Monday, August 13, 2012

The Tortoise and the Hare

Sometimes in homeschooling our children we lose sight of our goals in the day to day work. On the other hand, we also tend to overlook the importance of each small lesson in our eagerness to see results. Charlotte Mason encouraged us to spread a feast before our children, to give them a taste of a wide variety of subjects and life experiences. For those who embrace this method, a lot of faith is required that the "here a little, there a little" sowings of knowledge will take root, especially in light of our American upbringing to value the  outcome rather than the process, to value the academic degree or ultimate career rather than the whole life  itself. We are accustomed to go to a store, purchase a vegetable and never give a thought to the months of sweat and labor by real persons, not to mention the daily battle for existence with weather, soil, and insect conditions the plant contended with in order to produce that vegetable. The fact is, it takes faith to raise a child, to plant seeds of knowledge, to allow the child to digest and grow to maturity, in short, for the bearing of fruit.

My own efforts to provide time for and focus on the vast world of nature to be discovered by my children and their often seeming lack of personal initiative in this area can make me fret. In my eager longing for their knowledge to outstrip my own by miles and become a vital pursuit in their own lives I can begin to evaluate and analyze and miss the germination and growth occurring right under my nose. Though remarking on actual seeds, I couldn't help but apply this quote of Henry David Thoreau I read the other day to the development  of children:
"Though I don't believe a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."    (From Faith in a Seed)
Gardening and parenting have much in common. We plant seeds, water, nourish, weed, tend - but when all is said and done, must allow time and elements out of our control to take their course. It's a waiting game. In the end, it's up to the plant, not the gardener. When little signs appear, we are pleased and encouraged. The outcome is beyond our control, the development organic. No academic testing or standards are as satisfying as just the quiet observation of a child possessing knowledge and applying it himself. I have had a few peeks recently.

I love these mid summer mornings. The house is quiet, the windows open to the breeze and birdsong. I savor my morning coffee and Bible reading in peace and relish the day starting with tranquility. The other day, this solitude was suddenly disturbed by the hall door bursting open and sounds of the nature table drawer being yanked open and rummaged through, accompanied by mutterings. My youngest was up to something.

"What are you looking for?" I called out.


Very revealing. I pursued, "Like what?"

"A thing," he distractedly offered.

This wasn't especially informative, so doggedly I persisted: "Thing?"

"You know, Mom, that picture of the footprints."

I paused to decipher, then realized he was looking for an animal tracking guide we have. Too late, he was out the door. It wasn't till later that morning that he volunteered that while he was out doing his farm chores, he spotted a fresh footprint. "I thought it was a rabbit, but I wanted to be sure," he related. It turned out the  picture verified his suspicions. He was also late to breakfast because he went off on a tracking expedition to discover where the rabbit went. 

Just a couple of days later, his nature journal received an unassigned entry. Here's an excerpt shared with permission:

"I was making bread and Isaac was mowing the lawn when he screamed, "Come quickly, everybody!" We  went to him and there was a turtle outside in the driveway. Its head was popped out and it was walking. I  followed it and it went into Grace's flower garden. It walked out of the garden and started trotting on the  driveway. Then it stopped and stood there listening.
I came inside and grabbed the turtle shell we have and put it right next to it. It didn't do anything, but then I put it in front of it and it didn't do anything, but when I put it behind it it turned around to face the fake turtle. This turtle was the same size as the shell I have.
The turtle had red eyes. It had orange dots on its legs, but the back..."

These episodes encourage me that my son is pursuing discovering nature on his own and that my efforts to attempt to teach him careful observation are becoming part of his natural response to his world.

And sometimes even the children's stories that are a part of their fund of stored knowledge charmingly come to life as well. A local farmer arrived Saturday to deliver our newest farm venture: three piglets. After we got them settled in their new home and were strolling back to the house my son suggested that he could guess what our next week's object lesson was going to be. "What's that?" I asked. "The three Little Pigs," and with a chuckle, "You know, "not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin."

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life. Real life.

For the joy of reading,


1 comment:

  1. Have you named the Three Little Pigs?!!!
    Love this post Liz!