This week my middle red-head asked me if I thought she was learning anything. As I’ve been candid about in previous posts, I wonder the same thing – although I don’t share this with my students!!
I felt better last weekend, when my data-guru hubby helped me set up the mother of all grade-books. Yes, I understand why many homeschooling families choose not to keep grades – but, I’m sorry, my metamorphosis or assimilation or something must not yet be complete, because I still very much need to see grades for my kids! They need to be online, broken down by subject, and look pretty.
The last part is essential 😉
Anyhoo . . . once I could see the grades, realize they were all taking tests, passing them and moving forward, I began to breathe a little easier about the whole “are they learning anything” bit. I mean, even if they’re not, we know they’re not learning any LESS than their school peers, since we chose to stick with several of the same core curriculum texts as our previous school – at least for this year.
One subject where we jumped a little off the deep end was science. During my initial homeschool research, I came across the term “spiral” in reference to teaching similar concepts over a period of time (like the elementary school years). It’s basically a fancy way of saying you learn the same things every year, just in more detail each time around. This spiral approach is how all of my children have been learning science for several years now. The oldest often expressed total boredom with this approach and groaned when we looked at any textbooks following a spiral approach. Her books have been similar for 5 years now, I could see her point. And honestly, if I had to help her review anything to do with clouds, chlorophyll, birds, or sea creatures one more time I might just have pulled out my hair. Don’t judge. Everyone with a 6th grader on a spiral science curriculum has felt this way before! Admit it!
At the other end of the pole there is what is known as the “immersion” approach. Who doesn’t love a fabulous invention called the immersion blender, right? It rocks! Especially for soup. Apparently this approach also rocks for things like science. It allows a full year (or semester, if you prefer) to fully immerse the students in a subject that would normally be covered by a few paragraphs (every. single. year).The topics are similar but more in-depth, avoiding the whole “jack of all sciences, master of none” conundrum.
This year, we opted off the treadmill of spiral science and jumped into an immersion study of Anatomy and Physiology. My reasoning was that it would be a great prep class for our oldest (6th grade) as she heads for the upper-level sciences in a year or two, including biology etc; our middle student (4th grade) is obsessed with all things related to anatomy; and our youngest, well, he’d probably be fine learning about the clouds. He’s only in 2nd grade so he hasn’t had time to be tired of the lather, rinse, repeat cycle of the ‘other’ books. So we purchased the other science curriculum too. He’s currently using it as a reader. He informed me the other day that he had finished it and sweetly asked could he have something else now, please? (Ummmm, glad I wasn’t planning to use it for an entire year!)
Over the years I’ve known many homeschooling families. They always seemed to do the most FUN and CREATIVE projects, and I’d think to myself, “I could TOTALLY never homeschool, I’m in no way crafty enough for that!” But . . . I’ll let you in on yet another super-secret part of the Secret Double Life of a Homeschool Family . . . they don’t always come up with those projects on their own! In fact, not to brag, but absolutely NONE of my crafts or projects have come out of my own head. Yet. 😉 Part of what makes a curriculum a good fit for me, is that it needs to include things to make the learning FUN for my kids – but not fun in a “build a scale replica of Mt. Zion in your yard using pipe-cleaners and plaster of Paris” kind of way, you know?
Enter the ‘Edible Cells’ Project. This one was not only enjoyable, but the kids actually got to EAT the project once it was completed. Tell me that isn’t the best idea yet??? Learning and food and no project storage/display once it’s completed?! Win, win, win. And I have to admit, it was hysterical to hear them saying things like “hey, pass me some of that mitochondria, please,” (pieces of laffy taffy cut into strips) or “umm, I’m not sure where to put my ribosomes,” (sprinkles!) or “Mmm, this cytoplasm tastes like pineapple!” (pineapple jello) – very fun.
So, I guess they are learning something after all? Even though I flung myself fully off the reservation on this one. I figured hey, if it’s a bust and we send them back next year, they’ll have the opportunity to learn everything they missed all over again, right? 😉