Meet the leaf-footed bug. This member of the Coreidae family is pretty cool looking – and not exactly one you want to have in your garden. He’s a sapsucker and can do a good bit of damage to your plants. Unlike his cousin the stinkbug, he doesn’t smell horrible.
Up until about a month ago, I had never met a leaf-footed bug. In fact, I probably had, but I assumed they were stinkbugs. And we have tons of stinkbugs around here, so I’m sure I didn’t think twice about one with oddly shaped legs. But this one – this one I knew. This one caused me to whip my phone out and take a picture, chortling over the flared legs.
You see, I joined a group on Facebook called Antman’s Hill. It’s a group dedicated to identifying bugs. Most anything with enough legs qualifies, but not reptiles, amphibians, and worms or slugs. I’ve learned a good bit just scrolling through my news feed of bug pictures.
If you’re interested in joining, be prepared for an onslaught of spider pictures in your feed. I’ve seen enough brown recluse and widow spiders to give me nightmares, and those fishing spiders are something else entirely. Yikes! Still, it’s a great resource for homeschoolers. And it got me thinking.
We tell our kids it’s their job to learn. To learn about the world around them, to learn to be good citizens, to learn academic things like reading, math, and so on. They don’t work a full-time job, sure, but learning never stops. That’s why I love being a homeschooler: we can take the time to stop and look at leaf-footed bugs, dragonflies, praying mantis, and whatever else happens to come along.
So when, exactly, does learning stop? After high school? College? The answer isn’t about when, it’s about if it should stop at all.
If, like most of the adults I know, when you left college for the wide world of adulting and 9-5 jobs you probably rejoiced that you were done. Finished! No more studying, no more tests, no more academics. And the attitude is that learning stops. Sure, the academics stop, but I can tell you that I took my passion – art – far beyond what I learned in college. I went so far out that none of the college instructors even knew what I was talking about. Learning didn’t stop, it just became more organic, more integrated.
That’s the way it’s supposed to be. You grow and learn as a person. You try new things. You take that night class, or you go learn to throw pottery. You don’t stop.
I guess I should say that it’s a mindset. A mindset of curious. A lifestyle of learning.
For homeschoolers, it’s a natural lifestyle. It’s hand-in-hand with teaching. If my kids know that I’m interested and excited about something, then they’re far more likely to pay attention themselves.
I know that our summer butterfly project would never have happened if I hadn’t started searching the milkweed for caterpillars. But because I did, my kids are excited to be a part of something bigger than ourselves: helping to save the monarchs. They love releasing the butterflies and watching them fly away to freedom. They love watching the caterpillars eat – and one memorable day I took the kids to the garage (where the cats hung out while it rained) and had them all be still and quiet. They watched with awe on their faces as they could literally hear the cats eating.
Our kids need to see us learning and growing as people (not just as parents.) They need that example, that lifestyle of learning. And they need to see us follow our passions. Their lives will closely mirror ours as they grow, right up until the point that they diverge and grow into the person they will be. We can’t tell them how to do it, but we can show them a good example. We can show them to be passionate, involved, and interested people.
So if you want your child to learn and grow into the person that they are meant to be, then you need to do the same. You need to learn and grow. To expand your horizons and push yourself beyond your comfortable, cozy life. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not. But it’s worth it.
I’ve grown increasingly annoyed in our area lately, listening to whole groups of people converse in a language I can’t understand. I’m not annoyed at them – I’m annoyed that I cannot communicate with my neighbors. It’s really hard to build a sense of community if you cannot even communicate. So I’ve decided that not only am I going to do something about it, I’m going to help my children learn too.
I took 2 semesters of Spanish in college. Not much of it stuck, unfortunately. I understand maybe 1 word out of 5 – and my goal is to switch that around. To understand 4 out of 5 words: to be able to converse. The face of America is changing, and to be blunt, our kids need to be able to move freely between languages. They need to be bilingual at the very minimum.
So I’m making a conscious decision to start learning Spanish – because if I’m going to teach it to my kids, I need to know it myself. I’m not sure yet how we’re going to learn, but I’m starting to incorporate the Spanish words that I do know into our daily life. Funnily enough, the Destroyer responds better to ‘comprende?’ than to ‘do you understand?’
It’s a start.
My challenge to you is to get back into that hobby you abandoned. Rekindle that passion you had for something. Try something new, and explore. Show your kids what it means to live learning. If I can tackle learning a language that I really struggle with, then you can follow your dream too.
Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear what you’re diving into!