Gift of Time
Karen M. Gibson
Several writers in past issues of HELM (See note below) have mentioned the “gift of time” as one of the great benefits of home education our children enjoy. They’ve written about how this gift of time enables our children to perhaps enjoy childhood a bit longer. And how it enables them to explore their interests more completely and hopefully have a better understanding of themselves. But when listing the benefits of home education, one thing that I rarely see mentioned is the “gift of time” we are able to give others.
As a result of a health problem my mother-in-law was experiencing, we recently found ourselves travelling to our former hometown in New York for an extended stay. The children and I packed up the things we couldn’t live without (computer, software, books, CD player and CDs) along with some clothes and headed north, waving goodbye to Dad, who stayed home to take care of dog, cats and paycheck. We didn’t know how long it might be necessary for us to be gone, but we were prepared, if need be, to be away from home for several months.
As it turned out, we didn't need to be gone quite that long, but we did spend three weeks in New York, helping with my mother-in-law as best we could and visiting other friends and family. We were able to pick up and travel that far for that long only because we home educated.
The time we spent in New York enabled my children to renew their ties with their grandparents. They spent time with their paternal grandmother playing cards, sitting on the porch and talking, watching movies together, going to church dinners with her, etc. While our two eldest remembered times like that with her before we moved south, our youngest wasn’t old enough to have many memories of living in New York. This visit afforded him the time to create memories with his grandmother that he might not have otherwise had. And, just as importantly, their grandmother was able to enjoy their company again around a daily schedule, rather than under the normal tension-filled, fast-paced schedules of our usual visits.
My mother works, so the children weren’t able to spend quite the same amount of time with her as they had with their other grandmother. However, they were able to visit with her on the weekends and they spent several enjoyable hours hiking through her woods, listening to the stories she had to tell about hunting with her father and seeing the treestands she had built. She taught them how to identify certain trees by their bark and their leaves and also some tricks to tracking track deer and other animals in the forest. They listened to the stories my mother told of her childhood. And she brought out pictures taken when I was a child and also when she was a child.
While looking through the pictures, we came across one of a historical marker taken somewhere in New York State. When my daughter saw that picture she laughed and laughed till tears streamed from her eyes. It was several minutes before she could say to me “so that’s where you get it from!” I always want to stop the car to take pictures of historical markers. I certainly didn’t remember my mother doing so, but must be she did!
Since our trip to New York I have reflected a lot upon this “gift of time” that home education allows us to give to our families and to ourselves. There are many “gifts” we can give that will mean so much more to our friends and family than those that are bought. Each year at Christmas I give my mother and my mother-in-law the gift of a letter each week for the coming year. While I have yet to actually write 52 letters, some years I’ve come close! And I know those letters are more treasured than any gift I could have bought.
A friend of mine gives her mother the gift of herself – twice each year she and her children spend an entire week with her mother. During those weeks they bake cookies, they read books, they watch movies, they do whatever. It really doesn’t matter. What is important is that they _spend time together_.
The Gift of Time. Time to make memories with those people that mean the most to us. Time to leave our busy schedules when need be and make room for loved ones that need us. Time for our children to learn the really important lessons of life, that family and friends care for one another and make time for one another, even when it may not be all that convenient. Isn’t that the best gift we can give our children? And ourselves?
Until next issue… unfurl your sails and ride the wind!
Copyright October 2000
Note: Originally published in November/December 2000 issue of HELM (Home Education Learning Magazine) in the regular column entitled "Reflections."
Author's Note, added June 27, 2008
As it turns out, that was the last visit my children and I had with my husband's mother. When we left for home, she seemed on the road to recovery, but a short time later suffered a relapse and passed away. Those few September weeks we had together will remain ever precious in our memories.