IMG_5694On Saturday, Zahra and I woke up early to make the one-and-a-half-hour drive to Parc national de Plaisance for our first outing with the Club ornithologique de Vaudreuil-Soulanges. We packed our lunch, water, binoculars and sketching materials and set off on a hike with a group of some of the nicest people we’ve ever met. Some of them had detailed field guides that they showed us to help us learn the names and characteristics of the birds we saw; some had amazing cameras that caught the most breathtaking images of these birds, close up or in flight; still others were so warm and welcoming with their conversation that we can’t wait until the next birdwatching outing in order to spend some more time with them.

IMG_5693After our three-hour hike and lunch, Zahra and I took some time to sketch a couple of the birds we had seen. Zahra chose to sketch a belted kingfisher. I chose a turkey vulture (hey, we saw them along the highway on the way there—that counts). My little artist did a wonderful job. I won’t bother showing you my sketch of a turkey vulture. Zahra says she wants us to take time to sketch after each outing so that, one day, she’ll have filled an entire book with bird drawings. I am in awe of her.

On Sunday, we attended the baptism of our friends’  youngest son. There was good food and even better company, and it was there that I found out that Zahra’s close friend Julia wasn’t going to school on Monday. So I jumped at the chance to keep her at our house. She’s one of those awesome kids that gets along with all three of mine and fits seamlessly into our activities. Plus, she claimed she was “dying to be homeschooled.”

I only saw her in my kitchen for a couple minutes, though, while the kids gulped down grapefruit and toast, before everyone except Leila retreated to the girls’ room to equip themselves for an adventure à la Harry Potter in the forest.

IMG_5700Meanwhile, we had another visit from two lovely ladies from down the street. They kept Leila busy, and I managed to squeeze about fifteen minutes worth of reading practice out of Noah who had just come in for a drink.

This new skill of reading is starting to get really interesting. Noah is sounding out words wherever he finds them. He asks me to drive more slowly so he can read the highway signs. He writes cryptic, phonetic messages on little pieces of paper that I find all over the house. I had forgotten how magical this period of discovery is.

Zahra, Noah and Julia burst through the door right about lunch time, so I quickly served up some pizza and smoothies. They chattered on and on about their explorations, about the markers they recognize in the forest, and I suggested that they draw a map of the forest. “But we don’t need one!” they cried. “But then someone who has never been there before could read your map and find their way,” I replied. They didn’t bite, but I was excited about the idea, anyway. I’m going to look more into that: map-making.

After lunch, the couch cushions became animal dens until we had our eye appointment and Julia had to go home. I asked her how she enjoyed homeschooling, and she was enthusiastic in her response. I thought about telling her it’s not always like this, but eh, let it go.

After an early dinner, Noah decided he was going to do a scientific experiment: turn a plastic bag into a parachute and jump off the stairs, adjusting the parachute and wearing it different ways each time to see which way worked best.

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I wish I could say we talked about terminal velocity, but in reality, I just washed the dishes while Noah kept throwing himself off the stairs, coached by his older sister and applauded by his younger one. There was some talk of air resistance, though, and at one point, Zahra said, “It is improbable that your parachute is going to work.” I had to stifle my laughter. And if you’re wondering how it is that she uses the word ‘improbable’ in common conversation, you have to check out this book. We love it and it held its place firmly in the bedtime stories rotation for years.

Tonight, though, it was Heidi and the joy of the chapter just after she returns to the grandfather, and the doctor comes for a visit. So I’m sure they’ll sleep well tonight.