Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Science with the Little Ones

Well, school is officially underway at our house. We started on Monday, and have had two very successful first days! It feels kind of odd, really, because I'm doing things a bit differently this year, and I'm still trying to get used to it. But so far, I think I like it.

For starters, we NEVER start school this early. Mostly my reasoning for this is just to prove the point that we don't have to follow the same schedule as the public school system. Generally, I don't start back until the first part of September. But this year, we will be heading to the beach for a few days right after Labor Day, so that was going to cut into some of my start up time. I decided to just get a jump on things and get in a few weeks of work before we go. Then I won't feel guilty about skipping town for a few days. I have wanted to take my kids to the beach for a few years now, and it looks like this is FINALLY the year it will happen. I envision spending some lazy time on the beach picking up seashells, building sand castles, playing in the salty ocean water, and reading Night of the Moonjellies to my kids on the beach one night as the tide comes in. We shall see if that all plays out as well in real life as it does in my head.

The other thing that is different is the fact that I actually planned quite a bit of our school ahead of time for this year. I have NEVER done this in the past. I always just plan as we go, and for years, this way has worked beautifully. But I am finding out that, the more kids you have, the more organized and planned out you need to be. So I spent TONS of time over the last month planning out different things, so that our year would go much more smoothly. And so far, even though it feels different and a little weird, I think I like it. I can see in just these last two days how all that hard work planning has saved me time and frustration in our school work.

I just had to share with you some of the school that Little Sister and I did today.

At the end of last year's co-op, she came home with a little Styrofoam cup filled with dirt and two sunflower seeds planted in it. Honestly, I didn't really expect it to grow. I was really shocked when both plants came up and actually lived! So when they got big enough, we took them outside to our garden and planted them. One died pretty quickly, but the other kept growing and growing, and eventually had a beautiful sunflower on display! Little Sister was THRILLED to see her flower in full bloom. However, in the Deep South this year we have had scorching temperatures, so her beautiful flower didn't last nearly as long as we would have liked. It was just too hot. So for the last month or two, I have had a dead sunflower out in my garden, right next to all the other dead things that the heat had killed.

Today, while I was outside cleaning out a small portion of the mess of a garden I have, I came across her dead flower. I was about to just yank it up to throw it out, but I realized that, even though it didn't last long as a flower, it had still made seeds! Britches snipped the head off and took it inside for me. I told Little Sister that she and I were going to examine it later after she woke up from her nap. (That was partly just a ploy to talk her into laying down for awhile, since she now thinks that, since she's five, she's too old for a nap!)

This afternoon when she woke up, Little Sister came and asked me if it was time to examine her flower. So we sat down at the table, and I showed her how, even though it was dead, God had made so many more seeds in it that we could plant and grow more flowers! She was so excited as she picked all the seeds out of the head. We looked at them and talked about how many there were. And I showed her which ones were developed enough to actually grow a new plant and which ones weren't. And then I gave her a bag to put her seeds in, so we could put them with all my other seeds for when it got time to plant again next spring. And then I was done. I headed off to fix supper.

She finally asked me, "Mama, I thought we were going to examine my flower." I looked at her and said, "Ummm, we did examine your flower. That's what we just did at the table." "No, we're supposed to use that thing to look at it really close." "You mean the microscope?" "YEAH!! That's it! We need to look at it under the microscope!"

Oh my goodness, I hadn't even given a thought to pulling down the microscope for my five year old! Never crossed my mind. But to her, she knew that examining something was way more than just looking at and counting some seeds. You had to use the microscope! So I pulled it down, and we started examining. We looked at the dirt and the dead leaves and the dead whatever the other stuff was, and she was having a blast. And while we were looking, Baby Girl came in and asked if she could "help, too". So the three of us did some really cool science today, and that wasn't even on my "schedule."

Sometimes the most fun and most educational things come when you aren't really "planning" for them. I am so thankful that our homeschool is so flexible, and that my kids are allowed to have that natural curiosity that wants to know about things.

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