Not Less a Miracle
By Karen Andreola
In Pocketful of Pinecones, the main character Carol writes: “The robins are back. I
awoke to their twitterings and the sound of the soft spring rain. You can’t keep a
robin down. He sings in the rain and is always cheerful. If only I could be more like
Carol’s sentiments match mine exactly at the end of a long winter of slush, ice, and
snow. Life brings trials of various kinds, not just gloomy weather. A mother can have
a heavy heart. But listening to the birds is a reminder to rejoice in the Lord. Early on
a spring morning I listen for the robins, anticipating their enthusiastic return north to
our state, Pennsylvania. With my bedroom window open an inch and my winter quilt
pulled up around my neck against the chill I can awake to their joyful twitterings and
the sound of peaceful raindrops just as Carol does in my novel. This starts a busy
day with a pause for appreciation.
It’s thrilling for a young child to spot the first tiny purple buds of the crocus. How
pretty the blossoms are when their petals open surrounded by the melting snow of
the spring thaw! A mother can look forward to bulbs she has buried in autumn.
The ornamental tree blossoms are so pretty in town in spring. I like to keep an eye
on the wild woodland trees outside of town too. The maples have tiny red flowers at
the tips of their branches like the ones drawn in Yolanda’s nature journal.
While driving past the post office I checked the color of the tree flowers of an age-old
shade tree that I remember seeing all ablaze in autumn. My suspicions were correct.
Its flowers are spring green—a clue that it could be a sugar maple. That explains
why it flaunts New England orange while the modest maples that dot the woods do
A paragraph in my copy of Miss Charlotte Mason’s book, Philosophy of Education,
is boxed in yellow pencil. I highlighted it some twenty years ago when it first spoke
to me. It is so beautifully stated that I’ve made it the theme of my message.
Children should be brought up to perceive that a miracle is not less a miracle
because it occurs so constantly and regularly that we call it a law; that sap rises in a
tree, that a boy is born with his uncle’s eyes, that an answer that we can perceive
comes to our serious prayers; these things are not the less miracles because
they happen frequently or invariably, and because we have ceased to wonder about
them. No doubt so did the people of Jerusalem when our Lord performed many
miracles in their streets.1
The study of science is a school subject that has more value in it than merely getting
through a textbook and filling in a workbook. “The Gentle Art of Learning” is a
lifestyle of appreciation for God’s creation—the nature that is all around us. Have we
ceased to marvel? There is a remedy. We can share in the newness of our children’s
sense of wonder. We can take nature walks and lead our children to record their
findings in a nature journal. A drawing, along with the field guide’s Latin name of the
finding, a verse of a poem, or a short written observation can be done once a week.
This record keeping of firsthand observation will fill a journal with a good many
personal entries by the end of a calendar year. No matter how simple the drawings
and entries are, it will be an impressive journal in true scientific style. And unlike a
workbook, it will become a keepsake. Miss Mason’s students took a nature walk once
a week and kept a nature journal. Your students can too. Insects (a boy’s favorite),
wildflowers, birds, mushrooms, garden plants, clouds, trees, mammals, etc. are not
secretive but will reveal themselves only to those who take the time to look.
I leave you with a paragraph from my book, Pocketful of Pinecones. In it Carol takes
nature walks with her children and guides them in keeping a nature journal. At first
she teaches more by courage than confidence. Quite soon, however, she finds nature
study to be a pleasant aspect of their home education efforts. Her thoughts are my
own—written for my fellow home teacher to instruct and hopefully inspire her to do
what she has it in her heart to do with her children.
During the morning’s lessons the children listened to me read about the woodpecker.
I’d like them to learn to recognize the drumming of its beak and have a chance to
observe its unique hopping slide up a tree trunk. But I know that not all of what they
will learn about God’s creation will conveniently fit into my lessons. My students have
a lifetime ahead of them in which to observe and discover—to become self-educated
in their leisure, so to speak. My job is to allow their feet to walk the paths of wonder,
to see that they form relations to various things, so that when the habit is formed,
they will carry an appreciation for nature with them throughout their lives. 2
1. Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason, page 148.
2. Pocketful of Pinecones—Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen
Andreola, page 115, page 75.
Home educators know Karen Andreola by her groundbreaking book A Charlotte
Mason Companion. Karen taught her three children through high school--studying
with them all the many wonderful things her own education was missing. The entire
Andreola family writes product reviews for Christian Book Distributors. Knitting
mittens and sweaters and cross-stitching historic samplers are activities enjoyed in
Karen’s leisure. For encouraging ideas, visit her blog:
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally
appeared in the March 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family
education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on
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