Sunday, April 18, 2010

How I Bake My Muffin and Use Science, too

I suddenly realized today that I've never talked about homeschooling specifically- after all, I told you I homeschool in my bio on the sidebar!

There are many types of homeschooling out there- I follow one form called unschooling. No, it doesn't mean I un-learn everything, but that I learn how I want to learn. For me, that is through real life and not out of a textbook.

It may hep to know my schooling history. After begging my mother for a solid month at the age of 6 to go to the public school 45 minutes away (we were out living in a yurt on some land off the highway), she relented. I went to school for the first time midway through first grade. I finished up that year, then we moved and I spent second grade at another local school. We moved again, and I went to third grade there. Near the end of that year, I felt like I had had enough. I didn't particularly like the teacher, so I "homeschooled" for fourth grade. What that actually turned into was me watching the Animal Planet and Food Network channel the entire year. I was so loaded from all the stress, rigid rules, and strictness of school that I just needed a year to unwind. At least I was learning all about cooking and animals!

However, I remember it being hard to keep up a social life at that time, since I knew no other homeschoolers, and my friends went to school all day. I made the decision to return to public school for my fifth grade year. I ended up with a fantastic teacher, though it was difficult to adjust to the fact that I couldn't ask a question whenever I had one. I couldn't approach the teacher whenever I needed assistance. No, it was raise your hand and stay in your seat. I continued on to the middle school, completed sixth grade and was half-way through seventh when I realized I had had enough. Upon the beginning of the second semester of seventh grade, I only kept up with my English and math class, both of which had the best teachers on the face of the planet. I attempted, at first, to keep up with everyone else with the school science and geography textbooks, but found it extremely dull. It just wasn't interesting, and they turned me off to the wonderful world of science and social studies. Just because of textbooks and the requirement to read them, I didn't want to learn anything about it. I thought it was all un-interesting. That has all changed now.

And now here I am, 14 years old and enrolled in the eighth grade band program, and a news casting class, where I am part of a team that produces and broadcasts a news show for the school to watch. I learn all the other "subjects" through my everyday life, such as community classes, walking to the local museum, and home life, to name a few.

I intend to homeschool for the rest of my life. If and when I need to, I'll pick up a textbook and study for my S.A.T.

But the truth is, in the "real world" "subjects" like geography and math don't stand separately. They bleed together in different ways depending on what your doing. Take baking for instance, a unique blend of math and sciences*, and passion of mine. Here's a basic breakdown of what I see in - say - baking a batch of muffins; you may have to add, subtract, multiply, or divide if you are doubling, one-and-halving (yeah, I do that sometimes), or cutting in half the recipe. You must consider how the baked good will change depending on any substitution you make- such as replacing an egg. Should you use applesauce, ground flax seeds, a banana? Each will affect the taste and texture in different ways. If I wanted to bake the dough into jumbo or mini sized muffin tins instead of the regular (same geometric shapes, but different sizes), this affects baking time and how the dough forms. If I were creating a muffin recipe, there would a whole lot more to it (e.g. ingredients to take into account). There's much more to it than that, but as you can see, things kids do every day are actually using all those skills that were drilled into us in conventional school. Maintaining this blog is teaching me about web design, html, writing, spelling, and much more!

Take a minute and think, what are some things that you (the kid) or your kids (the parent) does on a regular, or even irregular, basis. Split the activity apart and I bet you'll find lots of things you though could only be learned out of textbook. It's time to face the real world, baby.

Nowadays, just for a start, I take a band and news class, private flute lessons, babysit and pet-sit, volunteer at local organizations (mostly with animals), and take a jazz dance class. I avidly listen to audio books- the Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter books are my favorites, as I've listened to both series dozens of times over (no joke!). The readers are fantastic- go Jim Dale and Nathaniel Parker! Listening to audio books allows me to double task, while unconsciously learning pronunciation of words, sentence construction, and more. I also read lots of books about food (nutrition guides, cookbooks) and animals. I love to create baked good recipes (math and science alert!), and cooking for my family. Biking is a great joy for me.

As you can see, I live a life as real as anyone, and through it I'm learning many things.... in the way that I want to. This allows the knowledge gained to have meaning with me, which makes it more helpful in letting me reach for my goals. And that's what I really love- I don't have to sort through lots of useless information to find a small gold nugget of helpful information. Instead, everything I get is a big mountain of the 24 carat stuff.

In order to more understand the role of parents and children in unschooling, I highly recommend checking out this site and the Wikipedia link at the beginning of the post. John Holt's book- Teach your Own (he coined the word unschool, by the way) is what awakened my family to the true meaning of the word, and led us the the happy set-up we have today.

*I recently found a book at my library called BakeWise, a book that explains all the math and science of baked goods, and understanding how to make the perfect cake, cookie, etc. It is based on the usual components of baking (sugar, gluten, eggs, fat- aka everything I try to bake without), but I'm hoping it will give me some insight on how to create a successful baked good without all those things. It is pretty awesome!


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