Written by contributor Amida of Journey Into Unschooling
Recently, my kids wrapped up their science lesson from the previous weeks. They had a little mad science action going on as they mixed different substances to see if there was a reaction, both with specific combinations and ones of their own choosing. I think this particular lesson went a little too long (three sessions) and for the most part was a bit redundant, as far as what they already knew.
One of the moms in our co-op had acquired a complete chemistry curriculum with almost all the materials necessary for a middle-grade class. It included everything from textbook, experiments, lab books, and even teacher resources that told you exactly how to teach the class — all of which seemed very exciting but was, in actuality, a little on the dull side.
Which of course, leads to the question, why was it so dull? They’re sitting around out in the beautiful sunshine (mostly), hanging with their best friends, and learning about what promises to be an engaging, well thought out exploration of chemical reactions. They get to conduct experiments, fill out lab books, and learn state-aligned science standards! What was wrong with these kids?
Obviously, deep down, I knew the answer. The problem wasn’t the kids, nor was it the curriculum. It isn’t even the wonderful mom who volunteered to prepare and teach the lessons every week. The problem was trying to teach these homeschooled children in a conventional school manner.
For my kids, anyway, the tried and true formula of lecture, reading texts, and closely followed procedure just doesn’t seem to work. They don’t learn well that way. What they wanted to do, what their instincts were screaming at them to do, was to break out of procedure and test out their own theories. I don’t blame them.
Who would want want to spend three weeks going from point A to B, only to find out what he already knew going in? Unfortunately, in that particular setting, there simply wasn’t enough time for everyone’s free exploration. It was time for a change.
Trying something new isn’t always easy. I have to admit, science class was totally convenient — someone else was doing the teaching and we all got to socialize on a weekly basis. What more could a homeschool mom ask for?
Ironically, the lesson that brought up this whole inner debate was on finding the combination of substances that causes a reaction — sometimes, nothing happens. But other times, your mixture bubbles and comes to life. In our case, we never quite found that excitement.
It was a tough call, so I did what any good mother would do — I let the kids decide. After much discussion, they admitted they weren’t really learning anything and class was actually quite boring to them. So much so, in fact, that, even at the expense of not seeing their friends every week, they decided to pull out and seek another way. It was a very mature decision.
Sometimes, even with the best intentions, things just don’t go the way we envision. Although the co-op had worked great for us in previous years (I had raved about it here), this time around, we needed to switch gears.
I am thankful we can evaluate our situation at any given moment and make choices on how we want to proceed. I am confident that through our experimentation, we will find our own winning combination of science and lesson.
How do you decide when to stop what you’ve started in your homeschool?