Now I Want Something Else

And now I have something else on my really-want-to-buy list, as soon as we can set aside some money for homeschooling.

I’m actually very happy with homeschooling on the ubercheap at this stage. Books we already have, liberally supplemented by library cards. Paper is cheap. I’m very comfortable with using those to teach all aspects of the English language, and as much of history, geography, etc. as is accessible to them at this stage. Math is all around us, and we’ve got that covered quite well for now. I knuckled under on handwriting because I think it’s a case where one book will give us the basic skills we need to continue without a book.

Science was not an area I intended to spend money on, but less because I felt completely confident in winging it and more because I seriously doubted there was anything out there worth my money. Most of what I had seen were either textbooks force-feeding an oversimplified summary of facts and laws or books of "experiments" (really demonstrations) that had no rhyme or reason to them. Nothing that involved genuine science.

Most CM groups recommend simply nature study at this age, and the direct observation was definitely a huge part of what I wanted, but I always felt like there ought to be some way to connect those observations into the bigger picture and develop a richer understanding of scientific approach. However, I wasn’t sure I knew enough to do it, although I try, as in all our discussions, to encourage them to think and observe and make connections.

Anyway, I think I’ve found the book that will help me make those connections in a richer way. It’s called Building a Foundation for Scientific Understanding and it’s available from Press for Learning. From what I have seen and read about it, it integrates four themes, roughly chemistry, biology, physics, and earth/space science, but it does so in a way that allows children to see how they all fit together. For instance, a lesson on energy and work (physics) will then be brought up in a discussion in how the plant and animal kingdom are distinguished based on energy source.

The sample activity on the site looked appropriate for the target age group (K-2) but the discussion ideas were far richer and more insightful than anything I’ve seen geared to this grade level. And yet, I know my kids–they would get it. They can understand so much more than early elementary curriculum gives them credit for, if only it’s presented in the right way.

There are recommendations for expansion with further books, and best of all, what to look for in daily life to reinforce and make use of the lesson. There are only 41 lessons, but each of them has a lot of room for expansion according to other goals, children’s interests, etc. I can see this being used alongside a nature notebook to put things in their place.

My criteria for curriculum is starting to form like this:

At the early elementary stage, curriculum should be geared to helping me help them.
Curriculum needs to reflect the internal logic and order of the subject it is teaching.
Curriculum should be respectful of the minds and time of children. It doesn’t need to be fun or fancy: It needs to be real.

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