Category Archives for Science + Tech

Discover the joy of slow science

If Science is a subject that's leaving you a little bewildered or overwhelmed, or you have children who 'don't like science', this homeschooling mum's refreshing take on slow science will have you hooked.

Kids science experiment

By Samantha Matalone Cook | samanthamatalonecook.com

The thing about science is that you have to let kids learn to love it through experience and experiment before you can ask them to be a scientist. To really understand it.

Think about Leonardo DaVinci, watching and sketching his birds over and over again, contemplating flight. Sometimes science is about observation, patience, and beauty. Sometimes science is about time and intimacy. Slow science.

What slow science looks like: buds and biospheres

There are two examples of slow science in the photo below. The hyacinth bulb on the right is seasonal. We set it in a glass vase in early January and have watched its roots slowly tumble down into the water and green leaves shoot upwards.

Left: biosphere Right: hyacinth bulb

We waited in anticipation as tiny purple buds formed and then finally opened to grace us with glorious fragrance. Now the flowers are wilting, and another shoot has appeared. Will we get one more show? We hope and watch. And when the bulb has done all it can, we will tuck it away to be planted or brought out again to see if we can coax another bloom next year. So much in such little time.

On the left is a biosphere. A biosphere is a contained, self-sustaining little ecosystem. This particular one is about three years old, and is seasonal in another way. We watch as the plant life blooms and then dies back. We watch as the shrimp grow, have babies, and die. We watch as the tiny snails clean the sides of the glass. The pond muck full of microscopic creatures we added to the bottom gently pillows and billows around the shells that serve as shelter and a calcium source.

There have been times where everything in the jar has died back to the point where we thought our biosphere was a goner, and then we have been delighted by its amazing and awesome comeback. I have lost count of the times I have found one or more of my kids simply staring into the jar and studying this little world.

Why slow science appeals to kids

Slow science isn’t just about observation, and it’s not about holding a child back from rigorous exploration either. The photo below is from a MEL Science Kit, which one of my boys is really into at the moment. Almost every time a kid says they want to learn about Chemistry, they are not asking to study the Periodic Table (which is cool but not where I would start).

A MEL science kit in action

Usually, they are looking for reactions, excitement, a visual and kinesthetic experience. While these experiments may seem more interactive and complex in some ways, they still fit the slow science model.

My son is the kind of kid who, when allowed to set his own pace, will dive deep and take his time to really understand a subject, topic or skill. Forced, arbitrary schedules have an opposite effect.

The guideposts of slow science discovery for us

1. We take our time

We work through the experiments, savoring each one. We watch the videos on the app, look at three-dimensional models of molecules, and let each success and failure lead us down a merry path into the beauty and curiosity of chemical reactions. This eventually did spark an interest for my son in the periodic table, and he decided to learn more by creating his own card deck of all the elements.

2. We let science lead into natural wonder

In every one of these cases, science is allowed to speak for itself. I may point out my observations, and my kids may share their questions or thoughts, but the wonder that develops is authentic and personal.

Because they were given the space and experiences to fall in love with science and create an identity around being a scientist, each one of my kids continues to pursue science deeply and with great focus.

3. We look for the magic

Right now, we are all (or just some) fascinated with Chemistry, Physics, Volcanology, and Entomology. Whether it was one of these examples or our regular visits to science museums or into nature, each one of my kids have found the magic for themselves.

As my kids like to say, 'magic is just science we don't understand yet.'

4. We see opportunities for slow science in many environments

In more structured environments, slow science is still possible. Filling the environment with rich, touchable scenes is a great way to start. Because one has less time to let curiosity unfold in a classroom or formal curriculum led environment, I would also set out examples of the next unit well ahead of time so the kids can develop a relationship with the subject and begin to form their observations and questions. This doesn’t take away from the unit they are on, and in fact can prompt the kids to make connections between subjects that result in a very natural and rich segue.

This post was originally featured on samanthamatalonecook.com and has been republished here with permission.

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4 ways to discover the beauty, wonder and intimacy of 'slow' science
Jenny Diaz

Samantha Matalone Cook

Contributor

Samantha is a homeschooling mum of three with over two decades of experience in education, program development, and the arts. She has a BA in Humanities, emphasizing Medieval Culture and Archaeology, and an MAt from the George Washington Graduate School of Education and Human Development, specializing in Museum Education. Samantha is an active member, speaker, and advocate of STEM in the hacker/maker and home/unschooling communities. Her website is: samanthamatalonecook.com

How we use YouTube in our homeschool

We often hear that YouTube is an amazing resource for learning, but how do you find and curate topical videos that are age-appropriate for your kids? This article has some excellent tips.

Children playing in water happily

By Natalie Goodacre | homeschoolmummy.com

YouTube is amazing, there is literally a video on there for any subject you want to know about. But it is a minefield when you are a parent. We've all been there when children are inquisitive about something so you look for a video, click on it, only to find that a) it's massively inappropriate or b) it has an overly long advert that again, is massively inappropriate.

I can be a pretty old fashioned parent (by today's modern standards) and even though my children have a Kindle fire each, they can only play on it using the kids mode. Which on a side note is amazing - well done Amazon! This means that I control which apps are on there, and YouTube is not one of them. They did have the kids version of YouTube on there for a time, but again I questioned some of the video content so deleted it.

How many times does a 7 year old need to watch a doll pooing on a potty? Is a cartoon of a man watching ladies in a hot tub really appropriate? That was the one that made me delete YouTube kids. YouTube need to get better at screening these things for the kids version. Or maybe I'm a prude who's way behind the times!?!

How we use YouTube for homeschool

Anyway I digress... I still really value YouTube as an educational tool. So to bypass the awkward video mishaps I set up playlists on my account. I only add videos that I have prewatched, and this also allows me to ensure that they aren't too long, uninspiring or just plain random.

I'm not a total bore and include some funny videos in there too, and we dance to music videos (Rhianna is a total No No!).

So here's a step by step of how we use YouTube to enhance our learning:

1. First you will need a YouTube account if you don't already have one.

2. Next search for the topic you want, I searched for Pig Facts.

How we use YouTube for homeschool

3. Next, click on a video. Whilst watching the video click on the plus icon in the top right hand corner (circled below) or the 'add to' icon underneath:

How we use YouTube for homeschool

4. Then it will come up 'Add to Playlist' at the bottom of the screen.

Click on this, then select the playlist you would like the video to be added to.

How we use YouTube for homeschool

5. Once you've done this a message will pop up saying the video was added. You can then go into your library and see the playlist you've created (see my Pig one below):

How we use YouTube for homeschool

And Voila! A simple way to use YouTube videos to enhance your learning without the awkward random stuff that usually pops up. And you need not worry about this taking up too much of your time - I usually make my playlists in bed at night!

How do you use YouTube in your homeschool planning? Share with us in the comments below.

This post was originally featured on homeschoolmummy.com and has been republished here with permission.

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YouTube is an amazing resource for learning, but how do you find videos that are age-appropriate for your kids? Read the tips on our site.
Natalie Goodacre

Natalie Goodacre

Contributor

Natalie is a a homeschooling mummy to two gorgeous girls aged 7 & 5, from Lincoln, England. She's passionate about learning through play and inquiry based learning and spends her days with her daughters baking, hanging in trees and using their imaginations during hours of play. She blogs at homeschoolmummy.com and is on Instagram @homeschoolmummy.

‘We encourage our son to pull apart all his toys’

When we see a child breaking or disassembling a toy, our first instinct can be to rush in and take it off them. But what they're doing could be far more valuable in developing logic, problem-solving and fine motor skills.

Children playing in water happily

By Chelsee Richardson | @ozriches

My son loves to tinker.

For as long as I can remember he has preferred to play with real items, appliances and tools or toys which he could take apart. As a toddler, he would pull the food processor out, put it together and take it apart many times.

I remember the first remote control boat I bought for him when he was 3. After a few days of playing with it, he pulled it apart. I was frustrated that he had wrecked his toy, but in the process he had discovered something wonderful:

Toys were even more interesting on the inside.

A Self-Directed pathway

During his toddler years, my husband and I quickly concluded that our children would take a self-directed pathway instead of school. I started to view his wrecked toys differently. This was something he was driven to do. An interest. No longer did I see a wrecked toy but an idea, question or investigation he had.

I started to supply him with toys and appliances from the op shop or given to us by friends, specifically so he could pull them apart. We provided him with tools and encouraged him to use them.

Children playing in water happily

I realised that the more I responded to him with attention and support, the more he would tinker. He started to take motors, gears, propellers, speakers and battery packs from broken toys and appliances and craft up a whole new toy such as a plane, helicopter or dump truck.

I had an epiphany

One day while at the markets my son went to purchase a toy sail boat, when the stall owner told him it was broken my son replied, “well that’s ok I can fix it.”

He knew this wasn’t an issue he couldn’t overcome.

You see my son displays some remarkable abilities for a 6-year-old. He can focus and hold his attention for extended periods of time. He's curious and intrinsically motivated to take problems and either solve them or develop his own ideas. He works through frustrations, setbacks and mistakes. He is creative and innovative by using old things in new ways.

These skills are highly valued in the work place and society at large but are we fostering these critical skills in our children? Do we encourage meaningful work? Every day our actions toward our children show otherwise.

As a society, we are not at all interested in helping our children learn what they are interested in.

We have our own agenda, and we push it throughout our children’s entire childhood.

Had my family taken a more authoritarian parenting and schooling route, my son would no longer be working on what he loves. We may have punished him for pulling his toys apart. Perhaps we wouldn’t have paid attention, nor provided him with the materials, space and time to tinker. We may have put the tools away exclaiming them to be dangerous.

And so by now he would have spent several years at school with his attention diverted elsewhere, doing work someone else deemed more important. Then after school between homework and chores, his love for mechanics and engineering may have been forgotten, not valued and in the end, left behind.

He simply may not be the same little boy.

What about a balanced education?

I can hear the questions. We want a balanced education for our children too. We don’t want to see them struggle in other areas. But when we mentally check off the things our kids are ‘good’ at to focus on the things they are ‘bad’ at are we diverting our children away from their true talents and strengths? Are we leading them to believe their skills and strengths are not of value? If children’s interests get pushed to the side, we may never know what they are capable of.

I occasionally hear remarks about how talented he is. But to be honest, I think he is a little boy supported to do what he loves.

I believe all children can do remarkable things if we support their strengths and interests.

When I think about this route we may have taken, the one society told us we should, I can’t help but wonder how many children have to leave their loves and ultimately themselves behind. Their talents and strengths lost when they could have brought meaning to their lives. And perhaps revolutionary ideas to our world.

After 12 years of forced learning, we expect children to know what they want to do with their lives. Perhaps they left it behind in kindergarten.

Jenny Diaz

Chelsee Richardson

Contributor

Chelsee is a mother to a pigeon pair. About to embark on a nomadic travelling journey around Australia, she is dedicated to building her family culture around self-directed learning. Her interests are as diverse as her children’s and any day can look like an array of gumnuts, LED’s, Hiragana and roller skating. She's on Instagram as @ozriches

Homeschool diary: our egg hatching project

A homeschooling mama from Canada shares how she and her children immersed themselves in caring for eggs and watching them hatch into chicks.

By Krista Lii | @kristalii

Spring is in full swing over here now, and we’ve been keeping busy with lots of little projects! At our homeschool co-op, we’ve planted seedlings, and started building a living play structure out of willow shoots. At home we’ve made a temporary habitat for observing earthworms, and filled our bookshelves with beautiful spring stories. We’ve seen the frogs come out of hibernation, and the deers venture out of the woods to lick the salt off the roads.

It’s so nice to have warm weather again. And it’s like a brand new world out there. Things are coming back to life, and hey, so am I! The changing seasons inspire me. It never gets old.

It was sometime last month (in March), when I realized that spring was just around the corner. Suddenly, I was itching to start spring projects in our home.

I’ve dreamed of owning chickens for a long time

So, when the idea of an egg hatch project came up, I jumped right in.

Back when I was in first grade, I remember the buzz of the other first grade class across the hall. They were doing an egg hatch project! How fun, I remember thinking. I so hoped that our class would do it too, but sadly we never got the chance!

Seeing as my kids are home with me, and that I can literally customize their education for them, I try to do lots of fun seasonal projects. Project based learning has always been fun for us. And I love to learn alongside my children.

I contacted a farm that provides chick hatches, and was excited to find out our expected hatch date would be March 31st. Just in time for Easter! It was perfect. What says springtime more than baby animals?

She delivered our beautiful eggs, which varied in shades of green, brown, and off-white, along with an incubator, egg turner, and some other supplies we’d need for when the chicks hatched.

It was three long weeks of waiting.

In the meantime, we kept the incubator humidity high, and added water as needed. The egg turner was set up to slowly turn the eggs from side to side throughout the day.

The kids and I waited in anticipation. Our library visits consisted of us scouring the shelves for books about chickens, farms, oviparous animals, and spring in general. We even candled an egg every night to see the miraculous changes taking place inside. (This requires going into a dark room and holding a flashlight underneath the egg.)

And then one day, as we were sitting around the dining table eating lunch…

We heard a tiny peep! coming from inside the incubator.

Peep! Peep! Peep!

And more and more peeps as the day went on.

The next morning, we awoke to six chicks hopping around in the incubator! And the remaining chicks hatched throughout the day. We even managed to see a couple of them breaking out of their shells.

It was fascinating. My kids were eager to hold the chicks right away, but I told them that we’d have to let them dry off first and get used to their surroundings.

We set up a heat lamp and brooding box for them, filled with wood shavings, a water dish, and second dish filled with chick feed. My kids hovered there constantly! They observed in awe and treated these little animals with such kindness.

The farmer had told us that sometimes, even with the right conditions, there would be a few eggs that wouldn’t hatch. And she was right. She also told us that some chicks would start pecking their way out of the egg, and for whatever reason, might not be strong enough to finish.

We were keeping an eye on one egg in particular, as it had been an entire day since we first noticed the little beak popping out from inside, trying to peck away the eggshell. We had been instructed to help a chick out of it’s egg if it had been over 24 hours from the time a sizeable crack had formed. And so, ever-so-gently, we peeled away the eggshell and freed the chick. We gave him as warm bath, as advised in our manual, to help loosen the little egg shell bits that remained fixated to his fluff. Then, we put him back into the incubator to warm up.

We named him Peep.

Poor little Peep was weak from the start. He was smaller than the other chicks and he wasn’t quite as spritely.

One morning, my daughter sat glumly by the brooding box and I saw big fat tears falling as she cupped little Peep in her hands.

What’s wrong? I asked.

It’s Peep. He’s going to die. All the other chicks were running over top of him and he’s hurt, she replied.

My heart sank. I took a quick look, and it was clear that Peep was in some sort of distress. We immediately separated him from the other chicks, and placed him in his own, comfortable box with all the chick necessities. We made sure his box was nice and warm, and checked on him throughout the day.

Peep’s state was very upsetting to the kids. We were doing a bit more life learning with this project than I had expected! We talked about nature, and the circle of life. We talked about death and what happens. And little Peep died in peace.

One of the hardest parts about being a mother is seeing my kids sad.

They grieved over this poor little chick. They had not yet experienced loss. I made sure to answer all of their questions to the best of my abilities. They made peace with it over time.

Our egg hatch project was certainly one to remember. Lots of learning about life.

One warm evening, I took the kids outside for some photos with their fluffy friends. I simply needed to document the special love and care they had for their baby chicks. I hope they will always remember this special experience!

So, are we keeping the chicks?

I wish we could. I’d love to have some backyard chickens, but my husband and I agreed that it’s not the right place or time for us right now. The chicks have moved up the street to our friend’s lovely homestead where they will be joining the chickens that live there already, as well as ducks, goats, sheep, cats, dogs, and a large pig named Petunia.

We may not be able to keep chickens right now, but we will be able to see these chicks grow up at our homestead co-op every week (and hopefully in a few months, be able to take home some of the eggs they’ve been laying)!

Soon, I’m hoping we’ll have backyard chickens of our own. 😉 In the meantime, I’ll be doing plenty of reading on raising them.

This article originally appeared on kristaliiblog.wordpress.com and has been republished here with permission.

Have you ever raised chicks from egg hatching with your kids? Comment below.

Krista Lii profile photo

Krista Lii

Contributor

Krista is a nature-loving, homeschooling mother of three living in a small town in Canada. You can find her playing in the local forest, exploring the world, photographing her family adventures, and writing her heart out on her blog.

The Water Cycle: hands-on learning activities

Take a peek inside the homeschool habits of this family in Florida, and see the unique and creative ways they investigated the water cycle.

In this article


By Kristine Wilson | @creativeandgrowingkids

We are the Wilsons, a family of six who have been enjoying the homeschool life for the past ten years. My husband, Caleb is in federal law enforcement, and I spend my days learning at home with my three youngest, Marseille, 11, Dominic, 9, and Adeline, 6. My oldest, Whitney, who was homeschooled for 8 years, now attends high school. 

We have an eclectic style of homeschooling with threads of Waldorf, Montessori and Charlotte Mason woven throughout. We especially love learning through hands-on activities and creative work.​

Moving to southern Florida has really inspired us to get outside daily, and we have enjoyed spending that time studying nature. I love using nature studies as the vehicle for learning science, and this year we chose The Nature Anatomy book by Julia Rothman as the core structure of our science study.

 

Our weekly rhythm

The kids and I sit down every week and decide together how we would like to approach the next subject. We use our imagination, different books, online sites, and resources like Pinterest to put together hands-on activities for each subject.

I have found the benefits of hands-on learning to be wonderful for my children. It has made it possible to teach my children, with their mix of tactile, auditory, and visual learning styles, to find not only enjoyment in their studies, but the ability to retain the information that they have learned.

Through presenting the material with group reading, discussion, written narration, and hands-on activities, they have been able to learn through all their senses. Working together as a group also allows the children to foster their critical thinking, communication, and creativity skills as well.

I don’t delve too deep into each subject but touch upon it lightly so as to inspire my children to continue learning about the subject through a deeper personal study of their own.

How we did the water cycle

One of our favourite studies this month was on the water cycle. The children gathered our main books and encyclopaedias, and we brainstormed ways to make the study as fun and informational as possible.

1. We started by flagging pages in the books that we wanted to read and discuss. We then proposed different ideas for hands-on activities.

First, they agreed to draw out and label the water cycle for our homeschool portfolios. My son had been wanting to add LEGO to our studies, so we thought that this was a perfect opportunity to make the cycle with LEGO. My daughters love to cook and create with food, so they thought a quiz on the water cycle with fun foods would be enjoyable.

We followed that up with a few Pinterest ideas such as making a cloud in a jar and chalking out an evaporating puddle.

We used image-rich textbooks to inspire our study of the water cycle.

 

2. How we used LEGO

We used a 10 x 10cm flat LEGO piece as our base for the water cycle activity. My kids used the LEGO pieces we had at home and built the water cycle according to the pages we had studied. I printed out the vocabulary water cycle words and arrows, and the kids placed them on the project where needed.

How we used LEGO to represent the water cycle.

 

3. A delicious twist on the water cycle: representation with food

The kids brainstormed which fun foods would work for the aspects of the water cycle that they needed. After preparing the foods, they put together the water cycle and gave an oral presentation on the project. They chose to make a chocolate chip cookie mountain, jello lake, marshmallow clouds, raining color candies, and frosting for the snow, river, and water evaporation. They used extra colored candies for the greenery and sun as well.

Who says learning can't be tasty?

 

4. Puddle evaporation experiment

For the puddle Evaporation experiment we poured out a bottle of water onto the warm pavement and drew a circle around it with chalk. We continued to draw outlines of the puddle as it evaporated.

Watching water evaporate is more exciting than watching grass grow.

 

5. Afterwards, we drew out and labelled the water cycle in our learning portfolio books.

This year has definitely been one of our best homeschooling years. Not only has it been really fun, but I feel adding a lot more hands-on activities has helped my children focus better, spark their curiosity about the world around them, and engage their love of learning more deeply.

Although every school year has its natural highs, lows, and challenges, homeschooling continues to be an ever- expanding and fulfilling opportunity that I am so grateful to be able to experience.

Grace profile image square

Kristine Wilson

Contributor

Kristine Wilson lives in Fort Lauderdale Florida. She has been homeschooling for 10 years. Kristine enjoys spending time with her family, being outside studying nature, and curling up inside with a great book. She's on Instagram as @creativeandgrowingkids