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

Have School, Will Travel

According to Georgia law, a home study program (i.e. homeschool) must have at least one hundred eighty days of instruction within a twelve month period. This year we started school on Labor Day, which is a little late for Georgia schools. The longer it takes us to fill our quota of 180 days, the farther our school year will stretch into summer, regardless of how much material we cover.

None of us want to be having school in July, so we look for ways to be creative in what counts as "school", while still remaining within the law (of course!). We are not bound by a school building, so trips that might normally be classified as strictly vacation can be partly counted as "field trips". I try not to stretch this too much. For example, I'm not going to call our Thanksgiving Day get-together with my family a social studies class on intergenerational relations. However, with a little intentional planning and instruction we can check a few days off the school calendar that might otherwise be "lost" to vacation.

This Thanksgiving we spent a week in Wisconsin and Minnesota visiting my family. However, were able to dedicate some time toward educational endeavors.

There was stargazing with Uncle Rod and his telescope. We saw a double star, the open star cluster Pleiades, the Andromeda Galaxy, and we were able to get an amazing view of Jupiter and its moons.

My dad (aka "Pop") dissected an abandoned paper wasps' nest for the kids.

Thankfully, no one was home.

 

He also performed a dissection of a reptile specimen. Some found this fascinating...

 

Others found the blood a little disconcerting, at least initially...

 

And others just thought it felt suspiciously like school interrupting his vacation.

 

I have fond childhood memories of picking milkweed pods and tearing them open to reveal their silky white fluff. The boys had never seen any before, so King drove us in the Gator to find some along the side of the road.

I allowed Mike to drive us back, after he promised not to drive too fast.

I'll take it easy, Mom.

It takes great effort and concentration to drive slowly.

 

Our whole family was able to spend a day at my brother's school. The boys attended classes with their cousins and Curtis and I observed the school's very talented teachers in action. The boys reported that "it wasn't that different than homeschool". (Apart from having more than one classmate and the teachers not being their mother, I suppose). I took their assessment as a compliment.

City Stars

We began studying the night sky in our astronomy class this year. We learned how to read a star map. We focused on where in the sky to look for the Big and Little Dippers at this time of year in our location, and how to use them to find the North Star. We stayed up past bedtime and headed out to the open field in the park across the street. We looked up and saw... three stars. Three.

Needless to say, city stargazing was a little underwhelming. We live about eight miles south of a very bright city and about two miles north of a very bright international airport. We also live on a well lit street with a well lit park across the street. What our lesson lacked in actual stars was made up for in a very poignant lesson on "light pollution".

The three stars we could see from the park were lone bright stars, but I had absolutely no idea which stars they were. All the stars around them were drowned out by ambient light. The Dippers were nowhere to be found either; therefore using them to find Polaris was out of the question. I was thankful to have downloaded a few stargazing apps onto my iPhone, so that I could at least identify these few visible stars for the boys: Vega, Deneb and Altair.

Michael had fun pointing my phone around the night sky, watching different graphics of the unseen stars that were supposedly there flash across the screen. However, it wasn't long before the boys had lost interest in our three stars and were off playing, giddy at the idea of being out past bedtime, in the park, in the dark. Meanwhile, I was on my back on the grass with my phone in the air, trying to gather all the information I could about the few stars we could see.

After returning to the house, we decided to try our slightly darker, albeit tree-lined, backyard as a stargazing location. There, peeking around the side of the house, was an actual group of stars, together, trying to form something. Thanks to her bright stars, Cassiopeia could be seen from our backyard. Wow! An honest-to-goodness constellation! How exciting!

Hello, Cassie! Thanks for showing up.

In class the next day, I asked the boys what they had observed the night before? Michael started rattling off all the constellations he had "seen":

Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Polaris, the Dragon, the King...

At first, King and I were perplexed. How did we miss seeing all those constellations? Then I remembered giving Mike my phone to use. 

No, Michael, I mean real stars... in the sky... that you saw with your own eyes.... not just on the phone.

Oh... uh... then, I don't know.

We ended up having a good discussion about the stars we did see and the boys sketched their observations in their science copybooks.

Thankfully, an opportunity for celestial-redemption lay just around the corner. I had planned another outing for the upcoming weekend: we would travel to a "dark-sky" location well away from the star-masking glow of the big city lights.  

Stay tuned...