Spring is For Science

It's amazing the difference one month makes this time of year. Spring's arrival on the calendar last month was still very much winter. But in one month the longer and warmer days have worked their magic. And now, mid April, it's truly spring.

There has been rejoicing in our home (or at least in my heart) for the last couple weeks and life seems full of hope and optimism with the coming of green and new life on our little patch of earth.

The transformation of the season calls us outdoors and our learning naturally follows. I like what Jamie wrote at Simple Homeschool about seasonal education. Our own elementary homeschool rhythm has been very similar.

I like to live according to the seasons. My own energy levels, interests and activities change according the time of year and so it is with our homeschool.

And one thing I've noticed year after year is that spring is for science. It just naturally happens this way.

For us, elementary science is a hands-on study because this is how children understand their world. They want to know why things works, how they work. And how they taste!

They want to muck around in dirt and mud and woods. They want to look closely at things. Put critters in jars, know what that creature is called, what it eats.

We have never used any packaged science curriculum for elementary. Nor do I direct our science studies in the same way I direct our language learning or history studies. Instead we explore our world together, based on the kids' natural interests.

We make hypotheses, design experiments to test those ideas, make lots of observations, research, read, and record. I really think that simply by trying to make sense of what we observe, getting our hands dirty, building and tearing down, mixing stuff up, being in nature (lots), etc. we lay the foundation for future science study.

A visitor to our deck

Our family is in a transition spot with our homeschool. Two children are firmly planted in elementary years and one is in the middle years transition to young adulthood. If you are familiar with Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning (if not, I highly recommend it, it's one of my favorite homeschool books and I refer to it often) Celine is in the transition to scholar phrase.

This year she was ready to sink her teeth into something much more abstract than critters in a jar, though Celine never was "bug kid" like her brother and sister. She's always been much more interesting in flora, not fauna.

Last fall, it was time for Daddy to take some of the homeschooling reins from mom (yeah!) and introduce Celine to one of his interests - computer programming. Celine is studying science also this spring - computer science. Damien is the tutor and I'm moral and logistical support, lightening her household responsibilities as necessary to give her more time for her studies and creative projects.

For the first time ever Celine is taking a course, independent of us. We're not her teachers, we're her support team. A course with quizzes and even a final exam. This is Celine's first experience with exams. She's (almost) thirteen.

It's going really well. But we are still proceeding slowly and at her pace.

Some days I have a house of three kids - running around, playing in the woods. Some days I have two kids - running around, playing in the woods - and one young adult reading Japanese folktales, researching her latest doll commission or spending hours computer programming. 

After a childhood of interest-led play, discovery, and exploration children reach a stage where they are naturally ready for more. It comes from within them. Their education becomes their own. It's not something we do to them, it's something they seek. But we have to give them the freedom to be children first and develop their love of learning. 

Up until this point I have trusted that this process would unfold this way. Trusted that after watering my children's love for learning and watching them send their roots down deep - that one day they grow upward, start to bloom, reaching for the sun.

I see it blooming now.

It's a new season of learning and discovery. The season of spring, in more ways than one.

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  • se7en

    se7en on April 21, 2012, 4:47 p.m.

    And then it was Spring... All the winter seems to have flown - your kids are wearing t-shirts outdoors!!! Oh it looks lovely!!! Happy Spring, happy outdoor fun!!!


  • Kirstie

    Kirstie on April 21, 2012, 6:13 p.m.

    Lovely pictures - I would be interested to know more about the companies you use to buy children's clothes - I think you posted a while back that Damien usually buys clothes from your 'adventure' budget? I suspect you may have covered this topic in the past, but basically, I just want Celine's shoes!


    • renee

      renee on April 21, 2012, 10:43 p.m.

      Those shoes that Celine is wearing are actually mine! They are Kigos and I love them. I wrote about them here. And yes, you're right, Damien buys our clothes but we actually have a clothing budget and we buy most all our clothes to handle the outdoors also (somtimes we dip into the adventure budget for bigger ticket items, though mostly we try to save up for big purchases). Because Damien is a professional shoe reviewer and because of our minimalist footwear site, Toe Salad, we get a lot of shoes for free. Which is a nice perk. 


  • Julie

    Julie on April 21, 2012, 10:20 p.m.

    I just love your posts homeschooling! They are such a source of encouragement and inspiration for me. I have been feeling very alone in my views among friends and in my community. I was basically hiding my views about education from peers, feeling that they wouldn't understand or would think it was irresponsible or lazy. I have been more open lately because I am feeling more confident and want to share the beauty of this sort of education. I don't think I am understood, which is understandable, it sounded weird to me at first. All that to say that I am so thankful for you and others i find online that bring me support and help me to not feel so alone. It's exciting to hear that you are seeing the fruition of your work with Celine. She is a remarkable girl!


    • renee

      renee on April 21, 2012, 10:46 p.m.

      I totally hear you Julie. In person I keep a lot of my deepest homeschooling convictions to myself (or rather, I try to - but they usually bubble out) simply because most people have no grid to understand the kind of education we are trying to provide our children. I'm glad you find encouagement here for your path.  


  • Kirstin

    Kirstin on April 24, 2012, 2:58 p.m.

    Renee, I am curious to know more about the doll commissions! I remember a post some time ago with pics of some sweet looking little (felt?) dolls (with a "promise" for more info at some point). Same project?

    I have a special place in my heart for such things. I hope you'll find a way to share more...


    • renee

      renee on April 24, 2012, 5:43 p.m.

      Kirsten, I think the "promise" was maybe a reference to a blog she is working on. The blog has taken a back seat to some of her other projects right now - a computer programming course and her other interests in general. This current commission is an "fine art" doll. Quite a bit different from the felt pocket pixie dolls. I will be sharing about it at some point I'm sure or pointing readers to Celine's own blog if and when she launches that project.  


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