November 5, 2013

Working Out the Bugs During School Time

This is a humble story about a boy, a bug, and a mom who tried something new.

Once upon a time, a homeschooling family of 5 lived in a place that twice a year, became overrun with Box Elder bugs.  They would move into houses like invading armies and could be seen like a black cloud working its way up the walls towards the windows of almost every home in town.  All of the windowsills were full of bug carcasses, as if every Box Elder bug's plan was to drop dead the moment it reached its promised land of the great indoors.

And in that town, there was a young boy who considered himself to be at one with all of nature.  He would easily become distracted by any bird outside the window, wondering what it had for breakfast.The moo of the neighbor's new baby calves caused him to plan an afternoon visit with a handful of weeds later in the afternoon.  His mom was always telling him, "Hunter, ignore the bird and finish your math."  Sometimes he could.  Many times he couldn't.  But when the Box Elder bugs arrived each fall, he was positively overcome with worry for each one's little life and fate in the window sill.  This was an almost insurmountable distraction.

And it was on just such a fall day that the boy was sitting on his bed reading Gulliver's Travels during silent reading time that he spotted a Box Elder bug in his very own window sill.  "Mom, can I stop reading and take this Box Elder bug outside?  Please, mom!"  And in that moment, the boy's mom, who was a great lover of focus and believed in training oneself to overcome distractions, had a choice to make.  She had tried everything to help the little boy focus when birds and bugs were near, and nothing ever seemed to work.  He was, at his very core, a lover of all things creepy and crawly, furry and feathery.  In that moment, the boy's mom decided to try something she had never tried before.  In fact, it was something that when she was a teacher, she had been explicitly instructed never to do.  

She told him to mark his place and take the bug outside.  She let him give in to the distraction and get it out of his system.  She caved to the little bug, even during school time.  Her teaching professors would have been so disappointed. They would have warned her that now she had surely lot control of her class, that every bug would now have to be liberated, that every distraction would now have to be catered to.  But she had tried the conventional way, with her unconventional boy and it hadn't worked.  Maybe for a mom who had not spent years training in the fine art of classroom management, this choice wouldn't have seemed all that momentous.  Maybe it would have been the obvious choice.  But for this mom, this choice was huge.  It felt like a risk!  She felt like she knew better than to do it.  But she did it anyway.

The boy happily scooped up the bug, skipped through the front door and found the bug a yellow leaf to sit on.  And then, with nothing more than a thank you, he went right back to his book, able to focus knowing that his little bug friend wasn't frying in the hot window.  He fell right back into the story and his mom sat down for a moment to reflect on what had happened, on how no control was lost, a relationship was nurtured not just between the boy and his bug, but between the boy and his mom.  It felt good listening to the child and not the pedagogy.  She felt a bit liberated and a bit defiant all because she treated her son like a person and not like a rebellious mob as she had been trained to.  It was the beginning of something good.


  1. Yay! He's probably the next Gerald Durrell. We MUST watch "My Family and Other Animals" together sometime. One of my favorite movies...

  2. I have no idea what that means, but I'm always up for a movie night!


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