Sometimes Learning Just Happens

Perhaps the most frequent thing I hear my 4th grader say is, “Is there anything more to eat?” closely followed by, “This is so interesting!”

For the first, yes please, if you have any suggestions of healthy snacks that won’t break my budget, send them my way. This kid is only 9, but I think his body thinks he is already a teenager.

And for the second, phrases like these make learning so much easier!

That kid is interested in everything! And as he is the oldest and the others are still young and impressionable, they become interested in whatever he is interested in, too. (Most of the time, at least.)

So sometimes the best way to facilitate learning is to say “yes” and then get out of the way.

This months intrinsically motivated theme is backyard bugs. We have had an enormous yellow spotted (creepy beyond belief) spider, two flies, a green caterpillar, a worm that crawled out of a pear on our counter, and a bunch of ants all living in jars in our kitchen.

First of all. Gross.

Ok, the caterpillar and ants aren’t really too bad, but the spider, worm, flies… I just took a deep breath, said “yes” and then warned them NEVER to open the jars in the house. EVER. (Which is kind of ironic, at least the worm, because all our fruit trees are wormy this year and there are probably still some worms in my kitchen eating my pears right now. Ew!

We did feed one of the flies to the spider, but she died. The spider AND the fly. Both flies actually kicked the bucket.

The caterpillar, however, has turned himself into chrysalis. Talk about good timing! We watched him crawl around for a day and a half and then he just attached himself to his glass wall and has morphed into this slug looking smudge with spikes. For a few days we could watch him wriggle around in there, but either we aren’t looking at the right time, he’s dead, or he just isn’t active at this stage of the metamorphosis. I’m kind of placing my bets on “he’s dead,” but still hoping he comes out one day soon.


The ants are amazing! For the first few days my 4th grader just sat there watching them. Good timing again, he captured a bunch of ants AND their eggs! (This is only considered good timing in a scientifically observatorial way. Obviously not in an ants multiplying in the house kind of way. They’ve been digging tunnels and chambers and moving and re-moving the eggs for a week. We all just assumed that ants ate bread crumbs, but my intrinsically motivated learning son actually had a babysitter look up how to care for ants on her phone for him one night and he learned quite a lot with her. So now he keeps them out of the sun and feeds them only fresh fruits and vegetables. And some sugar when he really wants to get them riled up.


(PS. When considering homeschooling and getting babysitters, it is nice to have a babysitter who is generally interested in what your kids are studying and supportive of learning with them. I have two fantastic babysitters, but this particular one reads our “school” books aloud to the kids AND will encourage them to look up new information. Love her.)

And the fruit worm? Truthfully, I have no idea where the worm is.

But at least the one that got away wasn’t that spider!