Cultivating Curiosity

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.
IMG_9034eSo 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.

The Swimming Hole

Just as we were all starting to wonder when we’d get some summer weather, a heat wave roared in and plunged the region into temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s. And yes, that is considered hot here! We’ve hardly had any rain in the last couple of weeks and the moisture is quickly drying up. It is almost as uncomfortable to walk barefoot across the lawn as to walk barefoot across our gravel driveway.
CuriosityYesterday, a bunch of us went over to Little Falls to cool off – Well, the kids were going to cool off. I prefer to watch from the shade. I take forever to get used to water temperatures so generally I just opt out of swimming, although the water yesterday would have been perfect, if I’d been dressed for swimming.
IMG_4548Little Falls used to be only a local haunt, but news of it has spread far and wide, and it is rare to drive past the turn off and see the parking lot empty. But we got down there and had the whole swimming hole to ourselves. The kids splashed and swam, caught fish in buckets, did cannonballs off the rocks, and had a ruckus of a good time.
IMG_4585A passel of butterflies was flittering around the little cove, and finally obliged by posing for a picture. They weren’t bothered by the heat! What color and life in such a tiny creature. Tiger SwallowtailsWe’d been there an hour when the sky clouded over a bit and the temperatures cooled – It looked like a storm was brewing, but other than a small rumble of thunder, nothing materialized.

What a great way to beat the heat – With a little bit of country fun.

Laura Elizabeth


Little Blue

This little guy caught my eye.Little BlueGrey outsides of his wings, but the brightest blue on the inside. God’s Creation is truly to be wondered at.

Laura Elizabeth


Golden Afternoon

Everything was golden. The honeyed air was rich and fragrant, sweet with pine and warm earth. The afternoon sunlight filtering through the trees had that mystic quality of springtime, painting everything in vivid color, gilding the greens, the reds, the pinks, the browns, glinting from the gravel and garnets along the jeep trail, sparkling in spiders’ webs, shimmering on the wings of the swallowtails and bees and moths busy drinking the flowers of the golden currant.
Swallowtail on Golden CurrantThe busyness and life of these industrious pollinators was mesmerizing – In and out and around and about they went, back and forth through the golden glow of the currant bush. Moths, like tiny hummingbirds, sipped daintily. Bees bumbled from flower to flower. Swallowtails hung like jeweled pendants from the drooping branches. The lazy droning of the bees blended with the chirruping of crickets and the whir and whiz of grasshoppers in their haphazard flight. Birds twiddled their tunes, trying to keep out of sight in the thick trees and undergrowth.
Wild ColumbineThe path was abundantly scattered with wildflowers. Hardy larkspur violets and longspur violets and low larkspur and wild strawberry, and finally the columbine, the belle of the flowering woods. Fleabane, like an innocent child with smiling face, grew saucily in the sunny trail.
FleabaneAround one of my favorite bends in the trail stands a grove of aspen and birch, tall and pale under the shadow of a steep pine- and moss-covered hillside. As I came down the hill into that hollow, the trees were a brilliant, luminous green, the smooth leaves winking and twinkling a golden green.

It was a golden afternoon.

Laura Elizabeth