Monday, February 28, 2011

How we do Science

As some of you know, I tried to follow a curriculum in the beginning of our homeschool journey. This approach didn't work out so well for us and that is why we unschool now. I still have all of the books and continue to purchase books that follow a curriculum (The Well -Trained Mind), but we just don' follow it (at least not how it is intended). Instead, I've found that my kids love to learn through books. So, instead of following a course outline ("say this to your kids, ask them that, now do this, have them do that... bla bla bla... etc.") I now just order the books from the book list at the end of the long description. Much of what is suppose to be done is usually in the books anyway. So, what I do is read what they originally intended to myself so that I have an understanding of what is to be learned and I just go ahead and order the books from the library. If not all of the experiments are covered in the books through reading and doing, I see if we want to do them after.

This applies to most subjects and seems to work better for us. The kids aren't bored, seem to enjoy it more this way, and they seem to retain the information better. Here is an example of how we do Science, and remember that this is only done when they want to. It's never forced. I have many science experiment books available for experiments when we feel like it but I also have a book that was intended for Grade 2 of the Well-Trained Mind. 

This book is called Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding by Bernard J. Nebel, Ph.D. I find it to be laid out in a way that would be used for a class room of kids by a teacher or a large homeschooling family with children of many ages. It claims to be for grades kindergarten to grade 2, but seems to overlap many ages in how things are suppose to be done. The book lists at the end of each lesson, however, work out perfectly for the ages of my kids.

Each lesson is long and drawn out in it's explanation of what needs to be done. This would work well for a regular homeschool family or school situation, but it doesn't usually work well here. I tried it for a couple of the lessons and decided to get rid of it for the rest of them. I love that I can read the lesson to myself, though, and I can go forward with an understanding of what my kids should learn. I review the experiments and keep them in mind for after we read the books from the list in case they were not done while reading those books. 

So, for example when learning about matter, one lesson was all about understanding that air is matter. There was a book list at the end. Here are three of the books we read. I find the books recommended are rich in information and not boring. In many cases there are experiments in them for the kids to do and we do the experiments as we read along. If Zoe gets bored or isn't interested she is allowed to leave the room and go do her own thing.

Keep in mind Austyn does experiments of different kinds on his own as he gets ideas and he loves to study nature. Interest led (unschooling) doesn't mean that he never learns anything out of his own experiences. I believe that the more he has access to the better. Facilitating a rich environment and setting up activities that he loves naturally in our home is a great way to expand his knowledge without dictating what he has to learn or when he has to learn it and if anything seems unenjoyable we just don't continue (hasn't happened yet with doing it this way). This approach seems to work here. I know that Austyn loves science and he loves doing most of his subjects this way especially when he has run out of things to do on his own. I may get the books as a way of facilitating his learning but through the books he feels in control of his own learning by insisting on doing the experiments and initiating related conversations on his own.

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