One of the best things about ‘doing school’ at home is discovering things together with my kids. In fact, many days don’t feel like we’re doing school at all, but rather just living life with curiosity and wonder.
I keep the word Explore in the window of our dining room where we spend a lot of time, and it’s such a good reminder. Exploring is a better description of what we’re doing on a daily basis than schooling. And isn’t that true for many of us throughout our lives?
Here’s an example of where our exploring took us one day. I love that it was no where on a syllabus or even in my plans, but it’s one of the more memorable ‘lessons’ we’ve had this year.
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Here is how it started. I was reading this book to my kids one day:
It’s called Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World. (Note: There is also one for Women in Art and Women in Sports). It’s a great book in itself, but this particular day it led us on a fun discovery.
We got to the biography of a woman named Maria Sibylla Merian whom I had never heard of before in my life. Born in Germany in 1647, she studied and chronicled the life cycles of bugs and butterflies. And she did so in some of the most incredibly beautiful, exquisitely detailed drawings that had/have ever been seen.
She even financed her own voyage to South America – in her fifties – to further her studies (and took her daughter with her – love that!), way before Darwin, and at a time when the field was dominated by men.
My kids were fascinated by her story, and so was I.
We went to the internet to see if there are any video biographies of this woman. There are. Here’s one. We watched it twice. (I also recommend this article from the Atlantic that I found later).
Then I searched for a used copy of her most famous book while my kids were in the yard with a bug box trying to catch (and observe, but not keep) as many things as possible:
The book arrived a few days later, and we spent a good chunk of the day looking through Merian’s gorgeous drawings like this one:
The book still sits in our dining room (probably freaking out our guests). It gives me a lot of joy, not only in its beauty, but also in the story of how it got to our table, which is the story of where our curiosity took us together one day.
It’s fun to think about people who will randomly discover one of Merian’s books in a used bookstore, or maybe on their own coffee table collection and will take the same journey of discovery in the opposite direction that we did to learn about a scientist who really really loved bugs.
My life is so much richer for knowing who this woman is. I feel like, in some small way, our little family going on this journey is also acknowledging her journey as a woman scientist and giving that the weight it deserves.
I love learning. I love that it gives me a deeper connection with my kids. I love that it connects us to the past in a beautiful web of all the things that others have learned before us. And I love that there is so much left to be explored.