In the interest of clearing out the tiniest bit of clutter in the house, I decided to go through the kids' school stuff to see what I could toss. As a homeschooling family, we have more than our fair share of books . . . and as a homeschooling family, we don't like to get rid of our books.
Oh, sure, the dry textbooks come and go, and as soon as the youngest finishes with them, they are sold or given away. The others, though—the classics, the not-so-classic-but-memorable anyway, the biographies, Newberry winners and the Just Plain Interesting—they're keepers. There are too many good memories associated with the reading of them: long winter days, snuggled up on the couch with hot chocolate; reading the British literature in a badly done British accent; creating character voices; having the kids read to me while I prepared a meal.
One thing I didn't have a problem condensing was the pile of school portfolios. We have the privilege of homeschooling in Pennsylvania, the state with the second-highest number of burdensome regulations for homeschoolers. There are an awful lot of hoops to jump through, but since I've always lived in PA, I just deal with them.
Going through the portfolios, however, I realized how many things I've kept, simply because the school needed them. Not because I wanted them, or because they were meaningful to me or my children. All those items that "needed" to be handed in and evaluated each spring? At least 90% of them were tossed aside as trash without a second look or pang of regret. All the award ribbons and certificates I included as proof that we were, in fact, a well-rounded family whose children weren't cloistered with siblings and parents as their only friends . . . tossed, tossed, tossed. As liberating as it was for me to dispose of it all, it was just as freeing to know that my children don't cling to "things" in order to feel good about themselves. They know they've done these things. They don't need ribbons or trophies to prove they're worth something.
In fact, the most valuable items I found while sorting today were things nobody—I mean nobody!—would give a ribbon for. I found my editing roots in school papers written by my creatively irreverent sons, such as "Ode to a Bread Crumb," a haiku whose final three syllables were filled in by the oh-so-creative "so shut up!" (I guess the creative juices weren't flowing that day), and a research paper that began with the sentence, "The pages of the guitar's history are splattered by the sweat of wandering minstrels who gave their very lives in the effort to bring music across the land."
It's no wonder I have the desire to edit. I've been editing my children's school work for fifteen years running, and I still have five more years to go before the youngest graduates. If I can work with material they give me, I can certainly do justice to the work of those who actually want to write.