She’s three-and-a-half years old, going on... well, four. Walking. Talking. And learning new things every day.
Like Indiana, I’d like to think that I am learning too.
Indy has been going to a wonderful school called High Hopes for the past year-and-a-half since we came home from Indiana and it’s been amazing for her. The teachers and facility they have are wonderful and the therapies they provide are the main reason that Indy is walking and talking so well. She’s also started going to a new preschool on Thursdays called Ferntop Nature Preschool where the kids spend pretty much all day outside... learning about flowers and trees and birds and butterflies and are encouraged to jump in mud puddles rather than walk around them. It’s an unusual concept that our friends Mike Wolfe (from American Pickers) and his wife Jodi told us about. Their little girl Charlie went there and said it was an amazing experience for them.
If Joey were here, she would love both of the schools that Indiana goes to, but she would be homeschooling Indy. Not just now, but permanently. At least I believe she would. Partly because she would want our little one here at home with her, growing up and learning on our farm. And also because she would be way more interested in Indiana learning to be a good person than being a good reader. To love God and the life that He’s given her, is more than what a lot of the world is telling us to love. And in her mind, home is the best place to learn those things.
I’ve had a lot of time to think how best to raise Indiana up on the hour or so drive back and forth to Indy’s school over the last 18 months and even more time to pray about it late in the evenings when Indy’s asleep and it’s just me in the big old bed that I used to share with her mama.
And so a few months ago, I began to imagine having the best of both worlds. Home, and school.. at the same time. It started with an idea, then blossomed into a hope. Then a plan. And the more I thought about it, the more excited I got about it.
In the middle of July, we poured a slab of concrete on the other side of the parking lot from the barn/concert hall at our farm.
In the days that would follow, Indy and I would walk across the pad (and the plastic tarp that covered it for rain) and I would dream about what it might become. I shared that dream with my family and friends and pastor. And they were soon all as excited about it as I was.
This past weekend, that dream became a reality. At least a good beginning to one.
Fifty or more people... friends, family, neighbors, and a lot of folks from the cowboy church that meets in our barn on Sundays... descended on our parking lot at 7 am this past Saturday morning with hammers and saws, hamburgers and hotdogs and hearts full of love. They were here to help build something big for someone little.
A one-room schoolhouse.
I first came across a picture online of this old schoolhouse in Kentucky, and so early in the summer, Indy and made the trip up there to see it and take some pictures. Originally built in 1892, it had been recently moved to a park where they’ve been working to restore it.
My brother-in-law Keith took those pics to some folks who helped come up with some plans to recreate it here on our farm. Ours will be a little bit bigger and look a lot different on the inside, but for the most part, I think it’ll be a lot like the old one-room schoolhouses from days gone by.
Our hope is to let it be more of a farm school where besides the three ‘R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic), kids will get the chance to learn about another, 4th ‘R’… rural life skills. There will be room for about a dozen kids and the classroom will age as Indiana ages. Change as she changes. If it opens in January (which is our hope), it will be most likely be 3 and 4-year-olds and the following year, 4 and 5’s, and so on. In time, it will be filled with 5th and 6th graders when she’s that age and the same for when she’s in high school. And each year or two, we’ll redo the inside for whatever the kids need to have in their classroom to learn best from at the age.
Besides the schoolroom, the kids will have a playground and their own garden that they can plant and take care of and a henhouse/barn with chickens and other animals to raise and woods to build a birdwatching hut and make trails that the teachers can take them for walks in. And across the pasture, we have horses that they can care for and learn to ride and a concert hall where they can learn about music and put productions on on the stage. On rainy days the concert hall can be their gym to play in.
Those are just a few of the ideas we have had so far. Mostly though, we have just been dreaming about building it. The first step in anything is just taking the ‘first step.’ And that’s where this past weekend came in. Pretty much all day on Saturday, and after church on Sunday, our community came together and drove the nails into the foundation of something bigger than just a schoolhouse for our little girl.
Who knows, maybe someday when she grows up, she’ll want to teach there. Or turn the building into a vegetable stand or business where she works. Or maybe even a house where she lives. I have no idea where it will lead. Just hope in where it might lead. To be a blessing to her, and to other little ones like her.
We could have just hired some folks to come and build the schoolhouse. People who do it for a living and it that would fine. Probably easier in some ways. But I believe that “how you do something” is almost as important as “what you do.” And since Joey and I and our older girls are big fans of the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, we thought we’d open it up to the community. Make it something that isn’t just a beautiful moment and memory for us, but for others too. And it was. It really was. I got to know a lot of folks I didn’t know and they got to know each other better too.
It’s been almost a week since then and the decking on the roof is almost completely done now and tin should be on it in the next week or so. It will still take a few months to finish the building, but when it’s done, I think it’s gonna be special. Especially because it’s here at the farm.
In a special spot where our little one can go to ‘home school' just across the field from where her Mama’s cross sits.
God is so good.
PS… my sisters Marcy and Candy surprised me and made peanut butter kiss cookies and brought them on Saturday. They said that Joey would have made them and loved being part of it all.
And our sweet friend Ruby Guidara brought a couple of ponies from her farm for kids to pet or ride.
Thank you to everyone who came. Everyone who wanted to come, but couldn’t. And everyone who’ll come in the future.
Especially to Keith Hunley, Rex Wharton, AK Robinette, and all the kind folks from Cross Country Cowboy Church, Derrick Mote, Aaron Carnahan, Theron Hutton, Danny Smith, Jan Harris, Bradley Walker (for letting me use your song ‘Toolbox’ in the video)… Heidi and Hopie who came up from Alabama to be part of it… and also Daniel Grace and Gabe McCauley who spent the day capturing video so we could capture the moment forever and share it.
And lastly to everyone around the country and world, who sent cards and letters when Joey passed. Some of those envelopes had checks inside and some had fives or tens or twenty dollar bills. And those who sent checks into the fund that was set up for Indy in Joey’s name. It is that money that is making it possible to build the schoolhouse.
Thank you so much. You are all a part of this too.