Getting ready to move out here, I had no idea how I was going to do the boys' school, so I got on the phone and did a little calling around. I found out that the state offered home schooling kits which included books, and teacher's manuals as well as lesson plans. Woohoo, one hurdle conquered. I sent off the application and then we moved.
I had the space in one bush plane, and not a big one either, to fill with all our worldly possessions, giving away or abandoning many of my bigger things. Anything with a plug was also left behind. Having visited, I knew a little of what I was getting into, but the whole school thing was one of those unknowns; I'd have to close my eyes and jump off that cliff when I came to it.
A friend of Don's with a snowmachine brought us a load of boxes long about Christmas time. Merry Christmas. Time to start school. Three big boxes full of books for each of the boys. When they said they'd send everything, they weren't kidding. There were of course the books, both what the boys got and the teacher's manual for each one. There was also any extra help papers and workbooks, extra project equipment should one or another of the subjects call for it. I've seen such things as a dehydrated fish for a dissection project - course the kids had both caught and cleaned quite a few fish by then so that package never got opened. There was calculators for math, a small globe for geography, test tubes for something in science, assorted reading books, I can't even remember all the extra cool little things they sent.
It took me a whole day to figure out what I was supposed to do with all this stuff and organize it so it made sense and I could find it when I needed it. My oldest, Donnie, was in 3rd grade and my youngest, Christopher, was in Kindergarten. The first day of school was really quite interesting. I had two boys in different grades and no idea how to handle that. So I started with Donnie. This is when I discovered that he could scarcely read. He could, but he need lots of practice. He tended to sound out the first letter and guess at the rest. So, to give him practice, I required that he read his assignments out loud to me - I'd help as needed. Then, just to make sure he was understanding the material, I'd read it to him before he did whatever homework that applied. It made for a very long day. Donnie was stubborn - just like me, and the only 'recess' was when I had to fix lunch or supper. When we finally waded through Donnie's subjects I moved on to Christopher's courses. They were much simpler.
Just as the grades were different, the boys were different too. Donnie would stall and lag about doing his work or doing it well enough to satisfy me, while Christopher wanted to soak up the new information like a sponge. Needless to say, where the teachers in town had only so much time to spend on any subject before they simply had to move on to the next, I had all the time I needed to wade through school with the boys, but even so there are only so many hours in a day.
There was a lesson all by itself in all this. One day, Donnie's lessons were quick and simple, done and over with in two hours - until then the typical school day for him was ten hours. I closed the last book and said, "OK, you're done. Go play." and reached for Christopher's books. Donnie sat there for a full minute. "Really?" he said. He was totally disbelieving that he was done with school and it was still light outside. I said, "Go. Go play." I think he ran around like a headless chicken for some time before he found something to do with his time. Never again did our school day last ten hours. Donnie learned that if he buckled down and got his work done and done right, he was off for the rest of the day.
The next year, we were invited to enroll the boys in the Skwentna school. That's where I learned how to deal with different grades in a one room school house. It was so simple. All the students did the same subject at the same time - Why didn't I think of that?
The next year, we home schooled again because we have moved upriver about thirty some odd river miles.
Then it was back down here again. We tried to run the boys up to school every day but it was so hard to get anything done at home and making the trip twice a day burned a lot of gas, so we bought a small boat with a 25 horse Johnson on it. I took the boys to school, hung around and helped out as I could and then brought them home.
Those trips were a story in themselves. We'd leave as soon as we could see, which got later every day. Fog on the river is frequent that time of year and more than once we'd attach a four-wheeler headlight to the front of the boat. In my opinion, it didn't really help all that much. Those mornings the tactic for driving was a series of drifts - drift to one side until I could spot some familiar landmark, follow that until I needed to be following something on the other side of the river, then drift over that way until I could identify something there. And if it was thick enough, one of the boys would lay on the front of the boat and watch for floating obstacles I really shouldn't hit.
Many is the times when I'd be driving along with the boys sitting side-by-side in front of me, hunkered down against the cold, rain, or fog, Christopher would doze off and start to tip sideways (no danger of falling out of the boat), his brother would reach over and grab his life-jacket and pull him back upright. It was nice seeing that. They've watched out for each other all their lives and still do.
Once our goal was reached, we'd park the boat, and then there was the three mile walk to the school house. A couple of the families (all two of them) had trucks, even the school had a truck but none of them were allowed to transport any but their own kids to school; the insurance wouldn't allow it. It was done though, sometime, it's just that there was seldom anyone with a truck where we were when we arrived and the shortcuts we took didn't take us past anyone's lane.
By now we had a snowmachine, but I wasn't so good with one of those so after freeze-up Don took them to school. Once again, that was too much cause he really couldn't stay the day; he needed to get firewood in and such. So, as soon as Donnie could start a machine and we were confident he could handle the drive, he drove his brother to school. We'd keep track of their progress by radio. We had a CB - most everyone on the river had one then. The boys were suppose to call when they got to school so we knew they arrived okay. The distance was too great for our radio to reach all the way to the school, but a neighbor who lived midway could talk to the school and to us, so they'd relay the message, either way if necessary. The good thing with snowmachines is they could drive straight from home to the door of the school.
Since we were living on a shoestring, we were constantly fixing and rebuilding various boat motors and snowmachines, so it wasn't too surprising to us when the boys would help some other student get their machine going at the end of the day either by doing some tinkering or simply being strong enough to pull the machine over enough times to get it going. Too bad the girls didn't seem to appreciate it as much as they should have. More than once, they stopped along the trail to do the same thing. I'm very proud of my boys.