This is one of those memorable homeschool projects that always delighted me as a little girl, and I’m afraid it still delights me now as a woman. I remember going out into ditches along country roads, even as a teenager, and gingerly examining milkweed leaves in an eager search for monarch caterpillars. The process of watching the tiny creatures, no less one of God’s creatures than a dog or a horse or a bird, and witnessing their metamorphosis. Absolutely amazing. And it still excites me now.
So seven swallowtail caterpillars which I found on our dill are now residents of this little cabin, along with the rest of the things in our tabletop “Observatory.” We’ll have the thrill of watching them transform from rather ugly little worms into breathtaking beauties through a process that absolutely defies all the gymnastics and contortions of evolutionary thought, and could only have come about by the creative power of a Creator God.
One of the greatest gifts homeschooling gave to me is the love of learning. Anything. Just learning. Homeschooling allowed me and my siblings to explore learning in creative ways, hands on ways, memorable ways. It is tragic that any parent with a desire to homeschool would choose to not homeschool because they don’t feel qualified. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a homeschool parent. You don’t have to be a certified teacher to be a homeschool parent. Your biggest job as a homeschool parent is to help your child desire to learn.
So much of what is taught prior to college is a waste of time (even a lot of what is taught in college, actually). Even the subjects that are considered “important.” I’m sure that some people would say those subjects are important because they help with brain development or something like that, but it seems that if they were that important, I’d remember more of them. I chuckle as I admit that I do not remember how to find the area of a circle (pi and the radius are in there somewhere, I think), I don’t remember what years Richard the Lionheart was king, I don’t remember how many Crusades there were, and I really couldn’t tell you any practical application for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I’m not sure I even know what it is anymore. Parabolas and equations baffled me. I never cared what x or y was anyway. I was forced to read The Scarlet Letter in highschool and remember hating it, and maintain that if God ever blesses me with kids I will never punish them with that book. I do remember pi to the seventh decimal place, which is absolutely useless.
But there is something that is so much more important than those dates and names and formulas and laws and hypothoses I’ve forgotten – I remember that learning is a joy and I still crave to be learning. I remember time with my mom and science projects with my dad and looking at pond bacteria under microscopes and watching things grow on Petri dishes. I remember growing butterflies on milkweed, identifying birds, collecting leaves, pressing flowers, and reading The Borrowers. We built Borrower homes and played Borrowers for weeks and months. I remember what it was like to be a child, and I remember what it was to play, to climb trees, ride bicycles, and make forts. We loved to make forts. I remember making rag dolls to be like Laura Ingalls, and learning how to sew at a young age, a skill that grew to actually be a serious hobby and some self-employment. I remember reading wonderful literature with Mom and my sisters – books like The Door in the Wall, The Golden Goblet, and Adam of the Road. I remember loving Ivanhoe, The Scottish Chiefs, and reveling in Shakespeare plays. I pored over books on daily life in the Middle Ages as I worked on a novel set in a fantasy kingdom, and tried to learn Welsh, and learned the Tengwar alphabet so I could write in Elvish script. I taught myself how to shape something in clay, make a mold of it using latex and gauze, and then cast it in resin. I remember studying Ancient Egypt and making a terrarium with the Nile running through the middle. I remember beautiful pictures of Roman women in their flowing robes, and reading The Eagle of the Ninth. I remember making plaster of Paris relief carvings. I remember doing an oil pastel reproduction of the face of Botticelli’s “Venus,” which I remember thinking was gorgeous but in reality was really quite ghastly. I remember discovering the Western novel in highschool, and being enthralled by the myth and lore of the West and the frontier.
None of what I just mentioned would show up on a standardized test. But what I remember is delight, and joy, and exploration, and curiosity, and discovery.
Any parent can give that to their children. And they’ll be learning right alongside their kids, sharing in that delight, watching with awe as the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis.