We’ve been doing school through the summer for a few years now, so it’s nothing new to the kids when the sounds of warm weather reach us in our school room, windows open and light breeze beckoning us to bask in the sunshine with our read alouds. By design our schedule is less packed in these summer months in order to leave plenty of room for popsicles and swimming. I’ll be counting the blessing of sticking with our work when I don’t have to do as much reading and math review with the littles come fall. I used to spend weeks regretting three summer months off when all phonics and math facts slipped out the door the minute the school year was over in May. Fortunately, as temperatures go up I find we’re actually less distracted by the heat when we have some good books or science activities to throw ourselves into.
This is our first year with Apologia’s middle school science curriculum. So far, Jaelah and Selah are about a third of the way through General Science, which is a great introduction to the scientific method. All I can say is that I absolutely love it. Yes, the textbook is about 2 inches thick, but that is because it is written to the student, and explanations are thorough with ample review throughout. We use the DVD that goes with the book, which is an excellent supplement with lectures and in-depth explanations on all the labs and experiments.
I’ll be honest. I have struggled with the commitment of science experiments. The kids always enjoy them but it can be difficult to gather supplies that are supposedly well-stocked at home only to realize you have to run out at the last minute to get a 2 liter of soda just so you can have the bottle for a volcano experiment. This kind of situation has happened several times, likely due to my lack of planning. I have never been able to get all my supplies just so in preparation for when the experiments were supposed to be completed, even when I bought the expensive science lab kits. However, things had to change this year because labs and experiments are absolutely critical in the upper levels of science. With this in mind, I geared up with materials and we have been able to complete every single experiment so far in the girls’ textbook. This has not been without some serious commitment and flexibility, but we have made it a priority.
One of the greatest “aha” moments I’ve had this year, which actually hasn’t been a moment at all but a slow progression of understanding, is how much I need to delegate to the girls to help them own their education. It’s not like the maturity level has completely changed overnight. I still have to set quite a few boundaries. But I am beginning to see the growth in the kids when they are given more freedom. Less of me giving out the expectations and more of them asking themselves what they need to be successful. So far, everything I can think of, from the girls’ first real research paper, to scheduling their own school curriculum, to doing their own science projects from start to finish has pushed them (and me) much farther than I would have thought possible. It’s incredible to see how much they understand when I take my hands off. In fact, I have begun purposefully using this kind of delegation in other areas of home and family life for all the children in an effort to help them understand how important personal responsibility is. I’ve been reading Debra Bell’s book Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens to gear up for the highschool years and have found several great suggestions for responsibility-building.
I confess that I am not great at delegating. It’s hard for me to watch the kids struggle with something SO MUCH when I have the answer and could so quickly do it myself and get the struggle behind us. It’s also difficult for me to back off when I know there are consequences that the kids are too immature to understand but that will surely affect them if I don’t stay involved each step of their learning journey. It’s a delicate balance with the younger kids and how much freedom they can handle. The older girls are much better equipped at their ages to step into some of the privilege of being in charge of their own time. To say that this “new model” has seriously affected my perfectionism is an understatement. More than ever before, I am asking myself sincerely if I would rather have something done really well and quickly by doing it myself, or if I would rather spend extra time training and training and training again but creating a home and school management system that will practically run itself in a few years, not to mention pay dividends in the children’s own lives after they leave home. The writing has been on the wall for some time now. If I don’t effectively delegate and help the children take ownership of their lives and our family’s space, I am just asking for burnout.
With all this business of learning how to be a better delegator, the girls prepared a fun science experiment tonight for the whole family. We made “fossils” out of modeling clay and Plaster of Paris. We used some sea shells and a Lego man or two for the imprints in our casts. The littlest girls were the only ones who really needed my help, and even they probably could have done most of it on their own. I think I’m going to start to really enjoy seeing the growth around here.
By the way, how do you know when you have a passel of artsy girls doing a science experiment? When the selections of safety glasses colors actually affect the sense of success they have about their experiment. For real.