Lessons from Nebraska
I had been to a lot of places in the U.S. before this trip, but this was my first visit to the Midwest. Our route took us through Illinois, Iowa, and we made a two-day stop in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, just south of Omaha, to stay with some relatives of one of my traveling companions.
The family we stayed with owns over 1,000 acres of farmland where they make their living growing soybeans and corn. Besides being my first trip to Nebraska, it was also my first trip to a farm, and we were given the full tour. Growing up in the suburbs of Richmond, Va., and spending the last two years of my life living in Washington, the farming lifestyle was completely new to me, and it was amazing how different my childhood was compared to the children who grew up in that household.
The kids who grew up there, now adults with families of their own, told us about their experiences waking up early in the morning to help chop out the weeds in the crops, which they laughed about now but hated growing up. Even still, they were thankful for the chores they were expected to do on the farm, attributing their discipline and hard work ethic to the expectations their parents had of them as children. Listening to their stories reminded me that there's more than one way to learn those skills, which are inexorably linked with motivation. More often than not, the skills kids learn outside the walls of the classroom are just as important as what they learn inside.
The town of Plattsmouth is pretty rural, but it has changed a lot in the past few decades. Here is a picture of the one-room schoolhouse where some members of the family we stayed with went to school. The number of children in Plattsmouth has since grown significantly, and new, bigger schools have been built.