When we told the boys we were going to be homeschooling this year, we softened the blow with the promise of field trips. More field trips than would normally be afforded a second grader and a kindergartener, we said. Over the summer, this little seed we planted on that fateful day grew into a giant tree that shielded any thoughts of actual schoolwork from view.
Field Trips! Every day! Maybe twice a day! Museums! Zoos! Parks! Trains! Fun fun fun! Woohoo!
I’m pretty sure that’s what the tree looked like a couple weeks before school started, which is when I started filling the shelf in the dining room with handwriting and math and science and reading and history.
We can’t have field trips every day, I told them. Otherwise, how will you ever learn to add four-digit numbers and write in cursive? How will you ever learn to read books and count to 100 by fives?
Oh, right. Learning stuff. What a concept.
Still, homeschooling does offer us more field trip opportunities. (Although the kids are too smart to fall for the “this trip to the grocery store is a field trip!” line. Nobody likes the grocery store.) But Wednesday we went on a real live field trip, to the Living History Farms.
It was fun. They were having their first annual Homeschool Day. Which was kind of awesome, because homeschoolers, in spite of an unfortunate love of denim jumpers, are a nice group of people.
(And in all fairness, I didn’t see a single denim jumper the entire time I was there. A couple of unfortunate t-shirt/jean skirt/socks and tennis shoes combinations, but no jumpers. I think we homeschoolers, as a whole, are making great leaps forward in terms of fashion.
When we arrived, the boys each got a yellow scavenger hunt card. They were supposed to find shaped hole punches at a variety of places throughout the farms, and then they could bring it back to the gift shop to get a prize.
The whole scavenger hunt thing kind of ruined our brilliant plans to just visit the little town and leave the farms for another day. Because you know that as soon as my boys heard the word prize they had but one thing in mind: hole punches. And if we had to walk five hundred miles and then to walk five hundred more just to be the ones who punched a thousand cards and fall down at the gift shop’s door, so be it.
And of course the scavenger hunt designers aren’t the kind of people who are merciful. Oh, no. They must scatter the little punchies at all sorts of unpleasant and difficult-to-reach places. Because they hate me.
But still we soldiered on. Mostly because Squeezy was in an unusually docile mood.
The butter-making lady did not have a punch. There was no punch at this farm. But there was butter. Which allows me to forgive much.
By this point they had two punches of five; one they got at the cemetery (lovely), and one they got by the Ioway farm. At that one there was a bit of a line. We had to wait in it twice because Stinky accidentally punched the wrong thing.
Do I sound needlessly bitter about the punches? If so, I apologize. Bitter isn’t what I’m going for so much as irony bordering on sarcasm. I think I might be communicating bitter though. I do hope you’ll forgive me.
At the 1900 farm, not only was there a punch, but there was also a water pump, which both boys enjoyed working.
So now they had three out of five punches, and also sore arm muscles and a wet shirt (just Stinky). And we still had about twenty miles to walk before we had all five punches. And we were starting to look at all those farm animals and see bacon! and chicken tenders! and hamburgers! instead of pigs and chickens and cows.
Field trips can be dangerous. Thankfully I brought along granola.
There was a punch near where we had to get on the tractor to ride back to the town from the farms. And there was one outside the vet clinic.
We walked back along the boardwalk, full of excitement and joy at the prize that lay ahead for us. We had finished the course. We had kept the faith. We had punched the cards.
Then, crisis struck! Stinky’s card! Was gone! It just disappeared! He would never have set it down! The world! Was ending!
It was 1:20 pm and all he’d had since breakfast was some granola. He was tired and hungry and hysterical.
Thankfully Art is like some kind of Super Dad. They retraced their steps and found the missing card.
With great excitement the boys carried their finished cards up to the cashier at the gift shop. What sorts of great things would they receive? Candy? Money? Thrilling and exciting souvenirs of their fun days at the Farms?
Or perhaps . . . a sticker. One sticker.
We walked all over the Living History Farms on a day that I wasn’t feeling good for a sticker.
“Mommy?” a whisper. “Is this all we get?”
“Yes,” a whisper back. “I guess so.”
“Mommy?” a different voice, also a whisper. “I kind of thought we’d get more than this.”
“Ssh. Don’t complain.”
Because I’m planning on coming home and complaining on my blog, thankyouverymuch.
And so, with stickers adorning their t-shirts, and empty bellies, my sons left the Living History Farms behind for another day, when they will return with significantly lower expectations.