We went to dinner last night with our family and I was asked a question that I'm asked very often:
Why do you homeschool Hope? Don't you think she would be better off at school?
I thought for a moment. This is a question I get asked very often - even in regards to Julia who is not autistic.
My response varies depending on what mood I'm in. Sometimes I will give a statistic; sometimes I will say "because I want to", and sometimes I will give a philosophical speech on the failing status of public education today.
But last night I gave a different answer: butterflies.
Let me explain.
Every year for 4H, Julia raises butterflies and observes the butterfly life cycle. We get them as larvae from Cornell in tiny little cups only about an inch high & wide. There is some food at the bottom that looks like brown sugar and the cups all have lids on tight to protect them.
The first year we did this project, we put the small containers on a shelf in my pantry where there was no direct sunlight. But I forgot about them.
I can't say I completely forgot. I just let our busy lives get in the way and I became careless. I didn't check on them every day. I didn't look for little changes. I just figured they were safe in their cups and doing what they were supposed to do.
Until the day when I finally had the time and looked in on them and indeed, they had hatched.
Inside the cups were no loner tiny little caterpillars but big butterflies. Sadly, the lids of the cups were still on and the butterflies' wings were crushed.
I brought them outside and took off the lids and tried to release them. I figured they would know what to do and be fine. But they were not. They weren't dead - but they may as well have been because they really couldn't fly. It didn't even seem as they knew what to do with their
wings; they had been in their sealed cups for too long. While I saw some attempts of fluttering, they just lay on my patio table.
I felt horrible. I didn't know what to do for them. So I just walked away.
Later when I came back they were gone. Whether they managed to fly or perhaps the wind just blew them away - I do not know, but I don't think they had much of a chance to survive.
This year, four years later, I'll admit I've gotten better at the whole butterfly life cycle business. Plus Julia is a lot older - so actually she plays an important role in taking care of everything.
We purchased a butterfly garden this year - one of those netting houses that has a lot of room for the butterflies. It still provides the security that they need, but the netting allows for more freedom. We placed our caterpillar cups inside and when the butterflies were in their cocoons, we took the lids off and taped them with the hanging chrysalis to the top.
Every day, we watched. At times the changes were so painfully slow that we wondered if anything was happening at all.
Sure enough, one by one, butterflies emerged leaving only an empty shell behind as a sign of their metamorphosis.
Then we realized it was time to release them. As sad as we were, we knew we had done our part and now it was time for the butterflies to be on their own.
So we took them outside to the backyard, unzipped the butterfly garden and out they flew with confidence, one by one, all with strong wings. They seemed to know where to go; as if they had a plan all along. So bright and beautiful, away they went to continue the circle of life. A reminder of God's miracles that He bestows upon us every day - even when we can't see that they are right in front of our eyes.
And that is why I homeschool.