“Object lessons should be incidental and spontaneous as objects and opportunities occur.” -Excerpt from Hours in the Out of Doors
The girls had only been outside for a moment when they called me over to look at a terrifying bug on our maple tree in the front yard. They were ready to swat it away with some sticks that they had already managed to arm themselves with, sure it was a giant mosquito, sure it was about to sting them, but I encouraged them, strongly, to put down their sticks and study it. Admire it, even, from a safe distance.
A quick search online reveals that it is a Giant Eastern Crane Fly and the sharp end of its abdomen that looks so much like a stinger is its harmless ovipositor or egg-laying part. As fearsome as it looks, we read that it is pretty much defenseless and is, therefore, a “common food source” to birds and bats, etc. We also read that it will be alive in this adult stage for only a few days, just long enough to mate and lay eggs or be eaten as the case may be, so we feel very fortunate to have seen it.
While we were still looking at the crane fly, Norah discovered a cluster of tiny, grey eggs stuck on the bark nearby. Are these the eggs this female crane fly is alive only a few days to lay? We don’t know for sure. But since it is on the tree right outside our front door, we will be able to keep an eye on this cluster almost daily to see what becomes of them… or what comes out of them.
While Norah was still pointing to the eggs, Avril yelled, “Spider!” We all looked to where she was pointing and watched as a tan spider crawled around the base of the tree for a few minutes. Again, we kept a safe distance. Norah noted how much the spider looked like the dry grass all around the base of the tree. It is remarkable how well he blends in. He’s quite hard to find if you don’t know he’s there. Can you see the spider in the above picture?
As the girls were still looking at the spider, I noticed this funnel-shaped web and called the girls over to see it. Again, I’d like to assure you all that we stood at a safe distance. We wondered if this web belonged to the same spider we were watching. Or was the owner hiding deep inside the funnel somewhere, like Norah then recalled that some spiders do from a book she had read sometime back, just waiting to crawl out, grab its prey and drag it back down the dark funnel into its nest?
And even as Avril and I were still peering down into the darkness of the funnel, Norah asked, “What’s this?!” I looked up to see her pointing to a bit of the lichen that is growing all over the soft bark of this, my favorite tree. I had asked that question for myself, to myself, years before and I was happy and proud that I could, for once, give my daughter a quick, confident answer. I took a moment and stroked a bit of it with my finger tip and said, mostly to myself, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it…”
Stroking some with her own finger then, I heard Norah say, mostly to herself, “It is…”
“Object-lessons should be incidental; and this is where the family enjoys so great an advantage over the school. It is almost impossible that the school should give any but set lessons; but this sort of teaching in the family falls in with the occurrence of the object.” -Charlotte Mason