I love homeschooling, and had hoped to do it for the duration of the children’s school years.  We have enjoyed their inquisitiveness and the love of learning it instills in the children.  But now, I think it might be time to re-think that plan. 

You see, the other day, one of S’s co-workers discovered some large caterpillars on his tomato plants, collected them, and brought them in to work to give to S.  He figured they would make some great treats for the chickens.  S brought them home, and showed the children.  They were so impressed by the size of these things, they wanted to keep them. 

Just for the record, we are talking the biggest caterpillars I have ever seen.  No, I haven’t held one, though I have tried desperately to allow my children to enjoy them while turning a blind eye.

Well, that blind eye apparently came back to bite me, as the next thing I knew, S had built them a terrarium out of our old rabbit nest box and some scrap plexi-glass he had.

The next time I walked downstairs, the thing was sitting in the family room, with branches from my tomato plants to feed the caterpillars!

So, I took a deep breath and found myself evaluating the situation.  There were t-rex-sized caterpillars INSIDE my house, and the tomato plants I had worked so hard to grow had become their food.  Yet, when I saw the children’s excitement, I couldn’t help but realize that this was a perfect example of why we homeschool.

So, I grabbed my reference book, and figured it was time to join in the insanity.  We discovered the caterpillars are likely Hawk Moths, also known as the Tomato Sphinx and the Hornworm, and can grow up to 6 inches long.  Guess where they like to live?  Gardens.  Go figure.  After some experimenting with different foliage, we learned that the caterpillars had no desire for any leaves EXCEPT my beautiful tomato plants.  So after threatening the kids with their lives if they allowed those caterpillars to escape into MY garden, I agreed to allow them to feed the caterpillars clippings from my tomato plants, as long as they chose clippings that had no tomatoes or flower buds. 

For the last week and a half, they have kept these caterpillars alive in the terrarium, using a little bottle cap they found to hold water, and feeding them a periodic supply of tomato branches.  In the last few days, the caterpillars have become very sluggish, and are changing shape a bit.  I don’t yet know if the day or two the kids forgot to feed them is the cause, or if they are in the early stages of their transformation into a moth.  Alas, I guess this is one of life’s great lessons in a homeschool family.  We wait, and see, and look for opportunities to learn. 

Oh, and no, I’m not giving up on homeschooling.  I am just going to have to resign myself to the fact that, in order to continue, I must grow a thicker skin, and accept that there will likely be many more strange and unwanted things finding their way into our home.  It’s all part of the learning experience.

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