In Pocketful of Pinecones, the main character Carol writes: “The robins are back. I awoke to their twitterings and the sound of the soft spring rain. You can’t keep a robin down. He sings in the rain and is always cheerful. If only I could be more like that.”

Carol’s sentiments match mine exactly at the end of a long winter of slush, ice, and snow. Life brings trials of various kinds, not just gloomy weather. A mother can have a heavy heart. But listening to the birds is a reminder to rejoice in the Lord. Early on a spring morning I listen for the robins, anticipating their enthusiastic return north to our state, Pennsylvania. With my bedroom window open an inch and my winter quilt pulled up around my neck against the chill I can awake to their joyful twitterings and the sound of peaceful raindrops just as Carol does in my novel. This starts a busy day with a pause for appreciation.    

It’s thrilling for a young child to spot the first tiny purple buds of the crocus. How pretty the blossoms are when their petals open surrounded by the melting snow of the spring thaw! A mother can look forward to bulbs she has buried in autumn. 

The ornamental tree blossoms are so pretty in town in spring. I like to keep an eye on the wild woodland trees outside of town too. The maples have tiny red flowers at the tips of their branches like the ones drawn in Yolanda’s nature journal.

While driving past the post office I checked the color of the tree flowers of an age-old shade tree that I remember seeing all ablaze in autumn. My suspicions were correct. Its flowers are spring green—a clue that it could be a sugar maple. That explains why it flaunts New England orange while the modest maples that dot the woods do not.  

A paragraph in my copy of Miss Charlotte Mason’s book, Philosophy of Education, is boxed in yellow pencil. I highlighted it some twenty years ago when it first spoke to me. It is so beautifully stated that I’ve made it the theme of my message.

Children should be brought up to perceive that a miracle is not less a miracle because it occurs so constantly and regularly that we call it a law; that sap rises in a tree, that a boy is born with his uncle’s eyes, that an answer that we can perceive comes to our serious prayers; these things are not the less miracles because they happen frequently or invariably, and because we have ceased to wonder about them. No doubt so did the people of Jerusalem when our Lord performed many miracles in their streets.

The study of science is a school subject that has more value in it than merely getting through a textbook and filling in a workbook. “The Gentle Art of Learning” is a lifestyle of appreciation for God’s creation—the nature that is all around us. Have we ceased to marvel? There is a remedy. We can share in the newness of our children’s sense of wonder. We can take nature walks and lead our children to record their findings in a nature journal. A drawing, along with the field guide’s Latin name of the finding, a verse of a poem, or a short written observation can be done once a week. This record keeping of firsthand observation will fill a journal with a good many personal entries by the end of a calendar year. No matter how simple the drawings and entries are, it will be an impressive journal in true scientific style. And unlike a workbook, it will become a keepsake. Miss Mason’s students took a nature walk once a week and kept a nature journal. Your students can too. Insects (a boy’s favorite), wildflowers, birds, mushrooms, garden plants, clouds, trees, mammals, etc. are not secretive but will reveal themselves only to those who take the time to look.