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A Wild + Precious Education

A Wild + Precious Education

a monthly column by Amber Smith Zaliski

It’s a riddle in haiku form. It’s about our vintage file cabinet that now sits empty in an empty closet in our almost empty house. It’s what happens when you dive deep into cleaning out everything in your life. There are more poems where that came from. For the past month we’ve been turning our home back into a house and doing all of the hard work that has to be done in order to completely change our lives.

My husband and I – we do changes big. It feels like everything is happening very quickly, but this is actually phase two of a plan we dreamed up about six or so years ago. On Thanksgiving night in 2012, we decided that we were both going to leave our teaching careers. The burnout was real, we wanted to have a baby, and we knew that teaching would not afford us the life we wanted. Literally.

At the end of that school year, we sold our home, quit our jobs, bought a little house down the street, and settled in to work and rebuild. My husband went to nursing school, and when our daughter was born in the spring of 2014 there was no question about what I wanted to do, I was definitely going to stay home with my baby. We would have done anything to make that possible, and we did. There has been a lot of sacrifice involved in this plan, and it has all been worth it. We have been very fortunate.

Even though we left the classroom, we are both still teachers at heart. We are passionate about learning, and we have some pretty strong opinions about education. Some of those opinions include:

  • earlier is not always better
  • kids should be kids for as long as possible
  • education starts at home
  • experience is the best teacher

Now that our daughter is four and a half years old, we feel like we’ve gotten a good start on the basics. Sure, she knows her letters and numbers and can write her name and some other things, but more importantly she is a great pretender, and she loves to tell stories. She knows how to ride a bike with no training wheels, and she is a good swimmer, and can play “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on the piano, and she writes her own songs now. She can measure ingredients to make banana bread, and she knows how to use fancy manners in a restaurant, and can identify every fruit and veggie at the market. She excels at giving compliments, and she has a pretty extensive vocabulary. If you ever hear her say the S word, please know that she is very observant, and I only had to let it slip one little time. At least she uses it correctly and in context, right?

So as we enter phase two of our extended plan, we are selling everything we own and jumping into travel nursing and homeschooling. We are in the Dallas area until the end of March, and then we will be headed somewhere new. We don’t even know where yet! Every three months or so, we’ll find a new home. Isn’t that exciting and slightly panic-inducing? We’re excited about the possibilities.

We can’t wait to explore the Grand Canyon and see Zion National Park, and eat lobster in Maine in the summer and tour our nation’s capitol some day. The Northern Lights are on our list and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I just saw a photo of Mt. Rainier on Insta, so I think we’ll try to go there, too. There will be plenty of actual school work mixed in, of course, especially as she gets older. We believe that discipline and structure are, like, super important. 

I always come back to my favorite line from a favorite Mary Oliver poem when I need some inspiration. 

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Tell me / what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 

All we can do is what we think will be best for our own family. If you ever feel like it’s time for big change, however, I hope you’ll have the courage to make a new plan, even if it takes a while.

Texarkana will always be our hometown, but home isn’t necessarily a place. It’s a feeling, right? All of our drawers have been emptied, our keepsakes packed away, and we are excited to seek out new stories just waiting to be written. 

Read more of Amber’s wild and precious thoughts at www.merrymoonliving.com.

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