There is a part in The Sound of Music when the Reverend Mother is the Sister’s Convent tells Maria, “When the door closes, God opens a window.” In a way, this pandemic felt just like that.

The COVID-19 quarantine has shut down our schools, community centers, swimming pools, libraries, beaches, parks, and daycares. But in place of all that God has opened up to us His whole world, ready for exploration by curious minds. This lockdown has given us time to stop and enjoy the world around us.

I no longer rush to wash out the bowl where my kids were washing shells they found. Instead, I put it aside to show my curious 10-year-olds the calcification of the minerals and the cool crystals that had formed.

And I don’t rush to throw away a dying flower that my daughter had picked for me. Instead, I keep it so I can show my youngest and continue our conversation about plants. Investigating why it is dying and what might be done to treat it becomes a perfect chance to observe and study the roots and leaves and discuss what plants need to grow and thrive. It leads to talking about the sun, the clouds, the rain, the soil, and just lead my youngest into the wonders of God’s vast creation. And I can leave her with the most important point, “And my dear, God created all this for you because He loves you so much.”

Our children have had more time to explore the big and smallest parts of the world and I must say, this time has given them a better classroom than I could ask for.

We don’t have to be limited to learn about trees in a lesson given within the four enclosed walls of a classroom. Instead, we have time to take long walks in the woods. We can find a real tree stump of a quite humongous fallen tree (not a picture!). We can count the rings to see how old it is and observe the thick and thin rings that tell the tales of the life of the tree. The children can pick up and examine pine cones, maple tree seeds, and many varieties of crawling insects.

Because the COVID-19 stay-at-home mandate began just as spring was unfolding, it was an amazing and adventurous time for all of us. We could watch the cycles of life blossoming and emerging all around us. It was so beautiful, full of exploding fragrance, and so much excitement. We could gaze at the amazing flowering cherry and apple trees. Now the blooms have been replaced by green bulbs, which will redden to become delicious fruits. What a way to teach about God’s design! In front of us are lessons of how even in the created world we have the male and female flowers that together form a seed that blossoms into a fruit.

Every day was a new adventure and exploration – a haven for budding botanists, zoologists, and geologists. The world was full of jumpy baby fish the kids caught and watched, tadpoles they caught and eagerly hoped to watch become frogs, larvae the kids caught hoping they would become butterflies (and not moths), mating ladybugs and their tiny little yellow oblong eggs, and the list goes on and on. We weren’t merely learning about animals, plants, rocks, and chemistry on Zoom calls or a YouTube video. We were watching, feeling, catching, and observing the real thing in their real habitat.

And we had time to live out in the world and have fun in the great outdoors. The kids had time to build shelters in the woods and have campouts. They could gather fallen brushes of the tall, tall, tall evergreen trees and collect long branches and thick logs. They experimented with what works and what doesn’t for their makeshift shelters. What a great lesson in measuring, architecture, planning, building, creativity, and just try, try, trying till they get it right. Wow! And grilling and eating in the outdoors on a campfire and learning chemistry as they figured out what makes a fire keep burning, become smokey, and make it go out.

Our quarantine time period was not a lockdown but rather an unlocking of a magical world. Life is so beautiful and observing the life of plants and animals and the mineral world around us has been nothing short of fascinating. I just can’t stop being so grateful and to be in awe of all that we were missed in the busyness of our everyday, pre-COVID world.

This quarantine has given us time to slow down and savor the world around us. We can see, touch, taste, experience the world God created around us, not in a classroom with four walls. The world is now our textbook. And I love seeing my children go out into that world with curiosity and excitement, roaming that textbook and learning all of the lessons God’s creation has to offer.

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