Rekindle: Butterflies

Were you hoping to homeschool through the summer – only to find the lure of sun and fun too much? No worries, you can hatch a weeks-long summer experiment packed with all kinds of learning that’s cloaked in wonder and excitement – and not a whole lot of work for you.

Your kids already know some of the basic facts about the life cycle of the butterfly and how you should never touch their wings. Take their love for butterflies a step further by watching the life cycle in action.

Just remember, caterpillars are living creatures, just like your pet dog and tank full of fish. You wouldn’t skip feeding your puppy for 3 days, would you? Caterpillars need proper care and humane treatment, too.

Here’s some Do’s and Don’ts for raising caterpillars successfully inside your home.

Identifying Caterpillars


  • Do identify the caterpillar you’ve brought into your home.
    Use the Butterfly and Moth Regional Database to identify the living creature you are hoping to watch grow into a butterfly. This amazing resource will help you narrow down by geography and photographs, what caterpillar you found. This necessary information will allow you to properly feed the caterpillar so it can advance in its lifecycle.
  • Do create an appropriate terrarium environment for your caterpillars.
    If you are not using a Butterfly Larvae Kit, you will need to make sure you place fresh leaves in your habitat tank daily; keep sticks in the tank so the caterpillars have someplace to spin their coccoon; and make sure the tank does not get too hot from direct sunlight.
  • Do clean the caterpillar poo in your tank daily.
    What can I say! Caterpillars are eating machines – and what goes in, must come out. A wet paper towels can easily do the trick to wipe out the bottom of your tank. And, if you must know, the technical term for what you’re cleaning is “frass”.
  • Do make sure your tank is big enough.
    Once your new butterfly emerges from its cocoon, it needs enough space to be able to spread its wings and flutter a bit. Even a giant size mayo jar will be too small.
  • Do release your butterfly within 24 hours of its emerging.
    After all that hard work of transforming into a beautiful butterfly, a creature has got to eat – and for a butterfly that means they’ll be looking for colorful flowers with some tasty nectar.
  • Do feed the butterflies.
    If you want to enjoy the beauty of butterflies after your release, give them a reason to stick around. Caterpillars are particular about the plants they eat for survival. Know what caterpillars you are raising and see if you can add the right type of plant to your garden.
  • Do keep a small wet spot or “puddle” somewhere in your garden.
    Butterflies drink muddy water for the essential minerals that are in the dirt.


  • Don’t take an already-spun chrysalis off a branch and bring it home.

    Cocoons and the metamorphizing larvae inside are very delicate. Handling an actual chrysalis may seriously harm or kill the butterfly-to-be. If you really need to bring a chrysalis home, gently cut the branch and be sure to remember which end is up, before you place it in your tank.
  • Don’t keep wilted leaves in your tank.
    Caterpillars get much-needed water from the fresh leaves that they eat. You can keep leaves fresh by sticking the cut end into a small jar of water. Cover the top of the jar with a plastic wrap kept in place with a rubber band. Poke a hole in the wrap so you can stick the branch into the water. This keeps the leaves fresh and the caterpillars from drowning.
  • Don’t touch or handle the caterpillars.
    Caterpillars are fragile creatures. Caterpillars are great climbers and they use their many legs to cling to branches. Trying to pull a caterpillar off of a stick may actually rip one of its legs off. If you must “pet” your caterpillars, be sure to wash your hands before and afterwards so you don’t pass on any bacteria.
  • Don’t worry if your caterpillar looks tired or turns a different color.
    If your caterpillar starts moving less and stops eating after it’s gotten big, chances are it’s getting ready to molt and spin its chrysalis. Pay attention because this is when the magic begins!
  • Don’t be disappointed if a butterfly never emerges.
    Some caterpillars never make it out of their cocoon. One reason may be because a fly or bee larva was living on your caterpillar without your knowing. If more than 4 weeks pass after the chrysalis forms and nothing emerges, you can carefully slice it open to examine what it looks like on the inside.
  • Don’t release your newly hatched butterfly too soon.
    When a butterfly first comes out of its cocoon, it’s wings are weak and wet. The baby butterfly must flex its wings to strengthen them. Putting a newly hatched butterfly outside to dry its wings and prepare for its first flight faster puts it at risk from attack by hungry birds. Trust me. Watching this part of the circle of life can be traumatic for a little one who has invested themselves in this project.
  • Don’t use insecticides in your garden.
    Butterflies are insects. Insecticides are designed to kill insects. See the problem?


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Power of Choosing Motherhood

Just a simple thought to leave you with today.


When we choose to homeschool we assume tremendous responsibility for not just raising our children to the best of our ability, but also for providing our kiddos with the best education that fits their needs.

Regardless of whether or not we have an alphabet soup of letters that come after our name, representing years of your own post-secondary education, most of us are reduced to being seen as “Janey’s mom” and not much more.

On those tough days – when we wish there was a little something more that we could claim as our own – it’s important to remember that we all have a little Molly Weasley deep inside, ready to come out when it’s most important.

Read More Everyday Learning Personal Musings

Boston Marathon

Background: The first Boston Marathon was run on April 19, 1897, a year after the 1st modern Olympics. Runners traveled a 24.5 mile path through the city. The distance was changed to 26.2 miles in 1908.

The marathon was held on the 19th, which also happened to be Patriot’s Day – a regional holiday marking the start of the Revolutionary War.

In 1966, the first woman unofficially ran the Boston Marathon, but only after hiding in the bushes and starting after the race began. The following year, a woman entered the race by using initials on her entry form to hide her gender. Race officials tried to remove her from the race, but friends and other runners protected her from the physical assaults. Marathon officials finally allowed women to enter the race in 1972.

How You Can Explore the Day:

  1. Physical Education and Diversity:
    In 1975, the Boston Marathon allowed wheelchair racers to join. The first person to win this division completed the marathon in two hours, 58 minutes. The fastest foot running time of 2 hours 3 minutes 2 seconds was set by Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya in 2011.

    Measure a reasonable distance, grab a stopwatch (your cellphone has one) and a clipboard and set up your own track meet to compare race times. How fast can your kids run the distance? What’s the time difference if they use a scooter or a bike to race, instead? Make a chart to organize your information. Get your friends to join the fun and then you can average out times for different age groups and make a bar chart to compare who is the speediest.

  2. Physical Education and Coping Skills:

    Read the Tortoise and the Hare, the folktale that talks about speed versus endurance. After taking a rest break and rehydrating from your previous foot race, measure a longer distance to run. Talk about why pacing yourself is important if you want to make it to the end.

    Other topics to talk about include: When is racing through a task a good idea? What is confidence and why is too much confidence not a good thing? What is the difference between taking your time and dawdling?

  3. History and Civic Responsibility:
    Roberta Gibb tells her story about why she sneaked her way into the Boston Marathon in 1966. Katherine Switzer was the first woman to officially run in the Boston Marathon. You can read a bit about her life and how she went from a wannabe cheerleader to an athletic icon at the age of 20.

    Both of these women present a powerful example of what happens when you decide to break a rule that you think is unfair. Talk with your kids about rules and laws in the home and in the community. What rules apply only to children? Are they fair? What can kids do if they think they’re being treated unfairly? What about accepting consequences when they break a rule on purpose?

  4. Geography:
    Look at a map and/or a globe and locate Boston. What state is it in? Locate your home state. Talk about the differences between the two locations.

    Take a look at the picture above. It was taken in mid-April. What clues can you find in the picture about the type of weather Boston usually has in April? How is that weather different from the state where you live? Why do you think the weather is different?

Share Your Ideas
What are you doing today to learn about the Boston Marathon?