The Spit and Whittle Club

When I was a boy, growing up in the 1950’s, I would often visit my grandfather who lived near a small Missouri farm town. We would go “to town” where we would visit the grocery store,  post office or city hall. Next to city hall was a small city “park” which was really nothing more than a vacant lot with mowed grass and 2 or 3 park benches. There were always several old men sitting on those benches talking. My grandfather referred to them as “the spit and whittle club”- a name which evoked glamorous images of glistening multi-blade jack knives and getting to spit in public with no one to criticize your behavior. In truth- I don’t think I ever saw any of those old men spitting- or whittling.

Instead, what they did was sit and talk about the past, the present and the future. I’m sure they reminisced about what life was like “back in the day”. I’m sure they also worried about the uncertain future of American in the far distant future- the 1960’s, 1970’s or even the almost unimaginably futuristic 1980’s. And they shared stories. They talked about the loss of a beloved wife of 50+ years to cancer. They talked about their own health woes, their financial troubles and the problems their children and grandchildren were going through. In short- it was a time of fellowship and life-sharing.

We all need that sort of comraderie. So do our kids. If you don’t have a “spit and whittle” group where you can be yourself, talk honestly about your hopes and fears, remember the past and discuss your successes and failures in homeschooling- you’re missing out. You need at least 2 or 3 like-minded souls who will listen to your thoughts and dreams and allow you to process your feelings

And your kids need to be able to talk too. In the case of younger children, it’s likely YOU who will be their sounding board. They need to be able to ask questions about the past, present and the future- and get meaningful answers:

“Why did grandma die even though we prayed for her?”

“What if daddy never finds another job?”

“Jimmy said if I’m not a Catholic (or Methodist or Charismatic) I’m going to go to hell. Am I?”

“What if I’m not smart enough to get into college?”

“When will I have a best friend?”

Those are the kinds of questions that kids worry about. And they need a “spit and whittle club” where they can ask ANYTHING and get an honest answer. An important part of your teaching day needs to be just talking with your children. Often, what happens during this time will prove to be infinitely more important than what happens during geography or penmanship class. One of the beauties of Five in a Row is that it deals with life and life’s uncertainties. It provides so many natural opportunities to talk with your children about important life concerns- a sort of “spit and whittle club.”

Invite your children to make a list of the ten questions they’ve always wanted to ask- but been afraid to voice. You may be surprised by what pops up. Some will be silly, but some may be life-changing. Now think about writing down a list of ten questions that you’ve always wanted to ask but been afraid to voice. They may be questions for your own “spit and whittle club”,  your husband- or simply honest questions for God. Ask them. You might be surprised at the answers you receive.

Read Luke 24:13-24 with your children and talk about it. Discuss what the disciples must have been thinking. The Bible says they were walking along, talking about all that happened. They were discussing the hopes they had, the fears they were experiencing, the uncertainty about the future and the despair in their hearts. They were having a “spit and whittle club” talking about important heart issues- when suddenly Jesus was walking along with them and all of their questions were put to rest.


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