Old MacDonald Had a Farm

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Farm animals are an every day joy for some and a once-in-a-while treat for others. Lots of homeschoolers have chickens and goats and cows and horses, but others have a goldfish, a gerbil, a kitten, or a puppy, and some like their animals just like Winnie the Pooh–stuffed with fluff.

I guess Ray and I aren’t really animal people at this stage of our lives. We did have a long line of animals at our house, though, before our children got married. The first was a kitten for John when he was very small; it ran away.

Next I followed my mother’s example and bought the children an Easter duck. When he got too big for our pondless lot and a half on a town street, we took Feathers to a pond in the country. It was a long time before almost-four-year-old Bethany let us forget that we had given her pet away.

Feathers had a better time of it than the Easter duck my mother bought for us. We lived in town and he got hit by a car. That must have been a surprise for the motorist! By then the newness had worn off for my brother and me, and my mother was taking care of the duck. When it died, my sweet mother cried.

Our next pets were goldfish. When Mary Evelyn’s fish died, she wrote the sweetest ode to her goldfish. She was always so tender-hearted.

Then came Sparky the dog. We just couldn’t keep saying no to Bethany’s request for a dog, especially after the day she and Ray were on the dog food aisle at the grocery store and she said, “I sure wish we needed some of that!” We went to the shelter and let her pick out Sparky for her birthday. He was a good friend to the whole family for many years and when he died, Star replaced him.

Charlie the cockatiel came to live with Sparky and the rest of us when Mary Evelyn was eleven. We had promised her a hamster for her birthday, but when we went to the pet store, she and I both fell for a brood of hand-raised Lutino cockatiels. Charlie lived for nineteen years–a dozen more than we expected.

One Easter when the kids were all teenagers, we did the Easter duck thing again. We got four this time, and when we took them to the lake in our local park, no one protested. When we went back a few days later to visit them, there they all were hanging out together, “a band of brothers.”

After we moved to the country in 2004, along came Francie the beagle, Alfred the giant, and a string of cats. One day when Charlie was getting some fresh air on the porch, Eppie the calico cat showed a little too much interest!

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Charlie and Eppie

For a short while, two goats and some chickens came to live at our place. We got a few eggs from the chickens. How were we to know how to tell old chickens from young chickens at the auction? The goats had one great talent. They were master escape artists.

Our grandchildren enjoy pets. John’s family has two cats, Bethany’s still has Star, and Mary Evelyn’s has a cat. But, at our house, all I raise is flowers. They can be left alone when we are on the road at homeschool conventions.

So, if you are like Ray and me and want to enjoy your animals either stuffed or in small doses, I’d like to suggest a spring field trip. As we headed north toward Minnesota on Wednesday, John and Audra suggested that we stop at a farm supply store so that Henry could see the baby chicks. It was fun.

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Spring Chicks

I thought what a great field trip that would be for homeschooling families. If you timed it just right, you might get to see ducks and rabbits, too. Just remember that chickens carry salmonella. Children under five and those with compromised immune systems shouldn’t touch them at all and everyone should wash their hands after touching them. Still, looking is lots of fun.

Outside we saw flats of flowers, herbs, and vegetables.

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Just think of the learning possibilities, the story starters, the research opportunities, the art ideas–or, better yet, just the plain fun of seeing God’s creation.

Sing “Old MacDonald” all the way home. Be grateful that you can gather your brood under your wing. Commit yourself anew to training your children to rest willingly under Jesus’ wings.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
the city that kills the prophets
and stones those sent to her!
How often I wanted to gather
your children together,
just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,
and you would not have it!
Luke 13:34

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