We had a simple little experience this morning that was extraordinary at the same time, one of those little events that always makes me appreciate afresh just how blessed we are that I am able to stay at home, and that we are able to homeschool. We were in the car, running errands. And as we drove by a farmer’s field I happened to look over and there was a large flock of Canada Geese resting in the field. The kids and I “ahh’d” at the sight, and I kept on driving. Then suddenly, inspiration hit me, and I hit the brakes, and threw the car into reverse (I promise I checked to make sure there was no one behind us!). I backed up the road, and then pulled into an access driveway to the field. I drove a little way into the field and then parked the car. I told my son to unbuckle himself, to which he asked, “Um, what are we doing?” in a tone that was a mixture of curiosity and the thought that his mother had lost her mind. I told him we were going to take a walk to see the geese. The knowledge that he was going “bird watching” was all the encouragement he needed to eagerly jump out into the cold air.
As he climbed out, I unbuckled my daughter from her car seat, and told both children that we would have to be very quiet. The air was calm and still, the ground frozen beneath our feet with a heavy frost coating it. We walked silently, not even a whisper from the children – which is quite a miracle with these two! The three of us crossed the rough field, hand in hand, while my son and I kept our eyes on the flock, watching carefully for signs that they were getting wary of us. A few times they moved away from us a bit, and we would pause. Suddenly one gander stood tall, beat his wings and honked loudly, and only seconds later, the sound of beating wings filled the air as the whole flock took flight. The honking of at least two hundred geese filled the air, and we all stopped, watching and listening, in awe.
We watched them until they were dots in the sky, and then we headed back to the car, fingers cold and cheeks rosy. I’m not sure how close we got to the geese, close enough to hear the variances in the quiet noises they make to each other. I’m not sure how long we were in the field, for it felt like a moment frozen in time.
Myself personally, I always feel closest to God when I’m in nature. Seeing the mountain in the distance, the forest mixed with barren deciduous trees (or “naked” as Ashely calls them), the Tamarack with it’s yellow needles, and the evergreens, walking through the fields that have been sustaining us with their food for who knows how long, was a breath of spiritual fresh air. The simple beauty of God’s creation is all around us, yet how often we take it for granted, and walk (or drive) by, without stopping to notice. I didn’t let the moment pass without pointing out the glory of God surrounding us to the children, and saying a prayer of thanksgiving for the moment.
That was the first part of the simple, extraordinary experience. The second is what followed when we got into the car to carry on. As I was still marveling, I could hear the children start rambling excitedly about the birds. Ashley started blowing kisses goodbye to them, and Thomas was wishing them a safe migration. He said he felt sad that his bird friends were leaving, and that he would miss them. I reminded him that they would be back in the spring, just like the swallows in the story Song of the Swallows, that we had read the other day. This led into a discussion on migration, and I listened as my six year old son then tried to “teach” my three-year old daughter about migration, and why birds and other animals migrate south. This led into a discussion of what birds migrate, where they go and what each of the children thought the place they were going to, was like.
From the perspective of a homeschooling mother, It was so refreshing to see how such a simple experience like walking in a field, watching birds, could springboard such educational conversation. I loved hearing my son sharing his knowledge with my daughter – it was yet more proof of how much my son has learned without the help of textbooks and workbooks. It reinforced my decision to step away from curriculum, and instead follow natural learning, to follow my son’s lead. True to this, that afternoon, I followed my son’s interest, and we read books about fall, Canada Geese and also on insect migration (the conversation had eventually turned into a discussion on what other animals and insects migrate as well). We watched the movie Fly Away Home, and we did an art lesson while we watched it. Conveniently, the art program we’ve been using is Joseph, the Canada Goose!
It was a great experience, and while homeschooling certainly does give one more opportunity to enjoy moments like we had today, these experiences are open to any one. You just have to learn to recognize the moment, and then make the decision to stop and enjoy it, instead of driving by. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that I felt called to stop this morning, and that I opened up my devotional this afternoon to read the following:
“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” – St. Francis De Salle
The devotional then went on with this prayer:
“When I rush, I forget you, Lord. As many times as you need to today, push my “pause button.” Slow my steps and turn my heart towards you.”
Thank you Lord, for pressing my pause button.