Kitchen Table Homeschool

Single Cup by Petr Kratochvil

I spend a lot of time at my kitchen table, usually with coffee, always with some chaos. Multicolored, stubby pencils make the rounds of busy fingers. Math and history, science and language books cover  the scratched and pen-marked surface. A large, noisy electric sharpener has a prominent position, near the salt and pepper. The dog is underneath our feet, looking for inevitable scraps.

If you walked by our open window, you might hear a list of prepositions, the definition of an asteroid, a Medieval knight’s adventures, or the multiples of 3. My daughters, ages 5 and 8, are giggling mermaids — when they aren’t grumbly bears, stomping the injustice of phonics or subtraction.

You would hear a lot of questions. I admit, that part is sometimes wearing. Sometimes, I catch myself saying “I don’t know” before a question is even fully voiced. Sometimes, I ask for “quiet time”, so I don’t have to come up with any answers. Sometimes, I just say “pineapple” or “porcupine” or “378”. Surprisingly, this works.

On other days, you’ll find the house silent, the table empty. We are off on an adventure — a museum, an art gallery, a piano lesson, a theater. Recess at the playground. I think the table misses us, but it gives nothing clear away.

Usually, you’ll catch the tails of stories. The kitchen table is bare then too. Stories are better on the couch, the girls nested in my rib cage, strung across my arms. Above all else, we are a family of tall tales, of myths and fairy legends. My girls invent imaginary creatures, full of mischief and delight. I tell them about a house where no door ever opens on the same room twice — the broom closet might as well lead you to Australia as a mop.

If you peered through the slightly-grimy windows that I endlessly forget to clean, you might see sparks of wild invention. Boo Monkey draws an outer space adventure, dog in an astronaut suit, octopus-like monsters floating by the stars. Rainbow Girl designs a puppet theater, ice cream parlor, and aquarium. She likes the sound of architecture, a blend of art and math. Projects fill the room, piled and scattered and hung. There is the detritus of science experiments. There is too much dog fur on the rug.

There are the ghosts of questions from friends and relatives and strangers:  Do we survive on goat’s milk? (No). Are we worried that our children will be shy social misfits? (Spend five minutes with their chatter, please). Am I a saint in disguise, my heart brimful of patience? (Have you ever met me?)

Through the window, you’ll find more moderation than you might surmise. I don’t listen to the zealots who say that any amount of soy or high fructose corn syrup or red dye number 40 will end in utter ruin. I don’t believe that co-sleeping or baby formula or daycare will lead to an apocalypse of sorrows. Kids are more resilient than that. I try to match them in their bounce.

But mostly, you would find us at the table. Usually, there is coffee, scattered papers, half-used pens and worn erasers. The table itself is pocked and scarred and marked with ink. It isn’t neat. It isn’t easy either, but it’s the perfect place for us.

Are there any choices you’ve made, as a parent or an individual, that wavered from the median? If not, you can tell me your thoughts on linking verbs and the multiples of three. 

8 thoughts on “Kitchen Table Homeschool

  1. “But mostly, you would find us at the table.” — I love that! I homeschooled my two kids for almost a year once (after we moved and were in temporary housing before a final move) and it was one of the best memories of our family. I loved it so much, and I learned as much as they did about so many things — mostly about what kind of mother I really was. But even after they went back to schoolhouse school, they still always did their homework at the kitchen or dining room table…. and I’d sit with them or nearby… and it’s one of the things I think of most fondly (and miss the most) now that they’re in college and grad school…

    • Yes, I learn a lot about myself (not always good! ah, patience) as we go through our school lessons. But even with my stumbles, we’re building a treasure house of memories at that table.

  2. A kitchen table of many years ago, more than I care to admit to, was and is a special, wonderful memory of laughter, smiles. ,stories and all was right with the world.
    The men would sometimes play cards and it did not take long to learn that I was a nuisance and their conversation was boring.
    However, Aunt Donna and Mom, would allow me to sit for hours as they drank coffee or wine, laughed ( To this day no one could laugh like Aunt Donna) and talked about the day. Whatever the talk. it almost always led to one or both laughing till tears filled the eyes, and stomachs ached.
    I can hear the laugher, see the tear filled eyes and will never forget that kitchen table.

    • That’s a table I remember well — and loved a lot too. Grandma gave me toast with lots of butter and jelly at that table. I have the best memories of Grandma and Aunt Donna and their hugs and smiles.

  3. Your daughters are so very lucky to sit with you around that kitchen table – as you all make memories together.

  4. “I try to match them in their bounce.” What a wonderful philosophy of parenting! It’s so true that our children are remarkably resilient and that we tend to lose that resilience as we move deeper into adulthood. ( Of course, by “we” I mean “me”!). Thanks for bringing beautiful words to this daunting, breathtaking, humbling journey of parenthood.

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