“When I mentioned that one of the great upsides of homeschool was the ability to be flexible with our schedules and set up our days as we wished, including eating barbecue every week if we wanted to, he was in,” she says. “It completely changed a potentially negative dynamic into a very positive one.”
With that, Yandell undertook the intensive task of homeschooling her son — and part of that homeschooling involved field trips to Dallas-area barbecue spots. For an entire year, Yandell and her son hit up at least one spot per week for a ritual they dubbed Barbecue Thursday.
Peggy Sue BBQ, Lockhart, Hard Eight, Mac’s BBQ — every Thursday, they took a break from the books and spent an afternoon eating chopped beef sandwiches and meeting the people behind Dallas barbecue pits. The entire year, Yandell says, Ford never deviated from his standard order, which may make him one of Dallas’ preeminent chopped beef scholars.
So what can an 11-year-old boy really learn from a year of eating barbecue? A lot, apparently.
“It was a formative experience for both of us,” Yandell says. “He learned, in addition to an impressive amount of bookwork — we kept up with a standard fifth-grade curriculum — that we have his back, completely. He learned that he was, in fact, smart. He learned that there is a benefit to working efficiently because then you are finished with school hours before your peers.”
He learned a thing or two about barbecue, too.
“He learned that he likes his chopped beef sandwiches chopped by hand and not pre-sauced,” Yandell says. “And he learned that very lovely people work in the barbecue business.”
Meeting the people who tirelessly work the pits was a lesson in work ethic. Trying so many versions of the same thing and discussing the differences became a lesson in the effort it takes to truly understand something, even something as simple as a sandwich. And for Yandell, it became a lesson in parenting.