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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Africa (03/05/09)

TITLE: Uncommon Lessons
By Dena Wilson


The bristles of the hairbrush tugged her head to one side, bringing tears to her emerald green eyes. Mum paid no attention to the pain for she was planning out the school day ahead of her.

“Ninety-eight, Ninety-nine, one hundred, all done Mum,” Adelaide’s voice sounded triumphant.

“Thank you Addie, for helping me with my hair. You counted all the way to one hundred without any help this time. You are so smart for a five year old. Let’s go check on your siblings.”

Holding hands they followed the smell of waffles down the hall to the kitchen. Dorothy’s voice trembled with worry, “We did not have the proper measuring cups, please check my maths.” Her hand shook as she passed the recipe to Mum.

Mums eyes scanned the page for errors. “You did well Dotty, the waffles should taste fantastic, thank you for starting breakfast.”

At this moment the back door banged opened and a very blonde, tan boy came pushing through the door. “Ganesa knocked over the clothesline again!”

“Wash up, after breakfast we can work on the clothesline,” Mum said with authority, “then we must start school.”

A short time later James recited multiplication facts as he washed the morning dishes. Dotty was reading about the diet of an African elephant, “Mum, I don’t think a few waffles will hurt Ganesa.”

Laughing, Mum scooped up the wicker basket of raw fruit and vegetables and headed outside. She marveled at the sight of the African Savannah that greeted her outside her back door. Her husband’s description of Africa did not give it justice. Walking to the end of the porch she was greeted by a spray of water from Ganesa trunk. “You are an untamable African elephant; hasn’t any one every told you this before?” scolded Mum giving a lovely pat on Ganesa’s side.

Addie, who was helping feed Ganesa, asked, “How do you know she is an African elephant?”

Mum knelt and began to describe the difference in elephants. Hearing the creak of the back door Mum looked up to see Dotty step through holding one side of the laundry basket, James on the other end. “After we hang up the clothes can I show you the termite mound I found?” asked James.

“What has your father said about termite mounds?” asked Mum.

James said in a mock male voice, “‘Old mounds are homes to black mambas; stay away from them.’ But Mum this one is crawling with termites. Please can I show you?”

“Jolly well, then we have to do school you know how your father feels about your education.”

As they repaired the clothesline and hung the garments up to dry Mum discussed the great land of Africa, touching on the different tribes, countries, and politics. She skirted around the issue of the war knowing the children’s father would cover that area.

The family quickly prepared for their walkabout. Knowing Ganesa’s presence would detour all major predators, Mum checked the sharpness of the machete before slipping it into a sheath. James clipped a hunting knife to his belt, Addie filled canteens, and Dotty found two binoculars.

At the termite mounds James and Mum discussed the architecture. In the distance of the savannah the children noticed the giraffes, zebras, and a pride of lions. They spent many minutes discussing social structures in the animal kingdom, and in the human race. The vibrant colors and hues of Africa were pointed out, and explained. Resting under an umbrella tree Mum explained to them the life cycle of the African Savannah; then they journeyed home.

* * * * * *
Hearing the familiar vehicle pulling up outside, Mum walked out to meet her husband. Her face could not contain her smile, “George, you are home early today.” George allowed the lorry door to slam shut. His white suit no longer crisp, his medical bag was covered in a thin layer of dust.

Mum led Father into the bungalow prattling on about the day activities, “James is designing a structure to compete with the termite mounds, Dotty is capturing the beautiful hues of Africa in a painting, and Addie is drawing a picture of a life cycle.”

Mum’s words fell like water into a leaky bucket, for George’s eyes were locked onto the untouched school books. “Darling, you are teaching James to be a vagabond. You leave me no choice but to send him out for schooling. I was sorely mistaken when I thought a mother could teach.”

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This article has been read 445 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Christina Banks 03/12/09
I hope that James doesn't have to go away to school! Thank you for this sweet story of homeschool in a foreign land.
Dee Yoder 03/12/09
Little does Dad know how much schooling Mum got into her children that day! Sweet and lovely telling of a day in the life of a homeschooled family far, far away.
Ruth Ann Moore03/13/09
Oh, my heart broke just a little for Mum. With how hard she obviously works, and the successes achieved, I felt sorry for her. Very good story telling.
Sharon Kane03/13/09
Oh poor Mum! Maybe it should say in the preface to home school catalogues that requirement number one is a supportive husband!
True, books open up the world, but are second best when the world is outside your front door. Thanks for highlighting the up side of home schooling in a mission setting.
Lynn Jacky 03/13/09
Hi really like your story - excellent writing - easy to read - Funny how dad always think mom is not doing right -
Great ending. Thanks
Mary Lou Cook03/14/09
This tells of a true teacher, one who teaches beyond the pages of school books. The family pet is a great addition to the story.
Deborah Porter 03/25/09
Hi Dena. Just wanted to leave a quick note to let you know your entry, "Uncommon Lessons," actually did very well in the Africa Challenge. Although you didn't receive an award, you made it into the Highest Rankings for Level 1, placing 12th in that Level. Competition in Level 1 is always very intense, so well done.

If you'd like to check the highest rankings for yourself, you can find them here:

The highest rankings are posted every Thursday evening on the Message Boards.

Again, well done. With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)