Thursday, January 30, 2014

Science Labs Are NOT Necessary for Learning

A few years ago, I remember hearing a lecture by Dr. Jay Wile at a homeschool convention, where he stated that science labs are not necessary, even for high school students. My kids were little at the time, so I didn't give it much thought. Until yesterday.

All of a sudden, it hit me. What he said sank in. I'm not sure if it's because I've been planning my 7th grader's high school years already, or because my friends with high schoolers seem to be worried about getting enough science lab experiments, but it really came full circle and suddenly made a lot of sense.

Dr. Jay Wile has expressed that experiments and teaching your child to use the scientific method early on are very important in the elementary years. As they enter middle school and high school, they should switch gears to focus on more gaining of knowledge than how many experiments they can do. (Dr. Jay’s Top 10 Homeschool Science Tips). He has also said that, "Labs are fun and interesting, but not a necessary part of learning." (Page 7 of these notes, which are the exact notes given to us at the lecture. You will find other interesting information included!)

Now, my question is, if labs aren't that important to the author of science textbooks and a former university professor, why are moms going out of our way to spend money and time shuttling our kids to science classes so they can get lab experience?

My guess is because we did labs in school, and we don't want to "neglect" our children just because they are homeschooled. Also, if you pay attention at all to what public schools do (or argue about when it comes to money), you know how much emphasis the school boards put on new and improved science labs, and you may have even seen them spend hundreds of thousands more to relocate classrooms to upgrade science labs to some arbitrary standard set by someone, somewhere (Washington?)  So we were told in school, lab time is important. We are told by the school board, we MUST have the best labs in our schools. (Which is ironic given the failure of our schools already, right?) You really have to get off the ride and stop and think about it for a minute. How many students actually have ANY interest in pursuing science, and how many actually do?

Now let me tell you something that might blow you away. I don't know how many hours I spent in the lab in junior high and high school. But I did not spend ONE MINUTE in a lab during my four years in college. GASP! And guess what I ended up teaching my first year after graduation? Seventh grade science! Let that sink in a minute.

And let me be perfectly honest, there are high school graduates who make better teachers than those with college degrees.

After taking the usual biology, chemistry, physics, (and I also took extra science, including anatomy/physiology) in high school, I did not want to repeat those courses in college. So I took an astronomy class and a class on the physics of sound, both of which were very interesting. But the truth is, there is a very small fraction of people who EVER need to know what even happens in a lab. Those people should do as many labs as they need to. The average student...not so much!

So don't worry about fitting that science lab with other homeschoolers into your schedule. If it's right down the street and fits your schedule perfectly and you happen to have extra money laying around to pay for it, go for it. But don't stress out if you don't or can't do labs. Your student will not suffer for it and the world WILL go on. I promise!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Block Scheduling for Homeschoolers

This year in our homeschool, we tried something different. "Experts" refer to it as block scheduling: having fewer classes (or subjects) each day. The way we blocked our school year is into semesters. We took the classes for the year, divided them into two groups, and then did half of the classes in fall semester, and the other half of classes in spring semester.

So, how's it going?

Wonderfully. So wonderfully, in fact, that we aren't even finished with the school year and I had to tell you how well it's going.

Fall semester consisted of history, science, grammar, and smaller classes like health, logic, and for my daughter, spelling (which she will work on all year).

Spring semester consists of reading/literature, writing, and math.

This schedule is working out for us for numerous reasons. First, it works better for me. As a work at home mom who also happens to be single, it has kept me sane. I only have to worry about a few subjects daily. Also, I chose the more tedious subjects (the ones that tend to get neglected) for the start of our year, and will finish the year with the more enjoyable subjects (for me/us anyway). So when spring fever sets in, we will be working on subjects that we will have an easier time completing.

Secondly, my kids are spending more time on their subjects daily, rather than going from one to the next quickly. Imagine only reflecting on three ideas you focused on that day, rather than six or more. This gives them the time to go more in depth with what they learn, as well as tying it in with what they already know. Cramming more information into one day tends to prevent in depth learning on any given subject.

Finally, it helps with cost management. Except for the textbooks I will hand down to my younger child, we aren't holding on to texts all year. As soon as we are done with it, I sell the curriculum to make room for the next semester. It also allows me to find good deals during the school year rather than buying everything at one time, in late summer or early fall, when everyone else is shopping. Right now I'm scoping out deals for next year, as I already know what we will be doing. I guess that's more a benefit of planning, while the block scheduling helps me spread out the money being spent.

You might be wondering how old my kids are. They are currently in 6th and 7th grades. I wonder if we could have used this schedule when they were younger, as I've heard many moms say, "That won't work for my child because they have to have math everyday." Or, "I could see doing it when they are older, but when they are younger, topics need to be reinforced daily." I can tell you that these arguments are not valid in my home. I believe if I had done a similar schedule from early on, it would have worked just as easily- with my kids. Everyone has different needs and kids learn differently. Before you write it off in your family, imagine what it would be like and see if it might work in your home. It breaks away from the mold a bit, and for us, it has turned out to be a huge blessing as I've retained my sanity this year. A LOT of homeschool moms can't say that at the end of May! (I will report back in, I know it's only the end of January!)

Friday, January 17, 2014

What to Do When You Accidentally Delete Photos From Your Camera

At 1:21 am, my eleven year-old daughter woke me up, in tears.

"Mommy, I accidentally deleted ALL the photos off my camera!"

I'm not sure what she thought I could do. But wait...WHY is she still up?

Earlier in the evening, she had shown me the images for her Barbie stop motion video. She had spent about ten hours on it, which if you know anything about stop motion, relates to about a 30 second video. Watching the pictures quickly go from one to the next, I could tell that the video is going to be hilarious. No, seriously, I laughed so hard, it took me a minute to catch my breath. So THIS is what she had been doing when she was supposed to be doing her school work!

But now they were all gone. Hours of work were wasted.

"Maybe God made me do this because He knew I could do a better one," she said, trying to look on the bright side.

Maybe He was punishing you for not doing your school work first, I thought.

I was already on the computer, Googling "how to retrieve images deleted from SD card." I knew it was pointless, but I had to look like I was trying to do something to help.

It turns out, it wasn't pointless. Did you know that even though it says they are deleted, they aren't? Just like deleting things from your hard drive, they are still there. You might not be able to find them, but someone could if they wanted to and if they knew how. I downloaded a program called Panda Recovery for- get this- FREE. WORKED! One after another, 532 photos were retrieved and my girl was happy again. So there ya go.

You might think the story is over, but it's not. As I got back into bed with a smile, I decided that while MOST of the time I have to be the "bad guy," it feels good to be the hero. It makes all those other times worth it. Today, I'm back to the bad guy again because someone has to get her school work done...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What do I do with all these stuffed animals?!

My kids have a gazillion little stuffed animals that they just can't seem to part with. My daughter stored hers on a shelf in her room, but she needed the shelf space for all her hair accessories and jewelry. I looked on Pinterest a little bit, and didn't really find anything that jumped out at me, so I decided to make a trip to Lowe's to see what I could find that might work. Lattice! I decided not to nail this to the wall since we might be moving soon. I used a few nails in the beam in our basement and the stuffed animals are super happy. This piece is 4' x 8', but it is easy to cut if it's too large. I happened to get a multi-purpose tool pretty cheap at just before getting the lattice and got to try it out. I just had to cut one row off since the beam was lower than the ceiling. This size lattice was $17.98 at our Lowe's. For the animals that didn't fit in the holes, my daughter used her Rainbow Loom to make straps to hold them on. She hasn't finished putting on all her stuffed animals. She wanted me to make sure you knew that!

Binding Your Child's Stories Into Books

Thirty years ago, when I was in the sixth grade, I had an awesome artsy teacher who LOVED making us do projects that were crafty. At the time, it was a tedious project, and I certainly did not appreciate getting to do it, but one of the things she taught us was how to bind our stories into our own self-made books.

I bring this up now, because recently my daughter came across the books I had made, and read them over and over. Then my son joined in. I saw how much they liked them, so I said, "We can make these when we start our writing curriculum next semester."

"Okay!!" they both exclaimed excitedly.

What? My kids were excited about writing? I mean, they don't hate writing, but HAVING to write something can be laborious and not so fun. Now, however, they had a purpose. If they wrote a great story and bound it in a cool book, they have something to keep forever!

Even though it wasn't time to start our writing curriculum, I wanted to take advantage of their excitement, so I had them write a Halloween story, a Thanksgiving story, and a Christmas story. I expected to get a three to four page story at most, but my daughter actually wrote...get this...a chapter book! I couldn't believe it! And it was good! My son decided to write a series using the same characters and he did a great job as well. I do have to admit that my daughter's got shorter each story that she wrote, so I know that the assignments were too frequent in such a short time period (two months). She is the little critic, however, and said about my stories, "Some of these don't really have endings..." She was right! I had run out of time in the classroom, so they just stopped with no real ending. The joys of being homeschooled and being able to finish projects...

Here are their books. I challenge you to try this with your child, or come up with other ways to excite your kids about writing! If you are curious about how to make these, we will be creating and uploading a video soon!

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Great Poem

Here is a poem from a young friend of mine that you might enjoy reading...


We've heard it in lesson after lesson
We've seen it when people cry
The words they hurt
They bruise and bleed
And we just turn our eyes
How long can we sit and live like this
While we know that others die
Inside and out they're broken
Till they can't bare it anymore
But this shouldn't be the case, I say
When we're taught to offer love
Acceptance, truth, and understanding
Should be the only thing we show
So lets stop this injustice, this cruelty, this lie
This isn't what we're meant for
To spit in others eyes
To get comfortable in our pews
Or to sing in a church choir
This is not what we should do
I'm here to offer one last word
A suggestion that is due
Let's practice what we preach
And show the world we are true

~Morgan Elizabeth