Like many families, we have a bird feeder on our deck. We have birds and one really annoying squirrel visit every day. We see chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, gold and purple finches, cardinals, and mourning doves. They are used to the two little faces of my children, pressed against the glass, watching them as they dine. Those two little faces are also used to watching those same birds. Sometimes they get bored. They decide the birds are, well, for the birds, and have no desire to see what is at the feeder that day.
But when something new shows up, their enthusiasm for birdwatching is renewed. This week a very large red-bellied woodpecker arrived with quite a stir. He is very striking, and both boys were mesmerized. They listened quietly outside for the peck-peck-pecking noise and tried to find him in the trees. Our new bird visitor has made birding fresh and interesting again.
And so goes the life of homeschoolers. Everything starts shiny and new and exciting. Then as the new wears off the books, curriculum, or unit study, things become less awesome. Less exciting. The pupils want to do other things. Perhaps the teacher wants to do other things, too. And then you have to decide if the problem is a squirrel —something that has to be pushed through— or if you need a woodpecker to boost motivation.
Sometimes the problem is a squirrel. If your child just hates math, perhaps no degree if doing it differently will help. But sometimes greasing the pole to get to the feeder makes it more challenging and more enjoyable. At the very least, trying a new method gives you the satisfaction of knowing you tried. And in regard to the squirrel, the greased pole is satisfying to watch. Don’t be afraid to let go of something that isn’t working, and don’t be afraid to push through if it’s your child who is not working.
Sometimes you need a woodpecker to reignite the spark: open a new book, watch a fresh DVD, play a game, or relocate school to a different part of the house. If math needs to be completed before that new read-aloud about dragons and knights can be pulled out, you may find a new enthusiasm for skip counting. Changing your order of doing things, adding nature walks, or omitting that one activity no one really enjoys are all great ways to change up your usual routine and breathe new life into your homeschool.
A few other points I’ve learned from birdwatching:
- Mama cardinals first get food to take to the nest and then return to eat. (Proverbs 31)
- Song sparrows are simply glorious to listen to and watch. (Matthew 10:29-31)
- Mourning doves have the most soothing song and genteel looks and are most active first thing in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
- The early bird makes the best morning coffee and quiet time companion.
What wisdom have you gleaned from watching God’s creation?