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Here amid the piles

The gig is up. The last of my brood has pomp and circumstanced right across the stage, and I’m left with little more than wads of wrapping paper from her very generous supporters and the closet. Yes, the closet.

It’s located in a corner of what our family calls the “bonus room,” and I guess it’s an average sort of closet, as far as closets go. Three usable sides, a door. Wire racks on one end, minus the hanging garment thingie that fell down a few years back. The problem isn’t wire shelves or missing ones, though. The problem with the closet is what’s inside it, the stuff pretending to be run-of-the-mill Rubbermaid boxes. They’re not. In reality, they are land mines, and they threaten to detonate with each uncovered memory.

You other-schooling folks might not be able to relate, but what you’ve got to understand here is I’m of the homeschooling mama variety, a curriculum junkie who’s made a 25-year career out of book-hoarding, game-buying, and unit-studying. The stuff in those boxes is potent. Combined, it represents everything from a-a-apple phonics struggles to prepping for the latest round of ACTs.

Compelled by news of a group sale, I began an arduous sorting process less than 48 hours after passing over the diploma. Table cloths from a senior brunch were still in the dryer, and crumbs from another celebration were yet to be swept. But I told myself this clearing out will be therapeutic. Get on it. 

Wheat or chaff? Timeless or outdated? Worthy or worn out? 

I could try the method made popular by best-selling author Marie Kondo and her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” She encourages closet-encumbered readers like me to make de-cluttering choices based on a simple question: Does it spark joy?

Well, that seems easy enough. Books in the math and science category I can let go with ease. No joy sparking there. So long, geometry. See you later, chemistry. Bye-bye, Algebra II.

But when I finger Aliki’s “A Medieval Feast,” I remember my littles dressed up as knights and jesters and ladies in waiting, dining on a meatloaf boar’s head. (Joy.) The “Some Body” board game, with its missing small intestine, reminds me of educational purchases saved for during lean times. (Joy.) A box of Mississippi history handouts makes me wish for another try with our local quiz bowl team. (Joy.) 

And it’s not just beloved books that stop you in your tracks during such an exercise. For a mama at this end of the arc, the un-dones are equally hard to take.

Like the constitutional literacy course still neatly packaged in the bottom of this box.

The partially-consumed acrylic paint set in that one.

The French fur trapper read-aloud, stalled at page 153, sitting on the shelf.


But the task at hand beckons. Progress is in the piles — keepers for the grands, sellables for the masses, summer reading for The Graduate. My best joy-sparkers are sitting front and center on book shelves formerly occupied by teacher guides. I guess there are some perks to not having your contract renewed.

James Dobson, in his convincing Focus on the Family broadcasts back in the ’90s, didn’t mention what it would feel like at the end of our homeschool journey. He just compelled us toward one — a journey that included a store of beloved books, lots of un-dones, and the unparalleled blessing of giving our children a Christian education. 

Here amid the piles, I thank him for it. 


Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.