Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Caterpillar Crazy

Our new 'Painted Lady' baby caterpillars arrived today... they are super tiny!!! The last set we received had been in the Post Office depot for a couple of days by the time we got them, so we never saw any this teeny weeny (5mm long - Eldest measured them)!  For some reason Insect Lore decided to send me a huge 'pavilion' net (which I hadn't ordered) as a thank you.  I would get rid of it as clutter is the bane of my life, but I have a feeling it is quite likely to come in handy soon - you see, not content with having a new set of  baby caterpillars in the house, we now also have a second little net cage with caterpillars in!  We had the spare enclosure already from when Eldest used to have Stick Insects a couple of years ago, so the tiny Painted Lady ones will have their own home next to our newbies that have taken up residence...

caterpillar corner

the new teenie weenies

As yesterday afternoon was nice and dry, we went out to one of our favourite bug-hunting locations, Mardley Heath and had a glorious time there, just enjoying nature & the big outdoors :)  Mummy caught a little froglet which delighted the boys, and we saw LOTS of bugs including bees, snails, soldier beetles, wolf spiders (we think) carrying egg sacs, and some beautiful stripy caterpillars!  There were loads of these caterpillars everywhere we looked, so I was confident they were probably not an endangered species, and we brought a few home with us along with some stems of ragwort that they were feeding on (ragwort being a weed so we were OK to pick it - and I made sure we all gave our hands a really good wash when we got home as it is slightly toxic, but only really to horses and cattle who eat it in vast quantities).  Anyway, once home we discovered to our delight that our newly-acquired caterpillars would turn into Cinnabar moths.  I'd had a feeling that as the caterpillars were so beautiful, they would probably turn into boring moths - but although I happened to be right about the moth bit, Cinnabars are actually really pretty - I do hope they make it!  Of course, we're not experts, but we're keeping the habitat topped up with fresh ragwort - and we can only hope that they will pupate and emerge given time.  I was concerned about whether they would need something special to hang from before assuming chrysalis form, but it tunrs out they usually pupate on or under the ground - so they should be fine :) Obviously, as wild creatures I'm drumming it into the boys that assuming they successfully metamorphosize, they will be released back into the location where we collected them.
Wild creatures or not though, the boys have given them names (the five Painted Lady caterpillars are named after the five members of our family).  The cinnabar caterpillars are now called Hermie, Wormie and Frank, from a series of films that the boys love called "Hermie and Friends", about a Caterpillar who thinks he's too common and boring, until he realises that God made everything special in some way.  It's a nice gentle lesson for the boys in accepting themselves for who they are, and of course it was especially enjoyable because of the boys knowing all along that he was going to turn into a beautiful butterfly, such is their expert knowledge now ;)

Hermie (so I'm told)

So with all our new creepy-crawlie friends in the house, this afternoon went a bit caterpillar-crazy too!  Middle and Youngest had a lovely time making a giant caterpillar made of paper plates to display above our caterpillar habitats (seen above), and Eldest made some smartie cookies that were quickly displayed in caterpillar shape before being hastily eaten :)

cookie caterpillar

You know, even if we were structured in our approach to learning, I'm not sure I could have planned this as a 'project'.  Maybe I'm just not confident enough yet in the boys' willingness to go along with my plans - but whatever the reason, the fact that we're 'deschooling' still helps me to stay chilled about what we do - so any suggestions I make (like the paper plate caterpillar) are presented very casually - if they want to do it, great - but if it doesn't appeal to them, that's fine too.  My suggestions are a kind of verbal strewing: I put the ideas out there and just stand back to see which ones (if any) are picked up and enjoyed.  If they don't pick any up, I don't take it personally - I just go hunting for more ideas.  And actually, as they did pick up these ideas, I'm still going to hunt for more.  Once I've posted this, I'll be spending this evening surfing for further caterpillar inspiration!  I'll just keep going until they're ready to move on.

PS for the sake of keeping records (in case I wish I had, in future), today the boys also played on Maths Whizz (Eldest and Middle) and the CBeebies website (Youngest), made playdough models, turned paper plates into frisbees, and watched Deadly Art, Alphablocks & others on TV, read books, played games... and generally had fun!

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