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.

April | In Hindsight

May has come in with a flurry and flash–With her comes true spring weather, which in turn brings gardening and tourists. April flew by–Too fast almost, but it was a good fast. The close of April welcomes our third month in South Dakota, and closes out the earliest pages of this new life adventure.

Throughout the move and the transition here, God has provided in amazing ways. He’s provided us with a new church home, with families there that are like-minded Believers. He’s provided jobs for each of us girls: Anna has a job at Rushmore Cave, Sarah has a job at Dakota Greens Nursery, and I’ve been working for Jack Dye on his ranch and at the Hill City Mercantile. We’ve been spending lots of time with one another, as well as with our extended family, particularly my grandmother. It has been a delight to be able to just walk up the hill to her house, or to run over in the evening for a movie night. She loves the Little House on the Prairie TV series. She has excellent taste.

Although when we decided to move, I was completely on-board, I had my moments of doubt. Some of those concerns related to being twenty-four years old and completely starting over, being a graduate in music but really wanting to take time to self-search and pursue some other things, traveling forty-five minutes to get to church (the concern that our church community would all be that far away), etc.

It is generally expected that finishing college launches a graduate into a career, that the graduate arrives at the end of their degree with fully formed ambition, and goals for the future that relate directly to the degree. But what if they don’t? What if the graduate arrives at the end of college a little befuddled, unsatisfied with conventional wisdom, and with highly unconventional ideas of the future? Bloom where you’re planted.

DSCN0063.1The crabapple tree in this picture is a late bloomer. Our little valley stays cooler than other places in the Hills, so our fruit trees and this tree are just beginning to wake up from winter. Other trees in the region are already a blaze of color, their blossoming branches spreading high, full of leaves and the promise of abundant fruit. This little tree is taking its time–Whether circumstance or Providence decreed that this tree would bloom late, it doesn’t matter. The tree will blossom. It took five and a half years of college for me to figure out what my true passions are, and to realize what I truly find thrilling and joy-giving in life, to begin to understand some of the deepest God-given longings of my heart. I expect it will take longer, a lifetime, to figure out how best to use those passions in a manner that brings glory to God, and how to fit them together into a cohesive whole.

I could worry about convention, I could worry about what people will think, and I could spend time feeling silly for “dabbling” when it is expected that I pursue a “career” instead, or at least something within my field of study. I could feel a little foolish for being so eager to do smelly, unappealing cattle work (I’ll mention CIDRs again), when I should logically be doing something different. Or I could desire to pursue things that God has made possible, doors that he has opened, and seek to be useful and productive even while I’m dabbling.

In this past month (or two months–I’ll lump March in for this “Hindsight” musing), I’ve learned more about horses and cattle than I ever knew, I’ve been introduced to the fascinating work of artificial insemination, I’ve ridden horses more than I’ve ever ridden in my life, I’ve learned how to run a cash register, I’ve learned what a fat quarter is (a quilting term!) and how to assemble them, I’ve hiked a mountain, began learning how to drive stick, and my list could go on.  Those fears I had have been relieved. I’ve found work that I love, we have church friends just seven miles away, and the chance to start over and reevaluate seems less daunting than it did. Never would I have thought that I’d be riding horses and herding cows a couple of months after graduating in music, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We judged the homeschool Speech and Debate tournament a week or so ago, and went to the Volunteer Fire Department chili feed. We went to a wild game potluck at Rainbow Bible Ranch, hosted by the Reinholds, another homeschool family. We’ve spent time with cousins on both sides of the family, relishing having family so close. We’ve gotten plugged in with a church and have begun the work of putting down roots. God is good.

Here’s a beautiful passage of Matthew 6 to ponder:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Laura Elizabeth