It’s the 4th of July today and my family has had no barbecue, no fireworks. We’ve participated in none of the usual Independence Day traditions, yet it’s been the best celebration of independence and America ever, and I am ever so grateful. Today we’re finishing a two-week road trip that has shown us much of America, and I can’t help but reflect on a few particular freedoms that are especially dear to me as a homeshooler.
I am thankful for this beautiful, promised land. In the past 2 weeks we’ve been in 8 states. Katherine Lee Bates penned it well when she wrote “America the Beautiful.” I can’t top that, but I can relate. And so can my children. “Amber waves of grain,” “purple mountain majesties,” and “fruited plains” greeted us throughout our journey, along with lone farm houses and skyscrapers—testaments to both God’s grace and power and man’s toil and industry. I am grateful for the foresight and preservation that keeps National Parks and Monuments unspoiled and accessible; for the passion of historians who restore and protect, that the voices of those who’ve gone before can still be heard by my children and their children. I am thankful that as homeschoolers we can not only study geography and history (and geology, biology, paleontology, etc.), but we can see it, breathe it, live it—every day. The world is our classroom.
I am thankful for the friendly faces of Americans everywhere who enjoy the same freedoms we do. There were families needing to see our car so they could mark off Utah on their License Plate Bingo cards. There were park rangers and missionaries who took large amounts of time with my children and shared their love of learning. There were patriots stirring a love of God and country in my children through song and ceremony and recognition of veterans. We met so many people who enjoy the same sights, sounds, smells, and pastimes we do. There were differences among us, yes, but we had far more in common with all of them than one might suspect. I am glad my children can learn not to judge books—or people—by their covers.
As we spent every second together for the last 2 weeks, I was glad to see that it wasn’t a strain because we always spend time together. Older siblings helped and watched out for younger; everyone knew what would interest another family member; there are many, many things the entire family mutually enjoys. I am so appreciative of each one in my family. How grateful I am that through homeschooling we get to share the best hours, days, and years of our lives voyaging mortality together.
I am eternally grateful for my family’s knowledge of the gospel and for the guidance and safety it provides. As my children encountered lifestyles contrary to our beliefs, we were able to openly discuss modesty, chastity, and the Word of Wisdom and why we live the way we do. When the missionaries we met shared their experiences and enthusiasm, they inspired us and reinforced resolves to serve missions. Standing in holy places throughout America touched our hearts and strengthened our testimonies. In our travels we were able to find and share analogous lessons that demonstrated gospel teachings. I was reminded of a conversation I overheard in a bookstore a few weeks ago, wherein a public school teacher, who was looking for some bargain books, was telling her companion that she couldn’t use any books that taught or promoted values in her classroom because it was against the rules. I was so sad for her students (and her), and so thankful that in all I do in my homeschool I have the freedom to do just that—teach and promote values and correct principles.
It’s been a wonderful adventure. At the close of this article, we’re getting our 4th of July fireworks after all. We are somewhere in the middle of Wyoming, where a little community is having a large and amazing fireworks display, oddly disproportionate to the size of the town, but a fitting finale for our trip. As we pull over to watch, my 5-year-old daughter suggests, “Mommy, let’s sing the flag song. You know—the one from the baseball games.” My thoughts and our journey come to an end. I sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” with my little one, and marvel again at every second of this excursion. My attention begins to turn to the familiar, and yet it’s cliché, it’s true: there’s no place like home. That goes for learning, too. I’m just glad my home is America.
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