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Thanksgiving thoughts while cleaning up my side of our home office....
Susan Richman, 11/22/2011

I never go shopping on 'Black Friday' after Thanksgiving... instead for the last several years I've set aside the day for a major cleaning up or re-organizing day in my home. You know, those jobs most of us rarely 'get to'... like a huge overhaul of the attic storage area, or repainting woodwork, or re-organizing all my bookshelves. This Friday my plan is to really, really work on blessing our home office, one of the busiest rooms in our home right now-- and one of the most cluttered I'm afraid. 

So... today I'd finished the work I'd planned to do for my AP US History class, and I just couldn't wait to get started just a bit *early* on our office. I thought I'd just begin a little, by clearing off the top of my desk and my file drawers. I already have boxes and bags of old unnecessary papers to recycle or burn-- but one of the piles to sort through made me stop and linger. And here's where I come to the Thanksgiving part. One of the things I always save is *thank you* cards and notes from the many families and students that I've worked with over the years. They are all in a nice brass box on a shelf just to the left of my computer-- and the container was overflowing and filled above the brim. I had no thoughts that I'd toss any of these  treasures... but I did decide to reread them all. And my heart is so full now, of gratitude for all these people who have touched my life over many years of working with homeschooling famlies in so many ways. 
thank you cards 2011.jpg
There were letters from my AP US History students, thanking me for the way that the course had helped them stretch in new ways and see our nation's history from different viewpoints. Some specifically thanked us for hosting our annual year-end AP Party at our farm, where they had the chance to really meet many of their virtual classmates face to face-- kids from Texas, California, Washington, Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and more. Others thanked me for being ready and willing to write them needed college or scholarship recommendation letters. Rereading these cards and notes made me realize, once again, about the many lives all of us leading our AP Online classes have touched. It's so special to be able to help these wonderful young people move on in their lives. And just today one of my wonderful past students, Pearl Young, got in touch with me online-- she was right then visiting one of her old AP classmates for Thanksgiving vacation, and they were thinking about their days in my AP US History course. Pearl wanted to let me know that she was now in a PhD program in history, focusing on the history of religion in the South-- and she's hoping to write up something I can post for my current students about her studies. And she hopes to come to the AP Party this spring too! 
Then there was a handwritten card from a girl who I evaluated from age 8 through graduation, and who wanted to let me know that she'd now earned an associates degree in early childhood education at the local Penn State campus, She was a girl the schools wanted to consider for special ed classes, and who had had great difficulties in learning to read and do mathematics growing up. This girl's parents just never gave up on her-- and now she was on her way to being a self-supporting adult member of her community, with real skills-- I was so grateful to hear from this blossoming young woman. Other evaluation students thanked me for the time I'd spent with them, over many years-- they felt I was a part of their family, and had helped them find out who they were and where their gifts lay. Younger children sent me handmade cards thanking me for showing them the 'bone museum' we have on our front porch (a project our older son loved growing up... though my girls both thought having groundhog skulls and raccoon skulls on display was a bit... well... icky!!), or to thank me for giving them some of our old homeschooling games or materials that we no longer needed (after all, my 'baby' is now 24!). Parents thanked me for friendship over years.  I found one message from a homeschooling mother from way back in the very first year of the homeschooling law, when none of us had had any experience with evaluations or what they might mean for our kids. She wrote: 
Dear Susan,
This is an unsolicited testimonial for the impressive professionalism of your evaluation of my daughter. I was very surprised at your depth of coverage, also the thoughtfulness of your comments and suggestions. My daughter read the evaluation and beamed with pride. Even though we are anti-test, the testing required for 3rd grade, and administered by you, gave our daughter some valuable insights: first, that she is better in math than she imagined. This has had a very postive effect on her math work-- with the screaming cut down from 20 minutes to 10! The overall result on the entire family of the evalution hass been one of confidence and rejuvenation. We're doing a pretty thorough and creative job! Knowing that our slavish attempts to educate our children at home can be appreciated by someone other than the kids' grandmothers, and that we have a 'professional' seal of approval is a very welcome change from the usual self-doubts and hair-tearing. Thank you very much!
Reading over all these letters and thank you cards made me feel so grateful for the opportunity to have served them and to have formed longterm ties and to have been blessed by the many hours of conversation and meetings and sharing and friendship that went in to our evaluation relationships. I was reminded of the deep value of each one of these children and their parents, and how they've enriched my life. 
One homeschooling mother even sent a lovely card thanking us for doing our Fall Testing service every year for the last 24 years-- and she's been there every year for about the last 18 I think! Rereading her sweet card reminded me, too, of all the kind parents who came up to me this fall to specifically thank us for offering this comfortable way to meet the testing requirement in the state. One woman shared that their kids always looked forward to the day, as afterwards they knew they'd get to enjoy their annual their 'tradition' of going out to a special fun restaurant they didn't usually go to! 
I also was reminded of a comment our older daughter Maya (Molly) made after her first year teaching AP English online with homeschool teens through our program. Maya had just completed several years of teaching in a private school, where many students seemed to have a rather snooty attitude of 'the world should give me whatever I want!' There was a self-centeredness to many of the children that was a bit unnerving. She was finding it so refreshing to work again with homeschool students-- and she especially noted their ready sense of gratitude and their eagerness to spontaneously express this gratitude in quick emails and notes. I think it's something very, very special about the homeschooling community in general-- that parents model a grateful attitude, and help and encourage their children to thank others through real true heart-warming concrete acts... including encouraging them to send on thank you cards to those who've helped them out in some way. 
This spirit of gratitude among homeschoolers is something I'm so grateful for... Thank you, each one of you, for helping get me in the Thanksgiving mood a bit early this year. And know too that a whole new set of thank you cards from my special collection is now hung on the wall behind my computer desk-- brightening my work area immensely with it's spirit of warm gratitude and love (especially now that I've also cleared off some open topped files from my desk, that now are in my real file cabinets!). I feel humbled, and so grateful.... THANK YOU for being such an important part of my life!!! And thanks, too, for transforming the humble task of really cleaning up my home office, a task that some would feel is just 'drudgery', into a true blessing. 
May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday time with family and friends!


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