August 2012

The Miracle of Birth: Guppies and Purple Finches

Recently one of the female guppies in our fish tank gave birth to a school of fry (baby fish). Guppies are one of the few species of fish that give birth to live young instead of laying eggs. She started delivering during lunch (our fish tank is next to our dining room table), so we noticed right away. My children were able to watch the miracle of birth. I must admit that I was fascinated myself at how a fry can be born curled up and start swimming before it even completely unfolds after birth (a few seconds). 

A few days after our fish gave birth, I noticed a purple finch building a nest in a hanging flower basket on our front porch. I took the basket down once a day to show my children the progress-an empty nest on day 1, a nest with 1 egg on day 2, a nest with 2 eggs on day 3, and so on. When the hatchlings (newly hatched baby birds) started to hatch, I was amazed to see the changes in them daily!

My kids learned a lot about life in the real world. More than they could ever learn from a book. I was amazed at how much I learned from watching these two miracles of birth this spring. What a blessing from God for us to be able to witness both of these miracles of birth so close together!

We live in town, so we are not allowed to own many animals. One of the reasons that we have guppies, is for this very reason-so that our children get to witness the miracle of life in the real world. There is nothing that compares to witnessing this first hand. If your children haven’t seen the miracle of birth in some form in real life, I encourage you to find a way to give them this opportunity. Here are a few ideas of how to facilitate this:

  1. Get a pet that is capable of giving birth. This could be a cow or a dog or a mouse or a guppy fish. Taking care of an animal is also a great way for a child to learn responsibility.
  2. Build a habitat for an animal in your yard. It could be a bird house, or an area for a rabbit to make a nest. This could be a research project as well to determine what a particular animal likes to encourage it to build its nest where you want it too. 
  3. Cooperate with a friend that has animals. See if they will notify you when their animal is about to give birth. Even if it’s in the middle of the night, it could teach your children that birth is not something that we can control and sometimes isn’t convenient.
  4. If it doesn't conflict with your values, have your kids present when you give birth (if you’re still having kids). This is something I have not done as I have three boys and my daughter is just too young.

For those of you that have witnessed the miracle of birth with your children, how were you able to give them the opportunity? What is one thing they learned from it?

A Report That’s Not Necessary?


In my state, Minnesota, writing a year end report of my child’s yearly progress is not a requirement. So why would I do it?

  1. Review and Encourage
    My year end report is a way for me to review my year and track my child’s progress. See what worked well and what needs to change. I can refer back to last year’s report when I’m having a rough day and be encouraged with all that I have done in the past with that particular child. It helps me know that I am doing something productive with my child’s and my time throughout the year.
  2. Spouse involvement
    My year end report helps communicate to my husband what our child has learned this year and what level he is currently at. It is a nice summary for my husband to read that makes it easier for him to participate in decisions regarding the upcoming school year. 
  3. Documentation
    My year end report is a great yearly summary for my child’s educational file. It is easily accessible for any future reference. It helps make it easier for me when I am trying to recall details about that grade for the next child that I am teaching. It’s a nice documentation of “just in case”. Having it in a file helps put my mind at ease should a “just in case” day ever arise. 

What I include:

I list the curriculum I have used throughout the year. I list textbooks and workbooks, but not library books that I have check out throughout the year (I actually record those separately throughout the year).

Minnesota requires instruction in eleven subjects, so I make sure to include a few sentences or a short paragraph for each required subject. I also include a few extra subjects such as religion or foreign language. I include what they learned (Reading-Child can read and write ABC’s. or Math-Child can do 2 digit multiplication.), what they did well (Science-Child enjoys science projects and conducts them well. or Art-Child can draw detailed nature pictures.), and what they need to work on (Writing- Child often forgets to punctuate his sentences. or Physical Education- Child has trouble catching a baseball when thrown from a distance of 10 feet or more.). I often use “Home Learning Year by Year” by Rebecca Rupp as a guide for what to include in my report for subjects like Language Arts and Math. For other subjects like Science or History that may not follow the typical course of study for other children my child’s age, I often use the Table of Contents or book summary of the textbook we used. 

Sample paragraph:

Writing - Child can write upper & lower case letters and numbers. He occasionally writes some letters backwards, or uses the incorrect case. He can write short letters (such as thank you notes) using inventive spelling. Some improvement is needed with holding his pencil correctly and forming some letters in the proper stroke sequence (such as starting at the top when writing an L). 

I also include a list of the field trips the child has taken throughout the year. 

I like things to be neat and tidy at the end of the year before I start the next year. This makes it easier for me to decide what documentation to keep and what to purge. It helps me when I plan for following years. Staying organized helps me stay less stressed, makes things in our home run smoother and allows us more time to focus on the things that are more important in our lives. 

How do you organize at your year end?