Crickets in the Fridge

Courtesy of seedvan.com online store

As I sent my dear husband to the tackle and bait shop for crickets, now for the third time (at least) in this season of home education, I couldn’t help but laugh at the hilarious places that science education has taken us over the years.    These crickets, while still alive, will go into the refrigerator.   That leads us into a great real-time discussion about what it means to be literally cold-blooded.    Crickets are also one of the few insects that the kids handle well looking at them up close under the magnifying lens (although the dramatic 8-year-old freaked this round, declaring that she would only look if she could squint).

We’ve also kept mealworms cool.   That was so that the spotted gecko would be well fed.   (‘Course, the gecko enjoyed his share of crickets, too).  We’ll probably see more mealworms once we get the butterfly village.

Other items in our fridge?   Play-doh (in the freezer to show the effects of weather on rocks), and eggs, which have endured all kinds of hardships, and of course the standard baking soda and vinegar.   Explosions never get old.

Speaking of explosions, I’ve blown Coca-Cola sky-high with a packet of Mentos candy.   I’ve spent relative boatloads of dollars on candy that didn’t get eaten, but instead was committed to the making of a cell.   I’ve made ice cream (can’t remember how that tied into Astronomy, but it was good).  Grapes, ice, corn syrup, and canola oil were excellent teachers of density.   Onions were donated to the cause of teaching chemical reactions and human anatomy (but learning to cut them under running water for sensitive eyes was well worth the donation).   Peanut butter and raisins were all too generously fed to the birds as primary ingredients of our suet mix.

I’ve burned myself turning a battery, nail, tape and wires into a magnet.    I’ve almost thrown out my back making a vegetable garden.  Indoors, I’ve grown sweet potatoes and vines in all kinds of water–polluted, slightly acidic, very basic, etc.

I’m sure I could think of more if I had more time and reeeeaaaalllllly put my mind to it.   However, time flies, whether you’re having fun or not, and this has been one of those weeks (hence the lack of posts).     Science has taken our school to some strange and interesting places, sometimes at personal cost.  My mom would lose it at the thought of worms in her fridge.   When I think about it, however, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What craziness have you done in the name of science (or other course) education?

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1st Semester Progress Report (pt. 1)

I am not sure that I could capture well all that has happened in the last two weeks, friends, but I do hope to document the highlights over the last 1-2 weeks. After all, this blog is the chronicles of our family.

The older two were drafted volunteered to help our church children’s ministry with the annual Christmas play, and the associated practices taken up every weekend we have right up until the weekend after Thanksgiving. Parade season is also fast approaching, as is the beginning of the competition season, so dance has consumed the time that isn’t spent on school and church. I am quickly finding myself in the very position that I don’t like to be in at this time of year—too busy with the season to reflect on the Reason. I refuse, however, to give up that reflective time, and will be saying “no, thanks” to some opportunities that sound, at least on the outside, like great opportunities.

This week finds us unexpectedly on the road. My dear husband was asked to take a trip for week—on the same week as Thanksgiving, no less—and we chose to tag along. Writing while riding takes me back several years to when we traveled like this regularly, before job transfers and job changes. In fact, I’ve seen all but one region of Texas in my 20+ years of living here, thanks to the hubby’s jobs. Some prefer a plane ride (though nowadays that means you enjoy being felt up by strangers), but I love the freedom of the car—plenty of time to kick my shoes off, read, blog 🙂 , or just to sight-see when it’s my turn to drive. We were laughing on yesterday about our earliest work/ family trips when we began homeschooling. The children were small then, and I had to be very creative with meal times as the reality of quitting my full-time job began to settle on us both. I can remember going to vegsource.com and finding recipes like potatoes with chic peas and green onions. It wasn’t fancy, but it was filling, tasty, and most of all, inexpensive. I also recall being stunned at the difference in our lifestyle, and a bit apprehensive about whether the changes were really worth it, but we held hands with all the excitement of fear of brand new homeschoolers. Looking back now, it seems silly to fret so, but I’m so glad that we never gave in to all the uncertainties.

The kids are excited about this week as well, and the fact that I relaxed the schedule a bit, given the trip. They are only responsible for math and reading this week, with a reading day planned for the trip home. Speaking of school, we only have three weeks left in the semester after this one. With the end of the semester approaching, it is always appropriate to assess where we are and whether we are moving in the right path.

The youngest is performing well enough in reading that I’m trying to make a decision as to whether or not to spend money on more formal curriculum to build her reading skills. When I read Bob Jones’ scope and sequence for the 3rd grade reading workbook, there are some areas that she’s not learned—formally. Is it worth it? I think not, but I’m also having to evaluate, for myself, what’s really bothering me about the hole that a lack of formal studies in this area creates. I’m convinced that .what really bugs me—and it’s the same feeling I get watching my son—is that the kids have more free time than I’m comfortable with. That wouldn’t be so bad if they both used the time in productive ways. I’ll sort that out at another time.

The other quandary is what to do with her science studies. She asked to learn about the human body, and I thought it was so convenient that Apologia published a brand new anatomy and physiology text. As my dear friend Kysha says, this was not a good fit for our family. The text is way over the little one’s head, and she now says, “I didn’t know it’d be so gross!” So in trying to get direction from a child, I now realize that I should have followed my first mind, saved my money, and begun with either Zoology or Botany. So, as if I didn’t get enough the first time, I explained to her what I thought about our predicament. She says, “Well, Mom, can we just do two sciences?” Oh, boy.

I pray the Lord is blessing your week(s) as well. More to say, but I’ll stop for now. All the way here, we felt this shake that gradually grew worse. We found out 30 miles outside of town that our mud flap had cut into a tire, causing a slow leak. BUT, we made it, Praise God. He is sooooooo good.

Discovery, Discipline, and Discussion

I will take a summer’s break from the Weekly Homeschool Wrap-up meme as we abruptly ended our homeschool year on last week.    I use the word ‘abruptly’ because my non-spontaneous nature had planned last week to test, with this week as our last school week.   When the other parent in charge of testing materials didn’t receive her materials on time, we had to quickly adjust ourselves to have a “normal” school week on last week and to test on this week.   I feel bad for the kids as we usually try to do something, even if it’s just lunch out, for them when the school year ends.    Because we have to wake up two hours earlier than they’re accustomed to, this week has been in some ways grueling for them—and for me.    Friday is our areas minority homeschooler year-end picnic, and we’re having the in-laws over on Saturday for an early Memorial Day celebration, so it will be Sunday before we spend time with just the five of us.   I’ll have to think of something special just to say, “nice work, guys.”

 

My thoughts haven’t changed regarding standardized testing from this post of over two years ago.    I still see semi-anxious students and seriously anxious parents.   Yet, my thoughts as I prayed over the community of students and parents gathered this morning were that we spend all year long for excellence—in their spirit, in their character, in their academics, and otherwise.    The tests will say something about them.   Yet, here’s what God says about them:

They are the head and not the tail.   They are above and never beneath.   They are lenders and not borrowers.   They are blessed in their going in and blessed in their coming out.    (Deuteronomy 28: 6, 12-13)

They will do greater works than Jesus Christ.   (John 14:12)

God’s work in them is marvelous.  (Psalm 139: 14)

Furthermore, eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man all the things that God has prepared for them because they love Him.   (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Our task is to trust.    God has already walked their steps, and He knows them down to the hairs on their heads.   We simply have to help them to position themselves for usefulness.

At any rate, I did have an interesting conversation with a couple of parents about the nature of the tests.   It occurs to me that these tests are a source of angst and frustration in many communities.   Some think that they are culturally biased.   You know what?   I agree with them.   But it’s not a racial/ ethnic bias.   There are a number of biases, expressed in the following examples:

1)    A grammar test in which the student must read the following and then determine the incorrect portion:

I wanted to read a book

tonight, but these here stars

are simply beautiful.

 

Most of us could immediately pick up that ‘these here stars’ is the line with the incorrect grammar, but where I come from, I’ve heard many say this and more as if it was standard English.

2)    A science question asking a student which temperature (with a choice of three numbers) indicated that a child has a fever.  

 For a child like my small one, who has never been sick enough to run a serious temperature, praise God, she struggled with the right answer.

3)    Questions that ask a student to distinguish a certain leaf, or the root of a plant (like a carrot) versus the plant itself, or how to identify an insect versus a spider.

You must spend time with nature to learn some things in a way that promotes retention.

 

What is this bias, then?    It’s a bias against children who aren’t exposed to rich language and eloquent speech.    It’s a bias against children who don’t get out much, and so may not understand a map or gather a sense of direction from just hanging around the neighborhood.    It’s a bias against children who’ve never felt dirt in their hands, or who’ve not allowed a ladybug or “roly poly” to crawl over their fingers.      It’s a bias against a child who’s never looked up at night and wondered about heavenly bodies and the miracle of the sun and the alignment of the planets.

 

Amidst all the odds stacked against you (or maybe a lack thereof if you’re fortunate), there are constants that ensure success; how you accomplish them is a matter of personal choice and learning preferences.    However, nothing replaces discovery, which is the essence of science.   Nothing replaces discipline, though a child may hate the logic and analytical skills taught via math drills.  Finally, nothing replaces discussion, which allows us to utilize language.    And the beauty of language is that we can use it to tell our children about a great God who lovingly crafted a world that’s worth their curiosity.    The test then becomes just another opportunity to capture a particular level of curiosity.   God bless you.