Saturday, May 26, 2007

Homeschool Blessings

This past school year has been a rather difficult one for me personally. I have struggled with a lack of overall focus and my own low energy has often made this year's homeschool journey feel like a trudge through the Slough of Despond rather than a mountaintop experience.

This week
was dreary, overcast and rainy, corresponding to my own emotional landscape, but the sun shone again on Friday, bringing with it some rays of encouragement.

I took the children for a walk to our local pond, not planning on making it a nature hike or learning experience, but just to provide a breather in our day before finishing the afternoon school work. The kids, on the other hand, seemed to consider the walk a naturalist expedition. They each packed gear and supplies in their backpacks. Evan brought a monocular and they each packed their nature notebooks. I grumped to Sophie that she'd better think twice about complaining if she got tired walking with a backpack and that I would not end up carrying it. However, the kids' preparations did inspire me to bring my camera just in case of photo-ops.

As we walked, the kids checked a field for garter snakes and took detours to investigate some ditches for frogs, crawdads or other interesting creatures. As we strolled around the pond, we spied a dark waterfowl with a white bill swimming jerkily out in the middle of the water. I thought to myself, "I have never seen a black duck with a white beak." Evan claimed that it was a loon, but I argued that loons were much more calm and smooth as they glided across the pond.

A solitary yellow-headed blackbird in a tree claimed my attention and I snapped pictures. It flew away to a stand of willows waving in the wind. The bird perched for a length of time with such poise in spite of the bobbing branches. I switched my camera to an action setting to attempt to shoot the moving target.

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(Please do click on these to see them larger!)

We circumnavigated the pond (not on water) and walked homewards. The boys stopped a few times to pick a few flower specimens that they wanted to try and identify (nothing rare or endangered I assure you).

When we arrived at home, the children finished their assigned schoolwork then went about what they wanted to do. Matthew put the flowers in a vase, sketched them in his nature notebook, then looked them up in our guide to wildflowers of the plains and foothills. He identified the sprigs as Alfalfa, Copper Mallow, and False Flax and labeled them in his book. He also excitedly pointed out in the guidebook several different weeds wildflowers growing in our own backyard.

Meanwhile, Sophie looked up from thumbing through a Colorado bird guide and announced, "The black bird that we saw swimming was an American Coot." Skeptical, I looked in the book at the picture of a black bird with a white bill, but was fully convinced that she was correct when I read the the description "the only dark waterbird with a white bill." The book also noted its bobbing movement when swimming. Sophie proceded to sketch the bird into her nature notebook with colored pencils and began to write a summary.

Evan had to get in on the activity and pasted his drawing of a yellow-headed blackbird into his notebook and began a rough draft narration. As suppertime drew near, I actually had to insist that the children put away their work for the time being. We all felt exhilarated with our discoveries and investigations ~ the best kind of treasure hunt! I could not have planned a more inspiring educational experience! (The children will most likely post some of their work on their own blogs to share later.)

I write this late on Saturday night now after yet another unplanned enrichment activity. I have been finishing up reading aloud The Story of the World Volume 4: The Modern Age by Susan Wise Bauer to the kids. This evening, James turned on PBS and found a show on the race to space between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Since we read a chapter about that last week, we watched the documentary with added understanding and interest. The show focused on the Apollo 8 voyage, the first to orbit the moon. We were thrilled to hear the first-hand accounts from NASA scientists, the Apollo 8 crew of three and their wives concerning the events of the historic flight. (I was impressed with the risks that all involved were willing to take to accomplish such a venture.) What an awe-inspiring experience the astronauts had to see the earth from thousands of miles out in space and to view the moon up close. My heart swelled to hear their broadcast as they read from the creation account in Genesis and I praised God for His wonderful works that they had the privilege of beholding from a new-to-humankind vantage point.

I thank the Lord for these experiences we have enjoyed this weekend and for the much-needed reminder of His good gifts and the evidence of His hand in our lives.


Dy said...

Mmmm, ok, one more comment, then I *must* get to bed. I love-love-love days like this. The days where I look around and realize that the whole "lifestyle of learning" isn't rhetoric, it isn't just happening in my head (that imaginary world where the children haven't been given laudanum, but behave as if they have). It's real. It happens. Quietly, and thankfully, we happen to notice it just when it really soothes the soul a bit, too.

You've also inspired me to get out to the wildlife preserve PRONTO. (It's not like it's only 8 miles down the road -- oh, wait, it IS only 8 miles down the road. D'oh!)


Melkhi said...

Hi Dy! Thanks for all of your encouraging comments. Looking forward to reading about the nature preserve....

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