Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Highs and Lows of Unschooling Science





Science is one of the easiest, and hardest subjects to unschool. Easiest, because it's all around us, all the time.

Just yesterday, for instance, the older girls ask to go back, to see if the rabbits had eaten their carrot. After observing the trail of rabbit pellets, the missing carrot, and the seemingly empty hole, we stationed ourselves in a shady spot across from the hole, and waited...


...and watched, as one...


...two...


...three...


...four babies emerged...


...and started to feed...


...and then were joined by their larger, and more mature relatives from around the neighborhood, until we were surrounded by 20 rabbits. It was a real Jane Goodall kind of moment. But, it also leads me into the more difficult part of unschooling science - the research end of things.

Because you see, I don't actually know anything about rabbits (or hares, as I'm beginning to suspect they are). So, I'm presented with two choices. The first would be to let the girls happily spend the summer observing the animals, sketching pictures, and jotting notes about them in their handy pocket sized notebooks (thank you Blue's Clues for a lifelong obsession with small writing material).

Just in one day, they learned the rabbits (or hares), eat grass, move quickly, live in groups, freeze, and raise their ears when they perceive a potential threat, and warn each other of approaching danger.

The second choice I have, is to throw myself into research mode, so I can direct the girls into a deeper level of learning. I can spend my afternoon searching with them through the online Montana Field Guide, to see if we can determine what kind of animals they are, what they eat, what eats them, what their regional habitat is, and so on. I can help them to find books, and videos about rabbits, hares, and Montana wildlife in general. Which will inevitably lead to a study of lice, fleas, ticks, and the diseases they carry (I'm starting to itch already).

Being a type A personality, like many homeschool moms, I'll probably lean toward choice two. But, being a homeschool mom of six, I'll have to find a middle road. Because, while the older girls are now into rabbits:

  • their younger sisters spent the afternoon instant streaming Sid the Science Kid on Netflix

  • their younger brother lost a tooth

  • and their older brother got to stay up, and watch an early firework show, and observe a really cool moonrise.





All of which lead to new opportunities for scientific inquiry, and discovery. And, none of which have much to with the weather study, we had been engaged in all week. The trick then, is finding ways to take advantage of the science, that is all around us all the time, in some kind of way that is engaging, but still organized enough to make sense. So, if you'll excuse me, I have some serious reading to do.

But, as usual, you can find more science related thoughts, projects, and fun, at this week's Science Sunday blog hop, hosted by Adventures in Mommydom.



It's great (if sometimes exhausting) to be a homeschooler.

9 comments:

Debbie said...

Great Post! I think this is an area many of us struggle with. I know we come across things where I ponder how deeply do we want to dwell, especially with Science. Being like you though in many ways, "I want to know so I tend to research and read." I suppose I hope that as Selena grows she will observe this and at least be currious about the world around her to want to search for the answers herself.

Christy said...

This is very interesting. My children go to school, but I try to make sure they are always learning so we do our share of extra schooling around here. Sometimes I have trouble with letting my children lead us astray from what I have planned and I always wonder how I would handle that if we homeschooled.

Phyllis said...

Have you looked at The Handbook of Nature Study? It gives suggestions for guided observation. It has worked out perfectly for me because it makes more out of my children's observations without me having to be the source of their information. They find out the information by themselves but it is more than they would observe without the guided questions. Perfect balance between Unschooling and teacher-driven teaching.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Phyllis - No, that one's new to me, but I'll look it up - thanks :)

Renee' said...

Great photos :)

Oh Hi, Found your blog through .myblessedhome.

Pathfinder Mom said...

I wonder how I'd balance it all if I had more than one child. I'm totally a researcher. One of the things that I really love about following Tornado Boy's rabbit trails is that I'm learning a ton as well. I usually boil it down for him in a Cliff's Notes version later.

Curious - was it almost dusk when you saw the rabbits? We often see them out eating beside the road when we go to the beach and it's typically in the late evening when they're out.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Pathfinder Mom - These little guys seem to be out at all times of day.

Ticia said...

Oh, you'll love the handbook of nature study, there's a blog that someeone create to go along with it, and it's a very cool concept.
It is hard sometimes to stay focused and figure out the times it's right to veer off the path.

Raising a Happy Child said...

I am always amazed how you manage to homeschool 6 kids of different ages and have them all interested and learning. I am also type A and like to be prepared, and I struggle a lot with letting my daughter take a lead. Lately she has been asking some good questions which show that her understanding grows and changes. It's fun to be able to influence her, and I hope that I will continue to be able to answer her questions for several more years before she has to research them on the Net.