Mama’s Birthday Surprise

Mama wanted to take a walk
But none of us wanted to.
‘Cause it was so very hot.
And we all had things we wanted to do.

But we went because we love her.
And she wanted it so bad.
Our hearts weren’t in it, but hers was
And we couldn’t make her sad.

It was her birthday.
And all she asked for was a walk
With all her children.
Didn’t seem like a lot.

We picked some flowers along the way
As children tend to do.
Then we fixed up a bouquet
Mama would like that, too.

But one flower
Was different from the rest.
Looking closer
We knew Mama would like this one the best.

There’s a caterpillar
Hidden deep inside this flower.
It’s very tiny
But it has a certain power.

‘Cause it’s her favorite.
Not just any common kind.
It’s a Monarch.
And we knew God had this in mind.

He loves to surprise her
With things that make her glad.
Because He delights in her.
He’s such a wonderful Dad!

Now she watches this creature
Once tiny but growing fast.
She knows there’s a reason
God put him in her path.

Like this creature
She feels tiny and unseen
But change happens swiftly
When God’s directing things.

Something big is coming.
He makes all things new.
Now her life is changing.
It’s ’bout time she flew.

She’s gonna fly
Up above the storm.
She knows just why
He keeps her safe and warm.

He loves to surprise her
With things that make her glad.
Because He delights in her.
He’s such a wonderful Dad!

©  Penney Douglas

The Lord gave me this poem in the middle of the night a couple nights ago.  I knew He was trying to tell me something through this caterpillar.  He explained it to me through this poem.

Thank you, Daddy!

Caterpillar Chronicles Continued

Well, my Blessed Birthday post was getting too long with all of the caterpillar updates, so I decided to start another post just about caterpillar updates.

He's a little over an inch and a half today.

Monarch Caterpillar Seeing a Picture of Himself from Penney Douglas on Vimeo.

This is Day 9 since we found my birthday caterpillar.

I believe our finding this caterpillar on my birthday is a sign from God of new beginnings. I’ll write more about that in a future post.

My caterpillar stopped eating and started roaming around looking for a place to hang out. We moved things around trying to help him find a good place to attach to so that he could start making his chrysalis. I arranged the flaps of the box in different ways hoping he would choose one of those to hang from. He didn’t seem interested. He wandered around for hours (or so it seemed to us who were watching him), and he still didn’t settle on a place. I decided he needed to have his choices limited, so I put foil over the top of the jar and put him back in it. He went up to the foil and crawled on it, scratched on it and stared at it, but he must not have liked it either. He wouldn’t start putting out sticky stuff to attach to it.

So we took that off and put panty hose across the top. By that time, my poor caterpillar acted so confused that he seemed to be freaking out. He kept playing dead for long periods of time, especially right after we got him off of the aluminum foil. He got to the place where he didn’t even trust a stick enough to step on it. We put him back in the jar with a stick and he’s so heavy now that every time he tried to climb up it, the stick moved. So then he was back to not trusting a stick. He was trying to climb up the sides of the glass jar. He did amazingly well, but he couldn’t get to the top.

Katie thought he needed more familiar objects around him, so we put a Milkweed stem in with him again. He did seem to settle down after that. But it has been 6 hours since he started looking for a place to hang, and he’s still just sitting in limbo on the stick in the jar.

Monarch Caterpillar Searching for Home from Penney Douglas on Vimeo.

While we watched my birthday caterpillar run around, Fiona started drawing a Milkweed plant with caterpillar eggs on it and caterpillars, a chryalis that you can see a butterfly developing inside of, and Monarch butterflies. She really did a good job of showing the butterfly life cycle. And she did it all on her own. I didn’t even suggest it. Then Garrett started drawing, too.

Fiona's picture of eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and butterfly
Garrett's picture of caterpillars and butterflies

I keep watching him, though, because I REALLY want to see him make the chrysalis.

An exciting thing happened while we were watching the unexciting adventures of my birthday caterpillar. Fiona came in with another tiny caterpillar, a Monarch! So now she has one of her own. Actually, she gave hers to her friend next door. Then a little later, several of the kids came in yelling that they had found two more tiny caterpillars on the new Milkweed plant that Patrick went and dug up and replanted in our back yard. So now Kelsey has one and Fiona has one. We are in Caterpillar heaven here. Garrett is disappointed that he doesn’t have one. So we’re keeping our eyes peeled for another caterpillar for him.

Here's a picture of Fiona's caterpillar that she gave to her friend. It was so cute to see. It was like seeing a newborn compared to your 18-month old and being amazed again at how small they start out. Sort of like it anyway.:)
Here's the caterpillar that Fiona kept for herself.

Patrick is groaning because of all the mouths to feed, but I know that he really enjoys it. He says I’m turning him into a grumpy old man!

I hear Garrett in the next room saying, “This is the best day ever since we got those caterpillars.” Now he and Fiona are talking about sharing everything from now on. Knowing those two, they will try. As they get older, I know it will be harder, though. He’s a boy and she’s a girl. I bet their interests will diverge as they grow up.

Day 10 of my birthday caterpillar’s life with us.  He finally decided on the stick as his new home and hung himself head down from it.  He put out the silk stuff from his bottom that attached him to the stick.  Then he shaped himself like a letter J and just hung like that all night long.  His head started turning green.

He finally picked a place to call home. Here he is looking like a J
You can see that his head is turning green.

Throughout the day today, he kept turning greener.  His white stripes were turning green. I read a lot to the kids this morning. Then as soon as I finished reading I went on a walk with my neighbors to get Milkweed for their caterpillar. As soon as we got back, Katie leaned out the door and said, “The caterpillar is making a chrysalis. He’s almost done!” I almost missed it. I grabbed the camera and filmed the last part of the amazing process of the caterpillar making his chrysalis.

This is what he looks like now. What a miracle!

Latest development! We now have a pet Monarch butterfly. Morgan was walking with his friend, Matthew, and they saw a butterfly just sitting on the concrete. Morgan went to it, thinking it would fly away. He held out a stick toward it, and it climbed up on to his hand. They brought it home, and it seems to have adopted Kelsey as its mommy.

And now the gold appears on my treasure:

Another miraculous aspect of a Monarch's development
Looks just like real gold!
Two and a half Chrysalises. We will have 3 Monarch butterflies in the near future. Phew, we were having a hard time finding more Milkweed.

The Basics of Teaching Children Part 2

I’m a big believer in making learning fun and interesting. I have seen children really soak in new knowledge when the teacher is excited about a subject and shows that she really wants to share it with the children because it’s fun to know or do.

For example, I’m excited about this Monarch caterpillar of mine. My kids have caught the excitement, too. They check on him regularly to see what he’s doing. They come and tell me when he passes waste. They told me when Kelsey saw him shed his skin. Then we all watched him eat it. Yuck!

I bought some magnifying glasses yesterday, and they’ve been getting a really close look at him. (They’ve gotten close looks at everything in the world since I got those magnifying glasses!) They have made some heroic attempts to find food for him and risked life and limb to obtain Milkweed plants for him.

I found information in the Handbook of Nature Study online about Monarch caterpillars and Milkweed. I read it to Fiona, and she paid very close attention because we had an actual Monarch caterpillar in a jar observing it while I read about it.

This is one way to get children excited about learning. There are lots of ways. I love lapbooks, as many people can attest to. I think lapbooks are a great way to learn a lot about a subject and to allow creativity and hands-on, active learning to happen. I know that children learn more thoroughly when they write about a topic themselves. Lapbooks are the best way I have found to get my kids to write about what we are studying.

Using music in your school makes it more fun. Using computer games that teach skills makes it fun for the kids. Cooking and baking teaches lots of skills, including Math, following directions (a recipe), some chemistry (if you do some research or know food chemistry yourself), and cooperation. You can also discuss the many topics related to food and nutrition while you’re working with your children in the kitchen.

My favorite thing to make learning fun is to read books aloud to my children. That is fun for them and for me. This is the mainstay of my homeschool program. I read aloud to my oldest children every day. I read the portion each day from the Daily Bible to them. I read historical novels, biographies, missionary biographies, and teaching books about spiritual topics to them. We have learned about so many different subjects through these books that I can’t even begin to list them all.

My American history study has been loosely based on reading about each President. As I read to them about a particular President, we find out about what was happening in the country during his term in office. It has helped me to understand the flow of events in our country and why things happened the way they did and why people see things the way they do – even today. We are reading The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz right now.  We might read some other books I got from the library about Daniel Webster and Lafayette if we have time.  I read some books to myself and make them available for the kids to read if they want to.  Some of them pick up any book they see and read it.  Others need a little more encouragement.  But I allow a lot of freedom and space.  I don’t make a lot of demands.

I believe in letting them take the lead in much of their learning.  I find out what they’re interested in and get the necessary equipment and books for them to learn all they can about it.  I let them immerse themselves into a subject as much as they want to.  When they’re done, I don’t push them to do more.

They tell me what really excites them, and I try to facilitate their study.  I was taught in my education classes that a teacher was to be a facilitator of learning.  That is what I have tried to do in our homeschool.  It is producing good results.  My kids love to learn.

The Basics of Teaching Children Part 1

One of the things that people need to realize is that there are developmental levels that are not determined by age. Some ages tend to coincide with certain stages, but it’s not always true that a 6-year-old is ready to learn to read. I taught first grade in public school for 5 years, and I encountered plenty of 6-year-olds there who were not ready to read. Several of my own children have not been ready to read at 6. Some of them were. It has not been a matter of intelligence. It is just readiness and differing paces of development. My latest readers are extremely intelligent. They can remember details of what they’ve read, and they understand how to relate new information with what they already know so that the learning is thorough and in-depth.

To minimize stress and frustration, I wait until my children exhibit signs of readiness before I try to teach them to read. I expose them to letters and sounds from the time they are toddlers, but I don’t expect them to read words until they show me that they want to and that they understand that letters go together to make words. I do this with other subjects and topics, too. Trying to force them to learn something is never optimal. They may learn it for your “test”, but if the knowledge never becomes their own, they are not likely to retain it.

Calling All Caterpillar Lovers

If you like caterpillars, you should keep checking my post about my Blessed Birthday. I have been taking pictures of my Monarch caterpillar every day and charting his growth and changes. It is thrilling to me. He has grown to about 3 times the size he was when we first found him. We keep having to go collect new leaves and flowers for him. We have almost used up the sources nearby and have taken to the ditches to try to find more Milkweed plants. It’s a family project. I’m getting excited. He should be making a chrysalis in a few days. Keep checking for new pictures of his progress. I’m adding them every day to this post.

Update:

Now I’m adding new caterpillar updates to this post.