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Elementary Science Education

understanding the flow chart

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      Below is a response to a question posted on the Yahoo group. Dr. Nebel asked that I post it here as well.


      First, I would propose, that so long as you are honoring the “required background” there is NO wrong way to go through the book! The set up is designed to give YOU freedom to move through it as you see fit, as it works with your family and your world. This I would suggest this is one of BFSU greatest strengths.

      It can be hard to get over the mentality that each section is a separate subject because in school it very well could be (and was in my case). In lots of ways if you are organizing material to teach, it is easier to pull out the various “subjects” and teach them all the way through. But I am not so sure it is easier to learn it, especially for the first time, all pulled apart like that. Here are some of the reasons I think the threads are helpful.

      First and foremost, moving across the threads, allows kids to get any background knowledge they need to really appreciate the complexity of various things around them. Take B-3: Distinguishing between Plants and Animals—it seems simple- they look different, but at the heart, the major distinguishing feature would be how they obtain energy. Well, if you don’t understand what energy is, Lesson C-1: Concepts of Energy, then all you can do as a student is memorize that difference. But because BFSU teaches a physical science lesson before this life science lesson there can be actual understanding of what this difference means. Another example would be D-7 Gravity II, this requires lessons from the A thread, the C thread and it is a D-thread lesson, but the kids really do need to understand friction, inertia, that air is actually a substance made up of particles to even begin to really *think* about weightlessness in space(mass vs. weight). I guess what I am trying to say is teaching across threads might be the difference between memorizing facts that are quickly fleeting and actually critically thinking about the material. Also I might add once you do a few lessons that have required background lessons I think you will totally get it!! And you will be way more comfortable jumping around.

      Secondly, moving across threads allows for repetition and review without constantly doing the same thing. Take that first example about plants and animals, I can start that lesson saying we are going to need to know about energy to understand this lesson, what do you remember about that? What on Earth could energy have to do with if Fido is a plant or animal? Now if that C lesson and that B lesson are weeks, even months apart I get the opportunity to see if the kids are retaining information. I get the chance at a shortened round two of the that energy lesson if they aren’t able to remember or don’t seem to understand.

      Thirdly, and more selfishly, variety is the spice of life. I find the C and D threads harder to understand myself, they take more of my energy and time to plan and execute; therefore, I appreciate being able to space them out a bit.

      Now on to how do you decide what path to take. Some people prefer a syllabus so to speak, a tried and true route, if you are one of those people then hit the files section and take advantage of the wisdom from those who went before. No need to reinvent the wheel. If however you want more freedom, or want your lessons to be more tied to what is occurring in your life, then forge your our path through the book. Here are some of the things that we (I do BFSU with one other family) think about when we make our plans…
      -First we never plan more than two or three lessons out, every time we have something occurs that sends us on a different route so we have decided it is a waste of time for us to plan out months in advance. Having said that both of us Moms have read the entire book and are familiar with what concepts are covered in various lessons.
      –Season is probably the biggest factor, just because it dictates when we want to do outside lessons and when we want to do inside lessons. I don’t want to be inside that first warm week of spring.
      –If something happens in the lives of our kids to spark an interest then we drop whatever plan we had and start toward the fastest path to the lesson that covers their interest. For instance we took a nature class that sparked an interest in rocks, so we went to lesson A-10 and traced our way back to hit all of the lessons needed for A-10 then started down that path. I am not suggesting we follow every whim that would make us crazy, but in this case we had a meaningful introduction to the topic, the kids seemed to have lasting interest as they kept talking about rocks which made it seem natural to head toward the rock lesson.
      –What is interesting to us, what is hard for us (us being the Moms) we try to space out the lessons we find more difficult. If we spend a few lessons in the C thread we will likely move to the A or B thread next because those come more naturally to us.
      –Materials, do we have what is needed? Will we have to go to the store? Will we have time to get to the store? If not, that very well could make us choose a lesson/route that does not require a trip to the store.(yes, sometimes it is that simple and uninspired).

      All of that to say, just what I opened with, sometimes the freedom of BFSU can feel overwhelming. How do you know if you are doing it right? Did I teach that lesson at the wrong moment? Would there have been a better time to teach that lesson? Maybe, maybe not. You will probably hit some perfect and others not so much. But thankfully, did I do it perfect is not the real question at hand. The real question is are my kids gaining understanding in science? No matter what route you take so long as you honor those “required background” lessons I am thinking the answer to the real question will be yes.

      Oh and I live in the flow chart. I have written the page number to each lesson in the square on the flow-chart and that is where I put my small check mark once we finish a lesson.

      I hope there was something in this that is helpful to you.


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