Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Homeschooling Failures

The past couple of weeks have been full of hands-on, active learning, a big preference of C.  We have been picking and taking pictures of wildflowers in the neighborhood, gathering rocks, measuring rain, and looking at the effects of UV.

Generally, I suppose it has been successful.  The kids seemed to learn and enjoy our activities, but there were also a couple of failures.  The failures have mainly been mine for poorly understanding an activity we attempted.  One was trying to gather earthworms to compost in the house.  The three worms we found didn't last and very soon we realized we needed more research.  We found out, of course, that you need special red wigglers and you need to be careful about buying or constructing a worm bin.  We are likely going to proceed with getting the right worms since it is a way to compost indoors in the city, but we felt silly for putting time (no money - thank goodness) into something without research.  The other failure, while not much wasted time, made me feel really stupid.  We tried to make a rainbow using the sun, a mirror and water, but failed miserably.  It seemed to be such a basic activity, but we couldn't figure out what we did wrong.  Fortunately we saw a rainbow in the sky a few days later near our house, no need to take the bus to Niagara Falls!

As the teacher of my children, I have spent the past several days back and forth on the implications of some of these failures of activities.  To an extent, I feel that "all's well that ends well" - nothing really bad or really great - end of story - move on.  In other ways, I am very worried that I am setting a poor example for my kids regarding preparedness by not testing the activities before introducing them or not doing enough research before jumping into something.  Still in other ways, I think I may be setting the exactly the right example by showing that science and life is trial and error and that you continue the exploration and pursuit of truth no matter what happens.  I would like to comfort myself that this this precisely the point of homeschooling, but I am not sure when I will stop wrestling with this.  They are 5 and 4 now, won't this dilemma get worse as they get older?  What do you think, success, failure, or no big deal?  Have you had experiences like this? 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

When the Annoying Becomes Educational

C is very active and I am beginning to have to make lessons more hands-on and, well, active.  She is a good little girl, but her need for activity can be annoying at times.  A recent example is her obsession with dandelions.  Since we walk all over the neighborhood, this invades most of our outings.  She is constantly bending over to pick them or blow the seeds.  Sometimes this behavior is charming, but if we are in a rush or if the risk of stepping in dog stuff is high (if she ventures onto grass) it can be too much.  She even collects them when there are other activities going on.  On a recent WNY Homeschool co-op day, the other kids were in the playground equipment, trading cards, or playing chess and she was running around collecting dandelions sometimes socializing and sometimes not.

Of course, they are good flowers for learning about how plants reproduce and a broad interest in wild flowers isn't bad.  I decided to try to find books at the library about flowers since they seem to be of such interest to both T and C.  It seems like a good way to reinforce science, reading, and maybe even life skills if we decide to rip out the lawn and put bulbs in during the fall.  I never guessed, though, that I would find a book on dandelions specifically called From Seed to Dandelion.  It seems like a great book for C and even T.  They were very excited to take it out and want Dad to read it ASAP.

Customizing learning to their interests is one of the great things about homeschoooling.  I have tried to do this where possible in a general sense at least.  Now, however, I am beginning to see that sometimes I will need to nurture even the annoying interests since they can lead to more learning.  It will be interesting to see if after reading the book they are satisfied or want to pursue flowers even further.  I guess we will soon see!