Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another dissection

Thomas arrived home on Thursday and told us about his experiences in his second semester Biology class. He's been doing dissections! He'd done a fetal pig and when I told him that I had a preserved one that Matthew and I were going to dissect, he offered to help Matthew with it. I am not one to turn down such an offer. So, on Friday afternoon, Matthew and Thomas set up on the back porch with dissecting tray, scalpels, scissors, and probes and got to know the insides of the fetal pig, which they named Walter.

Back porch bio-lab

There are a couple of reasons I was delighted about Thomas' offer. One is that it is very gratifying to see your son really get excited about a subject and begin to think seriously about pursuing it in his studies. It is confirmation that somewhere along the way, a love of learning kicked in and a bent toward a particular subject matter began to flourish. This is particularly delightful for me because I was a Biology major in college and love the more macro side of biology ecology, anatomy and physiology, botany and more. Thomas seems to be tending in this direction as he considers an Environmental Studies major. And this, even as he struggles along with a less than stellar professor this semester. He's not crazy about the professor and the way he presents the material, but he's loving the subject matter and gets excited in discussions about the material and labs with classmates.

The second reason I was pleased with his offer is that I got to stand back and watch two of my boys working together - one leading and explaining, the other following instructions. Those of you who know Thomas may see a happy-go-lucky, fun-loving, rambunctious, sometimes loud kind of guy. Not a serious bone in his body, you might think. But I know better. And I was encouraged to see him guiding Matthew through the dissection with confidence.

This was one of those treasured moments for a homeschool mom who, like all homeschool moms, wonders if what she is doing is enough or right or making any kind of lasting impression.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

From yesterday's reading, prompting thoughts on nature study....

"Oh, that I had never heard of Niagara till I beheld it! Blessed were the wanderers of old, who heard its deep roar, sounding through the woods, as the summons to an unknown wonder, and approached its awful brink in all the freshness of native feeling.

"Gradually, and after much contemplation, I came to know, by my own feelings, that Niagara is indeed a wonder of the world, and not the less wonderful, because time and thought must be employed in comprehending it. Casting aside all preconceived notions, and preparation to be dire-struck or delighted, the beholder must stand beside it in the simplicity of his heart, suffering the mighty scene to work its own impression."

“There were intervals when I was conscious of nothing but the great river, rolling calmly into the abyss, rather descending than precipitating itself, and acquiring tenfold majesty from its unhurried motion. It came like the march of Destiny. It was not taken by surprise, but seemed to have anticipated in all its course through the broad lakes, that it must pour their collected waters down this height. The perfect foam of the river, after its descent, and the ever-varying shapes of mist, rising up, to become clouds in the sky, would be the very picture of confusion, were it merely transient, like the rage of a tempest. But when the beholder has stood awhile, and perceives no lull in the storm, and considers that the vapor and the foam are as everlasting as the rocks which produce them, all this turmoil assumes a sort of calmness. It soothes, while it awes the mind.”

"My steps were slow, and I paused long at every turn of the descent, as one lingers and pauses, who discerns a brighter and and brightening excellence in what he must soon behold no more. The solitude of the old wilderness now reigned over the whole vicinity of the falls. My enjoyment became the more rapturous, because no poet shared it - nor wretch, devoid of poetry, profaned it; but the spot, so famous through the world, was all my own."
Beautiful nature writing by Nathaniel Hawthorne from Tales and Sketches. We read the whole essay yesterday and I was struck by the beauty and truth in this piece. Can you imagine, as he does, being someone who saw Niagara Falls for the first time without knowing it was even there, without ever having heard of it, seen a picture, or read a description. Imagine!

And a few thoughts, with thanks to Mr. Hawthorne, about nature study. Cast aside preconceived notions and observe in the "simplicity of your heart" allowing the scene before you to work its own impression on you. Become a beholder, contemplate, employ time and thought in the comprehending of the scene. Pause and linger allowing the spot, famous or commonplace, to become your own.