“I go to nature to rest my eyes. I go to nature to connect with something broader than I can understand.” – Notes on Nature Journaling, Claire Walker Leslie
Wintertime is the season when plants do their most important work. They are storing energy, deepening roots, and preparing for the growth season ahead. When you think about the wintertime homeschooling season, we are exactly like the plants. We are inward focused, carefully storing away knowledge in preparation for the coming days.
I like the authenticity of that. I like that we are preparing our hearts and minds for a season of bursting forth in showy wonder. Despite the quiet appearances, we are stowing away good conversations, great books and daily sustained efforts. Truly not every day is about storing goodness, but hopefully most of the days are marked with a nice rhythm of purposeful efforts.
This season I picked up a little hobby of nature journaling. I’m not sure why. I think I started creating a nature journal with my son as a science-ish effort to practice observational skills and get outdoors. He quickly dropped out of our nature journaling times, but I stayed.
I loved how it forced me to be in the moment, to concentrate deeply on beauty in my midst. Truly, I treasured the fact that it was something I could do terribly, and it was all my own. With the knowing that my son will be launching from home in a few years, my desire is to cultivate habits for life beyond homeschooling.
If we are doing our job well, we are creating learners that are curious for life. I think the best way to do that is to model for our kids that we, too, have passions beyond whatever year of homeschooling we are in.
This past week I bundled up and sat outside in our recent snowfall to take in my surroundings. At first I thought how quiet everything was. However, the more I listened, the more I heard. What started as silence, transformed into vast and elaborate songs from a variety of birds. There was so much happening, but I had not been still for long enough to notice it.
I wonder if God thinks about our lives like that. We think everything is the same and nothing is changing and all the while, God is busy designing so much wonder for our lives. He can’t wait to reveal it to us when we are ready. I’m reminded of this promise in the scripture passage from Isaiah 43:19:
“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
From the world’s perspective, I sometimes forget that. On dreary days, I can get lost in the drudgery, the mundane, the ordered steps that can feel like a never-ending march. Friends share stories from their shiny brick school, glossy technology projects, and exciting plans for the rest of their year. I feel ordinary in my winter season of preparation.
Yet, sitting in my backyard, I am reminded of the authenticity of homeschooling efforts. A brilliant red cardinal shows up and I recall all the conversations my son and I have had about birds through the years. I recall the funny chat about how the eastern towhee makes the call of “drink your tea!” During homeschool breaks, my son would perch with his bird guide and binoculars, crossing off all the different species he had seen. Sometimes there were days with shouts from above about an amazing blue jay, his favorite bird of all time.
Winter strips away everything. It brings everything back to the elemental form in order to prepare for the season ahead. It can be a hard season. But we can keep our hearts and minds set upon the hope of what God is preparing to come. I can sit in a snowstorm and discover fresh beauty. I can remember days of wonder from years past; I can treasure it all.
I can look to the future with anticipation by keeping my heart focused on God’s coming promises. Just like the bird songs that I did not hear, all of God’s goodness will be revealed when we are ready for it.