Homeschooling and learning things more deeply

I’m sitting in a hotel room after a long, but pleasant day of driving.  Three hundred thirty miles is a hike when you are alone with five children, one of whom is only four weeks old.  Fortunately, he seems to like sleeping in a car better than in this hotel room at the moment.  At least I don’t have to find a place to pull over to take care of him here.  We are on our way to see this:

The Sandhill Cranes as they take a break on their migration back to Canada . . . a t least that is what I am hoping to see and share with the children. They are looking forward to a few leisurely hours under the observation bridge poking sticks in the water while the cranes fill the surrounding sandbars.

This is our second year to see the cranes and as I planned the trip, our one big overnight field trip of the year, I couldn’t help but wonder how this money would be better spent.  Should we come to see the cranes every year, or should we use that money to go somewhere different every year?  Is there greater educational value in exploring new places or in revisitig the familiar?

Two years ago, I began thinking more intentionally about how to build a reflective homeschool after reading an essay by D. H. Lawrence.  He notes that we know it all and have done it all as we skim across the surface of the globe, but this knowledge is superficial.

Poor creatures that we are, we crave for experience, yet we are like flies that crawl on the pure and transparent mucous-paper in which the world like a bon-bon is wrapped so carefully that we can never get at it, though we see it there all the time as we move about it, apparently in contact, yet actually as far removed as if it were the moon.  (The Spell of New Mexico, ed. by Tony Hillerman, p. 29-30)

Vertical knowledge, that which penetrates to true understanding, requires us to move at a much slower pace.  And as my children bounce at the edge of the bed, excited to go back to the bridge, I’m thinking that maybe there is far more to be learned in returning to the same place year after year, like a signpost to the changing seasons.  Rather than merely learning about the cranes, we can share a brief leg of their journey with them.

Lori Potter of the Kearney Hub says there is poetry in the Sandhill Crane’s behavior.  Indeed, volumes could be filled with the literary tributes made to these magnificent birds as they make their stopover here along the Platte River.  When you study a poem, you dissect it, put it back together and analyze how the parts fit together.  Sometimes, however, a poem touches you and you return to it again and again, savoring it rather than merely studying it.

And I suppose you can do that under the observation bridge as well as on top of it.


Update: Some pictures from our trip and the countywide state of emergency that was called due to an out of control fire.

Not quite the same, but if you are unable to make the trek to Nebraska to share in the crane migration, you can watch a bit of it on the crane cam set up at Rowe Sanctuary.

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0 Responses

  1. With my children now grown, I find that simple things often made a big impression on them, and the returning of flowers in the spring was heralded as a reunion with old friends. Too often we spend too much time thinking of places we haven’t been, and don’t appreciate enough the simpler things we are able to do.

  2. I really loved this post, Dana! It’s something I think about all the time but haven’t been purposeful about deciding. I will say imho that taking the same trip every year, or at least repeatedly, w/b one of the things they would never forget no matter what!

  3. All schooling, not exclusively homeschooling, should strive after vertical knowledge, not horizontal knowledge. Like I tell middle schoolers, you are old enough to swim in the deep end now.

  4. Definitely true, Mrs. Durff! My curriculum courses and professional development days talked about “spiral” curriculum that builds vertically year after year. Didn’t see it much in action in my district, unfortunately, but our district had a lot of challenges.

  5. What an excellent post. My heart and mind really resonate with this thought. To know more deeply is something that can be applied to so much of our journey.

    I know a man who spends every single vacation taking the same cruise ship to the same destinations. He and his wife have been doing this every year for 15 years. I always thought he was a little boring, mundane and routine. But perhaps he is experiencing something more deeply than I ever have.

  6. I agree with your reflections about learning, Dana. When people talk about “holes” in science homeschooling, I say that no one could learn all there is to know about science, so it is far better to explore science you love and do so in depth than to “skim the surface” of it all. You will understand the process of science so much better.

    What a wonderful annual trip!

  7. All too often I do feel as if we’re skimming the surface. Thank you for the reminder.
    What an incredible memory you’re creating for your children.

  8. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on being more intentional. There is something in taking the things that are taken for granted and turning them into new reasons to find joy and peace. What a wonderful thing to see and witness – a portion of God’s awesome acts!

  9. What a wonderful post! The picture would definitely inspire this train of thought. I love this idea and will definitely work it in to our days. Have fun! Discover!

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