Benefit #2 of Natural Learning: Science Buffs

After reading about a recent government study of high school science issues (voicing concerns that teens do more goofing off in science labs than actually learning science), I thought I would share the things I learned about instilling a passionate love of science in my children!

Here’s a picture of my daughter, Dizzy, working on a physics experiment during a recent trip to a children’s science museum:

My children love science (my two oldest daughters often declare that they want to be scientists when they grow up) because we read about it in WHOLE BOOKS, not textbooks (which read like encyclopedias, instead of speaking directly to the child with an interesting tale of life and scientific phenomena to explore). It takes an engaging narrative to make science exciting for children, not the dry, fact-filled paragraphs that fill most science textbooks these days.

Here are my recommendations:

Five in a Row

This delightful teacher’s guide helps you extrapolate scientific lessons from high-quality children’s stories (most of which are classics or Caldecott medal winners). My children LOVE this program, and absorb every detail of science learned from these exciting stories–which include lessons in biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science.

The Story of Science

Joy Hakim’s science series is an exciting way to help students get interested in science. Rather than introducing dry facts, figures, statistics, and formulae, Hakim tells the stories of great scientists–their questions, quandaries, and dilemmas that led to discovery. Science is never boring with delightful reads like these!

(Please note: I highly recommend these books, but the author occasionally lets her atheistic/anti-Christian views slip through. But only rarely–I don’t think my children encounter anything in these books that they wouldn’t experience among friends and neighbors with different beliefs, so rather than denying them this excellent science resource, I just point out that this particular author “does not believe as we do,” but that she is an excellent scholar, nonetheless).

But books aren’t enough! You have to get out and experience science in order to love it!

Here’s my son, Screech, learning about pulleys and gravity:

In this picture, Prima and Buttercup are learning about buoyancy, velocity, and surface area:

Interestingly enough, the day these pictures were taken, my children pretty much had the science museum to themselves (because during the day, most other children are at public school). Halfway through our visit, however, a bus load of public school kids arrived on a field trip. How my heart ached for them as they crowded in and were rushed through each exhibit, forced to stand in line and march in accord to the chaperone’s kid-counting orders. I wished that I could take a few of the more troubled-looking kids home with me and give them the delightful experience of learning science without being herded about in large groups like cattle.

And those poor teachers–only two of them with about fifty kids. They looked so exhausted and stressed; they were much too busy counting heads and keeping the peace to actually interact with their students and teach any science. My heart went out to them, too.

Here’s a shot of Dizzy, testing different wing spans in a wind tunnel:

The Bottom Line: whether you teach your children at home or send them to public school, I heartily recommend these science reads and real-life encounters with science to help kids get excited about this particular subject.

P.S. For a fun read about a family’s experience dissecting owl pellets at home, read Cellista’s “Owl Puke” posting!

Where’d She Learn to Talk Like That?

True story:

My 8 year-old, Dizzy, is talking to a ten year-old during a recent home school gathering.

“Are you good at art?” my daughter asks her.

“Well,” the ten year-old muses, “I do try to pay attention to detail when I draw. This means I’ll be good at art if I keep practicing.”

Say what? I’ve never heard ten year-old kids use phrases like “attention to detail” or mention the importance of “practice makes perfect.” This girl has the vocabulary and understanding of a young adult! Yet another side effect of spending her days learning in the home, I suppose! 🙂

Benefit of Natural Learning #1

Natural learning has its benefits–and lack of boredom is one of the best!

It is a direct result of allowing children to explore their own creativity, unhampered by the clanging of a school bell (that would force them to stop working) or the pressure of peers (who might mock some of their more out-of-the-box ideas).

Here’s an example, with photographic proof, of what I mean:

While stranded in a “loaner house” to await the availability of our new home last month, my children had nothing to do! It rained all day, our home school books were still on the moving truck, and I imagine that most parents would resort to television, video games, or psychotropic meds to keep sane while stranded like this all day with five children.

Not me! While we lived in this limbo for an entire week, my daughters started finding things to do.

My oldest–we’ll call her “Prima”–found some scrap paper and an old pair of scissors, and almost immediately went to work, creating artistic designs and life-like shapes with them:

My second oldest–aka “Dizzy,” started writing letters to friends (something we usually do in our home school for writing homework, to make it fun)

And the little ones went outside to gather leaves, which we pressed inside wax paper shapes to make bookmarks (an activity so fun that I forgot to stop and take a picture, alas!). In the meantime, my older daughters gathered different specimens and created an impromptu “nature guide” of our new surroundings:

For the organic educator, being stuck indoors with a large group of children isn’t a headache, it is an adventure! And home-taught children adjust to different environments and situations easily–mine rarely act out or complain that they are “bored.” Instead, they thrive, thanks to the flexibility they’ve developed in an ever-changing learning atmosphere (as opposed to the public school reliance on constant, repetitive activity, requiring children to stay busy at all times, lest they “get into trouble”).

Homeschoolers Beat the National ACT Score Average

Once again, homeschoolers have beat the national average in standardized testing–not that I’m surprised (since I did the same when I was a homeschooled child!). Here’s a link to the article: http://www.hslda.org/docs/media/2009/200908270.asp