"As a homeschooling parent, I am an independent thinker. A unique individual. I do not have to give in to peer pressure. Just because ‘everyone’ is doing it doesn’t mean I have to subject my children (or myself) to the experience. I don’t want to. I don’t have to. My children don’t want to. My children don’t have to. We have not, nor will we ever, dissect an owl pellet. And that’s that."

That was me. Before the homeschool-friendly biology book. Steadfast, firm, and stubborn. Not to mention squeamish. There was no way, at that point in my life, I was going to subject myself to the crusty, crunchy, hairy skeletal remains of an owl’s fine dining. Not even in the interest of science. And the idea of a cow eyeball on my kitchen table? Completely out of the question. The children can wait until high school and then do the decent thing . . . dissect a worm.

Hence, our science explorations remained in the realm of distracted children watching fuzzy caterpillars crawl across our blankets as Teacher Mom tried to get them interested in a very engaging library book about forms of energy. As the years passed, we found ourselves immersed in a variety of baking soda and vinegar explosions, but the owl pellet and eyeball stayed safely tucked away . . . at the science store. Even with the pesky pellet kits on display, their big owl eyes advertising inquisitiveness and discovery, I was able to press past the glaring aviary chastisement and leave the pellets where they belonged . . . on the shelf.

But when the Big Brown Truck arrived with our new curriculum, our scientific lives metamorphosed. The supply list for the elementary level biology book included, to my dismay, owl pellets. Understanding that I, the teacher, am to master the curriculum and not the curriculum master me, I kept up the good fight. I resisted not only peer pressure, but now text-pressure. I remained firm. I then did what every excited homeschooling parent does with a new book . . . I glanced through it. I found myself reading the section on dissection. I read the "why" behind the "what." The reason for ripping into owl pellets was—oh dear!—valid! It not only made sense, it actually roused my curiosity. I gave in. I ordered. And I bought an extra can of lovely scented spray disinfectant. I knew we’d be needing it.

Covering the table with several layers of newspaper, donning latex gloves, and repeatedly reassuring my children that this was safe to do, we began the process of discovery. "Oh, I only bought enough pellets for you children to dissect, sweethearts," I explained when they shared their surprise that I was not joining in the hands-in-the-pellet project. Reassuringly, I added in the safe semi-third person, "Mommy will be here if you need me."

As they grimaced and groaned through the first step—unwrapping the pellet from the foil—I quietly stepped away, controlling the gag reflux as inconspicuously as possible. Regaining my stomach for science, I watched from a slight distance as the children cautiously poked and prodded until they were convinced there was no life left in the odd mass in front of them. Soon after, their shrieks of "Ew! Mom, do we have to do this?" and "Yuck! Look at that!" brought me closer to the table. "All of THAT was in THERE?" my non-specific question sputtered out. As they pointed out an undigested avarian beak and the small bones of what the chart defined as mouse bones, my interest was piqued. I must admit, still armed with that can of disinfectant, I was hooked, like the beak of an eagle—er, I mean, owl. I brought out dark construction paper on which I asked the children to glue the parts and pieces of their finds for a display. Knowing the mailman would be impressed with our scientific discoveries, I insisted the projects be displayed OUTSIDE on the front porch . . . for the mailman’s educational benefit, of course.