Silkworms

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(originally written in 2008)

We’re watching anxiously for the first buds on our mulberry tree. That’s when we can take the eggs out of the fridge. Silkworm eggs, that is. We got into the ‘business’ of raising silkworms by default last spring: we have a mulberry tree (which is the only kind of leaves silkworms will eat), and some hungry worms needed a home.

This is one of my favorite things about homeschooling: a simple inheritance serves as a springboard to learning. Watching the silkworms grow, our daughter wanted to know all about metamorphosis, ancient China, and textile crafts. Rather than reading about science and doing experiments ‘in a vacuum’, she can watch these little worms grow, then spin their cocoons and emerge as beautiful moths. She can even use the silk threads in homemade paper and other crafts.

Our trips to the library resulted in armloads of books on butterflies and moths. Now we’re even planning a butterfly garden in our yard. We also found lots of great web sites detailing life cycles of silkworms and how to care for them. I am teaching my daughter “how” to learn. I’m giving her the confidence to follow her own interest, her own intuition.

Whether you are homeschooling or not, don’t be afraid to take on new challenges like this. Don’t worry about your own lack of experience or knowledge. I didn’t have a clue about how to take care of a worm. My only experience with having a worm as a pet was watching Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street. So now, not only was I teaching my daughter, I was learning too.

This year, I’m hoping to use our worms to further “teach” basic science skills. She can hone her powers of observation, measure and chart the worms’ growth, and later experiment with ways to use the silk threads. She’ll practice her writing skills in keeping a journal of their changing lives. She’s having fun, and she’s learning.

So, keep checking back. We’ll post pictures of our babies as they hatch and develop. Maybe we’ll even post excerpts from Allie’s journal.

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