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Reason #365 to homeschool: learning for yourself, too

We spent some time in our garden this weekend. This is the time of year that we are in the garden the most: it's a great time to put in plants, it's an important time to weed, it's sunny but not too hot. This weekend in the garden we discovered an enemy in the form of the Colorado Potato Beetle. It's the larvae that caught my attention—fat little grub like things dressed to look like a lady bug—all over one of my plants. Upon closer inspection we discovered several leaves with eggs, and probably almost fifty of the fat, greedy little larvae themselves. We don't have any potatoes planted, and they were light bug-years away from our vegetable gardens, but there they were nonetheless. Since as a family we honor and respect all life (it's with a certain amount of horror that I watch other children deliberately and triumphantly squash bugs on the sidewalk) there was a somewhat unwelcome lesson to be learned and taught as we systematically eradicated (squashed) the entire colony and even removed the plant to the fire pit. Our first family case of "it's either us or them."

Before this weekend I'd had no idea of their existence—none at all—and now I live in mortal fear of these insects decimating my eggplant (because next to potatoes I guess that's what they like best). It's a real fear, because last year we lost the last of our tomato crop to a giant tomato hornworm, and the year before that we lost the last of our squash plants to squash bugs. Thanks to our gardens we sure are getting to know a lot of pests. As Jon said to me over the insect carnage in our street this past weekend "Why haven't I ever seen these things before? Where have they been? Where did they come from?" He is talking about not only all these dangerous bugs, but also about new plants, animals, birds, ecological situations, that we've discovered together over the past couple of years between gardening and nature hikes and all manner of exploration.

With or without homeschooling in our lives we were likely to run into the aforementioned terrors, but without our inquisitive five year old we might have handled the problem and been done with it. Instead, we've learned about these creatures and about coexisting with them. And bugs aren't the only thing; homeschooling with Calvin has pushed me out of my standard comfort zone and has given me a reason, a need even, to become a perpetual learner in all fields. The flipside of that coin, of course, is that anyone who is willing and able to learn can homeschool, all it requires is the audacity to believe that it can be done.

No, I'm not a rocket scientist, but I can help my son learn how to find the answers he seeks or get the help that he needs to start down the path to become one if he should so choose. I'm not an agriculturalist, either, but after this weekend I can tell you a lot about the Colorado Potato Beetle, including how to get and keep them out of your garden.

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