Catterpillars, chrysalis, butterfly… Oh, my!

I can’t believe it’s mid-October! We spent the end of August and most of September raising some monarch caterpillars, which means that the butterflies we released will migrate from Toledo all the way down to Mexico (not sure where exactly) where they will hibernate for the winter. I have always loved butterflies, but this process has fascinated me and I cannot help but stand in awe at our awesome Creator.

It takes, apparently 4 or 5 generations to reach Toledo from Mexico, first of all. And the last generation will live through the winter because they don’t die until after they mate/lay eggs (for the lady monarchs, that is).

Each caterpillar is born with 2 sets of DNA… One for its time as a caterpillar/chrysalis, and one for its time as a butterfly. Say what!?

Check out our beauties.

Our first two we named Max and Mary. Sadly, Mary died about two days before Max turned into a chrysalis. This process makes the caterpillars extremely delicate and vulnerable, but it was still sad. The children buried her in our backyard and Ethan said a very sweet prayer (he thanked God for the friends who gave her to us, for the time we got to spend with her, and that we’ll see her in heaven where she is sure to be a beautiful butterfly, even though she didn’t make it to butterfly status in this life.)

I have missed the transformation process for all our caterpillars, because they hang upside-down for almost a whole day, then we’ve always had to go somewhere and the caterpillar turned into a chrysalis by the time we got back from wherever.

The chrysalis turned black and you can see the monarch wings through the chrysalis the day the butterfly will emerge.

Again, I have missed all emergings because it happens in about 5 minutes. Literally, I was checking every 5 to 10 minutes and the first time he was in his chrysalis, the next time he was out. And Max was a he…

After Max, our friend with milkweed (who gave us Max and Mary) asked if we wanted any more to make up for the loss of Mary. So we took home Sam, Alice, and Mary II. Thankfully, all three reached butterfly status.

Sam turned out to be Samantha, Alice turned out to be an Alex, and despite our being prepared for Mary II to turn out to be Mario, she ended up being able to keep the name Mary II.

Phoebe keeps asking me “Where ‘fly-fly’ go?” And I tell her they flew away to Mexico. And she nods like she understands. Little ones understsnd much more than we give them credit for, I’m sure.

Next year, my milkweed-owning friend and I plan on buying a kit to actually tag and track some monarchs, and I’m already looking forward to it.

Except for the poop. As a mom of lots of littles, you’d think I would be used to lots of poop. But caterpillars poop so much more than anyone would ever expect. That is the takeaway lesson from this endeavour. Caterpillars poop a lot.

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To view or not to view…

First off, sorry I’ve been MIA for a few weeks. I’ve had a lot going on, which I may or may not post about at a later date. And it seems I have a draft of a blog post that somehow never got published. Whoops.

More time-sensitive right now is the solar eclipse coming up… Maybe you’ve heard about it?

Monday, August 21 (my mama’s birthday) the United States will be directly on the path of a solar eclipse. Sadly, not Toledo, where I am, but it should still be a pretty cool experience. (FYI, Toledo is on the path of totality for a solar eclipse in 13 years… I hope to be around to see that one!)

First, a warning:

IT IS NOT SAFE TO VIEW A SOLAR ECLIPSE WITHOUT SPECIALLY DESIGNED GLASSES

That said, there is a lot of debate going on about if even that is safe.

First of all, there has been word that there are many scams going around… People/stores selling “solar eclipse glasses” that aren’t actually certified safe.

Rule #1: Only glasses shade 14 or higher are “safe” for viewing the sun.

Welding masks are tinted dark, but 14 is one of the darkest out there and not that common. When I put my solar eclipse glasses on, I can see nothing. Literally, it’s black. If I look at the sun, it’s a small orange circle. Looking at a lightbulb, it looks to be a very faint orange.

I have known about this eclipse for at least a year (I “like” a classical astronomy facebook page, http://www.classicalastronomy.com (that’s the name of the facebook page and a non-facebook website by the same guy…no “http://” needed, but I can’t figure out how to get rid of that in this post), that keeps me up to date on astronomy goings-on) I didn’t order my certified solar eclipse glasses until mid-July, and foolishly didn’t pay attention to Amazon Prime 2-day shipping. My order was set to arrive between August 14 and August 31.

In case you didn’t notice, the eclipse occurs smack dab in the middle ofthat delivery window. How pleased I was to learn the Toledo Lucas County Library had free certified solar eclipse glasses offered on a first-come-first-served basis! I snapped up 8 the day after I got the email about this deal.

Then my order arrived earlier than the scheduled time. August 5, actually. Way earlier than planned. That was a pleasant surprise.

Then Amazon sent me an email. They are unable to verify the certification of my solar eclipse glasses, and they recommend not using them. They even refunded my money, that’s how serious they were.

I had ordered a pack of 25 glasses with the intent to give them to my friends who were late to the game of finding some glasses (in anticipation of places selling out). They were cheaper to buy in bulk than to only order the 8 that my family would need (really not even 8… Zeke is 10 months old and oblivious, and Phoebe, who just turned 2, is probably not going to care either. There is debate how much the 3, 4, 5, and 7 year old care too, but at least the older ones may be able to participate in viewing the event at any rate.) I have still been passing out my non-certified solar eclipse glasses with the disclaimer of their certification status. Some have been willing to risk it, others have not. I totally understand. Personally, we will be using the glasses from the library.

Rule #2: Even with specially designed solar eclipse glasses, it is only safe to view the eclipse for about 3 minutes.

That’s probably lifetime total there, but the chance to view eclipses seem to be pretty rare… Unless you’re one of those people who travel the world to view eclipses. There are actually people who do that. Kind of like tornado chasers, only eclipse chasers.

In Toledo, the eclipse will start at 1:09 pm, peak at about 85% totality at 2:27 and end at 3:48. I Googled it. Timeanddate.com seems like a reliable source…

I have a busy Monday morning, but I plan to join some like-minded people at the Challenger Learning Center in Oregon, Ohio in the afternoon. If the babies are sleeping, that many less children improperly viewingthe eclipse I have to worry about.

Why the big deal about properly viewing the eclipse, you may ask. My husband has admitted to looking at the sun with his bare eyes before, and his vision is 20/20.

Interesting factoid: our retinas cannot feel sunburn. By staring at the sun, even for a brief second, the rods and cones in the back of our eyes that help is see begin to burn from the radiation that pours out of the sun. After a while, these spots can permanently burn a round hold in the retina resulting in partial to goal blindness, similar to macular degeneration (which my grandma has… Basically a permanent blind spot directly in front of you with only the periphery vision in tact). Not fun.

Now… The point of my post. Even though I have solar eclipse glasses that I trust, I don’t fully trust my children to properly use the glasses. What’s a mama to do!?

I have 2 options, and if I can find a box big enough, I’ll try the second option. But first… Paper-plate blinders.

Using a paper plate, ruler, xacto-knife, and scissors, I made these bad boys. I plan on hot-gluing the glasses to the blinded too, but that will be the final step.

There are slits so the glasses fit perfectly in, and I measured with the ruler to make sure the squares I cut out line up with the lenses of the glasses. And I used scissors to cut out the nose/mouth area. All I have left to do is hot-glue the glasses in place.

But first… Some decorating.

Ethan

Naomi

Olivia

Daniel

Naomi, for Phoebe

Ethan, for Ezekiel

And because I couldn’t be left out, even though I’m the least likely to need the blinder…

Naomi, for me

My second option is to design a pinhole camera.

This seems to be the safest first-hand way of viewing the eclipse. My biggest challenge is finding a box big enough. A diaper box is probably big enough, goodness knows we regularly go through diaper boxes, and I used to be a huge supply-hoarder if I thought something could possibly be used in any way as a supply at some point in our homeschooling journey… But my husband has been working on keeping that to a minimum. Because, you know, space issues.

I’d like us to at least make one; I know I won’t be able to make one-per-child, though.

The next most safe way is to view it second-hand, via TV. That just seems not as fun. And not as home-school-sciency.

Let the Summer Games Begin!!!

Homeschoolers… Are we ever really “done” with our school year? In our family, we have a few more lessons until we are done with our current textbooks. Just in time for a camping trip we’re not going to be doing schoolwork on. I do plan to do some light schoolwork through the summer once we get back, but we’ll just be sticking to the famous 3-R’s: Reading, (W)riting, and ‘Rithmatic.

I have a few activities I would like to do this summer, but I am always looking for more ideas. I especially love free, but cheap might be doable.

For one, we have recently rearranged our backyard to be more accommodating. My husband built a playhouse for the children, which we (mostly he) moved to the back of our yard… Clearing out driveway space on the backyard side of the fence. When the gate is opened, the driveway from our garage to the parked cars (about 3-car lengths) is free for bike riding! (Ethan is learning to ride without training wheels… Daddy has said if he learns before our camping trip, we can bring his bike on the trip with us!)

The trampoline had been back there for a few years, and we recently acquired a “playground for our own backyard” which is more commonly known as a swing set. Fabulous outdoor playthings.

My husband also built a children’s picnic table (he made it extra long to make space for the copious amounts of children we have acquired. Great for outdoor picnic lunches. It’s amazing how popular outdoor lunches are, even though the food is run-of-the-mill… The experience is what makes it special.

I found a recipe for kinetic sand I am interested in trying out, and it only has 3 ingredients: play sand, flour, and oil. Outdoor activity, although the recipe I found says it doesn’t stick to hands like regular sand, so hopefully that means less mess.

We have bubble things, but used up our bubble stash on a field day. I love the Dollar Tree for things like this… Because you know 6 kids 7 and under will break the toys. Better not to have a huge $investment$ in toys with a short life span.

I would also like to tour the awesome metroparks we have in the Toledo area. Last time I was at the park we frequent, I picked up a guide for all the metroparks… We have 15! I also picked up a pamphlet about a canal experience (which is not free) at one of the parks… So maybe we’ll have an educational park day one day.

We also have 19 library branches, PLUS the main library that I would like to tour. I’ve lived in Toledo all my life and there are some I’ve never visited. There are also a few that have been renovated since my last visit… So I’m excited about that.

I signed myself and my two oldest up for the Summer Reading Challenge, although I can’t remember the last time I finished a book I read for pleasure.

The main library, downtown, has “Brown Bag Concerts” every Wednesday from 12:15-1:15 that my mom usually joins us for as well. Different local bands each week, but the children’s music week is the one that I definitely try to make happen.

We are YMCA members this year, so there will be swimming and baseball and maybe some other activities there, and we’ve been Zoo members since Ethan was a baby. We will also attend a week-long BackYard Bible Club I volunteer at, and my kids go through, as well as maybe another carnival-type VBS (vacation Bible school) that happens down the road from us.

As I look at my list of summer things, it doesn’t seem too complicated; it doesn’t even really seem full. But I know summer will go fast. I plan to beef up the homeschooling at the beginning of August, and our co-op starts at the end of August, but that doesn’t mean park days or library visits or Zoo experiences need to stop. 

If you can think of fun, simple outdoor summer activities I can add to our list, let me know! Some things my children love to do over and over (even some things I don’t think are that great, they end up loving) and other things I think will be great turn out to be a flop. But it is flip flop season, so I’m prepared for the flipping and flopping of plans.

Mother’s Day Lessons

When you homeschool, it seems like you can make a lesson out of anything. It also seems like sometimes we do nothing but “lessons” all day.
Today, I had an eye doctor appointment, so my soon-to-be retiring dad (read: free babysitter) came over when we normally do formal math and writing lessons. After lunch, I put the little ones down for nap/quiet time and Ethan, Naomi, and I began our schoolwork for the day. 

Math was simple; a test today makes for easy work for teacher-mama. After having them write a few practice words in cursive, I excuse Ethan and call Naomi to join me on the living room couch as I tell her she has one more lesson to to.

“Mooooooooom. We’ve already done 1,000 lessons today!” (She is my most dramatic child; she amuses me after-the-fact, but she can be difficult in the midst of things.)

However, when I pull the book out (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons), she practically jumps to my side and she eagerly opens to where the bookmark is. All conplaints of “having to do one more lesson” have vanished. We snuggle while she reads. We’re only on Lesson 62, but she can do most of the reading with minimal help or correction from me. And my heart is filled.

When my schedule gets busy and so many things need to be done, we don’t always do a reading lesson a day (I aim for at least 3 a week; they only take 10-15 minutes a lesson) but it’s times like these that make me realize that there’s more going on that her learning to read. It’s something we’re doing together, something she can see she’s doing well at and that the praise I give her is not superficial. (She is good at math too, but both she and Ethan get so discouraged if they get even 1 question wrong on a worksheet, despite my praise. And she tends to need more love poured into her than the others anyway.)

Daddy asked them last night what they wanted to do with Mommy for Mother’s Day. Grand plans for presents and cake and vacations were discussed. Then how much everything costs vs. how much money they had was discussed (math lesson!)… I’m probably getting handmade gifts, but I will treasure them always. I have a “Tim box” of mementos from our relationship, and I have a “mom box” of cards or pictures or small tokens the kids have given me. And I will treasure those boxes, and the memories they hold, forever.

(My Mama, and the ones who make me a mama.)

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend!

Homeschooling year over… Or is it?

Ever since my husband  and I began to think about having children, we agreed we would homeschool. He was adament, I was more reserved (after all, I would be the teacher, not him), but I was excited to try my hand at it, though both of us had excelled at public scool. (Tim has always believed in me and my abilities far more steadfastly that I have believed in myself. I hope I can be as much of an encouragement to him as he is to me.) The Bible says parents are to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) but to my way of thinking, that isn’t so much a command as a statement of how things will naturally flow. Parents talking to their babies, responding to their coos as well as their cries, help pre-verbal babies learn how conversations go back-and-forth. Toddlers learn how to walk, usually with the encouragement from mom and dad, and most parents will teach their children shapes and colors along with the alphabet and numbers, before they’re officially school-age. 

From this perspective, my homeschooling journey started almost 7 years ago. (Ethan will be 7 this Wednesday!) For the past 3 years, we have been a part of CLassi call Conversations. My first 2 years, I was a tutor, and this past year I was a director, and today was the last Community Day of our third year. It was bittersweet in many ways, especially as I have been praying for and with these families all this year, some even longer than that, and we will not be continuing with CC next year (that is a long story maybe for another time…) Each year we’ve been a part of CC, I have been on a different campus, and I’m looking forward to some consistency in our future. 

While we have been part of a homeschooling community for the past three years, this year is our first official year homeschooling. In Ohio, public school attendance is manditory starting at age 6 (I forget the birthday cutoff, but Ethan’s April birthday was unquestionable.) Public preschool and kindergarten are optional, although Ethan did CC when he was 4, Ethan and Naomi did CC last year when they were 5 and 4 as well as a math curriculum, and this year, when Ethan and Naomi were 6 and 5, we added math, language arts, and Bible curriculua, none of that had to be reported. We sent a notification to the TPS Board of Education, received our letter of excusal from compulsory attendance from the superintendent, and continued on with what we had been doing.

All this to say, Week 24 of the 24-week Classical Conversations is in the books. Done. Complete. Successfully, even. But that doesn’t mean learning stops. First of all, we need to finish off the math and language arts curriculums. Those are set to be finished by early June, according to my lovely homeschool planner. But even then, I don’t know that I want to wait until next “school year” to start the next level. I love seeing the wonder of the world through their eyes, and I want to encourage them to always be seeking the Truth and figuring things out.

The Bible says (speaking of God’s Law) “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, emphasis mine) Education and learning should not be, dare I say cannot be, confined to a limited few months of the schoolyear.

We won’t be attending our formal “school” any more this year. But school is far from being over. I have graduated from high school and from college; while I will likely not receive any more pieces of paper stating that I’ve accomplished a significant amount of schoolwork, my education is still continuing. By teaching my children, I am discovering there are things I was never taught; I look forward to learning alongside them, teaching them and being inspired by them, through the spring, summer, and seasons beyond!