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Unexpected Lessons from the Real World

By Jessica Hulcy
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #5, 1994.

A near drowning provides a new twist on unit studies.

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Jessica Hulcy

It was New Year's Day and three families had come to relax and fellowship at our lake house. Such a gorgeous day simply had to be spent in high adventure and fun. The children begged to leave the yard on the high bluff and traverse the over-grown, twisted, iron stairs down to the rocky water's edge. Finally, I relented, letting them go as long as I went with them.

All afternoon we searched the rocks for "finds." Fossils, shells, and feathers all went into the "treasure" sack. Each "find" exhibited the perfect, detailed attention with which God designed it. With each find I asked the children questions and talked about the wonders of nature. "What are these fossils of and how were they made? Look at the veins of this bird's feather and how it is held together by tiny barbs that unzip like a zipper. What marvelous design is in the hinge of the clam's shell, the delicate gills the clam breathes with, and the muscles that shut the clam's shell. What an incredible God to give such thought and design to a clam and the feathers of a bird!"

Amid my teaching, the two 11-year-old boys disappeared around a point. When they did not return shortly, I gathered the remaining children and sat them on the rocks away from the water with instructions not to move until I came back. As I started looking for Rhett and Ben, I was reminded how years ago as a young girl I had gone exploring along the lake's edge with instructions from my father to come when I heard the boat horn. With the sound of the wind and waves, I had never heard the horn. The boys had not heard me, and the same panic that had swept over my father years before had now come over me. My fear had been piqued by the remembrance of the grievous drowning of a church friend's three-year-old son, Timmy, at another lake only a week before. All these thoughts raced through my mind until finally I heard Rhett answer my call as the two boys rounded a bend. Praise God! They were safe.

After that scare I gathered the children to instruct them on safety. I asked them, "What would you do if someone fell in the lake?" They responded, "Run for help." I pointed out that the water was too cold, the person would be weighted down with sopping wet clothes, and the person could not climb out because the rocks were too steep and slippery with algae. No, running for help would not be an option. Time would be of the essence before the person went into shock. They would have to make a human chain with one person holding onto the other person. As they listened, it was as if each child considered his role if ever the need arose. The sun set as we climbed the hill to return to the house.

On Sunday morning we praised the Lord and then Wade, my husband, taught on the sovereignty of God. He read from Isaiah of God's predetermined plan to send His Son to die for our sins and from Acts of God's predetermined provision to send Ananias to pray over Paul in Damascus.

After church, the children went to build a fort under an eroded concrete pier. The men were watching football and we were cooking lunch when Ben ran into the room screaming that Jared, my five-year-old, had fallen into the lake. As we all bolted out the door, he added, "But it's okay. We formed a chain and pulled him out. He's just freezing, that's all."

As we warmed Jared in warm bath water, I could see in his eyes that he comprehended the magnitude of the event; he knew full well he had had a brush with death. "Mom, I am so proud of Rhett for saving me. He did what you said. He's a good brother. I'm glad I'm not dead like Timmy, the boy who went to our church," he said. "Yes, Jared, God in His sovereignty has chosen to take Timmy home with Him and He has chosen to leave you behind to do His will," I said.

Later, standing on the point looking out over the lake, I had a flood of thoughts. Had I been irresponsible in letting the children play by the water's edge? If I had, had God in His sovereignty protected my son?

How grateful I was that I had shared a safety lesson with the children. That had been God's provision to save Jared from death. I had learned a lesson, too - a safety lesson would be my first priority every time I took the children into a new environment. I also determined to tell the children again the story of how God has saved His people from eternal death in the lake of fire by giving His own Son as a sacrifice to all who would believe in Him. Being rescued from a "lake" would surely have more meaning to them just now!

This weekend took us beyond academic skills into the major questions of life. We had given our children science and safety lessons, provided theology and genealogy discussions, and seen them display character traits of obedience and courage. We had chosen to take our children out into the real world, and had run into some of the risks of the real world. This has taught us all some lessons we would never learn in a classroom. On the one hand, God protected our children by leading me to give them that safety lesson. On the other hand, Jared was only saved because the children followed those safety instructions. The meaning of life. The nearness of death. God's sovereignty. Man's responsibility. All part of the larger unit study we call life.

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