Saturday, April 18, 2009

Community Homestead

Kurt and I started going to Community Homestead (CH) when he was 14. We met Nadine on our first visit. She took us on a walking tour of the premises on a sunny spring afternoon. There were trails to each of the six houses, where some activity was performed by work groups. The house on the edge had a bakery, then we walked a path mowed through the field to the white house with the barn full of chickens. We crossed back over to the main farmland and saw the other houses, visited the calves in the milking barn and then back to the garden where we started. All along the way we met other people who lived and worked there.

Once we got started volunteering, Kurt and I attended twice a week. He settled into stenciling note cards with a group at Altair and I did brain gym activities (that's another story), then helped paint puzzles with a group at Morning Glory.

Being at CH was one of our most valuable homeschooling experiences. I wanted a place for Kurt where he was welcome, he had friends, and he was doing something. He was given patience to learn at his own pace. I worried that he wasn't living up to their expectations and pushed him to do better. They gently taught me that his pace was his pace, and that I should back off. They separated Kurt and I so he could be his own person.

Kurt started out in the stained glass group. I learned more about him. He worked with cut glass, carefully washing the piece after the solution was painted on it. I would have never given him something sharp that might injure him. When I picked him up once he was sitting at the kitchen table, a big knife in his hand, cutting potatoes, and I made an audible gasp. It took me by surprise. He could have cut his finger off! I quickly recovered and had a huge revelation. For the first time, I realized Kurt was capable of more than I gave him credit for.

That day changed my behavior. I gave him more responsibilities at home. He was 14 and he had never had chores to do! He began setting the table and unloading the dishwasher. I learned to let him do more of his self-cares, things I had gotten in the habit of doing for him.

Seeing Kurt's capabilities wasn't the only transformation. Each time I helped make drip candles or paint wooden puzzles for an afternoon, I felt the stress lift off my shoulders. Taking time to focus on one task had a huge impact on me. I was a multi-tasker, managing a lot of things four our household of five. People go to spas and spend hundreds of dollars to alleviate stress. I would spend an afternoon with new friends, doing something productive and creative and get the same results.

I don't get the opportunity to join in the work groups now that I'm working. Dropping Kurt off this week since Laurie isn't doing it wasn't a bad thing. I still feel the stress drain away as I enter the beautiful landscape.

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Kurt at 19