Cathy Turner

Cathy Turner

Our daughter grew up watching “The Mickey Mouse Club”, “Under the Umbrella Tree”, “Wild and Crazy Kids”, and of course, “Barney”, the purple dinosaur. These shows were innovative, fast-paced, brightly colored spectacles that encouraged children to think through play, to see the joy around them, to ask questions and to create. Our Lora soaked it all in, but these shows didn’t initiate anything in her. They just added to what her little girl mind was busy doing – think play, educating herself, doing more than one thing at a time.

Lora was the one who baked a cake to display the geography of Virginia. In 5th grade, she cross-stitched the segments of the brain. In 3rd grade, she convinced her teacher to let her start a class newspaper where she would assign different “reporters” weekly assignments to write about. Then there was that 4th grade research paper on fire because she had to know how it worked. And when she went to William and Mary University’s “Incredible, Edible Math” summer program in 5th grade, she came home and set up school in the garage so that she could promptly teach her younger brothers, aged 9 and 5, about negative numbers and algebraic equations. Lora’s first grade teacher said, “She has an insatiable capacity for learning.” Her third grade teacher said, “She never says, ‘Thank you.’”

You all know those teachers, those young moms, who like our Lora, love to learn, love to teach, but who mostly like to play. Lora studied the brain in undergrad in Emory University’s Neurological and Behavioral Biology program. Then she went on to get her Master’s degree at the University of Georgia in Educational Psychology with a specialty in Gifted Education. Upon graduation, her educational paradigm shifted. She found Freedom to Grow Unschool, an alternative educational environment where learning was democratic, inherent and individually child-led. Lora ended up owning/running this program herself at 23, out of a big warehouse that made Barney’s bag look weak. Her curriculum was in her head. Her non-traditional students were in her arms and in her woods. Her time and individual attention belonged to each of them.

I have seen our daughter’s natural kid-play innovation again recently as Christmas plans changed because of my having COVID19. Lora did cousins’ camp on the fly. Oh how the pictures made me want to be there! Days in the park, hopscotch in the kitchen, matching shirts, Easy Bake Oven, forts, walks, sleeping bag movie nights, styling hair, pine cone Christmas trees, popcorn necklaces, dancing in the street, seeing Christmas lights, puzzles, etc. Oh yeah, then there were the art kits that Lora gave to each family for Christmas. Then she led us in a Zoom art class which was a great way to visit for a couple of hours on Christmas night while we painted.

My favorite picture of the holidays came on New Year’s Eve. Lora was lying on the floor giggling after she has wrongly shot herself with the wrong end of a confetti cannon. Our grands proceeded to throw confetti all over Lora and their living room to celebrate the New Year. There is so much to celebrate. I hope that you have a crazy, loving, thinking, playing person raising your grandchildren. Someone who is showing children hope, fun, and innovation. These are the building blocks of our future. Learned at home and carried forward. Thank you, Lora. You crazy and I love you!

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