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Monday, January 14, 2013

Delight Directed Middle School Science?

Virtual Curriculum Fair for homeschoolers This is week 2 of the 2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair for homeschoolers.  This week’s topic is:

Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science

This theme can include anything to do with mathematics, mathematical thinking, numbers, arithmetic, symbolic logic, critical thinking, and math-y sciences (physics, chemistry, etc.).

There are a lot of wonderful homeschool bloggers participating this week, and their articles will be linked to the bottom of this post as they go live…so bookmark this page!

If you’re a regular reader, you already know that I’m obsessed with math.  I talked about math for last year’s VCF and math continues to get a lot of attention around here, so I decided this week I’m going to talk about something I really don’t talk much about…science!

Delight Directed Middle School Science?

Let me preface this by saying…my husband and I met while in college studying English and Philosophy.  My husband has a Ph.D in philosophy and teaches college students and seminarians.  We are academic geeks and serious bookworms. 

But we are not scientists. 

That’s not to say that we aren’t interested in science.  In fact, I’m such a geek that my research paper I wrote for my AP High School English class was inspired by Stephen Hawking’s  A Brief History of Time.

But I’m not a chemist or a field scientist or any of that.  I’m an observer, a thinker, a reader…not really an experimenter.  I’m not fascinated by microscopic life.  I’m not an expert in astronomy.

I’m telling you this to bring up a point.  There are those who will claim that our kids are limited by my personal knowledge and experience.

Not true. 

This point is obvious, but my children can peruse whole libraries, do research on the web, or even take a class at the local community college or elsewhere.  They are not limited by my knowledge-base or interests.

We also encourage them to pursue their own interests by not completely filling up their days with scheduled “schooling” and allowing them plenty of time and opportunities to pursue their personal interests.

But as they get older, we also give them some control over what they are studying during their scheduled day.  They get to make some choices.

If you ever feel nervous about choosing curricula for your kids, having their whole education in your hands, maybe that sounds scary.  It does.

But one of our big goals for our kids is to help them to grow to be lifelong learners.  Learning is a way of life, not something you do between the hours of 8 and 3 Monday thru Friday.

And it’s more fun to learn if it’s something you really want to know about. 

So, as the kids get older, not only do we expect them to do more independent assigned work, we also expect them to take more responsibility for their education, and that means giving them choices.

This year my 7th grader chose his own science.


I found a great deal on a set of Prentice Hall Science Explorer books.  A complete set of 15 books middle school level books, each on a different topic.  Plenty of activities, questions, labs and extension activities included. 

This is an older edition and I know someone’s going to say, “What, you’re using out of date science books?”

But, you know what?  The vast majority of information from even 10 years ago is still true.  Gravity still accelerates objects at the same rate.  Newton’s laws still hold.  Germination still happens the same way.

Sure, Pluto isn’t a planet anymore (or is it?), but there’s something disproven or revised in every science book, no matter how new it is.  Human knowledge is imperfect.  Books are imperfect.  This is actually something that we teach our kids---don’t believe everything you read in a book.  Be inquisitive.  Be a skeptic.  Seek other sources.  Why pretend that any science book is 100% accurate?

And the books are just a jumping off point.  There’s the library, the world-wide-web, and real life.  The books are just a handy scaffold to help you reach out beyond yourself.

I asked my son to choose 3-4 books to study this year. 

He chose Astronomy; Motion, Forces, and Energy; and Animals.

He’s not quite ready to just tackle them in his own time and get things done, so I do schedule out for him what chapters to do on which weeks.  Other than that, he is doing this science program entirely on his own.  He chooses which labs and projects to do.

He’s having fun with it.  One morning he got up and, even before changing out of his pajamas, he started constructing a vehicle that moves using Newton’s 3rd law of motion (every action has an equal and opposite reaction). 

That’s a project from the Forces book.  Design and create a vehicle that moves using Newton’s 3rd law (but not gravity). 


Now an average kid might make a little car or another vehicle that would travel on the ground.  Or even a boat.

Not my kid.

He wanted to make a flying machine.


033After a morning of experimenting, this was the final design.

Complete with airfoil and balloon engines.

There were many many modifications, from air foil shape changes, to balloon placement, number of balloons, and so on, until he found his “golden” prototype. 

It was great to see him work this out on his own with minimal input from me (I held the “plane” aloft so it could take off and released the clip on one of the balloons).

It flew 1.5 yards.  Not bad for delight directed learning.

The key point here is not the actual curriculum we are using (although I do recommend it, the information presented is solid and it’s do-able as an independent program), but allowing my son to take charge of his own learning.

He may not be a future scientist (what do I know, maybe he’ll invent a flying car?), but he’s definitely absorbing what he’s reading.  And making things happen.

The other day he proved that graphite is a good electrical conductor

with a broken light-up yo-yo and a broken pencil he sharpened on both ends.  No, this wasn’t part of the program, just something he hatched out of his own little head.


Encourage your kids to own their education, and they’ll go far.

Check out what what other homeschoolers are doing in math and science (new links will be posted here throughout the day):

The Hardest Part of Math by Kristi @ The Potter's Hand Academy

A Tour Through Our Math and Science Life by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

What Works for Us…Math by Piwi Mum @ Learning & Growing the Piwi Way

Math Art – Geometry by Julie @ Highhill Education

It's Math-magical by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings

Virtual Curriculum Fair: Fun and Games with Math by Tonia @ The Sunny Patch

Discovering Patterns by Lisa @ The Golden Grasses

Math for the Natural by Erin @ Delighting in His Richness

Virtual Curriculum Fair~ Discovering Patterns by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me

Too Many Math Programs or Not by Linda B @ Homeschooling6

Virtual Curriculum Fair:  Math and More!  by April @ Coffee, Cobwebs, and Curriculum

The post where I admit I was wrong by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

High School Math - Beyond the Textbook by TechWife @ A Playground of Words

Discovering a World of Logic and Order by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair- Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science by Leah C @ As We Walk Along the Road

The Plans of Mice and Math (My Math in Focus review) by Chelli @ The Planted Trees

Rightstart Math is right for us! by Leann  @ Montessori Tidbits

Our Favorite Homeschool Math Curriculums by Wendy @ Homeschooling Blessings

Let’s connect:


  1. Both my husband and I admit to learning a lot on our own by taking apart broken things (like your son's yo-yo). We've seen the insides of radios, tape players, rotory telelphones, etc.

  2. Who cares about the books being out of date... those projects look AWESOME!!!!!

  3. Missouri Mama,
    Yep, he tried to make a robot from a water bottle and some parts from a broken alarm clock once. It didn't work out, but he still learned alot from attempting it.

  4. Modest Mama,
    Agreed---great ideas rarely go out of fashion.

  5. Love the idea of letting them choose what books to study from. I could definitely see that working for my 13 year old!

    Such a simple way to add delight directed learning to science!

  6. Wow, this was great!! I love how he's taking such a wonderful interest and doing things on his own! Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. That is an awesome flying machine. It would have been fun to see it fly! Love your last point! If kids want to learn about it, give them the tools, and they will. Stopping by from G+ hope to see you at True Aim!

  8. Yes, where there's a will, they will find a way. I've been amazed at how inventive my kids can be when there's something they truly want to accomplish.

  9. I love the idea of letting the kids choose their own science. And they really do learn so much when they are interested.

  10. I like that you chose to let them decide what to learn, and it is interesting that they chose activities.

    By physically involving the children in the learning process (games, real life experiences, choices…active learning), studies show children actually learn faster, retain more, drop out rates decrease by 90%, and it reduces stress.
    Lesson Plans That Motivate


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