Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Science Club

First it seemed like a great idea to continue to get the homeschooled core of GRUBS together for a weekly co-op learning venture during the cold months. I talked to the other mom-of-many about it and we talked to the kids. Everyone thought it was a good idea. Then I got cold feet. I didn't want to be saddled with the organization of yet another weekly activity that my kids ended up feeling was more my deal than theirs, fighting them to get ready and at least look interested, dealing with their complaints about having to leave whatever they're doing at home.

So I tried to bail. But then, in public, in the presence of their friends, my kids swore up and down that they wanted to give it a try, at least for a month. They really wanted a science club, they said. Every week, even, rather than every 2 weeks as I'd suggested.

So here we go. Surprisingly, it's going sort of okay. We meet for 2 - 2 1/2 hours on Wednesday afternoons, in a comfortable but somewhat neutral place (i.e. not at either family's home). The age range is of course immense:
  • 13-year-old boy of an anti-academic bent
  • a 12-year-old girl of a hyper-intellectual bent who probably knows more about a lot of this stuff than both moms put together
  • a 11-year-old girl who tends to gravitate to anything the 12yo does
  • a 10-year-old anti-competitive perfectionistic boy who doesn't do "anything with points"
  • a 8-year-old girl who is pretty tight with...
  • a 7-year-old girl, who enjoys the tight little dyad
  • a 5-year-old boy who has very strong ideas
  • a 3-year-old girl who thinks she can do anything a 12-year-old can
  • a 2-year-old girl who is at a pretty 'busy' stage, though occasionally naps at convenient times
Right down the continuum from teen to toddler, with no natural grouping of 'older vs. younger' or anything of the sort. There are two kids who don't read at all, two (amongst the oldest) who refuse to write, one who refuses to talk, one who can't yet talk, and two (amongst the youngest) who insist on keeping up with the others on everything. The other mom and I are alternating leadership of the activities, meaning she does one session, focusing on biological sciences, and I do the next, focusing on the physical sciences. We've each led one session now. So far the biggest hits have been the outdoor stuff and the social-but-independent creative-thinking activities. My on-line friend Kris Bordessa compiled a book of Team Challenges. I cribbed the Elevate an Apple challenge off her website. I really must buy the book! Anyway, while I had vague thoughts of grouping the kids into teams, it was clear almost immediately that they weren't going to go for that. I had only brought two apples, and they immediately insisted that there needed to be an apple for everyone, and Noah made it very clear that if their was any sort of competition involved he was going to refuse to participate. I ran to the store and bought more apples, the energy flowed in its own direction and the kids were creatively and enthusiastically engaged for about half an hour, trying as many different ways to solve the challenge as possible. I photographed each 'success', and some of the 'failures' that were nonetheless beautiful or particularly creative.

I confess I enjoy the planning. I can organize and plan the sorts of explorations and activities that my kids would almost certainly balk at at home, considering them too contrived, too teacherish or schoolish or just worthy of the "not right now, I'm busy" response. In the group, they tolerate them, and even seem to enjoy some of them. They're already there, they might as well get involved, I guess.

Two things have become evident about Science Club. The first is that it is a very rare activity indeed which will engage everyone. The second is that splitting the group into a variety of activities doesn't work either! The solution, alas, seems to be to try to find those 'very rare activities.' Maybe they won't be so rare if we can get the knack of this.

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