Thursday, December 6, 2012

Real-Life (and -Death) Learning

Warning: The images and text in this blog might be disturbing to some readers, particularly children. Please read with caution!

"I never let schooling interfere with my education." 
--Mark Twain 

The girls and I had an even less-conventional-than-usual week of school last week. Our schedule specified that our science lessons would focus on animal identification and classification. Instead, we ended up studying the innards and orneriness of roosters.

What happened was this: Over the previous couple of weeks, one of our Delaware roosters, Obadiah Slope, had been getting more and more aggressive, both with the hens and with Segi and Simi.  He hadn't attacked anyone yet, but we were concerned enough to start keeping a close eye on him. Then Monday morning as the girls and I were wrapping up our chores, he cornered Simi, circling her and chasing her into the barn. (Luckily she made it inside before he flew at her.) I knew then that this guy was going into the roasting pan--and soon. That night, I told G-P that the girls and I would set aside our school schedule the next day so we could butcher our erstwhile friend. G-P graciously volunteered to go into work late so that he could catch and dispatch of Obadiah himself. (I have to admit that although I'd talked real big about taking care of everything on my own,  I was immensely relieved not to have to actually wield the machete blow.) To my surprise, the girls walked with their dad through the whole process and never turned their heads. Looks like they really are turning into farm girls!
Bringing in the Carcass 

By 7:30 a.m., our carcass was ready to go. We spent the morning, scalding, plucking, gutting, and chopping. And learning! I invited the girls to participate much more actively in the butchering process this time. And because we had set aside all our plans for the day, we had plenty time to inspect how the feathers attached to the skin; to study what joints look like and how they work; to identify most of the internal organs and discuss their functions; and even to conduct some research into why roosters "turn mean." (We learned, of course, that what humans interpret as roosters turning mean is often a rooster simply being especially devoted to doing his most important jobs: protecting and defending his flock.)

Examining the Internal Organs
Examining the Joints
A Major Perk of Our Rooster Practicum: Dinner!

The crisis we faced at the beginning of last week highlighted the fact that if there is one thing homesteading homeschoolers can count on, it is that circumstances will sometimes get in the way of even the best-laid lesson plans.  Luckily, one of the perks of homeschooling is that a derailed schedule can be a just as much an opportunity as it is challenge! That was certainly the case for us in this instance. Indeed, I think I can safely say that the girls and I both learned more from our hands-on exploration of the ill-fated Obadiah than we could have gotten from several textbook chapters on chicken anatomy and behavior.

A key to getting a good education, it seems to me, is being open to "learning where we're planted"-- taking advantage of the learning opportunities that come up in everyday life, even (or perhaps especially) when they interfere with our formal education.

Thank you, Obadiah, for our tutorial. And for dinner!

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