Dinosaur Presentations: A Self-Education

We are studying Dinosaurs in homeschool this year. I told the boys I wanted each of them to choose a dinosaur, research it and give a presentation telling what they learned. I gave them very little direction, other than they must include a drawing of their dinosaur which they created themselves.

I was not concerned so much with the presentation itself. What I wanted was to give them an opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning. I wanted them to be motivated by their own natural curiousity in choosing for themselves which dinosaur they wanted to know more about. I wanted them to experience what it felt like to be excited about learning, to have a desire to know and have an enthusiasm to share that knowledge with others.

They both dove into their projects with an enthusiasm that was inspiring! They were begging me for time to work on them! They even worked on them "outside" of school, during their own personal free-time. And when they were finished with their projects, they couldn't wait to show us what they had accomplished. I have never before seen such excitement in them having anything to do with "school".

They both decided to make powerpoint slideshows to go along with their presentations.  They did all their own research and prepared their presentations with no help or input from me, although King did help Mike put together his Powerpoint presentation.

King's presentation on the carnotaurus.  [click picture to play]

Mike's presentation on the eoraptor.

These may not have been the greatest presentations ever given, but I know that each of the boys has a relationship with "their" dinosaur that didn't exist before and that they will remember more about it than if I had just told them about it in class.

What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future––with all above us and all about us––and that fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of.

School Education by Charlotte Mason

Through the Schoolroom Window

One of my favorite things about homeschool:

Literature by the fire... in socks.


More math excitement...


Frequent visitors to our American history vocabulary list...

... although the tyrants and the oppressed are always trading roles. Hmmmm...


Slaves would be tyrants were the chance theirs.

- Victor Hugo



This is what the day's schedule ends up looking like when yesterday doesn't quite go as planned:

A Test by Any Other Name

We don't give tests in our homeschool. We give assessments. However, I accidentally used the "T" word the other day with Michael.

Michael, it's time for your spelling test.

A look of panic crossed his face that said: What test?! I didn't study for a test!

I tried to recover.

I mean, it's time for your spelling assessment. It's an assessment not a test.

He didn't look reassured, so I continued,

This is not a test. I just want to see what you know. These are all words you know how to spell. If you don't know the words, then we will just spend more time going over them next week.

He was still not buying it. He'd heard this before. He explained:

My teacher last year called them "assessments", too. But they were really tests.

The difference is not in name only, as Michael suspected. Assessments should be an opportunity to show what you know, not a trap to find out what you don't know. We don't give grades either, indicating a pass or fail based on what can be regurgitated. And there aren't any punishments for not knowing the answers. Wrong answers simply let me know more time needs to be spent on a subject, or a change in approach needs to be made, or both. Also, the boys do not study for assessments, like they would for tests at school-school. I'm not interested in what they have been able to memorize the night before, but in the knowledge they truly hold and that has become a part of them. Charlotte Mason explained it this way:

There is a third kind of (spurious) memory––facts and ideas floating in the brain which yet make no part of it, and are exuded at a single effort; ... when the schoolboy 'crams' for an examination, writes down what he has thus learned, and behold, it is gone from his gaze for ever: as Ruskin puts it, "They cram to pass, and not to know, they do pass, and they don't know."

- Charlotte Mason, Home Education

Michael is still new to this idea. For two years, he has breathed in the atmosphere of the "test" and all the anxiety and pressure that comes with it. It will take some time for him to realize I'm not here to trip him up or catch him by springing something on him for which he is unprepared. Trust is built and maintained through experience. And it will help if I don't use the "T" word again.

Through the Schoolroom Window

King demonstrates our version of the traditional after school chore: banging erasers.


We hit our erasers with rulers when they are very, very bad.


Writing is not Mike's favorite task, but he has such beautiful handwriting when he puts his mind to it.


Here's another one of my famous chalkboard illustrations. Seriously, chariots would have been so confusing without this.