Saturday, April 12, 2014

"B" for Butterfly week

On March 13th I ordered a caterpillar to butterfly kit and they came the very next Monday on the 18th or something!  I was impressed.  We weren't quite done with Apple week yet though so the timing was pretty good.  This is how big they were when we started.

This caterpillar to butterfly kit was the best that I could find and it's quite affordable.  Most of them you have to buy the butterfly cage and then send off for the caterpillars, but this all comes in one and it comes really fast!  Check it out here

And a few days later --- they grew fast!

For the first few days the girls were excited about taking pictures of the caterpillar's growth.
About a week later they started working toward the pupa stage and finding their spots on the paper roof (Note: For you mom's that aren't wanting to touch caterpillars, never fear, because these come in the container and you don't open it until they are all in the chrysalis stage and then you just take the paper out with them attached and hook it into the top of the butterfly cage.)

Getting comfy about to shed their final skin and reveal their pupa skin (chrysalis)

Something I learned in this process is that they shed their skin four times and the final shedding of skin reveals the chrysalis.  They don't "make a home" for themselves, they actually attach themselves right before the last molt and when they shake off their old skin they ARE the chrysalis and under the "skin" of the chrysalis they turn all liquidy and transform into butterflies.

Our "butterfly week" chalk board drawing.  We were learning some notes on recorders as well.. so, hence the cherries and fingerings for the "gab" and "bag" songs

A couple days after the first three made the change the other two joined them.  The 6th one was actually a fluke because we were only supposed to get 5 and the 6th was a tiny one that probably wasn't meant to get in.  He took another week to turn into the chrysalis and the poor little runt (as we affectionately called him) had a lot of trouble because when he wiggled to kick off his last skin his chrysalis feel from where it hung.  This can happen and the best thing to do is just carefully transfer it to the bottom of the butterfly cage, but being on the ground can be less safe for them as well.  He didn't make it.  While he was alive when he emerged he was damaged and never got his wings stretched out and dried properly.  It was really really sad.  :\

Here is the butterfly house hanging up and we always checked on them every time we walked past.

Brownies start with the letter "B" too!

Other things we did while we waited for them.  Writing some "B" words and my oldest getting all fancy with the letters.

I happened to already have this poster.  You just buy two of the same one (I got this at the dollar tree) and then cut one of them up and get sticky velcro to put on the pieces.  Then the kids can match the pieces all up as you talk about whatever the poster is about.  (Talk about a great way to learn the presidents or something, right?!)

Our chalk board later in the week with more "B" words

Then suddenly one morning (the 3rd of April) I happened to go downstairs earlier than I usually would and happened to see two of our butterfly out of their chrysalis!  I pointed them out to Grace (who was with me) and instantly the older two girls heard my voice and woke up and whispered excitedly to each other and rushed downstairs!

The other ones were quite close behind.  The third came out just a few minutes after these two and the other two came out a couple days later.

The red stuff is NOT blood.  Actually it is the waste from the butterflies and drips from them especially right after they first come out.  Don't worry, totally normal.  ;)

We watched them a lot.  The girls liked to gently breathe on them so they'd open their wings

These by the way are Painted Lady Butterflies.  Renna (pictured here) thought that the boys should be called "Painted boys" or something.  Haha.. I told her that they didn't answer to their name anyway so they didn't care what they were called.

More watching and watching.

I fed the butterflies by hand with sugar water.  It's 1 part sugar and 9 parts water that is room temperature or slightly higher.  I just put 4 T. of distilled water in a bowl with 1 T. of sugar and heated it up just enough to dissolve the sugar and then put the other 5 T. of water in to cool it down enough.  I put cotton balls in it and coaxed the butterflies onto the cotton balls until their tongues -- their Proboscis -- would uncurl and slurp up the liquid.  I fed them 2 to 3 times a day and made sure they all got a little sip, though butterflies eat different amounts I read so not to worry if some drink a lot more than others.

My girls made up their own imaginative play and projects to go along with our theme.  Here they are playing butterflies.  The middle one however is a Luna moth and they took turns "flying" when one said it was day or night time.  I forgot to take a picture of my oldest's butterfly garland that she hung from our mantle.  She drew and cut out paper butterflies and hung them all on a string

We had to move the butterfly cage within the first day or so because our new cat was too interested in the fluttering wings

One evening right before bed we noticed these two little love birds mating.  And a short talk about the boy and girl attaching to each other so they can make eggs and new caterpillars suddenly became part of our lesson plan.

Another project they worked on was drawing pictures of butterflies and flowers on our window with special window markers.  I love when they do this because it occupies them so well and they usually use the "scene" in their imaginative play with their toys and so forth.

We took care of the butterflies from Thursday when they came out till the following Monday with no problems.  I might have been the most excited of all as I tended them and fed them and let them crawl on my hand.  They got to know me right away and didn't hesitate to walk on my fingers as I gave them their food.  The weekend was super busy so I didn't get a chance to buy a host plant (a plant for the mommy to lay her eggs on) till Monday morning.

I finished feeding them all and noticed that one had a swollen abdomen and deduced that she was the one who needed to lay her eggs asap.  We rushed off to the green house for a specific plant and when we got back we found the cage on the ground with claw marks in the sides of the butterfly house. 

This was the mommy butterfly and her abdomen was injured and later she couldn't fly because the liquid dried and made her wing stick to herself.  The other butterflies were hurt as well, but they all could fly fairly well.  One of the butterflies had trouble flying but I think it was because when it emerged it fell to the bottom of the cage and I had to help it onto a branch so that it's wings could dry.  That one never flew well, but you can imagine how upset we all were about our lovely butterflies that were so healthy and happy just an hour before.  We were planning on releasing them the next morning or even that very day (It had been raining on and off all weekend so I was hoping to wait till Tuesday when it was supposed to be sunny for the rest of the week.)

The chrysalis that had fallen on it's on almost a week before suffered from the crash as well.  Thought this butterfly did emerge on schedule a few days later, the butterfly (though alive) was never able to spread it's wings.  It just struggled for a foot hold and some way to move and was just trapped in is chrysalis shell unable to get totally free.

This was heartbreaking.  My vision to release all the happy butterflies was dashed.

We did release 4 of the original 5 and here is one that landed on our fake christmas tree by our back door for a while.  Note how well she blends in? 

Here is before I released the rest of them.  I wondered if they could get a little healthier before I set them free and I kept them in for one last night.  No one ate.  I offered the same sugar water that they'd loved before and no one wanted any.  I tried oranges because I'd read that that was something they'd like and they didn't care. 

The mommy with the injured abdomen was probably in pain and would have just gotten eaten if we'd set it free so I read up on euthanizing them and how to pin them.  I hated hated hated hated doing it.  I did the freezer method, where you put them in a zipploc and put them in a freezer till they die.  My husband thought this was gentler then putting them in a jar with toxic air.  I kept fiddling with the bag to "make her comfortable" before she died.. silly I guess, but caring for them for so many weeks made this all the harder.  When I was pinning her after she died in the freezer (I did all this after the kids were in bed) I kept apologizing to her in my head as if I was hurting her by moving her wings out. 

The next day we left the last three out I guess it was.  One (the one that had fallen from the top right after emerging) that couldn't fly well stuck around for quite a while.

Here's our little injured flier "playing" with the youngest.

We carefully set her on the flowers that we especially bought for our butterflies.

Gracie called this one her "little friend" and was quite careful about letting him walk onto her fingers and she learned how to gently let him walk off onto a plant.

I think she played outside by her sand box with her "little friend" or at least an hour or more before we had to go somewhere.  When we came back we couldn't find him.  I'm afraid that a dove that likes to hang out back there probably had a nice meal.  Really, it's been an extremely difficult end to our butterfly week, but there were good parts to it.

Today we went to the Nature Exchange at the zoo and traded in the mommy butterfly that I pinned.  I'm so glad she's out of the house.  Every time I looked at her I felt sad all over again because of what I wish I'd done differently to spare her life.  I know they die in a few weeks anyway, but I'd rather have set them all free in triumph and not had to see their demise.. or been a part of it as I was with her.  They however did get more points for her than they'd ever gotten for any other single item before.. so her death wasn't in vain I guess?
Random other part of our school during our butterfly week though it doesn't have anything to do with butterflies.  My oldest would rather stamp her words instead of writing them out so they had fun doing their words with stamps and a rainbow ink pad.  I don't have pictures of the other things that went with our theme as well, but I'd gotten a bunch of books from the library on butterflies (some more scientific and some just butterfly stories) I also got picture books about Bunny's and Bats and Bananas and so forth.  Really, we just run with a theme or letter and plug everything we can into it

Fancy Nancy: Bonjour, Butterfly
This book I actually bought (couldn't get it from the library and I really wanted it!) about Nancy who is helping her best friend plan a butterfly themed birthday party, but then she can't go to it!  Learning to deal with disappointment in this one and later she gets to go to a butterfly house and so on.  It was a lovely book to add to our collection.

  So, here's the end of "Butterfly week" .. it started out fabulous and ended terribly (as my two older girls have said at different times.)  I don't have the heart to do it again too soon, but we definitely learned a lot... all the way from their transformations to "new birth".. mating and sadly to the point of predator and prey and injury and death.  :\  

I'm staying up way too late writing this post, but I wanted to get it over with so we could move on to our next letter. 

"C" is for Chocolate!  Oh, I mean Cow-- that gives us milk for chocolate chip cookies!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Respect and Trust

I got into a conversation with someone I don't really know as my kids were playing.  I've only talked to him a couple other times and he knew my littlest was shy and asked if she talked  much at home.  She talks a LOT at home and actually talks better at a younger age than both her older sisters did.  This is a common phenomenon.  Then we talked about my oldest daughter who was very active physically at a really young age.  He then asked me something that is the point of this blog post.

"So, she was good at sports and everything at a young age?  And is she well rounded now?  I mean academically."

The question caught me off guard and I didn't say anything super brilliant at the time, just politely talked about the things she's good at, but here's what I keep thinking.  If someone was talking about a child who learned to read at a really young age and excelled in school but wasn't able to draw recognizable pictures or who couldn't climb a tree without seriously hurting themselves or who didn't know how to knit -- would someone say about that "left-brain dominant learner" --- "That's great that she loves to read all the time and got straight A's on math worksheets so young, but is she well rounded now?"


People would also NOT ask that question of an adult who is an excellent writer or musician or professional athlete.  "Hey, Mr. Professional athlete.  You are great at what you do and all, but jee don't you ever read Plato?  You know, you really should learn algebra to be well rounded as a person."

Think about it.

No, really.. think this through.  What do we do to our children?  We look at what they aren't good at more than what they are gifted in and work on the parts that they can't do as well.  UNLESS what they happen to be good at falls into the culturally appropriate thing to learn at that particular age.  In that case then we expect perfection.  Get a good grade?  You missed a couple things so you could do better.  Write a story?  Let me point out the grammatical errors for ya.

I'm not saying we shouldn't try to teach them things that they do need to learn, but the amount shouldn't be such that we cause hatred of that subjects.  It shouldn't be 90% working on weaknesses and 10% working on what they are actually gifted in.

All mother's worry about their kids right?  We love them and want to do the best for them.  We have different ways of doing this because our children are different and we are different and we value different denominations or schooling styles because (whatever we choose) we think it is what is best for our kids.  Your choices will be different from mine and I'm not saying that you don't love your kids as much as I do because you are choosing something different than what I've chosen.  What I am advocating is respecting our children as people.  Do we talk to them as we would an adult?  As parents, do we take every opportunity to turn something into a "teaching moment" or do we simply enjoy them?  How demeaning is it to be told to "go out of the room and try again" when we are reminded that we forgot to knock on the door or that we said something the "wrong way"... how demeaning is it for our children to be quizzed by adults about things they may or may not have learned yet?  Even if they HAVE learned certain math facts (for instance) why is it okay to ask a kid to randomly do a calculation?

My 8 year old made this all on her own.  3 D paper fairy doll.  She said she didn't like paper dolls because they are flat and she wanted to make a paper doll that wasn't flat.  I love the fact that my girls can do things like this all on their own initiative completely out of their own head without any help from me!  That's something to be proud of.  :)
When you are an adult it's okay to say, "I'm not good at math" or to use a calculator, but in a child this is a BIG DEAL that they aren't amazing at math.  I can't tell you how many adults have said to me as they saw me knitting or sewing or doing something like that, "I have a relative that can do that, but I've heard it's really hard and I could never learn to do that."  That's so sad to me!  I grew up in a way that said, "If you want to learn a thing than you can learn it!" 
The 8 year old making beeswax models of characters from a cartoon.

My eight year old who was supposed to be "well rounded" at her young age can do some things that most adults can't do!  Even what some adults say they could "never learn how to do."  That is a big deal.  It is.

And yet I constantly feel the pressure to do more. To force certain areas of learning that my children aren't ready for just because that's what "everyone else" values.

I often sound brave, but I'm really not.  I talk this way because I'm trying to be brave even though I don't feel it often.  I usually feel like I'm not doing enough for my kids.  I can't seem to rest in the season that I'm in and trust that whatever seeds I'm planting in their life will grow in them if God wills it.  Respecting them as people and trusting them with what they are ready for and capable of and especially trusting God with the present moment and the future.

I read recently that it takes 5 positive things to counteract a negative thing, and my personality is such that I naturally need a lot of encouragement to know that what I do is valuable.  It's difficult to be in a culture that doesn't value the job of a mother who stays at home with her children.  It's even more difficult to hear strangers questioning my intelligence (yes, one actually asked me if I was smart enough to educate my children.)  While I can easily argue against these people I still feel the negativity and it still hurts.  I have enough fears and concerns and berate myself far too much than is healthy all by myself without help from perfect strangers.

I guess the fact that I continue to do what I believe is best for my  kids says a lot for my bravery.  I haven't changed what we do to please anyone else, but I often long for encouragement or (perhaps more so) to be left in privacy.  To not be in a place where a stranger walks up to my three year old who is playing happily in our "back yard area" where I can hear her and tell her to "go back to your Mom" as if I'm neglecting my child and didn't know she was out there.  I purposefully allow my children to climb a tree if they are able to (the rule is to not break branches or damage the tree) and it bothers me when strangers who don't know their abilities try to tell them what they should or shouldn't do.  They make me feel like I'm neglecting my kids when I am actually desiring to foster their creativity and natural curiosity.  I want them to take small risks at a young age so that they can have the confidence to take greater risks when they grow older.  If that means that they need to concur their fear of heights by climbing higher in a tree then I'm all for it!  In many ways it would be easier to have more structure in our days.  I write about the school we do mainly because I want to see it all in one place.  It's hard to remember what we did a week ago or see their growth from month to month if I look too closely at each day and don't try to assemble a bigger picture, but all of the in between things are valuable too.

Being bored is valuable because they can learn to think of what to do.  Being allowed to do nothing and just think is valuable as well (how many adults feel comfortable in silence with their own thoughts?) Making mistakes is valuable too, and how much better is it to make small mistakes at a young age rather than big mistakes when you are older?

Okay, so here's my pep talk to myself and to anyone else who needs encouragement right now.  It's time to rest in where we are.  This past week we've been raising caterpillars and perhaps the hardest times were those when the caterpillars would hold very still and not eat (they were molting)--- they needed to be left alone to do what they needed to do.  The pupa (chrysalis) stage was also hard because we couldn't see any change outwardly.  Are they okay?  Are they growing?  We could only wait and see.  One looks slightly injured and I don't know if it will make it, but I can't do anything and constantly checking on it does nothing helpful.

No matter what schooling choice we've made for our kids I want to encourage other mom's (as well as myself) to trust their kids and respect them as people.  Don't coerce them into good behavior at every moment (that's not truly being "good" is it, if it's forced?)  Trust them to know themselves well enough to have some idea about what they are interested in and what they might be good at.  Encourage their skills and good qualities.  Savor the snuggle moments and overly talkative moments even at inconvenient times.
The almost 3 year old holding one of the butterflies that we released this week.

We are living life together.  We model what it means to be an adult to our children.  Are we teaching them that every human is valuable and should be respected?  Are their emotions bothersome to us or do we take the time to listen to their problems?
The middle one (6) playing "butterfly" outside with her sisters.  She was a Luna moth she said and only came out at night, so they took turns saying when it was day or night so they could fly.

I keep needing to tell myself that how I listen to my kids and how I talk to them and how I take the time to snuggle and read with them before bed even when I'd rather be asleep is valuable.

Parenting and teaching shouldn't be about making our children "well rounded" but to nurture their God given gifts and talents.  Prepare them for life as best as we can, yes, but especially to enjoy this short time that we have with them as parent and child before they are grown up and gone from us.