This is story about what a hack I am as a teacher.
Someday soon I think I will hear a knock on my door and the authorities will be there saying, "Ma'am, it is time you turn your child back over to the public educational system. No more of these homeschool shenanigans."
My sister-in-love, Kristi, is a very devoted and talented teacher (who also has a mind a bit like a genius). She casually mentioned to me that she was going to raise tadpoles with her class and that maybe it would be fun to do that with Ella.
YES! Real-life, hands on learning! If our homeschool were organized enough to have a philosophy it would be that!
So Ella and I start researching. I really, really don't want to kill a tank of innocent tadpoles, especially not before the trustful eyes of a 10-year-old. We get our act together and realize we have much of what we need at home.
It was a Monday in late April and the girls were both with me at a hair appointment and they start telling our hairdresser, Suzi, that we are going to raise tadpoles. Suzi gives us some advice as to where there are some ponds, gives us some tupperware, Ziplocs and a laddle she has laying around to support our educational endeavor. We stop at the Dollar Store and pick up a couple of buckets and trudge in the rain with our inappropriate footwear to scout some ponds.
No tadpoles eggs.
I google "when do frogs lay eggs in Maine" and can't decipher and answer. I call Kristi. She says it is too early because the spring peepers haven't started peeping. They apparently peep as a mating call and the result of their nocturnal flings with the bullfrogs are the eggs we seek.
Of course. I didn't know that.
We wait a week. It warms up. Trish and Brock tell us they have a frog pond on their property so that Sunday we go on a tadpole hunt while my mom is visiting. We fail to dress the kids appropriately for all the bramble and they scratch their legs to pieces.
On the way, Ella and I become alarmed at the possible presence of poison ivy. Ella doesn't have a good track record with this plant (the last time she got it she rubbed her face with her infected hands and she looked like she had a balloon under her skull for a week). Brock says he is pretty sure they are strawberry plants.
I google it to be sure. (Have I mentioned I have to google things all day long as a teacher? How did homeschoolers survive before google?) Brock, of course, is right. It is the innocent strawberry plant.
Hallelujah! We find some tadpole eggs! We scoop up pond water and greens to sustain our new charges and trudge back home.
I have to admit, as we boil lettuce for the creatures-to-be, rig the aquarium light and aerator and position rocks so when the tadpoles lose their gills they won't drown, I keep thinking this would be a miracle if it worked...
Nothing for a few days. Then some very tiny creatures begin to flit around. Tadpoles! Ella says, "No, those don't look like tadpoles, Mom."
Ah, ye of little faith. Watch and wait....
But as I proudly watch them grow larger, I have to admit they don't look a LOT like tadpoles. They look more like centipedes with a whispy notched tail. I call Kristi.
Mosquitoes. We are cultivating mosquito larvae. Just what the world needs. This is what happens when you are not a "real" teacher: you grow mosquitos, not tadpoles, I tell myself.
I was going to give my kids learning on a plate, or at least in an aquarium. The kind of learning that is fun and effortless and gives life to wonder and amazement.
And instead we raised mosquitos.
I see where you are going to head with this. I know, I know. There is still value in the learning of what didn't happen, of the unintended happening, of the process and the intention behind the project. Isn't the trajectory of science itself? And I wholeheartedly agree. But there is something so profoundly hilarious to me about the whole thing.
I thought we were raising tadpoles (Said good morning to them! Fed them boiled lettuce!) and they were MOSQUITOS! The bane of our summer existence in the state of Maine!
A few days later, after thinning the tank of our growing herd of mosquitos, I see some other creatures that could only be described as the curly-Q of a piece of cooked quionoa. They are shrimp-like, with little flicking tails that propel them through the water. Tadpoles!!!
"No," Ella says, once again. "Those aren't tadpoles. I'm telling you, Mom."
Of course, she is right yet again. I still don't know what those little things were but as they grew, they were evidently NOT tadpoles. Clearly she learned something from all that research.
Yesterday, after observing 2 actual mosquitos flying in the house I ousted the tank outdoors.
I'm teaching 2 divisor long division to Ella and I keep getting the wrong answers. I thought I had a good handle on grammar but it turns out there is a murky gray area in the world of prepositions that I don't fully understand. I didn't know tadpole eggs could exist in a pond and not be fertilized. My daughter officially knows more than I do about the technology in our house.
Frankly, there is so much I don't know that it can leave me breathless and paralyzed.
But I do have a very good understanding of how standing water breeds mosquitos. And, if we are keeping score (which thank goodness we are not), we did SUCCESSFULLY raise 2 mosquitos.
You're welcome world.