I wish my kids were self starters - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 10-17-2012, 10:18 AM - Thread Starter
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So dd loves science and wants me to do more science study and experimentation with her. We own tons of science books and experiments books and boxes of science materials from a curriculum company, but when I tell her to go ahead and play with that stuff on her own, she doesn't. She says she wants me to do it with her, but when I do, it really seems like she wants me to do the work FOR her. And her idea of doing science is making bubble gum rather than simple machines or experimenting with electricity or chemistry or magnets or whatever. No learning actually happens with the gum making kit except well, how to make gum. Lol!

I feel like I'm missing the boat on her current passion for science, but I find all the set up tedious and time consuming and I already do all the other subjects with the kids and I just have no desire to repeat the experiments I did thirty years ago. Dd is almost 10 btw, so certainly old enough to read and follow instructions. I don't mind being there to give some guidance, but I'm tired of doing the work for her. It's the same when she wants to cook or bake, I've showed her how to do various things required in baking, for example, yet she still really wants me to do all the work for her rather than grabbing a cookbook and making a chosen recipe.

How can I encourage more self starting?
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#2 of 6 Old 10-17-2012, 11:27 AM
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A few random thoughts.


First, maybe it's not so much the science or cooking that she wants, as much as the experience of having you attentively involved with her, focused on her needs in some sort of vaguely goal-oriented activity. This may be her way of engaging you. If that's true, you might consider building more of that one-on-one engagement into your day to satisfy her needs. Perhaps a nature walk every morning, or assign the two of you to wash dishes together after supper every evening, or start gardening or knitting together or something.


Second, if she's a perfectionist she may be intimidated by the fact that recipes and science experiments have all these instructions and an the implication that there's one correct way to work and one correct result. So she might need to work through an experiment or recipe more than once, with your help the first couple of times, to develop the confidence to do more on her own. Or she might instead benefit from activities that are more open-ended, creative and truly experimental in nature:


For example, we've done some pretty cool problem-solving challenges. Here's one that was a particular hit, which involved all sorts of experimentation using principles of physics. For cooking, you could set up an "Iron Chef" type challenge, where she has to create, say, three different salad dressings, each using at least one of the two designated "mystery ingredients". And you'll do a taste-test and rating at lunch time. Or give her a recipe for peanut butter energy balls, but challenge her to make them by significantly changing at least three different things in the ingredient list: additions, substitutions, deletions, quantity changes. 


I'm reading between the lines here, but you mention that you "already do all the other subjects with the kids," so I'm wondering whether you're maybe more of the parent-directed curriculum persuasion than committed long-term unschoolers. If that's the case, it may be that your dd has just not had much experience directing her own learning. In that case, if that's something you're trying to encourage, it's likely to be a long gradual process. It may simply be overwhelming to her to take on all the decision-making and organizing involved. Giving her a vast and varied subject area like science may be entirely too big a step. You might have more success just gradually stepping back from "doing all the other subjects" with her, giving her small bits of responsibility and decision-making in all areas of her education, one tiny increment at a time. 


In my unschooling family science doesn't come out of a book. Science comes from the world, and our human intellectual efforts to explain why the world works the way it does. We've only done very occasional bits of science curriculum. Mostly we've just been active explorers, questioners, researchers and observers. We are a very "sciencey" family -- two or three of my kids are planning to pursue science-related fields as adults. We haven't needed much curriculum to feed their interests. My youngest is 9 and she does have some curriculum, but really it's a very small part of her science learning which typically springs out of her observations and questions about how the world works. Responding enthusiastically to facilitate answering questions and expanding on hypotheses is much easier, IME, than setting up little science experiments in the kitchen. It sometimes takes a bit of effort, but it really nurtures scientific enthusiasm far better than following science "recipes" in books.



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#3 of 6 Old 10-17-2012, 08:10 PM
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Do any of those books have simple experiments in them?  Or are the simple experiments just not engaging enough?  My girls don't get all that excited about experiments in books right now, but they adore repeating some of the experiments on Bill Nye (the episode "Do It Yourself Science" is chock full of fun experiments, and all episode have at least one or two really simple ones.)


But I agree with Miranda when she says the first issue might be doing the activities together.  


Some things are really easy to do on your own, others are not so easy, but fun nonetheless.  Some things are easy to set up spontaneously, others are not.  We've started sticking "Project Cards" to our fridge--big 5x7 notecards on which we write the project, anything from "Halloween Costumes" (actually finished) to "Spyglass" (still kinda sorta looking for little mirrors) to "Woodcarving" (need to figure that one out!) to "Water Vapor Experiment" (just need the ice now).  On the back I write down the list of materials and books we need.  I am still working this system out.  Luckily, my girls are more into their spontaneous games than whining about when I can get to the rest of these.  This definitely helps them understand that some things take a lot of advance preparation.


Some experiments like Dancing Raisins are fun to set up over and over again.  If they have access to all the materials, it's an easy one to do by themselves as often as they want.


My girls have seen so much Bill Nye now that my 6yo demonstrates her own "experiments" in the same style.  They are funny to watch because they are just like the imaginary commercials I would make up as a kid.  They are really clever, even if they are a bit silly scientifically.  Still, the spirit is there--exploration, experimentation, discovery, even that hypothesis is there in its own way.


Good luck!

"She is a mermaid, but approach her with caution. Her mind swims at a depth most would drown in."
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#4 of 6 Old 10-18-2012, 11:28 PM
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Where do you find Bill Nye episodes?  That sounds great!  I used to love that show as a kid.

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#5 of 6 Old 10-19-2012, 08:17 AM
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The library.  They are on DVD.

"She is a mermaid, but approach her with caution. Her mind swims at a depth most would drown in."
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#6 of 6 Old 10-19-2012, 08:42 AM
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Sometimes things are learned by doing, sometimes by listening. By cooking *with* you, she can get the practical doing it, *and* hear what you've learned about cooking. Maybe you had to learn by trial and error, but that isn't the only way to learn. And maybe she just enjoys time spent with you, and is hoping for praise. I know that's why I played tennis with my mother for years. The occasional "good shot" was all the praise I ever got from her. I hate tennis, by the way, and quit playing as soon as I was living on my own.
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