Mom's extra-credit lesson

With five academic subjects to tackle in 4-1/2 hours, I approach our home-schooling class time like a snowplow. My sons and I dig into the pages of reading, questions to answer, and math problems to calculate with vigor. I encourage efficient and diligent study, and of course I want them to learn the material.

But often the lads' minds wander as they mire in the jumble of facts about King Louis XIV or how to differentiate between absolute possessive pronouns and possessive adjectives. Sometimes I think they need blinders so that they will remain focused on their tasks, instead of noting how many times their father has driven by on a tractor. I try not to become frustrated by their inattentiveness, and this week I came to appreciate their distractible natures.

The other morning, Carlos handed me his math assignment and commented, "Did you see the deer resting just below the house?"

No, I had been too busy snipping, sewing, and watching the clock. Two hours left until lunch time and three subjects to go filled my thoughts.

"Just down there," Carlos said and pointed to the shallow wooded glen near our house. I squinted through the lacework of beech limbs that cuts across that particular view. I look out this window often while sewing, but usually my sights are on the bird activity in the beech tree.

"She's been there for a while," Mattie commented. (Wasn't he supposed to be memorizing theorems for geometry?)

About 20 yards away sat the doe, gazing at the blueberry bog. The rows of red-caned bushes stretch out over acres of peat. She turned and looked at us.

"Maybe she smells the chocolate- chip cookies you just baked," Carlos said.

Not likely, my mind retorted. She's probably digesting the leaves from the primroses I have planted in that low spot. I had spied the emerging plants yesterday.

Deer and wild turkeys are a common sight on our farm, and both animals damage our crops. At this point, I should have raced from the house, flapping my apron and ordering the animal away from our young fruit trees and bushes. But instead we all watched.

Each time I raised the pressure foot on my sewing machine, I'd glance at the doe. The boys continued bringing me their work to correct and stood observing our visitor. One of the lads remarked how the doe looked and acted like our goats, and the comment sparked a conversation on the relationship between the two different animals. For two hours the doe napped, watched the sights, and entertained us. Carlos even walked our corgi, and the doe never budged.

LUNCH time approached, and the last papers were stashed in bins or handed to me. While Mattie still needed to type a paper and study his theorems, the bulk of our lessons were completed. I hoped that Louis the Umpteenth and the absolute possessive had sunk in a little further. Meanwhile, our friend stood, and, lo and behold, from the underbrush two other deer emerged.

Together they strolled down to the blueberry bushes to snack. I closed my lesson-plan book. Observing nature had not been penciled in under Tuesday, but neither had I planned my own lesson in seeing beyond the day's schoolwork. I skipped off to lunch with gratitude for my attentive, flexible sons, and even for the delinquent deer who nibble our orchards.

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