"Yuck!" I screamed as I pulled a handful of waterlogged caterpillars from the washing machine.
Four-year-old Zachary came running and looked at the slimy carcasses in my hand. "You killed my caterpillars?"
"I washed your clothes. Where were the caterpillars?" I asked.
"In my pockets." He sorrowfully replied.
My kids have always loved bugs, so creepy, crawly creatures have been an ongoing part of our homeschooling experience. First, there was the Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm fiasco where I ended up stomping on $8.00 worth of ant escapees. Next, our toddler de-winging the entire population of our butterfly garden and helped them learn to "fly" again by throwing them in front of the fan. We're pretty sure he didn't eat the wings.
Then, one spring, we ordered Praying Mantises egg cases.
When they arrived in the mail, my husband said, "You better put them outside right away."
Instead, I got sidetracked and laid them on my desk. The next morning I awoke to 200 tiny sets of eyes staring at me from the floor, the ceiling, the curtains—well, just about everywhere. It looked like a scene from a science fiction movie. It took us a few days to round them all up and put them in the garden and by then I had bonded with the little fellas and actually missed their tiny faces.
My kitchen counter was often adorned with peanut butter jars and shoebox cages of our latest specimens/victims. We once went to the fair and watched "The Bug Man" make mealworm pizza. The kids said it was delicious and I took their word for it. They loved anything bug related, so I did everything I could to encourage their interest. I knew that counting the legs on a millipede taught them math, chasing bees was physical education, watching meal worm life cycles was a science project, and reading Lady Bug poems strengthened their English skills.
As my children grew up and were allowed outside my backyard, the world opened up to them. As they showed interest in a subject, I tried to encourage them. The Olympics sparked a desire to be gold medal swimmers, so they put on their new Speedos and went to Grandma's pool for regular practice. To enhance their fascination with Indiana Jones, we dug up most of Southern California in a quest for fossils, artifacts, and treasure.
Each of my four kids had individual interests, too. The girls were not as interested in bugs, but Ashley read voraciously, so we made sure she had an abundant supply of books. She grew up and married a college librarian. What could be more perfect? Little Lindsay wanted to be a singer, so we bought her a Fisher Price tape recorder with a microphone. These days, she often sings on a worship team at church.
Jeremy's interests change often. First, he was going to be a comedian when he grew up, so we laughed at his many silly jokes. When He turned fourteen, he changed his mind. Now, he wants to be a police officer. Just today, we signed him up for Police Explorer Scouts.
Zachary decided he wanted to be a drummer when he was seven-years-old—Pa rum, pum, pum, pum—so we bought him a set of drums and signed him up for lessons. Zachary is now seventeen and he stills plays that beat-up set of drums.
I realize that whether the child is seven or seventeen, I need to support his or her curiosity and desire to learn.
My girls have graduated from college, Zachary no longer collects caterpillars in his pockets and it's been a decade since Jeremy de-winged a butterfly. My guess is that the boys probably aren't going to become entomologists. I don't know what the future has in store for them, but the point is they still love to learn and there is nothing buggy about that.
Questions for Parents:
What is my child's current interest?
(If you don't know, find out!)
What could I do to encourage this interest?
(Buy a good book on the subject or check out kid-safe websites.)
You might be surprised to find that your child has wonderful dreams. Be reassured that God has a wonderful future in mind for them.
For I know My thoughts toward you says the Lord, to give you a hope and a future.
Tonya has a wealth of information to share. She is a pastor's wife, homeschooling mom, and grandma. Check out her parenting and homeschooling blog at: http://parentingandhomeschooling.blogspot.com/
And her website at www.TonyaRuiz.com