10 Reasons Homeschooling is Like Embroidering an Elephant Pillow


I spent the weekend embroidering toenails on elephants.

I had a reason for it, originally. See, for a while, all the glamorous house tours featured an elephant pillow tucked artistically into a corner of the couch or onto a bed. I really like elephants and I wanted one.

But the pillows I found for sale were always weird colors or boring quality, or had that cheap filling that flattens if you accidentally lean on it one time. The elephant pillow trend has now passed in favor of textural kilim pillows, but I still like elephants and am fond of DIY.

So I sketched out an elephant design on a good piece of white Kona cotton.

I made with the embroidery.

I discovered that embroidering the whole elephant is not unlike using every part of the buffalo: there are always the awkward bits. I mean, I could embroider elephants lacking tails, but, well, something would be missing. So, awkward bits it was. And, since embroidery is a slow, deliberate, loving sort of activity, I was putting satin stitch on those elephant toenails for quite a while.

Such is crafting life.

Homeschooling also looks so rosy and domestic, until you get into the throes of it. It occurred to me that homeschooling and embroidering elephants had a whole list of things in common:

  1. Both are best done in a castle. That’s self-evident. A small apartment will do in a pinch, though.
  2. “Both are really hard,” as Meg says. She has embroidered an angler fish, so she is entitled to an opinion.
  3. It takes longer if you’re a perfectionist.
  4. You have to get your point across, repeatedly.
  5. Some homeschooling days are the elephant’s toenails. Potty-training days come to mind.
  6. They’re both a work in progress.
  7. In both, you try not to stab yourself or anyone else. Mistakes can leave you in stitches.
  8. Trends are great inspiration but terrible taskmasters. In interior design: avocado green and harvest gold everything. In homeschooling: Saxon Math. I beseech you, don’t be a victim.
  9. If you have no idea what you’re doing, you can always ask Pinterest.
  10. You’re trying to make something beautiful.


I’m pretty sure the character habits I develop in one of these areas is going to spill over into the other. I’m thinking particularly of perseverance. I would really like to be the kind of person who actually finishes her embroidery projects—and then that habit of finishing will help me pull through on awkward-bits homeschooling days.

I want to cultivate delight in the work itself, too. Sewing is one of those things that you’d better do out of love or not at all. Similarly, my kids can tell the difference between when I’m enjoying teaching and when I’m totally not.

I also want to cultivate a habit of creativity. It’s the sort of contagious habit your kids pick up; I did, from my creative mama. A life is worth making yourself, throw pillows, nature studies, and on up. It’s worth doing. That, the kids won’t forget. We’ll remember because of the elephant.

Carolyn signature Montez font

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