What kid doesn’t like playing with Spit?

A couple of days ago the kids and I went to the neighbourhood park and took a short walk through the forest. We noticed an abundance of spittle bug nests. I’ve been aware of these since I was a child but didn’t realize until recently that there are actual bugs hiding inside them – I thought they were left behind by bugs, but when Daughter got her now much-beloved copy of Insects of the Pacific Northwest we discovered together that the blobs of spittle-like goo are actually the hiding places of spittle bug babies.

So, on our walk Daughter begged me to find the bug hidden inside. We did and they were delightfully colourful insects. There was only one specimen described in our Insect book: Philaenus spumaria, the Meadow Spittlebug. The photo showed the Nymph stage, a bug with a black head and thorax and a pale yellowish abdomen. We saw one of these in the woods, but most had bright orange abdomens. Then I found this page on the Twolined Spittlebug, whose nymph stage is described as follows: ” the red-eyed immature form may be yellow, orange, or white with a brown head”. This is exactly what we found most often on our walk. Here is a photo of the adult:

This is a perfect example of what Unschooling looks like in real life. A visit to the playground, an impromptu walk through the forest, and Bob’s-yer-Uncle we have a lesson on entymology. It helps that Daughter shares my love of the natural sciences. Bugs are a favorite subject of hers, and she loves to identify and classify the various creatures she encounters be it in our backyard, the forest, or along the beach. It has all the atmosphere of a treasure hunt for the kids, I have an “excuse” to pursue questions I might let languish in my brain for years, and the whole thing takes less time than a boring ol’ high school science lecture sandwiched between history and PE.

Daughter’s Learning Consultant (her personal “teacher” in our DL program) has pointed out that such outings develop a whole range of skills: observation, categorizing, referencing…not to mention it counts as physical activity. Later on when Daughter inevitably draws the insects she has found she’ll be developing her artistic and creative skills as well. She will want to write down the name of the bug, aiding in her language development. It is the LC’s job to translate our adventures into “Ministry-speak”, to reassure the bureaucrats who fund our program that the kids are actually learning something. It’s fun for me to see how many areas of learning Daughter explores while simply doing the things she enjoys. For her, however, it’s all just another day in a Life Without School.

Categories: learning is fun, natural learning | Leave a comment

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