Today, I’d like to share with you some comments about why our curriculum style is not really “inquiry-based.”
For PSLC science for elementary levels, we generally have the scientific explanation FIRST and THEN perhaps an activity to show that the explanation is true.
We love independent work and try to put most of our resources in an age-appropriate language so that he or she can understand and learn independently, get items from around the house to use for lesson independently, and feel a sense of accomplishment. Moms are busy people in a home, often have more than one child to care for, and cannot always sit down for long periods of time beside each child to read long paragraphs.
In keeping with a balance of methods, we do NOT have a hands-on activity for all lessons – only for some of them.
We don’t mind at all if a child peeks ahead at more explanations instead of coming up with an original idea. We don’t have to keep children “guessing” in order to strengthen their curiosity and thought-processes about the world. They will naturally have questions the more they understand something of interest. We can keep them interested by providing more than just questions to “guess at”.
This is a true story about an inquiry-based curriculum home school science resource our family tried when our oldest 3 kids were in the junior grades. (The resource shall remain unnamed.) It was to be a resource that was “supposedly able” to be USED WITHOUT ADULT GUIDANCE.
That last part really sounded good at the time, since I do like my children to learn independent skills and I was busy writing on the other side of the room at the computer.
“Mom,” asked my children one day, when they were just beginning to learn about things like reflection and refraction. “Do you want us to do this experiment? It’s to be outside in our yard.”
“Of course,” I mumbled from my corner. “Why not? It’s a nice day out there, not too hot at all.”
“Well, we need a magnifying glass and a bit of paper.”
“We have that. It’s over there in the box.”
“Are you sure it’s OK to do all this?”
“Don’t know. Remember, the book says we’re not to turn the page until we discover what happens first, and then there’ll be an explanation on what happens?”
“So you’re sure?”
Upon hearing so much hesitation from them, I decided that I would turn the page and look ahead… would you believe it???
The page was turned and the curriculum went on to ask students if they had seen any bits of smoke from the paper and if it scorched for them!
All that the children were told on the FIRST page was that they were to gather dried leaves in a pile in their yard and use a magnifying glass to try to catch the sun’s rays on a piece of scrap paper put in the leaf pile and then report what they discovered!!!
Now, we lived in a forested area, it was especially dry that summer, and so we always have to be careful with forest fire safety. You can be assured that we did NOT do the experiment after all!
Don’t you like any “self-discovery”?
Yes, definitely there is a good side to self-discovery if a student desires to e x p a n d his/her knowledge on the topic. That kind of self-discovery can be very meaningful and memorable for the long term. (I personally really like things like science fair projects, for example.) But that kind of “self-discovery” is for when knowledge gets expanded, not back in the elementary stages of learning the basics about a topic! One of the very first steps to using the scientific method is RESEARCH, not an experiment!!! Research and learning from a teacher or media presentation is for that first stage of discovery and those elements are more effective to gain a solid understanding.
Self-discovery can be great and we love the idea of independent learning whenever appropriate, as long as it is also balanced with having a teacher— for safety’s sake and for the sake of having someone who knows something important and can teach it on to the child as well as correct any wrong answers to things the child would think is right but needs to learn differently.
The inquiry-based learning seems to have become more popular sometimes as a reaction against a rote learning methodology. But that doesn’t mean that we have to swing to the other extreme and just let things naturally flow wherever the child wants to go. A child generally does not have the same level of wisdom or discernment or years of experience as an adult and still needs some guidance. Just imagine how YOU could learn a new skill to fix something… by trial and error experimentation or by being taught (e.g. by watching someone else first explain what to do and why). How many of us search online for “how-to…” because we want someone else to teach us and not discover the answer on our own??
If home schooling, we’d encourage parents to take the responsibility of being the teacher and guide their children in learning, at least until the children grow into a reasonable level of maturity and have a good foundation.
“If you don’t have time to show a child the right way to go, someone will take the time to show them the wrong way.” (an anonymous common saying)
A child has a lot of faith to believe a lot of stuff. Not everything presented on the internet or in library books is true or good. You can save your child some wasted time or bad choices or frustration by giving some direction.