Welcome to my adventure. This blog started out focused on parenting and school but now that Katie's nearly baked, it's way more about me these days. My experiences, more likely my point of view and good times to share.
Welcome! I'm glad to have you aboard.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Home School Science Fair: The Results are In!

That's right! We had us a Science Fair and it was great. Despite the hesitation and resistance expressed by the teachers about competition or, wait for it, setting expectations, the kids did great! In fact, it was probably the best event I have attended at our home school!

As you might have read in my last blog, I was pretty frustrated about the lack of preparation for this event. Turns out that attitude extended to the event and child after smiling child brought in their project and we quickly ran out of tables (did we not ask who was participating? seriously?).

All ages participated displaying a delightful range of projects.

Katie's project was based on our hamster, Pat. She wanted to know if hamsters could learn. She decided to use a maze with a treat at the end and run PatHam through the maze four specific times per day, timing her performance. She did this over four days while making the maze slightly more complex each day.

At first, we thought Pat was a total failure. Her times were all over the place. Sometimes she would randomly find the treat, other times she would dally and get lost and finally find her reward. By the morning of day three, we figured it was going to be a fail.

And then we saw a shift!

On the evening of the third day, she finally seemed to get it! It appeared she knew where she was, she didn't waste time and she ran to the end of the maze and scored her sunflower seed treats! Wahoo! We were so excited.

On day four, PatHam was a total stud. Even though Katie has made the maze more difficult, it was no barrier. She ran across that granite and hit the seeds in just seconds. All four times! Totally exciting. We found overall, she did better at 5pm and 9pm but kind of sucky at 9am and 7pm. Hamsters are nocturnal and that might have had something to do with it.

Putting the board together was fun and Katie said it reminded her of scrap booking (kind of did). I enjoyed asking her to think through the results and conclusions and getting her to think critically about what she had done. She also did a great job presenting her project to the audience (while holding Pat so everyone could see her research subject!).

There were so many great studies at the fair. Katie's friends participated too (that's Sophia - in the back - in the tie-dyed shirt and Jordan facing the camera):
  • Jordan used a test tube to pop corn and evaluate each type against a set of criteria.
  • Sophia tried making cheese with different ingredients (they all failed but made for great photos of the process).
  • Mira did an amazing experiment with different gasses and balloons (some still have not gone down and it's been more than two weeks - something about compressed air and nitrogen).
With so much enthusiasm, I hope the teachers took notice. The kids were absolutely on it. And they could have easily absorbed some guidance on how to make their projects even better. In fact, kudos to the parents, because nearly every project met the basic criteria. It made the fair fun, interesting and led to lots of good discussion.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Home School Science Fair: Are You Kidding Me?

I am not writing about the actual Science Fair - I will do that in an upcoming blog. Nope, tonight, this is my bully pulpit. My chance to be heard. Tomorrow, I will get back in line.

Our home school is a program organized by our local school district. While we do our own thing, we have a principal and teachers to whom we report on a regular basis. We have a site where the kids go twice a week for optional instruction - activities, art and generally cool enrichment stuff. I really like the team and it has generally met my expectations. But it is loose. Really loose.

Which brings us to the Science Fair.

Our regular public school never had a Science Fair. This totally bums me out. I have always wanted Katie to participate and if lucky enough, qualify to go to County. But it wasn't an option. Except this year. Home school is doing a Science Fair! And, as I was told, she could also go on to County! Yippee. We got to work.

I am an idiot.

Turns out, that wasn't really the case. To go to County, registration was required along with a teacher sponsor - due today. I learned all this during the four day weekend when, yep, you got it, no teachers were available. Not only that, but even the parameters for the school Science Fair were not available. Sure, they had published information - in four different places with different parts of the whole story. I started to boil.

Katie wasn't going to be in the County Science Fair. It just couldn't happen that fast. When I finally did get to talk to the teacher leading the effort, she said, "I asked the kids 'who wanted to do it' and Katie didn't raise her hand." "Nope," I said, "She didn't, because she didn't know what it was and I want her to do it. Maybe you should have asked the parents." Arg. Loose.

As I started to pursue this, the "loose" factor began to gain momentum. "We don't really have any requirements for our Science Fair," I was told. "Sorry you didn't get the information you need to have Katie go to County, but she probably wouldn't like it anyway, it's very competitive." Um, yeah. That's exactly what I do want. I hope she goes to college with those kids some day.

It seems, apparently, our home school group is fierecly opposed to competition. Yeah, that which makes so many of us great - make us achieve, work hard, stay motivated - is bad. I can't even imagine what these folks are thinking. But okay, let go of having a "winner." What about simply meeting requirements? Parameters? Criteria for evaluation?

Wouldn't a Science Fair be the first place one might look for rigor?

The answer is no. There is no criteria. No parameters. No essential ingredients to make sure what the kids prepared met some sort of standard. Loose. Loose. Loose.

I think this was a real missed opportunity on the part of the teachers. Katie kept asking what makes a good project. I think the teachers could have helped the kids prepare - conceptually - and looked for those components at the event.

I also regret that home school gets this rap for being a bunch of airy fairy people who are afraid to do the hard stuff. To take chances or risks. I know home school kids kick butt at the National Spelling Bee. And home school kids win a lot of awards at our local County Fair. So why is my group of home school folks so opposed to structure? I have no idea. But I got my ideology handed to me.

So, I let it go. Well, kind of. I managed to piss everyone off for questioning the process. But then I have done that since I was in third grade. The heart of a entreprenuer. One who is competitive.

I still look forward to the Science Fair. I hope Katie has a good time. As for me? I am trying to stay loose.