Last week Wednesday I had a great day planned...a loosely structured kinda of day where the plan was that our learning would be from/about life and stuff that interested the kids.
What's that expression about the best laid plans...
After breakfast, I'd planned that the kids and I were going to do a bunch of reading: Something from the Bible; something more about Inuit culture; a continuation of some fiction (Julie of the Wolves to tie in with our Inuit theme). After that, I was going to have the kids help me in the kitchen: Matthew was going to bake bread with me; Lizzie was going to help me make Butternut Squash soup for dinner; and Seth was going to season and roast some chick peas for afternoon snack (his assignment was going to be a little lesser because he'd helped with getting fruit peeled and cut up for breakfast). Then we were going to have a quick lunch before heading off to gym class and spending some time with friends; then we were going to meet up with Grandpa and Grandma at Costco for some shopping and visiting; then we'd head home to play one of the new games I'd just bought; and finally we'd sit down to the fresh and healthy supper we'd prepared in the morning.
Doesn't that sound like a pretty good agenda? I thought so anyway.
What really happened was this, and I'm going to say it in a really long sentence because that's just the way it wants to come out: We had breakfast (oatmeal and freshly cut up fruit that Seth helped get ready), after which we did a bunch of reading and philosophizing together over the course of 90 minutes at the breakfast table; then we watched two short DVDs about Inuit/Eskimo life 100 years ago; thereafter the boys practically had fits about the idea of cooking/baking with me (though this is usually a highlight that they love) because all they ever wanted to do in life was to play outside, and because I was tired of fussing and simply didn't feel like forcing them to work with me, I told them they could enjoy being outside for a while; so Lizzie was the only kid who wanted to cook with me but then I discovered that I'd forgotten to get a key ingredient for the soup when we were at the grocery store the day before so we were going to have to change dinner plans anyway; lunch turned out to be a quick bagel run from Tim Hortons before scooting off to gym class (where they/we did have fun); we met up with Grandma at Costco but Grandpa never showed and Lizzie wanted to be with Grandma while shopping and my wild boys needed to stay with me so we didn't really all visit with Grandma until the end when we all enjoyed a quick ice cream together; then we met up with my sister and her kids at a kids' dress shop to find flower girl dresses for Lizzie and my niece for my brother's upcoming wedding and Lizzie looked beautiful in satin and organza while my boys wanted (and tried) to climb walls; and my parents ultimately took mercy on us and took us all out for dinner where you would have thought my boys had been raised in a cave, so loud and unmanageable were they; and then we drove home and made it through a chaotic bedtime after which I fell, traumatized, into my own bed, where I lay staring at the ceiling in a state of insomnia for a few hours before sleep finally and blessedly claimed me.
That was quite a bit different from the calm and joyful day I'd planned for and I wasn't terribly happy with it.
But then the next night a friend that I was complaining to stopped me and asked me more about the time we'd spent reading and philosophizing together at the breakfast table. Interestingly, that was the time of the day when I most felt like a good parent but the part of our day that I had placed the least value on. It started by me reading a short few verses from the New Testament book of Mark (somewhere towards the end of chapter one). I read to the kids about how Jesus went off by himself early in the morning to a solitary place, where he prayed; his friends had to come and look for him. After that, he was approached by a man with leprosy, who fell to his knees and begged Jesus to heal him, saying that if Jesus willed it, he could heal him. Jesus was filled with compassion and reached out and touched him and said that he did will to heal him. And heal him he did. I pulled out the globe and reminded the kids of approximately where this took place. The kids and I talked about the importance of finding time for solitude and the need to be quiet at times and how necessary this is for our hearts and minds, especially if one wanted to hear God's voice in the quiet of our hearts; we talked about what leprosy was and how people were ostracized when plagued with that disease and how they were not touched for so long by those they loved for fear of contagion; we talked about how the undervalued miracle of that bit of scripture was not in the healing of the man, but in the fact that, before healing him, Jesus was filled with compassion and touched the man with leprosy; we talked about what that might have meant to that sick man and how those kinds of things might manifest in our world today; the conversation went on and on and darted off into incredible tangents. My children were rapt as we talked...not one of us made a move to leave the table for about 90 minutes. It was a time of life learning, of introspection, of learning to hold conversations, of exploring ideas around solitude and sickness and compassion and meeting needs of those around us, etc etc. It was amazing, frankly.
Then we changed gears and watched two short DVDs about traditional Inuit/Eskimo life (both in one day because they were both overdue at the library!). The first was a short (15 minute) film called Kamik, which is the Inuit name for the hand-sewn sealskin boots that Inuit women used to make. The film showed an Inuit woman hunting and killing a seal, skinning and scraping it, drying and cutting it, and finally sewing it and completing the boots. The kids loved it. At one point in the scraping process, the woman was using a crescent shaped knife with a handle on one end and the narrator called it an ulo. We all jumped and cheered at that word because we'd been reading about the ulo knife in Julie of the Wolves and now we could see exactly what an ulo looked like. It was a great tie-in to what we've been reading about.
We then watched another library DVD called Nanook of the North - this was a film made an astonishing 90-100 years ago about a family where the father/husband was a man by the name of Nanook. It was (I think) around an hour long and it was black and white and there were no words spoken - it was filmed in a time when audio wasn't part of the video-taping. There was background music piped in and most scenes were introduced by a page that had a type-written introduction to what was coming. Surprisingly, the kids loved this DVD and learned not only a little about the beginnings of film making but a lot by watching about seal and walrus hunting, igloo building, dog sledding, the lives of Inuit children, trapping and trading furs with white people at trading posts, kayaking on the open ocean waters with a remarkable number of people tucked into the inside of the kayak, what it was like to hunt to prevent one's family from starving, and on and on. I have to say that I was utterly riveted by it all, too. It was amazing, interesting and highly educational! In addition to other bits of conversation about this, I told the kids that two years after this documentary was filmed, the main person featured in it (Nanook) died of starvation when he was unable to find deer to hunt; we talked about the impact that this would have in such a harsh land on his family and community, and we talked about how different life is now and here and how easy it is for us to find food and clothing and so on. This brought out conversations about Ethiopia and the challenges of food shortages there, and away we went...
What a difference it makes to look at a day from a different perspective. I was frustrated throughout parts of the day that most of my really good agenda for the day had not materialized. But when I was prompted to look back and to break the day down a little into bits and pieces, I have to say that I'm so thankful that my plans did not materialize as set. Sometimes the learning that's meant to take place happens whether we plan for it or not.