new school year. Happy homeschooling!

Updated from an article originally published February 28, 2011.

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18 Comments

  1. Thank you for posting this. I was feeling a bit nervous about planning the last 10 weeks of school. I always forget to have fun. I'm all about the books.

  2. This and not wanting to miss all of those learning moments with my children are the two top reasons I decided to homeschool. Thanks for the reminder to not get too caught up in the lesson plans. Even though my son is only in preschool, I find myself on some days getting too carried away with the plans for the day and anxious that things are not going as planned. That is when I put the plan aside and follow my son's lead and some type of learning always results.

  3. Kris, Thanks for this reminder. I should know better being a former ECE teacher. With 4 children (one high-schooler), I sometimes get bogged down with the work that needs to get done. I will try to put in one such afternoon this week for "learning on the fly". In fact, I should aim for one day a week for this entire month.
    Enjoyed your post.

  4. Good reminder to us all!! I think its really easy to be swayed into book learning during the winter months when its harder to get outside! I'm hoping that spring is peeking at us and will soon make her appearance.

  5. At 4AM this morning we were sitting in our basements riding out a Tornado Warning. Figured we just blow off the day as my husband and I had been up nearly all night with the NOAA radio going off.
    My boys pop at out of bed at 10 AM…wanting to read and watch a Netflix about Tornados.
    LOVE HOMESCHOOLING!!

  6. What a timely reminder. I'm sitting here today trying to get the motivation up to do some school planning. One son is building Legos in his room while listening to Adventures in Odyssey. The other two are working on the Build-A-Bear website – playing nicely together even. Homeschooling is awesome. 😉

  7. Ha ha! Here I was this morning, debating with myself about whether I should feel guilty about keeping odd hours (compared to school families) … but that's one of the perks of the freedom we've chosen!

    Your Principal sounds like a real gem! What an inspiring story.

  8. So true, so true!
    One Easter Sunday during the morning worship service, one of the church members came in late during the choir's opening song–followed faithfully by his dog down the aisle to the front of the church. Only the choir could see, and we just all about died laughing. . . my poor mother who was DIRECTING the choir just didn't know WHAT was going on! May I send her your poem? 🙂

  9. That's funny, April. Technically, it's James S. Hyde, Jr.'s poem (that's the way we always said his name — at the beginning and end of the poem). I'm sure he wouldn't mind. 😉

  10. This is my first year homeschooling. My girls were in public school for 3 and 5 years respectively. So while I KNOW there is more to education than sitting there poring over curriculum…there is a lot of school in all of us that we are trying to break free from. Thanks for the reminder!!!!

  11. Thank you for this post!!! I believe in homeschooling but cannot afford it right now for my kids. I do still use those teachable moments at home, in stores, while driving, and any other places they come up. We made butter by hand one year for Thanksgiving because they heard it was fun from my preschool class. Well they find out that it was really harder work than they thought but still had fun and learned. Even though they attend county schools I still suppliment learning activities at home that I see they will need in the real world that the schools are missing like a lot of vocabulary and history from the bible.
    Thank you again for reminding us that school should be a fun place to learn.

  12. Mrs. Boynton sounds awesome! The entire state that our schools are in today is a horrifying affair. On top of parents looking for reasons to sue and the fact that all true learning is almost completely missing from schools, Mrs. Boynton should show our educational system what a true teacher is.

  13. So. I’ve been stressing out so much this past week and more. I’m trying to test my kids for placement to order homeschool curriculum (which I can’t even spell that word properly!! Ugh) and they aren’t being super cooperative and are testing behind what they “should” be at according to public school, but let’s go ahead and push them thru cuz no child is left behind!!! Gah!!! The problem is that they have been left behind!!!! So we are going to homeschool for the first time this year and I am FREAKING out. This post was what I needed to read today. We will go at our own pace and do the dirt digging and the bow shooting and the piano lessons and the UNBOOK learning and it will all be OK. Thanks. I needed this encouragement today!!!!

  14. I had a chemistry teacher like that….he didn’t like girls in his class and couldn’t bring his “superior” knowledge down to a level that most high school kids needed. I was an honor student and barely passed it. I made a straight A average in biology because my teacher was awesome!!!!

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