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).
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.
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.
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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.