Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thoughts on Science a la The Well Trained Mind for Grade Two and the General Plan I Devised Instead

I came across my schedule and notes for my older son's second grade year (the 2004-2005 academic year). It was August 2004 and I had made my plan and also read The Well Trained Mind's recommendations for grade two. I was trying to figure out if I should just do what TWTM said to do or if I'd make up our own plan.

I looked over all the books and the schedule for science per TWTM.

I also was taking into consideration the advice of Charlotte Mason.

I then decided to make up our own plan instead.

I found notes about what I thought about TWTM. Here they are:

Some content is the same in two different books they recommend to use (unnecessary or waste of money to buy both books)

Some book language too simplistic for kids this age. Book skims subject. Too shallow.

I want more depth per topic.

Topics covered per TWTM too jumpy, skip around and leaves gaps, is strange

(I know not every topic can be covered but it seems odd how some topics are chosen while others are left out.)

Sometimes the Eyewitness Juniors books are too mature for this age

Some books are great for the illustrations but the text is not good enough

After having those thoughts, I came up with a plan to try to do what I thought was high quality plan that would work for our family.

Our Plan

What I did with major Charlotte Mason influences was use living books with read aloud's to teach science topics to my children. I relied heavily on books with better content. I used a lot of out of print, older books whose language was not dumbed down and whose tone was not patronizing.

Those older books often had a longer word count per page and went more into detail with the topic. It seemed the older science books from the 1950s-1970s were written with an understanding that children really do want to learn and are curious, they are open to a deeper level of content than writers, publishers or teachers think they can do (in the 1990s and 2000s). The downside to the older science books is that the technology available then for illustrations, the color or style of the illustrations was different than now. Some of the great content books (text wise) have black line hand drawings or two tone colored illustrations. Some have bad black and white photographs. Today's children seem to like really good color photography illustrations (of creatures, nature, habitats, volcanoes, etc.). Even the hand drawn or painted new books are more visually appealing regarding the illustration quality.

I blended in the following way. If I came across a used newer book with good illustrations for 10 cents to 50 cents I'd buy it. I also used the public library for some books if I didn't own good illustrated examples on that topic. Then I would read aloud from the good-text-quality book. We would then use the newer books to just look at the illustrations. So for example I'd read a great book about forest creatures. Then we'd look at photos of those creatures. Then I'd read a book about the trees in that type of forest. Then we'd look at great images of the trees.

Unlike other homeschoolers I didn't use the Internet for images. I am a book person and even back in 2004 there were less photos and images on the Internet. I didn't want to spend time surfing websites for photos then showing them to my kids. Opening a book was much easier.

We also took nature walks as a family.

We did a bit of nature journaling, I planned to do a lot but we did just some.

My son took an experiential nature class.

Son’s First Experiential Nature Class

In addition to book studies at home at this time my son was taking an experiential nature class held at an Audubon Center, organized by a homeschooling mother, taught by a naturalist, and held on weekdays for just homeschooled children. A major reason this was such a great class was the teacher really loved nature and her passion came through. She was wonderful with kids, so gentle and kind; she really was a sincere person who treated all kids with respect. She was not the type of teacher who speaks in patronizing tones or talks down to kids. She seemed to actually like kids (something that not all teachers do). None of the kids had behavior issues so maybe that helped her attitude also, I’m not sure.

That preserve had hardwood forest, river, stream, vernal pool, hills, and fields. The class was taught 95% outdoors. The kids would be led through habitats while the instructor talked to them about facts. They would see things she was talking about and they'd discuss them. Also often spontaneous things would be seen (not on the lesson plan) and they would learn about that. This included also discussions of weather and its impact on what was happening at the preserve right at that time (i.e. the river had just flooded, heavy rains caused something, and so forth).

In that class the parents were allowed to walk along and hover in the background as long as we didn’t disrupt the class, so I got to hear the great content being taught. I could hear the kids asking questions and how that spurred additional learning. Also the teacher was kind enough to let my younger son (who was too young to officially enter the program as a paid participant), go right with the older kids and ‘take the class’. The rule was he had to behave and not disrupt the class. So at age four my younger son “took that class” also and he did behave excellently and received praise from the teacher. Actually I got a good amount of praise from her about my children’s behavior and their personalities being a delight to work with and how she liked to see their curiosity. My sons both took three fall sessions and three spring sessions worth of classes. We only stopped when we changed from that 90 minute class to a six hour experiential nature class. Sadly since then the price for that Audubon class tripled and the teacher moved out of state, so we lost a great teacher for a community based class for homeschoolers.

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That lady with 6 daughters said...

Ahhh, I always SAY we do TWTM science, but I really have no idea which books she recommends, we just do Life Science for year 1 and Earth and Sky for year two, chemistry in year 3 and physics for year 4. I like the DK books for Science and the Usborne Internet linked books as well. I prefer using online images, and playing the games and doing the activities on the websites recommended in the UIL books. I can never seem to find exactly what I'm looking for in books. PLUS- I can never guarantee that the kids will enjoy the same pictures that spark my interest. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I love hearing what makes homeschool moms tick. I have ten thousand million of those old science books, I like the way they're written, too but sometimes the information is outdated. have you tried lap-booking with the content? that's my next big project.

christinemm said...

Hi Lady with...

(Wow six daughters!)

Thanks for sharing what you do for science. Your basic arrangement is to match the categories with the history chronology like they say. I loved the idea but it didn't happen in real life, LOL, I'm being honest! Plans versus reality and so forth..

I learned of lapbooking in spring 2003 from Tammy Dube of Tobin's Lab. I loved the concept. I tried it then but my oldest son was not old enough to do it the way she does it, without ME doing all the work including cutting and gluing.

I tried it the next year and it still wasn't good.

I blogged about it in general here, in 2005:

What many do right now for lapbooking is IMO quite different than the way it was presented to me. I love the idea of kids learning and then synthesizing info in their OWN mind and coming up with concepts to make into a lapbook or a notebook and then creating a UNIQUE work.

Actually this winter I was thinking I think my kids might be open minded to it. I wanted to show them the lapbooking video I had bought from Tobin's Lab but I lent it out and never got it back. Sigh. I hate buying stuff twice that I need!!

The new big project thing I introduced this month is a timeline for history, something else I always thought we 'must do' but never got around to doing.

I think I might try lapbooking this winter or spring, we'll see how it goes. My first priority is to HS on a regular basis and get a lot of work done now before spring hits and the kids want to be outside playing and exploring a lot.

Have a great day.