Cooked Egg Never Comes Out of the Driveway: Edie's Interview

This is Edie Burkhalter, who homeschooled 4 boys and lives to tell the tale. She now resides in Seattle, but began homeschooling while her family lived in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is where they cooked the egg on the driveway of course. In Seattle, the egg would probably just float down the driveway in the rain. Let's see what other adventures she had with various foods, animals, musical instruments and assorted chemicals...

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

When I look back at what we did, we actually began homeschooling before my oldest started school, we just didn’t know it – or at least we didn’t call it that. One of many reasons we took him out of school was a gradual realization that we were doing all the teaching at home, but after “real” school, when he was tired.

So unofficially we started homeschooling in 1978 when my oldest was born. Officially we started when we chose not to send any of the other kids to school, in 1984.

My youngest started college when he was 15 so I guess that’s the official end of our homeschooling years, 2002. But he convinced his advisor to let him do a good many of his classes as independent study so he kind of partly homeschooled himself through college. He even designed and taught a class as an undergraduate teaching assistant.

I discovered for myself, when I started graduate school last year that I already know most of what I am supposed to be learning in my classes so even I have been homeschooling.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

When I ask the boys what they liked best about homeschooling, the first thing they always talk about is our daily routine. We got up and ate breakfast together every morning, then got dressed, made beds, tidied up. And then I made hot cocoa, and we gathered in the living room to read aloud. If the weather was cold and wet, which it often is in Seattle, we’d build a fire in the fireplace and read there. Whenever it’s cold and wet, we all miss that time together. And we all make a point of reading in front of the fireplace with hot cocoa after work on cold, wet evenings.

The other thing we liked was being able to be to set aside our plans. If the weather was lovely, we’d go biking for the day. Once, when the boys were obsessed with dinosaurs, we took a day to drive down to Glen Rose, TX to see dinosaur footprints. We also planned our family vacation that year around great fossil sites.

When my youngest had to be in the hospital with asthma, the other boys spent their time at home looking up information about asthma – and they made him some clay turtles to keep with him in his hospital room. To this day, he collects all kinds of turtle art. He says turtles make him calm when life gets stressful.

We tended to take vacations off-season so we avoided crowds and got better rates on everything. We followed the boys’ interests when homeschooling, so this naturally carried over into trips we took.

We drove cross country every other year to visit my parents in Seattle, and every year to visit my husband’s parents in Illinois. One year we stopped at as many dinosaur spots as we could, another year we explored cliff dwellings and petroglyphs, another year it was some amazing Indian mounds. We visited historic sites, like Lincoln’s hometown, the Hermitage, and Mansfield, MO (Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home). One year we stopped at artist colonies all across the country. A good deal of the art on the walls of our home (and the walls of my kids’ homes) was purchased at art fairs in remote places.

The boys all love music of all kinds. They played all kinds of instruments, some well, some very badly. And they made their own when they couldn’t find one with exactly the right sound. They never locked themselves into one genre and didn’t seem to need to follow the whims of their friends.

Now my oldest writes reviews of independent and unusual music performances. He wants everyone to get over their fear of “different” and allow themselves to be moved and changed by music that doesn’t ever make the charts. Another son writes and records his own music, another sings with three different choirs.

All of the boys loved bird watching. We lived in a great place for unusual birds and often drove out into the country to see them close up. They also loved snakes but had a harder time convincing a squeamish mother to go on snake hunts. I did cave often enough that their snake needs were at least somewhat sated. I refused to let them have a pet snake but there were two bull snakes that frequently wandered into our back yard. The boys named them (I think they named pretty much any wildlife that ventured close enough to be seen) Lucky and Rover.

Our large back yard allowed them to have other “pets”, like turtles, frogs, cotton-tail bunnies, and only once, a skunk. The skunk was a pet but only from a great distance (in the house with all the doors and windows closed!). An armadillo wandered in once, too. The boys named it Tank.

Once we moved to Seattle, we spent many lovely summer nights laying out in the backyard stargazing. Most of our Oklahoma stargazing was in winter. Nighttime insect-life made summer stargazing too itchy.

My third son is autistic. Homeschooling gave us the freedom to allow him to grow and develop at his own rate and in his own order. Today he is attending graduate school in Illinois studying informatics and library sciences. He is specializing in serving marginalized populations.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

I think that biking around town, our weekly trips to the library, the hand-on science we did, all the reading the boys did were all so much fun it’s hard to remember the occasional struggles with math or handwriting.

One of our favorite things to do was to go to the various festivals nearby – like the Rush Springs Watermelon Festival, the Frederick Art Show, Marlow 4th of July, and lots of others. We particularly liked checking out – and sometimes buying – local art. We also spent a lot of time hiking in the mountains. When I took my kids to a nearby park, playground equipment became space stations and pirate ships and a very large cedar tree with branches all the way to the ground became a permanent rebel outpost on Tatooine.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

We did a lot of hands-on science. My husband is a chemist, and while he’s very serious about what he does, he’s never gotten over his delight in the “cool” factor.

So the kids got to make their own slime, see what hydrochloric acid does to concrete, make rockets out of soda bottles and film canisters, and cook eggs on pavement (this really does work in Oklahoma – but cooked egg NEVER comes out of the driveway!!!)

When the boys were young, a popular toy was slime that came in a little container that looked like a plastic garbage can. They always begged for some, I always said, “no." I pictured the stuff permanently turning into plastic in my carpet (it does).

One day my husband came with us when we were shopping, and the boys began begging for slime as usual. I said, “no," as usual, so they went off to find Dad. I wasn’t worried, Dad could always be counted on to say “no” to anything that might cost money.

He looked at the stuff and said, “Are you kidding?? Why would you waste your money on that stuff (I was breathing a sigh of relief until he went on…) when I can make a gallon of the stuff for free at the lab!!”

I was proud of myself -- I didn’t lose it right there in the store in front of everybody. A few days later he took the boys into the lab and they made a much smaller batch together.

And I learned to accept a world that is not always as tidy as I like it.

This photo of Edie's boys was taken at Aaron's wedding. In order from left to right, Christopher, Daniel, Aaron and Benjamin. Mom reports that their usual attire consists of jeans, t-shirts and sweaters but they sure look great all spiffed up too don't they?

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