Substantive Education

April 9, 2008

Keeping the Doors Open

Filed under: Education — kbagdanov @ 3:00 pm
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When you begin to homeschool you face the inevitable questions and confrontations from people who basically think you are nuts. When you choose to continue to homeschool through high school, believe me the confrontations become much more heated. I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts on why continued to homeschool through high school with our four boys. Even if we had the money for private school or lived in the county with the top rated public schools we would continue to homeschool.

When we are in high school we begin to make choices that effect the rest of our lives. We begin to decide what kind of people we want to be, to visualize our role in the adult world. Oftentimes the choices we make have far-reaching effects. They either open or close doors. Decisions regarding drugs, sex, alcohol, and peers can affect us for the rest of our lives. Doors can be shut that can never be opened again. Emotional scars can be formed at this tender age and can last a lifetime and shut even more doors.

It is easy to see these shut doors when they are glaring and obvious, like a teen age pregnancy. Harder when they are shut in more subtle ways, like lack of time to pursue an interest, the closing of a mind due to boredom, the slow sink into depression because we don’t seem to fit in. When I considered what I wanted to do about high school I found the concept of opened and closed doors very revealing. Let me explain.

When Timothy, our oldest son, was in Jr. High he had had an unconventional schooling experience. He had never attended school and had met very few actual textbooks. Instead we had tried to instil in him a love of learning. We have exposed him to the exciting world of books, of nature, and of music. We have made sure he is as comfortable in libraries and museums as he is in his own home. We have encouraged him to be observant of the world around him, whether it be the current political climate or the wildflowers on the side of the road.

We have tried to open up for him as many doors as possible. Not so he could master a set of facts, and thus be declared “educated,” but so he would realize that no matter how long he lived there would never be enough time to explore all that interested him.

(This picture is of Timothy the summer he spent working as an intern at a training center/children’s home in Kenya.)

Academics are very important. We have tried our best to hold up a standard of excellence in terms of our children’s academics, but it is certainly not the most important aspect of education. Giving our children a strong grounding in God’s word and a solid understanding of how they can have a personal relationship with Him provides the foundation for any education that follows. More than a good “education’ we wanted our children to have good character. What good is knowledge without integrity, compassion, and strength?

When I considered our high school options it helped to think of it in terms of open and closed doors. I believe wholeheartedly that a home education has served Timothy well in the area of academics. I believed that even with a homeschool high school experience he would be able to get into the college of his choice (which he did). I knew that he could continue to play the stports he loves so much in venues other than high school. I knew that he would have time to pursue his interests in music, to write songs and stories, to play in sports tournaments, to work, and to serve in various church ministries.

All of these might have to be drastically curtailed if he were in a traditional school dealing with the extended schedule and homework. I know that he is free from undue peer influence, not from all contact with peers as is often feared, but from the constant pressure that can undermine his own sense of self.

We need a vision for what education can be. We need to move beyond meeting minimum requirements or keeping up with relatives expectations. We need to throw off the mediocre and even the good to pursue the excellent. Our goal should be far beyond reaching graduation, it must be to inspire our children to be men and women of integrity, curiosity, strength, and courage.

April 7, 2008

Elementary Science

Filed under: Science — kbagdanov @ 5:42 pm
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On Friday’s I teach some classes for students in our school. One of my favorites is elementary science. This year we are working through a great book published by Apologia called Exploring Creation with Zoolology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. (I highly recommend this entire series…fabulous.) This Friday we were doing a series of experiments to use for our Open House at the end of the month.

Here the girls are getting our sand ready….

Our experiment involved testing where the best fossils would be formed. We used sand, dirt (mud…the boys were a little over-enthusiastic with the water) and clay. Then we took a shell with a lot of ridges and made depressions in each of our materials. Plaster of Paris was quickly (we weren’t quick enough and had to make a second batch) pored into the depressions…and in a mere 30 minutes we could pull out our ‘fossils’ and see if our hypothesis was correct .

Here Garret (really cute guy that you can’t see) is pushing our shell into the mud.

Here Linda is working quickly to get the Plaster of Paris in place.

April 6, 2008

Chemistry

Filed under: Science — kbagdanov @ 5:19 pm
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One thing I’ve learned about doing science with High School students is that most concepts that they are learning can be demonstrated with common household chemicals. It’s amazing the number of concepts that can be taught with vinegar, baking soda, a balloon, and liter bottle.

On Friday my Chemistry students were doing a more advanced experiment using conversions and stoichiometry to figure the pressure of the gas within the balloon.

Once we figured the Radius of the balloon, then the volume of the balloon, found the atmospheric pressure, temperature, water vapor pressure we could calculate the pressure of the CO2 that was formed. Okay, all of that took a while and we are all very grateful for calculators. Then we could figure the moles of CO2 used in the reacation…to (with the magic of stoichiometry) figure that 4.50% of the venegar was acid. YEAH!!!

Quality Chemistry instruction all with items from the kitchen….all kitchens have extra balloons, right?

April 2, 2008

Shark Dissections

Filed under: Science — kbagdanov @ 5:06 pm
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A group of our High School students decided they wanted to do a Marine Biology Course this year. All of these students have finished a traditional Biology course, and two of them are taking Chemistry concurrently with this class. We have had a lot of fun, this is a fascinating topic. Here is one of our dissections…we also did star fish and clams. Enjoy the pics.

Getting through the tough skin is more of a challenge than you would think…after breaking some dissection tools we resorted to steak knives.

Here is Joseph abandoning tweezers and tools in favor of fingers…can’t be to squeamish.

Hands on learning isn’t just for the little kids…. And yes that is a tie around Brad’s head. We don’t try to explain Brad’s fashion quirks, we just enjoy them.

Homeschooling Might Be For You.

Filed under: Education,Homeschooling — kbagdanov @ 12:50 am
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There are times when every homeschool parent is beset with doubts. It’s a serious responsibility, taking on the education of your children…they are depending on you to give them what they need to go out into the world and make a life. (And when they are looking at you with this much trust who could let them down. For those of you wondering…this is Caleb.) With the recent decision of a California court deciding against homeschooling there has been increased scrutiny of the homeschool community. Many parents I talk to have been confronted more aggressively in the past weeks about the wisdom of keeping their children at home. The court decided that only teachers with a credential are qualified to teach. I, along with many of my homeschool cohorts, would respectfully disagree. There is no reason that a motivated, disciplined parent can’t provide an outstanding education for their child. Let me list just a few advantages.

First, a parent has the advantage of working with their child one-on-one. The benefits to this kind of teaching cannot be overemphasised. The child can work at their own pace in each subject. There is no need to labor over concepts that have already been grasped or to move on to new material before a child is ready. The parent/teacher can adapt easily to the individual needs of the student.

Second, a parent has intimate knowledge of each child’s strengths and weaknesses and no one is more motivated to see their child succeed than a parent.

Third, quality curriculums abound. The homeschooling movement has been around long enough and represents enough paying customers that curriculum developers have addressed the issues unique to the homeschool family. No matter what the subject or what the learning style of your child is, there is a curriculum out there. Curriculums are written with the knowledge that parents are not teachers or experts and addresses those challenges. Many provide on-line assistance or phone support.

Fourth, and my personal favorite…I can adapt whatever curriculums I use to suit my children. There are advantages and disadvantages to every system, and the advantages differ from child to child. I can use what is good from each to create a well balanced approach.

I don’t think homeschooling is for everyone, but for those who choose it and pursue it with diligence it is a rewarding and effective alternative to a traditional education.

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