Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Flirting with science

More today on the outlook for our continuing homeschool journey ...

When I started homeschooling, I will be honest and say that science was about the furthest thing from my mind. After all, I had to teach this child to read, by golly. So what if she was only four years old! There was work to be done! I concentrated on phonics and circling letters in workbooks and building words with neat little blocks. In other words, I wasted a whole lot of energy while Jo learned to read almost in spite of me. And there was no time for any "real" science.

As I have previously revealed, my husband and I chose Calvert homeschool materials for our daughter's first official year of "school." This program came complete with some of the most boring black and white line-drawing science worksheets that you can possibly imagine, as well as the exact same thin science textbook my husband used in 1977. I wish I were joking, but I'm not. Anyhow, that year Jo was subjected to an inane overview of how plants grew from seeds (she already knew this, as we had planted a flower garden earlier that year), a look at her five senses ("Yes, yes, I see with my eyes. Can we learn something I don't know?" I imagine her thinking) and a very rudimentary overview of the fact that we live on a planet. And oh, yes ... there are stars out there, kids.

Moving right along ...

By the next year, when we began using SL, I was casting around for something, anything, that would match up with the curiosity I saw in my daughter. I didn't bother with SL science, as my cousin had already test marketed it for me (the benefit of having a homeschooling mentor!) and rejected it for its dryness. In this vacuum, I decided to design my own science studies.

This was a marvelous success. I still look back in awe on the wonder of those early lessons; I continued to write our science curricula for three years. In that time, we did an outrageously in-depth study on the human body that left then-four year-old Atticus parroting the key components of the nervous system. We studied simple machines, plants and even some basics like the scientific method and beginning taxonomy.

While these studies lit a fire for learning under my children, the planning and culling of resources often left me breathless. Library books, videos, experiment ideas, internet resources, etc. ... all had to be reviewed and scheduled. Then there was the delicate balance between giving enough meat for Jo to chew on, but on a level that Atticus could also grab a few tidbits for his own repository of general knowledge.

My husband watched all of this, amused at my passion and somewhat in awe of the amount of energy I was willing to put forth to keep this science thing rolling. When he started asking me when I was going to throw Logan's needs into the homeschooling mix, I knew I was in trouble. Only so many balls can be kept in the air by any one homeschooling momma. One of them would have to be dropped.

Based on the time I invested as well as the number of ready resources available on the market, we decided together that it would be science. In truth, I can see now that I was reaching a burnout level of sorts. Keeping the ideas and topics flowing took a lot out of me, and while I was receiving kudos from every other homeschooling mom that I knew (including quite a few who asked if I would puh-leese take their kids for science), I have a feeling that my heavenly Father was using my husband to draw my attention to the fact that He had other jobs for me to tackle.

Not willing to take the complete textbook route, and unable to find a one-size fits all program for our children's ages, my husband and I decided to use Alpha Omega Lifepacs as a spine for Jo and Atticus, and to supplement with books and videos and experiments as needed. This worked quite well for me, but I will say that both children found the Lifepacs about as exciting as well, textbooks. And we never really figured out why they included random phonics instruction in the science lessons. Etymology I could understand. But looking for the silent "e"? Hmmmm .... We skipped over those little exercises in wasting time and got down to the real task at hand.

This all has, of course, been supplemented as well by Jo's involvement in 4-H. Lest you think this is some cutesy little social club where girls pet rabbits once a month, let me list a handful of the topics Jo, Atticus and Logan have been exposed to through 4-H: cancers and abnormal cell growth, reproductive biology, general biology, color genetics, first-aid, disease control and prevention, animal husbandry, life cycles and careers in the field of animal sciences.

This year, as my kids finally finished last year's Lifepacs (they have been known to jump off into major bunny trails in science), I realized that the whole concept of the Lifepacs just didn't fit us any more. The children--and I--are longing to be back on the same page, taking the active unit study, living book approach that we used to enjoy.

I've flirted around with this for a few months (remember my bee unit study?) and have found that yes, with my children at the ages they currently are, I can handle diving back into the world of scientific discovery again. The question is ... how?

For the time being, I will continue to cobble together my own little units. Right now we're in between topics, but I have been plotting out a way to turn a Christian Cottage Veterinary Science unit (thanks, cousin!) into a lapbooking project. I think that all three of my kids will eat that up, and I see this as an opportunity to take a pre-written curricula and make it our own.

In that vein, we're considering undertaking an Apologia co-op with friend E's family. Honestly, even if the co-op doesn't happen, I think that we're heading in that direction. Everything that I've seen (and read) about Apologia's younger program fits what I am looking for: real book, real facts, Christian worldview, activities. Apparently it's not too much to ask for. I just had to wait for someone else to write it all down for me. :-)

I'd love to hear from people who've used these programs. Which book did you choose, and why? What did you add to the program? What did you find the most helpful outside resources to be? And, of course, how old are your children?

All help gratefully accepted!


KH said...

A leeetle typo in that last paragraph. Heehee. :-)

Steve Sensenig said...

KH beat me to it. I was coming over here to say the same thing! LOL

marygrace :-) said...

Sorry about that. Just consider it your daily dose of cultural smut. :-0

Steve Sensenig said...

What cracked me up was how in one of your recent posts (I don't think it was this one, was it?), you were so delicate with "didn't have a pot..." and then this typo was so...well, un-delicate ;) hehe

Kindred Blessings said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Apologia's Elementary Science books! I think you will too! It's very in depth: there is no talking down to the children.

We're doing Zoology 2 (Smimming Creatures) with a co-op of about 10 family's. We do the reading at home and meet every other week and do the projects together.

Another option that you may want to look into is Answers in Genesis elementary science curriculum. They are similar to Apologia in that one science topic is covered in depth. FYI...My friend L is selling several of them for half price.

Joyce said...

I'm just shocked that your kids learn stuff at 4-H. Our group is a business meeting and you figure the rest out yourself. hmpf!

We love the Apologia science for 8th - high school but haven't used the elementary levels... since they weren't written when I needed them.

Love lapbooking and ds struggles with it but loves the results. :)

Anonymous said...

I think what you have chosen to do is amazing and I wish you the best of luck for the future. I will be writing a lesson plan of my own and your story has encouraged me that I can do it as well. Thank you.