Around the time our oldest son turned six we got a puppy. An adorable golden retriever. We named him Willy. I had no idea the commitment we were making! In the back of my mind I thought if it didn’t work out we could just pass on our beautiful puppy. But, no, our boys took to that little dog like they had a new brother. I could see that short of tearing my son’s heart out of his body, this dog was here to stay. And it wasn’t just puppy love either. My oldest son has prayed for Willy every night,”God, help me to be a good boy and help Willy to be a good puppy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Or quite on accident, without even noticing, he sometimes says, “God, help me to be a good puppy and Willy to be a good boy.” I’m sure God gets it all straightened out. They are constant companions. Roaming the hillside and the wood. Blond tail wagging, cameo, bows and hunting packs, disappearing into the tall grasses. They tell me that he is really good at hide and seek. And they are pretty sure he is a Christian because he just seems …good.
My boys spend about an hour each morning at their “school work”. (The last part of this series will explain what that’s all about. Homeschooling Boys Part 4, Sit Down Little Son, which I will be posting soon) The rest of their day is mostly spent outdoors. Their backpacks hold field guides for identifying fora and fauna, water bottles and apples. First aid kits, journals and pencils, who knows what else. They are always ready for adventure!
They have picked me hundreds of wild flowers, discovered an old orchard with apple and plum trees, saved injured birds and baby bunnies (Bad, Willy!). They have found nests and watched deer from a short distance. They have watched rabbits scurry down holes and listened to countless bird’s songs.
They have found cool rocks and bones. Once they came back with armfuls of elk bones and tried to reassemble the skeleton. They have caught frogs and lizards. Found beautiful bird egg shells. They come home rosy cheeked and sparkly eyed, running down the hill with Willy loping along side of them. Rubber boots and rain coats, bare backed and sweaty, winter hats and mittens, but always happy.
They have made tree stands and forts and craftily hidden shelters. They have built dams on the creek. They have dug big holes with shovels, for what? Who knows! But it has kept them occupied for days. Building their muscles, teaching them the satisfaction of being a man, with rhythm and grit, getting the job done.
Lots of times their Dad or I have hiked around for the afternoon, sworn to secrecy, being shown their favorite spots, secret hideouts and cool discoveries.
They have built carts for Willy to pull, book cases for their sister’s birthdays, and whittled wooden spoons. They know how to take apart bicycles and put them back together again. My oldest son can put air in tires using the air compressor. His Dad taught him how to pump gas. He loves to open jars for me or carry heavy boxes. He is only nine and he actually has more grit than I do……but the other day I proved to him that I can still beat him at arm wrestling. He was surprised and disappointed. It won’t be long…….
Our back yard has been Jamestown reenacted for days at a time, Roanoke, Plymouth, Indian villages and Viking camps. Our swing-set has sailed the seven seas countless times over. Sometimes through storms so fierce that the poor pilgrims girls underneath have almost shed real tears. But, the brave sea captain and the sea monkey perched upon the up most mast have weathered the storm again and again. Our deck has been a biplane dropping Bibles behind the iron curtain. Our garage has been transformed into a well thought out and organized Nature Museum.
All of these things have been conceived and carried out on their own accord, without suggestion or prompting from us. We have never had a TV or any video games at our house. I don’t think my kids are different than anyone else’s but, sadly, I do think they are of a dwindling breed of children who’s minds and imaginations have been allowed to form completely naturally. We live in a “safety” obsessed society. Some parents would rather their kids sat in front of the TV or played computer games where they are safe and clean and in sight. Perhaps they are physically safe, but what about the far more important safety of their souls and spirits? I suppose since we no longer trust God with the timely creation of our children, we can’t fully trust that their number of days and breath of life is in his hands either.
I can see that my oldest son has matured here lately. He feels funny now if the neighbor lady catches him in a game of pretend. The complete abandon and freedom of early childhood is escaping him. That’s the way it is and how I love this little man child that the Lord has given me! How thankful I am that the happy, carefree, golden hours of childhood were not kept from him! How quickly time goes! Never again except in those early years does the world feel so fresh and wonderful, so innocent and limitless.
Nearly every day of this guy’s life his Dad has read the scriptures to him and prayed for him. Every night he has been thoroughly kissed and hugged and put to bed under the blessing of the God of heaven and earth. Every day he has roamed happy and free the earth that God has created. Without grown ups always there to tell him what he should think and observe and look at. And he is “growing strong and vigorous like a plant”.
I am glad that this will lay the foundation of his life and education. Who knows what God might have in store for his life but I know this, if he knows Jesus Christ and understands that the word of God is a light unto his path and a lamp unto his way, if he learns how to love the people around him well, he will know happiness. I ask God to bless him with this richness.
Edna Casler Joll
Every child should know a hill,
And the clean joy of running down it’s long slope
With the wind in his hair.
He should know a tree-
The comfort of it’s cool lap of shade,
And the supple strength of it’s arms
Balancing him between earth and sky
So he is the creature of both.
He should know bits of singing water-
The strange mysteries of it’s depths,
And the sweet grasses that border it.
Every child should know some scrap
Of uninterrupted sky, to shout against;
And have one star, dependable
For wishing on.