I'm a planner. Rather a neurotic one, at that. When I was in school, I planned my days down to 15-minute increments, seeking always to get the most from every moment. Teach a class? Volunteer at Special Olympics? Sure, I'll plan it in, it'll work. Naturally, I carried that same approach into my homeschooling. Lord, You want me to homeschool? Okay, I'll pencil it in my planner, it'll work. Piece of cake.
Are you laughing yet? I found, as most of you doubtless have already discovered, that something about children, all day long, day in and day out, works against my planning tendency. And, as Debra Bell pointed out at a recent homeschool convention seminar I attended, homeschooling is, at any rate, God's plan to bring the self-sufficient woman into dependence upon Him.
So, somewhere in the last three years, I began to suspect that the plan I needed for this venture, homeschooling, was perhaps NOT to be found in my planning sessions, but in my devotion sessions. This is a welcome idea for me, a comforting one. But, somehow, even though I understand this with increasing depth and meaning, I still have quite a gap to traverse to make it WORK.
Take nature study, for instance. Charlotte Mason recommends it. Therefore, we've attempted it. Backpack-clad, field guides in hand, we've marched forth, regularly, whenever it fit into my plans. "Look at this!" I'd urge. "Let's draw that! What kind of tree is this? Can we all find two interesting things to identify?" And, in short order, the children's eyes would begin to glaze over, and they would beg to be allowed to play. Discouraged, I would go inside and peer at my books, hoping to divine the reason such a good and lovely idea wasn't working.
Along comes a curriculum fair. Aha! Armed with notes and lists, I come home carrying materials---cute little nature journals, a "how to nature journal" book, A Pocketful of Pinecones, more Charlotte Mason references. I'll just study all this out, and I'll figure this nature study stuff out yet!
So, today dawns, a perfect, beautiful day. Neither too hot nor too cold, the weather beckons us outside. Of course, I haven't had time to read all that new material yet. But it's an unusual day, and so far we've only worked in the garden, built a fly trap, painted on "frescoes" like Michelangelo-not much "real" school. So, let's salvage the day! "Everyone, outside!" I announce, to cheers. "We'll do nature study!"
Cheers turn to groans as I pack journals, pencils, field guides, blankets---and out we go. My mind is racing---we can draw that chipmunk we saw earlier. Identify leaves and flowers. Catch that fly! I hand everyone a journal and a pencil and urge them to find something to draw. We're going to do this RIGHT for a change!
But one son grabs a feather, and, while I frantically try to identify the bird who left it, dear son begins tickling his brothers with it. After a bit, I give up. The moment is gone. Sighing, I lie back on the blanket.
Discouraged, I let the boys run around. I listen to the birds singing, with one part of my mind wondering if we could identify the birdsongs. Sigh. Once again, I petition my Father for direction.
Gradually I become aware of a growing peace. So, for a change, I stay put and listen to the birds. Before long, up runs a son with something in his hand. "What's this, Mom?" It's only a walnut shell, I tell him. But, in amazement, my son reminds me that the nearest walnut tree is across the street, in a neighbor's yard. (I guess he was paying attention during one of those "forced excursions" last fall.) How did the walnut shell get behind our garage? At that exact moment, a squirrel runs nearly up to us, chattering and scolding. Laughing, we all scatter in search of more shells, and find them everywhere. Walnuts under a pine tree. Acorn shells on the fence line. Our squirrel friends have been busy; the nearest oak, we recall, is down the block. We marvel at the industrious little creatures, now chasing each other in circles around a tree trunk. Before I know it, rubbings of walnut shells, leaves, pine needles appear in the boys' journals. They bring me flower petals for mine.
I sit down hard, in awe of what has just occurred. Now, THAT was nature study!
Label our rubbings? Identify bird songs? We'll get around to it, eventually. But today, we'll bask in the sunlight, awash in grace, and marvel at Him Who created what is around us. Who better to plan our study of creation than the Creator?
His plan is always the perfect one. Especially that plan for the self-sufficient woman.
Michelle Duker lives with her husband and three sons, eight and under, in a
house in Iowa that has recently been declared a spider-free zone. The
Dukers have homeschooled since five months into their oldest son's
kindergarten year, and have never looked back. The family enjoys reading
living books, fishing, gardening, and scrapbooking together.
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