Living and Learning

Sometimes we are handed a beautiful learning opportunity. Today, as we were just getting started on our schoolwork, I looked out the window and saw a hawk soaring over our pasture. We have been admiring the hawk for a few weeks, but today as he hovered over the ground, we gathered around the windows and observed him. We talked about how hawks hunt for rodents and other small animals, but I quickly reached the limits of my knowledge.

We went to the computer and found our way to National Geographic Kids which was filled with great information. We learned that our hawk was most likely a common red-tailed hawk. Then we found another site and read some more. The next time we looked out the window, there was a second hawk flying near the first one. The kids were very excited to see that and the little ones determined that one of them must be the daddy and the other the mommy.

I don’t know about that, but I do know that the spelling lesson we missed this morning will never matter, while the memory of learning about hawks will probably come back to my children many times over their lives. I can easily get so focused on working through my To-Do list that I miss these special moments.

Tell us about a learning opportunity you have had with your children…or about one you missed and wish you could get back.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Wolfemom
    November 12, 2009

    When my college age children reflect back on their years of learning at home they usually tell stories of fun adventures and most involve service projects. I've gotten out of the habit of service projects and just recently decided to seek out creative ways to serve.

    Just took the kids on a homeless ministry where the church we went with woke up the people sleeping on the streets to give them bag lunches. Finding ways to reach out to senior adults has been some of our best memories. My 21 yr old son still tells stories of the same older gentleman reminding him of the dangers of smoking… and he was fortunate enough to get the lesson week after week when we delivered meals to shut ins.

  2. Cat and Mark
    November 12, 2009

    These are the stories that make me ache to homeschool. Since that is not an option right now, I try to look for opportunities to do that when the kids are home. All too often preoccupation with other things – and sometimes sheer exhaustion (!) – get in the way! But what a great reminder to push through that. What a gift. 🙂

  3. Laurel
    November 12, 2009

    I took 7 of my kids on a month long cross country
    Road Trip to start out our "school year". We did some reading while driving down the highways … but we left all of the grammar, spelling, science, and math books at home. We probably won't complete any of those curriculums this year … but I wouldn't trade text books for our cross country experience for anything. We met a lot of people. We visited 12 different states (covering 7,373 miles). We visited historic sites (The Alamo in TX). We visited relatives. It was a special time for all of our kids, but especially for our 2 girls from Ghana … whom of course had never done anything like it.

    We had such a great time, that I am actually thinking of doing it again next year … to new states, and to meet new Bloggy Friends.

    Also … we just discovered the National Geographic Kids website last week. Two of my young boys spent a lot of time on there, reading about much more than our "planned curriculum" told them to. (We found it through the internet links in an Usborne book about animals.)


    mama of 13

  4. Shonni
    November 12, 2009

    I love moments like what you described here. My children always learn so much when I am open to these teaching moments!

  5. lifeonplanetearth
    November 12, 2009

    I love this post and the comments are wonderful. We're planning on 'unschooling' and providing our children with lots of learning opportunities through nature, travel, museums, field trips and other real life learning adventures. I've been doing a ton of research about this. If any of your readers are interested in a plethora of opportunities outside the usual curriculum, check out:
    which includes the National Geographic Kids site you mention along with about 100 other neat learning opportunities. The way we see it, learning happens naturally every day, as the name of your post implies. What an incredible opportunity to watch a hawk!

  6. Lisa
    November 12, 2009

    Hi! Don't comment often, but love to read your posts, especially your learning curves. It's great to get another insight into similar things here. 🙂 Thanks for your wonderful blogging!

    Lisa B

  7. Jan J.
    November 12, 2009

    What you describe is my favorite part of homeschooling – I am terrible about planning our studies – crazed single mom working from home – and sometimes I feel guilty that I don't even always get the seatwork graded. But my kids learn so much from the near daily rambles we do in the woods, at the acreage where we live and at every local nature center and park. I love seeing them squatting over found objects – critters, rocks, plants, etc. – and then eagerly looking up the thing later in the library or in our books, and my little artist sketches it and writes notes – not at my direction, just because.

    And the talks we have while doing these things give us a chance to discuss life and issues and thoughts and opinions and wonderings. They learn FAR more from these jaunts and talks than they do from the textbook work we dutifully do.

  8. Michelle
    November 13, 2009

    We are not a homeschooling family…although I truly hope things work out to allow us to in the near future. The other night as i was driving home from somewhere with my kids…my 6 year old started asking about where the food goes after you eat it. I wanted to pull out my anatomy books…some ADAM videos and really teach her about it…but we were in a hurry, it was was dinner time..her little brothers were hollering…really…I have a million excuses. The fact is..I just didn't make time and a really wonderfull opportunity passed and I missed it.There are a couple of those I miss every week because of how my family is just scheduled on the ragged edge.

  9. Mary Katherine
    November 14, 2009

    LOVE the look on Boo's face in the picture! The pictures of the hawk are also pretty spectacular.


  10. Thankfulmom
    November 14, 2009

    I want to encourage those of you are not able to homeschool but want these experiences. Now that Dimples is in school, I recognize how much less time I have to teach her spontaneously, but we can still do it. We can watch for things that seem to interest our kids, and then "set up" a learning opportunity and watch what happens. School breaks, long weekends, and even a Sunday afternoon can allow us the time to do some teaching. Even a trip to the grocery store can kick off a 30 min. teaching on pomegranates. We don't have to do the teaching, we just have to give them the resources and let them run with it.

    Don't lose heart or let yourself grow discouraged that you can't homeschool, just keep your eyes open for those special moments.

    Thanks for all of the great comments, keep them coming. We can get great ideas from each other.



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