We have two dogs, two cats, and a flock of laying hens – and this means we have plenty of opportunity for biological studies through animal care.
The other day, a persistent ear infection landed Dixie, and subsequently Emily and I, at the vet. Dixie is 12 years old and a mutt. Both my girls are mutts – aren’t they better when they’re mutts? I regularly check the dogs’ ears for any signs of infections. They tend to be more prone to them during the winter months – and recently Dixie had been giving that peculiar little headshake that seems to accompany ear infections.
Emily is always excited and eager to help. To clean the dog’s ears means pinning the dog down, pouring in ear cleaning solution and then carefully cleaning out the ears with a small pile of q-tips. Emily would love to squeeze the fluid in and insert the q-tips if I would let her – but she’s a little young yet. Instead she gets to be super helper girl and pass me clean q-tips and pet the dog while I clean away. After nearly two weeks, however, the ear wasn’t getting any better. Time to see the vet.
When we arrived I mentioned to the vet that Emily is homeschooled. He seemed very receptive to this (most people are) and explained that Dixie probably had a yeast infection in her ear, but that he needed to take a sample look at it under the microscope and rule out the possibility of mites.
“A microscope?” Emily piped up, instantly interested.
“Would it be possible for Emily to look at it under a microscope as well?”
The microscope was back behind, in the inner sanctum of the vet’s office, and I saw him hesitate for a moment. “We would be very careful – as homeschoolers we treat all of life as a learning opportunity.” I said glibly, hoping he wouldn’t cite liability insurance or some such concern.
Instead he just nodded and told us to wait for a moment and after he had looked at the slide he would come and get us to come back and look. It was hard to make out what it was, but apparently it was as he suspected, yeast. I must confess, I had hoped for a mite or two wiggling about, but mites tend to only strike puppies and kittens. Our girl just had a nasty yeast infection.
All of this left me feeling brilliant, however, simply because I thought to ask. How often do we let natural learning opportunities pass us by? Better yet, how many others are willing, and even possibly excited, at the opportunity to share their knowledge?
Dr. Wayman led us back to his microscope and we got to both look at the sample. It took a bit of adjusting for Emily, who needed the eye pieces moved closer together. He explained what we were looking at and answered Emily’s questions – and I can’t help but feel it was a better experience than I ever had, peering through a microscope and struggling to understand the relevancy of looking at an onion cell, compared with “holy cow, that’s the gunk from Dixie’s ear, up close!”
A big part of homeschooling remains, for me, the reminder to slow down and be open to the learning possibilities. I work on that every day. Some days, I feel successful, and others…not so much.
A work in progress, I guess.