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In Sickness and in Health: Confessions of a Homeschool Mom

 

There is no cure for the disease I have. Therefore, Iíve had to learn to live with and even accept my malady. This was easy at first, since the symptoms werenít too bad and could be kept under control. At one point, however, it became obvious to everyone who knew me that I had a problem. Eventually my sickness progressed so that it affected all areas of my life. As it is now, I try to live a normal life, but I cannot. This is because I am a book junkie. I am hooked on books.

Phase one of my addiction began the night I had to say good-bye to Charlotte. The book was finished but I wanted more. It didnít seem to matter that Charlotteís death caused me excruciating emotional pain. I needed more. What would happen to Wilber? I needed to know.

Phase one continued when my mother introduced me to Nancy. Now here was someone who wasnít going to leave me hanging. For over a year we were the best of friends as we traveled the world together, making marvelous discoveries. Not only was Nancy sophisticated, Nancy was awesome. Nancy was my kind of heroine.

Before phase one ended, I discovered Laura. She quickly introduced me to her family and the house they lived in, in the big woods, and I couldnít understand why nobody had thought to introduce us sooner. Practical, levelheaded Laura was the sister I never had. We kept up acquaintances for quite some time, as she moved out to the shores of Silver Lake and eventually to the house on the prairie. Although I learned a lot from Laura, she grew up quicker than I did, and we eventually went our separate ways.

For awhile my sickness progressed no further. This occurred while I was in high school and was forced to make acquaintances with a number of people whom I did not care for, most notably Edgar Allen Poe. Why did I have to get to know this man? He was definitely not my type. And then there was Homer. He was so obtuse; I never knew what he was saying. At any rate, however, during this remission there was only one minor episode in which my sickness reared its ugly head. This was the time I spent the night with a man named Garp. I laughed so hard that I rolled out of bed, although I no longer remember what was so funny about him.

Phase two of my addiction began in earnest when I was expecting my first child and introduced myself to as many other mothers as possible. I formed my own coffee klatch, listening to any suggestions these women had to share pertaining to pregnancy and motherhood. It didnít matter whether the advice was good or simply mediocre ó I couldnít get enough. Of course, this was during a time when I was possibly experiencing complete hormonal upheaval.

The extension and fulfillment of phase two of my addiction began when I introduced myself to numerous doctors and parenting experts. I met a few famous people such as Dr. James Dobson and Dr. William Sears. However, my favorite acquaintance was Dr. Kevin Leman who shared the most comical, yet interesting parental advice. The title of his first book, How To Make Your Children Mind Without Losing Yours, sums up his philosophy quite well.

Phase three of my addiction definitely began when my parents bought a bookstore and I became their employee. I began to meet people I never even knew existed, and sometimes I brought these characters home with me. I was now irretrievably marked. My family sold the bookstore, but I would never be the same. It was only a matter of time before I would no longer be able to mask the symptoms, which would one day erupt.

Phase four of my addiction, the most significant, began innocently and almost imperceptibly. My financial situation improved and I no longer had to rely on the public library as the sole support of my habit. I began purchasing books and the number I owned silently but steadily piled into my home. There was a simple remedy, however. When nobody was looking, I snuck another bookshelf into the house. Certain possessions began disappearing, but no one seemed to notice. The day of reckoning came, however, when we made an out-of-state move. I was in serious trouble. Books were my friends, and I had too many of them. Choosing the friends I could keep and the ones I had to relinquish was an agonizing process. No one should have to endure this.

Nevertheless, phase four of my addiction continued. Someone once said that there are two kinds of readers: One who goes through a book while the other lets the book go through him. I had now become the latter. My books were a part of me. Therefore, despite the fact that we endured several more moves, I was unable to stop stockpiling my treasures. A ton of books is pure delight, until you have to move them.

Also enveloped within this phase of my addiction was the fact that I HAD NOW BEGUN HOME SCHOOLING! And now I had so many new friends! And they were all brilliant! In the early years these new acquaintances included Greg Harris, Mary Pride, Raymond and Dorothy Moore, Valerie Bendt, and over the years the list expanded to include Charlotte Mason, Michael Farris, Catherine Levinson, and more recently John Taylor Gatto and many others, some of whom speak to me from within the pages of this publication. Because of my condition (I am a bibliophile), even when we sit down to dinner in the dining room, we are surrounded on three sides by my friends. Fortunately, for the rest of the members of my family, the fourth side, consisting of a large sliding glass door, provides an escape to the back porch and yard area. Otherwise, we would be trapped.

I am now in full-blown phase of my sickness, and I donít think it can get any worse than this. Everything I do is affected by my dependency on books. I am so firmly entrenched in my addiction that I canít take a vacation without hunting down an old, used bookstore, my favorite kind. Even recently, my house has been referred to as the new library in town. It takes remarks like these to remind me that my house and my life are not normal. Nevertheless, I cannot stop reading, not as long as I am breathing. Sir Hugh Walpole described me well when he stated, "A bibliomaniac is one to whom books are like bottles of whiskey to the inebriate, to whom anything that is between covers has an intoxicating savor." In other words, I am drunk on books. This must be why my children groan whenever I enter a bookstore.

And so it is that I find myself trapped in the final phase of this addiction that I do not even wish to escape. Indeed, I find my condition coincides nicely with our familyís home school agenda. And needless to say, I stay well informed of the news in the home school community. I still buy too many books, but I wholeheartedly agree with Chancellor of England, Bishop Richard De Bury, who so eloquently stated, "All the glory of the world would be buried in oblivion, unless God had provided mortals with the remedy of books." For me, there is no other way. I read, therefore I am.

Postscript: The saga continues. This article, in its original form, was written for an English 120 class a little over a year ago. Recently, however, I became a substitute librarian for the community I live in. Need I say more?

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