Welcome to the seventh virtual meeting of The Core Bookclub here at Hope Is the Word. You can read more about the bookclub, as well as find out the schedule, in this post. Be sure to like Hope Is the Word on Facebook to participate in the discussion over there, too. (should such a conversation ever materialize 😉 ).
Chapter 9: “Science”:
I was fortunate to have a high school science teacher I loved and who encouraged in me a love of science. When I think back to high school, my fondest memories are of time spent in her classroom and the many extracurricular science activities she sponsored. Although my first couple of years in college level science classes squelched my love for science a good bit, I still consider myself a “science-y” person. My husband has degrees in biology, chemistry, and science education, and in fact supports our family through his education and expertise in the field. It follows, then, that science is fairly important to both of us. However, I have a confession to make: it is the thing that leaves me scratching my head and/or frustrated the most often in our homeschool. We’ve used various curricula successfully, but it often gets pushed off the schedule when time grows short. Actually, for the past year, science has been something that Steady Eddie “does” with the girls either at night or on the weekends. My main contribution to the girls’ science education is assigning science-related books and narrations and taking them on nature study expeditions.
Chapter nine in The Core offers me two things: a sense of consolation and peace that what we’re doing is enough and a sense of discontent that the picture Bortins paints of their life on the lake, where science is just what they do, is something we’ll never quite come up to here at the House of Hope. I’m trying to focus on the former and ignore the latter, realizing that although we don’t live on a lake, we have plenty of opportunities to explore here in our own neighborhood and community. (To be fair, Bortins says just this time and again. She isn’t about place undue guilt on the homeschooling parent.)
I have this love for nature study that has grown over the past few years, but in the back of my mind, I’ve wondered if it’s enough. Bortins emphasizes the importance of observation skills:
Science studies provide the perfect opportunity to teach children to “see.” Eventually, we will want them to see injustice, or a need of the larger community, and know that it is in their power to come up with solutions rather than walk past problems the way a child walks past a dirty shirt on the floor. So, while it may seem like idling to lie on your back and identify cloud formations or name the animals hidden in the clouds’ shapes, it is actually an effective and pleasurable way to teach the art of observation and to exercise the imagination. (180)
I also like Bortins’ explanation of the importance of memory work for science. I found myself nodding my head yes to this:
Most science textbooks for elementary students do cover the topics listed above [topics related to most science fields]. Our concern as classical educators is that science terms are presented in thick books with too much information. The goal becomes to read the textbook and take a test on facts filed in short-term memory. Instead, science memory work for grade-school students should be minimal, meaningful, and intended to be purposefully revisited throughout the students’ years in school. (186)
A summary of what I gleaned from this chapter is this: memory work + observation (nature, experiments, demonstrations) + science reports = a good grammar stage science education. What I’m most fuzzy about is the science reports, although I have sort of implemented something like them in our homeschool in requiring Lulu (third grade) to read and complete a written narration on one science-related book a week. (You can see her first science narration of this school year in this post.) I think it’s doable, and it certainly removes a lot of the stress of doing it all.
This statement about memory work is true not only of science facts, but of every discipline. I need this tattooed somewhere prominent so I can see it each week. 😉
Once parents start to see how much their children naturally memorize, they often want to add even more. Please proceed with caution, though. If you add on so much that you can never systematically review it all, you’re back to surveying and drilling for short-term memory. Pick key science facts that will stay with your child for a lifetime. (182)
Chapter 10: “Fine Arts”:
I skimmed this chapter and didn’t discover anything particularly earth shaking in it. I do like the emphasis Bortins once again places on the classical method, that it can be used to learn anything. I also like the emphasis on copying the masters. I would like to check out a few of the resources she mentions in this chapter. I need to dig out our Ed Emberley drawing books!
What did you glean from chapters 8 and 9?
Links to previous bookclub posts:
(Rather than put up a linky each week, I’ll just ask you to link up your blog posts in the comments. If you’re reading along and would prefer to just share your thoughts in a comment or on Hope Is the Word’s Facebook page, that’s good, too.)
Next week will be the last meeting of The Core Bookclub. I will post about the last couple of chapters in The Core as well as my overall thoughts about it.