Wednesday, March 26

Homeschooling the Early Years part 3

This morning the cell phone rang at 6:30am. The post office - "Your ducklings are in!" I quietly dressed and drove down the hill, trying to warm up the van as much as possible in the one mile between home and there so the little things wouldn't freeze. I tried to look awake.
"Hey, didn't I just see you?" our delivery man asked, opening the side door to the post office when I knocked. On Monday he had delivered us some duck eggs. Umm, not what I had ordered from the hatchery. The hatchery apologized and mailed out the ducklings the next day and I gave the fertilized eggs to a girlfriend who was up for trying to hatch them out.
Ducklings are our science for the week. Making science as hands on and as practical as possible has kept the kids and me from boredom. This concept of making learning as real life as possible extends to other subjects too but as for science, here are some of the things we've enjoyed.

1.) Take a nature walk and as often as possible.
We did this even living in the middle of the city. A quick drive for a few miles brought us to a city park with paved trails, nuts and crabapples to pick and quiet to enjoy. Everything, from when the different nuts ripened to the kinds of animal prints we found, was a lesson. You can further these lessons by bringing home things you've found and letting your kids draw or paint something from their walk in nature.

2.) Begin a nature journal.
Heavy duty card stock laced together with a cover decorated by each of your children will work great. Each time you take a walk or they play outside, let them draw or color a picture of what they've done or seen.

3.)Pick up a book of kitchen science or look online for ideas.
We learned how clouds and rain are formed by boiling water in a teakettle and holding a glass jar upside down over the spout as the steam came out. Very cool. It's been at least a year and a half since we did that and our older two still talk about how clouds are made.

4.) Visit farms.
Your local home school co-op or league (join one!) will be a great resource for finding out about already existing field trips or meeting families who farm so you can set one up yourself. We've visited a few dairy farms, a sheep farm, and a hay farm with a goat, ducks, dogs, and horses.

5.) Bake with your kids.
Why do the cookies puff up as they bake? Why does the bread grow when it sits by the heat to rise? Why does the sugar and butter turn to caramel?

6.) Take things apart.
Toasters, old toys, whatever! Give your kids a small screwdriver and let them go! We put Kaelin and Douglas to work unscrewing old screws from the wall beams in our new kitchen. They thought it was great.

7.) Read good books that deal with nature, habitats, climates, weather and engineering in practical ways.
A story about a construction site from start to finish with all the mechanics of each vehicle and worker involved fascinates our kids. Reading about fictional animals and how they live and interact in the forest does too. What I try to avoid is dry science material that says, "This is a mammal. It is ____ big. It eats ____. It lives ____ years. The end."

8.) Do you really need an expensive curriculum?
We haven't used one yet though I'm certainly open to using a good one in the future. Taking the creation story and working our way through each item God created has kept us busy enough. We watched the stars, learned about the sun and eclipses, spent a few months learning about the ocean and everything that lives in it... Really, the ideas here are endless. Doing an online search for " whale sounds" or "beaver slapping its tail" or whatever subject we're on has brought up videos of just that for us to watch together. The internet is a great resource for videos, coloring pages, and games related to your subject.

9.) Start a bug collection.
We're gearing up for this now that th snow is melted and the days a re getting warmer. I plan on using a Styrofoam board to mount the bugs with straight pins. We have empty baby food jars for the kids to catch the bugs with and I'll put a cotton ball with some nail polish remover on it inside after the kids bring them to me to kill them. We'll find out what they are and make a label.

For the rest of you that home school, what have you found that teaches and keeps your kids interest?


Anonymous said...

Rather than killing the insects, why don't you capture them in a jar and then let your children draw them. Or take a picture. That way, you aren't destroying life.
(And just so you know I'm not some sort of bug nut, I'm all for killing the ones that come into my home. But when they are outside, we let them live.)
My sister and I in fourth grade had to do a bug collection. We really hated the idea of killing the bugs though. We almost flunked the course because we wouldn't participate. But then my mom came up with the idea of capturing them and then having us draw them. We both got A's for that and we impressed the teacher too!
Just a thought...


Me said...

What a nice idea, Jenni.
We are a family with a healthy respect for living things also and our daughter might take to your idea, having a gentler stomach and being the artist in residence here. Knowing our son, I know he'd love to have a bug collection handy to look at all year and that's why we'll pin them up.
Living in the country with so many insects, I'm sure we won't be harming any ecosystems with our collection or we wouldn't think of doing it.