Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The Home School Science Fair: Are You Kidding Me?
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.