We've been having a tough homeschooling season. So tough we've even talked about school. As in, going there next year.
This is hard to admit. It's hard to let people know when there are difficulties, particularly when I know that some people would be silently saying "Yes!" at the prospect of us throwing in the homeschooling towel. But, bad times happen. Sometimes they last a day. Sometimes they last a little longer.
So yesterday we decided to have a field trip to the zoo. We hadn't been to the famous Philadelphia Zoo in the 3 1/2 years we've lived here. Admission prices are high! But thanks to one of those cool internet coupons sites, we scored some cheap tickets. Yesterday might not have been the best day to go - it was still cold, and rain threatened. And, we hadn't finished some things that needed finishing. But, we needed the change in routine.
One of the best places in any zoo is the aviary. We all love birds so that is one of the most important stops on any zoo visit. Our zoo in Oregon had a wonderful aviary and we reminisced about it yesterday, on the way to our first Philadelphia experience.
One of our memories is very strong. I don't think I'll ever forget it. We had walked into the aviary and noticed how quiet it was. Not a lot of bird action going on. But we waited, and after a short time the birds became more active. We sat on a bench and watched as the aviary came alive. The birds had noticed our arrival but when we were quiet, they relaxed and went about their bird business.
Then, the door opened an a school group walked in. Teachers, chaperones, kids. Lots of kids! All talking and stomping and making jokes and looking around, asking "where are the birds?"
It doesn't take birds long to disappear, you know.
So the adults marched the kids through and maybe they saw a bird or two. But they didn't stop. No one looked at the informational placards. No one had a chance to listen. Soon they were gone.
We sat still and waited. Soon, the birds came back out. It was one of those moments that validated our homeschooling for me: schoolkids don't get to slow down and see the birds.
Of course to be fair, I must admit that I don't know if it was the teacher's intent to move through so quickly. Maybe the class had spent so much time exploring other areas in detail that they didn't really have time for the birds. Maybe they just popped in to give the kids a glimpse because the teacher loved the aviary and couldn't bear to have them miss it, even if they couldn't stop.
But the point was clear. I wanted my kids to have time for the birds. I didn't want them rushing through on a school field trip.
So that was on my mind as we walked to the aviary at our new zoo. I was enjoying a school day at the zoo while pondering taking a step that would put an end to days like this.
We walked in. This one was set up differently from others, with separate rooms. We spent time in each one. The last was the best! Full of birds we'd never seen before. We walked around quietly, marveling at the different colors, beaks, feathers. And then, it happened again.
In trooped a school group, a teacher in the lead, kids and chaperones behind, moving quickly through the room. The birds disappeared, went silent and still. We waited as the group passed.
When they were gone, a keeper came in to feed them. She talked quietly to us about the food, and about some of the birds' habits. Between the new silence in the room, and the promise of food, the birds came alive again. She pointed out yellow-knobbed currasow who "doesn't seem to know how heavy she is. She jumps onto branches that are too small and breaks them." We watched a bit, and as the bird made her way toward the food, we could see how clumsily she moved. The keeper then called the Victoria crowned pigeons over for their food, and they walked right past us on the way, just as close as that. It was a wonderful experience.
And just like before, I knew that in good homeschooling times and bad, I always want my kids to have time for the birds.