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The Cardboard Box Theory of Home Education

The Cardboard Box Theory (of Home Education)
By Debbie Harbeson

John and the kids were in the living room engrossed in various activities when I walked in with my latest homeschooling catalog.

“John,” I began excitedly, “check this out, this curriculum says it will teach your kids all about –.”

He didn’t even look up from the sports page. He just put up his hand like some curriculum traffic cop. “Stop right there.”

“No, wait, I’m sure I found the right one this time; I just know it.”

“Debbie, you’ve barely used the stuff you already bought.”

Melissa, over in the corner with her new box of sculpting clay working on a peregrine falcon, piped up, “Oh, I don’t know Dad, we’ve used the stuff Mom bought. It’s pretty cool really. Yesterday four textbooks made a perfect support for our bike ramps.”

“And those skinny ones make great bases for our ball games,” added Keith, who then returned to categorizing his plastic dinosaurs by species.   

Melissa continued, “Yeah, and Keith, remember how good they worked so the blankets would stay in place for our Indian tepee? And mom, you did say the grammar textbook was a good cure for insomnia.”

I pretended to be absorbed in my curriculum catalog.

Then Keith chimed back, “Ooh, ooh, yeah! And don’t forget the one with the huge margins. It was perfect for my cartoon flipbook. And it was YOUR idea to use workbook pages for origami practice and paper airplane building.” He paused and I thought it was over. But he got an odd smirk on his face and went on, “And umm, remember how handy Explorations In Citizenship was when you ran out of toilet paper?”

I cringed. Then Melissa fired the final shot, “Mom, don’t you remember what happened last Tuesday, when we babysat cousin Nicky? We didn’t have to feed him any lunch after he chewed up chapter three of Transportation Methods in Peru.”

“Hey gimme that back!“ I grabbed at the catalog and we tussled over it until it tore in two. When I looked at my half, I was relieved. I still had the order form.

John said, “What! How did –?”

I just held up my hand and said, “Don’t ask.”

He sighed. “Has it ever occurred to you this stuff is a waste of money?” He grabbed the catalog out of my hands and started flipping through it.

John began ripping up his half of the catalog, “Don’t you see? It’s no different from when they were babies. We bought all those fancy toys only to watch them have more fun with the box.”

I frowned and sat down to ponder this thought. But I was too hungry to think. I looked around to make sure John and the kids were busy again, then I quietly got up and crept into our bedroom. There on the nightstand lay the huge Elementary Years Teacher Edition I purchased several months ago and used once. I opened the cover and smiled. The chocolate was still hidden in the hole I had cut out.

As I munched on the candy, I continued to read over the current catalog, half of it anyway. After all, I didn’t want it to go to waste.

Thanks to Debbie Harbeson - writer and mother of grown homeschoolers - for this excerpt from her humor book, “Okay Kids, Time For Bedlam.” Any self-directed learner in need of more humor can read the entire book by downloading the free PDF file from her website.

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