Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Caterpillar

I love educating my children at home. I love the freedom in choosing what my sons will learn. But sometimes, it can be daunting making the choices. Once I have made a decision, I find myself wondering, 'was that the right curriculum choice?'

About a year ago, I was at the point where educating my sons was a source of stress on both sides. I hated what we were doing, and so did the boys. Getting through a day without tears of frustration was a challenge. I was seriously considering enrolling them at the nearest school and questioning my decision to home school.

I shared my concerns with a friend who home schools her 2 boys and she introduced me to the idea of  reading aloud from 'living books', as opposed to workbooks. I borrowed a few books on the subject, and decided to abandon the workbooks and begin reading aloud books that were rich and full of life. I began to ask the boys to narrate passages back to me in their own words, and copy text from what we have read.

We all loved snuggling on the couch, or stretched out on a picnic rug outside and diving into a whole new world with our living books. The books sparked their imaginations. We no longer dreaded school work, but looked forward to it. But over time, doubts started to rise within me. I started to question whether they were really learning anything from all these living books.

And then yesterday, we found a caterpillar on our outdoor mat. Leader Boy Warrior excitedly found a container to put him in and ran to get our magnifying glass. On observing the little fellow, Courageous Boy Warrior said, "Mum that's a hawk moth caterpillar because it's got a hook on the end." What? Did my 5 year old just identify the caterpillar? I went and took down my copy of The Wonderland of Nature and looked for the hawk moth. He was right! And I thought he didn't listen when I read aloud.
After having a look at the caterpillar myself, I said, "He doesn't look very well does he?" He was moving slowly. Leader Boy Warrior then suggested, "Mum, maybe it's his time to turn into a pupa and die so he can become a butterfly, you know like in the poem." He then recited this poem word for word that he had learned in First Language Lessons:

The Caterpillar
Christina G. Rossetti

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry;
Take your walk
to the shady leaf, or stalk.

May no toad spy you,
May the little birds pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.

So as I cuddle up with my boys using the very unconventional teaching method of living books, I do so knowing that it is working. My boys are retaining knowledge, but best of all, they are enjoying the learning process, and so am I. I cannot think of a better way to spend time snuggling with the boys. No more tears of frustration, just trusting in the process. Education at it's best.

Still taking lessons from the King,



  1. What a wonderful day. You are obviously doing a great job with your boys.

    You should submit this post to the CM carnival. It's great!

    The photo of the caterpillar is fantastic as well!!

  2. It's wonderful that you found the concept of 'living books' or whole books... it's a much more relational way of living and teaching, isn't it? I loved hearing your story of the caterpillar. We'll be talking about nature study on the AH blog in June... be great if you'd submit this post ;)

  3. Hi love - I made it here, after facebooking for a few hours. You know the more I have spent the last couple of months with my gals, I have a strong desire to homeschool. I am praying that God will open a door for me to do that. I think I would love a program where they can go to school atleast twice a week and then I homeschool the rest of the week. Please pray with me on that area. Love you and you loving nature and kindness towards your children. May God continue to bless you my lovely friend. Love you always

  4. It was getting to know Charlotte Mason that really sealed the deal on my desire to homeschool. Didn't even think about it until WAY later that apparently I even named my child after her! Heehee. I LOVE living books and it continually amazes me the wealth of information my kids exhibit from what I would have considered "passing" exposure.

  5. We are hoping to home school our son too. I really want learning to be fun and interesting to him and I want him to see how what he's learning applies to life. I will have to check out the living books. Thanks for sharing about your home schooling experiences!! :)

  6. This is such a lovely idea..You are such a creative fun mama!!

    Aw, your son is too cute & such a smart little!

    What a crazy looking caterpillar too by the way..it will be interesting to see what sort of butterfly it turns into!

    Keep us posted lovely mama!

    God Bless ~* n' huGs

  7. Oh I love it when you see that your kids really are 'learning'. It just makes your heart leap. You are doing an amazing job with your boys.

  8. I honestly applaud and have much respect for those who home-school. It is no easy task, I get that!
    I love that you were affirmed in your efforts, that what you are doing is "sinking in".
    I can only imagine, from the little bit I've gotten to know your heart... that you are one outstanding Mother!

  9. Hi, Jo! I commented back to you on my blog, but I wasn't sure you would find it there.. I would love to get the recipes you mentioned!! Thanks for offering! :)


Thanks for sharing your thoughts on my lessons!

I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

Jo Princess Warrior xo