In my previous blog, I talked about the incredible impact it makes when a teacher knows her students. But this topic is so essential, so vital to really wrap our minds and hearts around, what I think we need is some good old-fashioned birdwatching.
Yep, that’s what I said: birdwatching.
Stick with me here, because it just might connect some dots in your life and family!
Have you ever lived with a birdwatcher? If so, you know that they are a breed set apart. They constantly listen for birds and watch for a flash of color—with a constant delight in each bird’s peculiarities. They study the habits, the plumage, the flight patterns, the etc., etc. of birds. They think nothing of tramping through the woods with a notebook and binoculars to follow an elusive birdcall, jotting notes about what they discover. They have journals filled with specific dates of spotting specific birds, which they treasure beyond reason. They take time and trouble to do all of this. Why? Because they ENJOY birds.
I know all of this from personal experience, because my husband is a birdwatcher, a man who takes incredible delight in spotting, listening to, looking up, and journaling about birds. When we were in Australia in 2009, he had the joy of going birding with our old friend—and lifelong birdwatcher—Paul Rushworth. I went along for the ride, and was amazed at the depth of knowledge Paul has of Australia’s gorgeous birds. Here are a few photos—mostly from Paul's camera—from that memorable day.
So, what does that have to do with you and homeschooling? Actually, it is quite illustrative of what it means to know your students. Obviously, there is a huge difference between knowing the fiction books your daughter prefers and knowing her own dreams and struggles. You understand that though you might know your son is not talkative around strangers, it doesn’t mean you know why. Is he shy or merely quiet? A parent who watches her children like a birder watches birds will be able to find out these things. In fact, if we can imitate the birdwatcher in this, we will make it our aim to observe, noting carefully what our kids are doing (mind you, watch with care, not criticism). It is through the detailed observation that birdwatchers differentiate between birds that look similar. . . it is in your detailed observation that you will be able to see beyond the outer appearance to the inner person.
What is the primary requirement for this depth of knowledge? What secret can we learn from birdwatchers? Here it is, in living color: Birdwatchers know so much about birds because, first and foremost, they like birds.
Dear one, if you are really going to learn to know and understand your kids, you need to like them. However, this is not as simple as it sounds. Parents, who have had children for longer than two or three minutes, know that this can challenge you to the very core of your being.
If that is your dilemma, may I write a simple four-step prescription for you?
First, ask yourself what specific things you enjoy or appreciate about the challenging child. Second, write these observations down. Third, look at the list several times per day. Fourth, add new observations as you see them.
If you will focus on the good, rather than what is currently difficult, it will help you to increasingly like—enjoy, delight in, want to be around—each of your kids.
And, if you like them, it will be much easier to observe them in their habitats, their feeding, their flight patterns. . . In essence, you will be able to know your kids.
Birdwatching in Australia. . .