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The Scheduled Spontaneous Morning

By Rachael Barlow
(First published in the Groton Landmark; reprinted with permission.)

Everyone had eaten breakfast and was upstairs getting ready for the day. This, like most of our days, had been planned in half hour chunks by our eight-year-old. We were in a particular hurry because we realized we didn't have a present for a special birthday party that morning. So our usual karate class for the five-year-old/ kickboxing for the not-five-year-old me were cancelled. (I really hate to miss kickboxing.)

Luckily, we were at least all dressed when they spotted the Great Blue Heron out our front window. My oldest sent my youngest running to find me, while she kept an eye on it. We all rushed to get socks and shoes on and we burst outside. (Schedule, what schedule?) While we ran down our hill to the pond where my oldest thought the heron had landed, we ran into a new neighbor who clearly wondered why an eight-year-old was running down a hill at 8:30 in the morning instead of being on the school bus. I mentioned we had seen the heron and she pointed out that this must be our science. (Whew! One thing to check off - it's not Mendeleyev's periodic table but it'll do.) We went blindly running down the conservation trail next to the pond, with my oldest and me in the lead. My youngest started yelling that we had to come back. She had discovered a dead mole just lying in the middle of the path. (Did we really run right over a dead rodent?!) Both children wanted to determine how it had died but we couldn't find a mark on the thing. They took turns using a stick to stroke the animal and finally tried to pry its mouth open or locate its eyes. (Do moles have eyes? This one seemed to have none. Something to look up later.) My eight-year-old explained to the five-year-old that since moles live mostly underground, their snout and mouth are shaped especially to avoid shoveling dirt, while their front paws and claws are designed exactly for shoveling dirt.

Oh, where was that heron? We finally finished (thank God!) examining the dead mole and I snuck (OK I completely ran) around the bend only to see the beautiful bird fly off. I apologized for ruining the search with my lack of sneakiness (we had just done the Museum of Science exhibit on sneakiness for seeing birds the week before, so they knew all about that). Both girls assured me they were not disappointed, they got to see the heron and could they look at the mole some more? They had become convinced that the animal had died of rabies, since the neighbor had a rabid raccoon in her garage and the mole had no marks on it. So we went back to the mole for more aggressive prodding. (Thank goodness it was already dead.)

Afterwards, we headed back to the house so we could get dressed for our exercise time. (If this was science, then I couldn't count it as phys. ed., now could I?) On the way, my eight-year-old called to me (somehow I guess I'm always ahead of them - I can't imagine why), wanting me to look at something - the organs of some animal. More prodding with a stick and they determined that a bird didn't like intestines or liver and must have spit them out. "Mommy, why aren't the intestines bloody?" It wasn't until over dinner that Daddy explained that it must have been fish guts that a fisherman cut out. Thankfully, we had finished eating.

So the amazing thing was that this adventure took up two blocks of science, everyone had fun, we found the perfect gift at a store right in town and we made it, in tea party dresses, to the birthday party on time. (No, even though it was a bunch of homeschoolers we didn't bring the dead mole to the tea party but I thought about it.)

Rachael spent ten years as a software engineer, became a mother, was a volunteer lactation specialist, and now homeschools her two children, helps direct a homeschoolers' chorus, and worship leads in her local church. When her local paper, the Groton Landmark, included homeschoolers in their back-to-school issue, Rachael was interviewed but felt that she didn't get to say enough. The editor then told her she could continue to share her opinions by writing a weekly article about homeschooling. She jumped at the chance and found a new voice - writing. You can read more of Rachael's thoughts at her blog http://rsbarlow.blogspot.com/.