History And Science

We have been homeschooling for 6 years now and I have never found a history or science curriculum that I liked.  Nothing fit.  We’ve kept a toe in Classical Conversations, did random journal entries, experimented with a few unsatisfactory textbooks, all while waiting to find “the thing.”  And then it hit me.  There is no thing.  There is history.  There is science.  And there are no rules.  (If there are, someone just made them up.)IMG_3242

Instead, I decided to just do what I want.  Because, what’s the point of being Supreme Dictator for Life if you don’t get to flex a little muscle?  That’s right.  Mommy’s making the rules now.  Behold the new history and science curriculum.  They’re called books.  They come from the library.  Why have I never thought of this?  Oh wait, I did.

At first my approach might seem a little arbitrary, but starting at age 5 I’ve been working on Classical Conversations with the kids.  I feel that having the history timeline and history questions memorized provide them with enough background to be able to organize whatever else I throw at them.  If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with the totally random, interest driven approach we have taken to learning stuff.  The children go into the library and ask for books on anything from Pocahontas to parasites.  And we let them.   Another great consolation is that I don’t remember anything from school anyways, so it’s like we have nothing to loose.  In which case, we might as well have fun.  And that’s what I think is so wonderful about it.  My children drink it up.  Like little sponges.  The amount they read in one week is astonishing.  You’re just not going to get that kind of input from text books, or by writing a research paper once a semester, or by doing a science project once a year.  And tests and worksheets aren’t going to make you a lifelong learner anyways.  But maybe soaking in story will.

One of the things that enables me to expect solid, daily reading from my children is by priming the pump before we start.   And I simply do that by sticking them outside in the snow to play Age of Extinction with the chickens.  When they come in they are positively glowing.  Then I send them all off to their various reading spots for an hour, and I don’t hear from them again.  They usually read their whole book, start to finish in one sitting, unless it’s uncommonly long.  And as they sit there, curled up in their favorite chair, I begin to suspect that they are enjoying themselves.  Another part of my strategy is picking books that are enjoyable.  We stay away from textbooks and fact vomit books, ones without an engaging story line.  What’s really great is that there are so many interesting books out there that they wouldn’t normally bother to read.  I mean, when you have a choice between “Harry Potter” and “The Ten Plants That Changed the World,” what’s it gonna be?  But, when it’s a choice between doing math and reading “The Ten Plants That Changed the World,” you’re going to sit really still and hope your mother forgets she has children.  {In your electric blankie.}


To make it a little more legit than; “I have my kids read books for school,” I do have them write about what they read.  At first, this was really hard for them.  Pulling teeth hard.  They dreaded the reading because they knew there would be writing.  So don’t be surprised when no one can think of anything to write about and they all cry.  But since I am entirely unsympathetic, they eventually learned to suck it up.  Now they churn out their journal entries like the grim reaper.  The one page entries take them about an hour, but at least they do it without whining.  And Jehu is still considerably faster than Gideon, who has a deep space problem.  The whole process takes about two hours, including the mandatory messing around.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are history days and Tuesday and Thursday are science days.  History entries are required to be in cursive, have an event date, and someday even include a card stock illustration to put on our future timeline.  The science entries are required to have some kind of diagram explaining something they wrote about.  And we never do science experiments.  Because the Supreme Dictator for Life thinks tin foil and baking soda are superfluous.


As I was thinking about the hierarchy of learning I remembered that reading all by itself is less effective than writing about what you read.  But what really drives it home is teaching what you read about.  This is what we have been working on lately.  Since my husband and I are not natural conversationalists, we’ve been forcing ourselves to dialogue with the children at dinner about what they’ve read about.  In the hopes that the third time they hash through it, it might actually stick.  The final step is having them present one of their journal entries once a week to our dinner guests.  Largely to be able to work on their non-existent public speaking skills.  But it also provides that little bit of incentive for them to try hard enough to impress, and not just hard enough to get by.

We’ve started filming their impromptu speeches and paper presentations.  You can see them on our Youtube channel here.  I will tell you now that they aren’t very good.  Which makes me super glad I’m even halfway on this pony long enough to be able start this project.  Now it’s just a matter of being faithful and hanging on.  Hopefully we will be able to see improvement and the Otto children will grow up knowing how to handle themselves behind a podium.  They were really nervous at first.  But it’s nothing a little hot chocolate and practice won’t fix.


I know eventually the kids will have to take some real science, chemistry and biology and whatnot.  Life, I suppose, can’t always be fun and games.  But right now I feel like this method is a perfect fit for them.  (And did I mention it was free?)  Hopefully it will also provide a good background for whatever they do in the future, as well as become a habit that follows them through life.  Now, I just enjoy filling them up with story.  Stories that they absorb, relate to, laugh about, and share with their brothers and sisters.  Why do we homeschool anyways, if it’s not to curl up in a chaise lounge with a copy of “Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun,” and call it school?


3 thoughts on “History And Science

  1. I have a sneaking suspicion that your kids wil be far more useful to society than half of what gets spit out today. Speaking as one uselessly educated and unemployed…

  2. Awsomeness! Way to go. We are taking the Charlotte Mason approach, though lately there doesn’t seem to be any approach due to stuff going on…Oh well. We finally got all of our library fines paid off last week, and it had been months since we have taken a book out! My kids pretty much thought it was Christmas, grabbing book after book. I was surprised that the librarians remember us, since it seemed like ages since we last step foot in there! But apparently there are only a few families that come in regularly and take home 100 books at a time. Go figure.

    I grew up thinking books were a very bad thing, only used in school. How sad! I love seeing your kids curled up with books. I need to take more pictures of mine curled up with a book as well!


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