and creating resources for an inspiring one.
Ten years ago we were looking at educational options for our kindergartener and noticing the elementary school choices were like a trip to Baskin Robbin’s 31 Flavors. There were lots of combinations and permutations in that ice cream freezer. One factor my husband and I thought was super important was that we did not want a “drill and kill” education for our daughter; in our minds that meant Study-Test-Forget-Repeat. I had aced my classes in school, yet as an adult I could not recall much of what I’d learned. It was hard to find a choice we could truly label a “normal education.”
We ended up going with a more developmental public charter school choice, thinking we’d stay with the school until 6th grade. In third grade I began to see some surprising patterns. This was the third year in a row my daughter was bringing home papers and doing projects on scientific life cycles. There was the butterfly, the chicken, and others. Internally, I thought “really, a-g-a-i-n?” There is so much more to learn about animals and life on the planet than only that aspect.
During the course of that third grade year I decided the next year to give homeschooling a try. It seemed so rogue and counter-cultural, but I KNEW that there were parts of what I considered important that were not getting through.
One of the concepts I believed my kids should know is the Linnaean system of classification of living things; you know kingdom, phylum, genus, species…etc. I remembered learning it in middle school and having memories of my teacher pointing out to me how different animals were from each other–structurally, cellularly, bodily, etc. My kids like animals quite a lot, so I thought this would be helpful and give them a broad context. As I put a curriculum together, I found it difficult to find resources for homeschool on this topic. The whole framework is often connected to concepts such as evolution and the big bang, etc, which are unpopular with many Christian homeschoolers and thus the whole subject of classification has been largely untouched in the homeschool realm. Teaching this subject I figured out was not “normal.”
The new curriculum project
Fast forward 5 years. I still have this same urge and longing for other families to learn this meaningful information. I have begun work on a new unit study to tackle the Linnaean system of classification of living things for grades 1-4. There is no reason why young children cannot be introduced to these helpful frameworks. Some interesting questions this framework helps to answer:
- Are all tidepool animals fish? Why are they so strange and why do many tidepool animals not look like fish?
- Why do we use antibiotics?
- How can we look at bird’s beaks and feet to understand what they eat?
- Is there a difference between frogs and toads?
- Is a whale a fish?
- Why isn’t a bat a bird?
- Are mushrooms plants?
It is these and other questions (and more) that I hope to help students answer with my curriculum. It will be made easy enough for 1st graders, and more complex and engaging for 3rd-4th graders. It will consider the variety and beauty of living things on the planet. However, my approach will not tackle how things changed or evolved over time.
Each year that I realize –a little bit more– that there really is no such thing as a “normal education.” I ask myself also, if I could pronounce such a school a “normal education,” is that a good thing? Are being “normal” and “average” great? While “normal” might be factually true, it may not be very interesting. Why waste my kid’s time or my own being normal? Instead, I choose to pursue education that fits our personalities, interests, values, and personal growth.