"But is it hard to homeschool?..." the skeptical cashier asked me at the checkout counter.
"Girl," I replied, holding up my bag of newly-purchased astronaut ice cream and gesturing to the Air & Space Museum behind me, "This IS homeschooling!"
Probably my most favorite interaction of our day, we also enjoyed sharing some of our resources with an enthusiastic saxophonist and receiving a private concert; stopping to help tie the sneaker of a young woman with a baby strapped to her chest; chatting with a group of elderly Chinese men from Toronto who were huddled over their hot coffee; offering an encouraging word to a frustrated city worker; and complimenting a bag-checker. (I considered it a personal challenge to bring a smile to Mrs. Wilson's face. She was one tough lady!)
We left Williamsport at 6:00 am - phew, that's EARLY! I love that Trey and I are such seasoned travelers - we were up and out and at the bus in plenty of time.
When we arrived in D.C. we were a bit surprised to see the lines to the Air & Space Museums (all four of them) were about a 90 minute wait! So we moved right along.
While we were initially frustrated, we soon discovered that the most interesting items to Trey were all of the outdoor sculptures! We combed the National Mall for every garden and museum we could find that contained sculpture art. As the day progressed we narrowed down his interest to modern, abstract sculptures consisting of metal and glass.
As a homeschool mom, I was thrilled to follow as Trey walked through the sculptures, explaining them to me, reading the plaques, deciding what he liked and didn't like, and why, and then moving along.
I asked Trey to take the lead, and he took me from museum to museum. He actually had a better grasp of the city than I did, moving around with a confidence and sophistication that belied his inexperience. It was amazing to watch him navigate the streets and the lights and the traffic - and then inside the museums, navigate through the exhibits and mazes of halls.
At one point, I got us completely turned around and we had to go back around and start over. Trey patiently pulled me into a corner and quietly said, "Mom, I didn't want to embarrass you, but we're going the wrong way. We need to..." Seriously, it was a surreal moment. LOVED watching him blossom while I just longed for a quiet corner and a cup of tea!
Midway through our day, we were cold and tired and I saw the top of the botanical gardens in the distance. "I think that's a greenhouse! Let's go!" Trey loved the warm greenhouses and we sat quiet on a bench, his head in my lap for a quick catnap.
My food-truck falafel wrap was outstanding, unfortunately, Trey's palate has been spoiled by the homemade pretzels from the Amish food stands, so he wasn't as impressed with his food.
Eventually, with just an hour or so remaining, the lines shortened at the Air & Space Museum and we had a chance to go in. It was fun to wander around, but so full of people! We were both very tired, and ready for the day to end.
We never did fulfill my dream of going to the White House, but we did get a chance to see it from the bus on the way out of the city.
We've decided that we'll go back to Washington D.C. again, but we'll park the car outside the city and take public transit in. There is so much more we want to see!
It's been an exciting few weeks! As you can see, our new client is a plain (Amish) business. They are super excited to have an office/business manager, and built a brand new office at their facility to house us.
A fascinating combination of genius and humility, this business invited us in to provide a combination of coaching and business management. After an eye-opening conversation with our local area small business development center, (who were completely shocked when I explained what we were going to be doing, sharing with me that they have tried to break into the Amish community for years but can't make any inroads) I realized how unprecedented it is for an 'English' business to be invited into the Amish business community - not as a customer, but as a mentor, coach, and manager.
Each time we arrive, the owner's young son meets us with a smile and an enthusiastic 'Hi!'. He doesn't speak much English yet, (he'll learn when he begins school next year) so Trey is finding it challenging to communicate with him, but they do find ways to play together, and enjoy drawing on the lap white-boards we put in the toy basket in the office.
Many folks who aren't familiar with the Amish community would wonder how they can compete or at least keep up, in our fast paced, powered, digital world. Part of my role is to encourage this business to stay true to their community ideals and be mindful of the effect that skating too close to the line may have on their standing within the community. There are some businesses that regularly cross the lines set out by their community, encouraged by well-meaning, but ignorant English. From an anthropological view, major changes endanger an entire community's way of life for generations to come. From a community standpoint, families who regularly break the rules and cross the line can lose their connection in the community, and risk being disciplined or shunned. Mercy and forgiveness is a basic foundation in the Amish tradition, but repeated transgressions are met with increasingly strong reactions from leadership.
I was able to take this client is because he is an honest man looking for ways to grow and compete but not be dishonest to his family or his community. My standing in the community is affected by the clients I accept - so I have to be very mindful of PEMG's reputation as well.
What does all this mean on a practical level? Well, he doesn't use electricity. He does use batteries. The batteries are powered via solar or by an equine treadmill (that he designs, has built and sells!). The batteries are (as far as I am aware) only used for business, his wife would not use them for anything in the house. Even in business, the lines are firm - he can run the printer with the battery pack, and some equipment. He can power his mobile phone, but when I am not in the office, the phone stays in the phone shanty on the edge of the property. The electric tea kettle stays on my desk, and is used only by me, when I'm in the office.
We will be setting up cellular internet, but again, it's only for my use and will be put away when I am not in the office. Having an 'english office lady' as he calls me, has created some breathing room for this business. On a practical level, things get done faster, and he doesn't have to spend as much time returning phone calls!
Of course, when I answer the phone, many times people hang up! They aren't used to 1. a woman (gasp!) answering the phone, or 2. an 'english' voice. It was pretty funny yesterday when another Amish client of mine called in to the office. He was so confused! Once I explained to him what was going on, I could hear the wheels turning in his mind. This 'english office lady' idea is very new - and I anticipate a growing demand within the Amish community.
This places a huge burden on me to create a business model that provides excellent service minus any opinion or judgments of the Amish way of life. An opportunity like this is amazing - I feel as though every step of the PEMG journey has been preparing us for this next venture.
I am envisioning a new division at PEMG, utilizing virtual assistants, remote contractors, and office staff to provide the Amish community with access to information and services in a way that doesn't threaten their beliefs, ideals, or community structure.
What do you think? Questions? Thoughts?