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s/o Depth Without Rigor - How to do it?

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I'm looking for some practical advice about how to achieve a deep, meaningful education without rigor. My daughter is 10 and in the 4th grade. 

My daughter is very interested in animals. She selected several books on Amazon about endangered animals and wolves that I ordered. Wolves are her favorite animal. Maybe we could incorporate writing by having her write letters about endangered animals to...not sure who but I could find this out.

I'm sure there are documentaries and podcasts about this topic too. 

I want this to be interest driven instead of me assigning the reading. 

I want us to have a lot of discussions about this topic too. 

Any advice? This is outside of my comfort zone. 

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1 hour ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I'm looking for some practical advice about how to achieve a deep, meaningful education without rigor. My daughter is 10 and in the 4th grade. 

My daughter is very interested in animals. She selected several books on Amazon about endangered animals and wolves that I ordered. Wolves are her favorite animal. Maybe we could incorporate writing by having her write letters about endangered animals to...not sure who but I could find this out.

I'm sure there are documentaries and podcasts about this topic too. 

I want this to be interest driven instead of me assigning the reading. 

I want us to have a lot of discussions about this topic too. 

Any advice? This is outside of my comfort zone. 

I came on here to search for something similar for my 10 yr old daughter!  She sounds very similar to yours,  she LOVES animals and has already studied and studied and knows a crazy amount of info on so many of them.  I want to give more resources and make a breadth of unit studies focused around this interest without it being "babyish" or too rigorous.......can this be done?? I am interested to see if anybody else has been down this road already and how they did it!  Currently I am looking at different Zoology books/curriculum to spark some ideas & find some resources we have not used yet.  Good Luck in your search..... I am listening in here :)

 

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I'm not sure what depth without rigor means (heck, I'm not sure what rigor really means, anyway - rigor, to me, doesn't sound like an advantage - lol).  But, I have always let the kids choose what they want to study and I feel like they've gotten a great education.  They got a better education than dh and I did (and both of us come from very educated families - not only does everyone have a college degree, everyone has a graduate degree or they're doctors - trying not to roll my eyes).  I can tell that my kids have a more well-rounded education than we did.

We did do about 3 years of "boxed curriculum".  We did a year of Sonlight, one kid did two levels of My Father's World....  Those were great years and I needed to do boxed curricula those years, because of a baby who was extremely needy.  But, when the kids choose, they always want me to put everything together myself.  They said they learn more and it's more enjoyable (probably because it's tailored to what they're interested in).

We've done years of homemade unit studies and even some unit study curricula (we did two volumes of KONOS - a long time ago).  We've studied anything they really wanted to: zoology, astronomy, chemistry, the constellations, acrylic painting, art history, German, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, robotics, some programming with Scratch (when they were younger), simple machines, first aid, survival skills, creative writing, partner-writing (where I write a page and then my kid writes a page and we build a short story that way - dd14 LOVED that last year), owl pellets, we've done pretty much every dissection kit out there, we've built different types of bridges, built motors, studied rock collections...I mean, we read three versions of the Iliad and Odyssey, because I had a kid who was obsessed with the Illiad and Odyssey for some reason - lol.  We've just done so much stuff together over the years.  

And I always made sure they had time to work on their own interests.  

My son built an entire computer.  It was the most incredible thing I've ever seen.  It took him like a year.  Finally, when he had all the pieces out and he was installing everything, it was like a giant 3D puzzle.  It was amazing.  That computer still runs and it's better than our store-bought computer.  He's very mechanical.  He's been able to help me when the car wouldn't start and fix things when they break.  He basically installed most of the hardwood in our house.  He can do basic carpentry, etc. 

My oldest daughter knows more about botany and aquatic life than I do (and I have a degree in biology).  She was constantly building hydroponics systems or aquaponics systems - can't remember the difference - lol.  She still has aquariums with different kinds of fish all over the house.  When she goes to the pet store, she actually helps them with their tanks (they know who she is).  She also does artwork and is trying to get started selling it.  She spent a couple of years experimenting with fluid art on wood - where you mix different paint and chemicals and light it on fire (yep, in my kitchen).  

I don't want to bore you with too many details of my kids, but just saying - I don't have any regrets about how we homeschooled.  My oldest is not burned out and she's excited to start college.     

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Wolf ideas:

Compare characteristics of wolves portrayed in children's literature with real wolves - maybe read the Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Three Little Pigs.

Algonquin Park has lots of wolf resources.  The Algonquin population is really special, with oodles of research to read about, and loads of youtube mini-docs.

(We've been lucky enough to hear Algonquin wolves while camping in the park, and to see 4 wolves trot across Tea Lake (while winter camping).  The public wolf howls are very popular.  If a visit to Algonquin is feasible for you, consider it!)

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Pursue what is interesting. 

Use only engaging materials. 

Explore interdisciplinary connections, but don't try to force them.

Lots of input, lots of discussion; output only if it inspires your daughter.

Allow yourself time to discover how to facilitate these experiences.  In other words, don't worry if it isn't perfect right away.

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I really like the Scientists in the Field series for that age.  I recommend Once a Wolf .

The back page of the book contains references and links.  You could use that for researching further info.  I looked and the amazon "look inside" feature does include the reference page.

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You might enjoy a subscription to National Geographic. (The regular one for adults, not the NatGeo for kids.)  I liked reading to my kids during lunch.  Lots of depth there and very little rigor!  

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So far, I've generally just suggested projects that incorporated interests and seen what my daughter (who's only 7, so take this with a grain of salt) takes to. So I might suggest the idea of writing letters, but I'd back off if your daughter wasn't interested. I don't think requiring output she finds meaningless will help her engage with her interest. 

I'd probably just get her interesting material, let her read it, and occasionally float ways we can incorporate what she's learning into school projects. And I'd ask her about what she's reading (although my DD isn't always good about participating in discussions like that.) 

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I really was helped by the Bravewriter author's youtube talks.  I think her name is Julie Bogart?.  Loved the awesome adulting talk.  That totally pushed me into getting fit again and just making me time.  Anyway, she did have some interesting talks on how she let her kids go into depth in topics that interested them.  It was fascinating but it would be really difficult for me to achieve.

She did something like let her daughter who was interested in sewing and fashion base all or several of her subjects around that topic.  Like maybe the science of sythetic materials, fashion in history, etc.  I don't remember exactly.  Her talks were illuminating and i enjoyed them though some things i would never implement on that scale.  I would recommend scrolling through her youtube talks and gleaning from them.  I can't find that particular talk now but her talks are great.

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There are some GREAT unschooling blogs out there if you want to see examples of kids who follow their interests and get great educations.  This one is my favorite.  Her kids are mostly in college or grown, so she was going to quit blogging, but she's still doing podcasts and stuff:

https://www.storiesofanunschoolingfamily.com

Her voice is really relaxing if you listen to her podcasts - lol.  Her kids do all kinds of really interesting things.

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One thing I didn't mention above is that I never incorporated my sons' interests into our homeschool lessons--at least not directly.  Instead, I gave them access to any resources they needed to research them on their own--so books, documentaries, and even unrestricted access to the internet (really).  My reasoning was that I wanted them to own their interests and not feel like I was somehow "acedemizing" them.  They have both achieved a level of depth that I never could have had I co-opted their interests for our lessons.

What I've done instead is to focus on introducing them *other* things that are interesting.  Sometimes this involves riffing off of an existing interest.  For example, one theme my younger son and I have been thinking about for the past few years is ethics, and I used his interest in technology as an entry point by starting with an exploration of the ethics of self-driving cars.  Another theme we have explored in depth is worldview, and our studies have taken us from ethics to the the history and philosophy of science to human and cultural geography to politics.  

Apparently my son found the above explorations so interesting that he he ended up writing some of his college essays about various aspects of them.

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The above 5min documentary is a great intro to how important predators are for the food chain, which can be its own deep-dive. This one is also really good:

 

 

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On 12/27/2019 at 6:14 AM, Ordinary Shoes said:

I'm looking for some practical advice about how to achieve a deep, meaningful education without rigor. My daughter is 10 and in the 4th grade. 

My daughter is very interested in animals. She selected several books on Amazon about endangered animals and wolves that I ordered. Wolves are her favorite animal. Maybe we could incorporate writing by having her write letters about endangered animals to...not sure who but I could find this out.

I'm sure there are documentaries and podcasts about this topic too. 

I want this to be interest driven instead of me assigning the reading. 

I want us to have a lot of discussions about this topic too. 

Any advice? This is outside of my comfort zone. 

 

So it seems like you are working backwards. You are focusing on content and methods, but have not yet lay out your educational goals.  What do you actually want your dd to learn? I'm not talking content, I'm talking things like self-advocacy, empowerment, reading skills, debate skills, understanding of the scientific method, critical evaluation of conflicting content, writing skills, presentation skills, etc!!!! 

Once the goals are clear, then you can decide what type of content and skills to cover and what methods to use to accomplish this. In interest-led learning, students can choose what to study, but they are often to young to know all the possibilities that are out there. That is where your research comes in.  You can gather ideas here but then you need to make it into a cohesive whole with clear objectives in mind.  You can instead allow your child just to follow rabbit trails, but at the age of 10, my guess is that she won't get to the depth she desires before she fizzles out at trying to direct her own learning.

Facilitating this type of learning in an effective way is some of the most creative work I have done as a homeschooler. 

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Caveat: oldest child is eight years old.

I believe my kid gets depth without rigor anytime he writes/draws/creates something from scratch. I don't mean workbooks, structured crafts, or even pre-formatted notebooking. I mean when he writes a character dictionary about his favorite movie, draws a map for a story setting, builds Ancient Egypt in Minecraft, writes/draws fan fiction, etc. The downside to this is it's really, really hard to control what is learned from these type of pursuits because most of the time the best projects are ones he thinks of completely himself. Occasionally I can spark an idea towards a specific educational goal but not enough to forego other school stuff.

I'm not sure if these types of things count as not-rigorous though. Planning and executing a creative project of any type from start to finish feels extremely rigorous to me, but I don't think in the way most people mean when they talk about rigor in school.

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16 hours ago, lewelma said:

 

So it seems like you are working backwards. You are focusing on content and methods, but have not yet lay out your educational goals.  What do you actually want your dd to learn? I'm not talking content, I'm talking things like self-advocacy, empowerment, reading skills, debate skills, understanding of the scientific method, critical evaluation of conflicting content, writing skills, presentation skills, etc!!!! 

Once the goals are clear, then you can decide what type of content and skills to cover and what methods to use to accomplish this. In interest-led learning, students can choose what to study, but they are often to young to know all the possibilities that are out there. That is where your research comes in.  You can gather ideas here but then you need to make it into a cohesive whole with clear objectives in mind.  You can instead allow your child just to follow rabbit trails, but at the age of 10, my guess is that she won't get to the depth she desires before she fizzles out at trying to direct her own learning.

Facilitating this type of learning in an effective way is some of the most creative work I have done as a homeschooler. 

Good question.

I want my DD to learn how to study a topic, form opinions, and be able to express those opinions using evidence. Ideally, she would express this in writing but orally is probably fine for now. She already does this to some extent. For example, she can tell you why it's wrong to hunt wolves because removing predators from an ecosystem causes problems. We watched a few documentaries about the controversy surrounding wolves in Yellowstone. But generally her opinions about subjects like this are emotional, e.g. wolves aren't really mean, instead of based on facts. 

I'd like her to learn how to follow her interests by identifying subjects she wants to study in more depth and finding sources about those subjects. 

She's a good reader but primarily reads fiction. She needs to learn to read non-fiction. 

I'm not sure if this is realistic or asking too little. This is our first year of official homeschooling and she is accustomed to the school model where a teacher tells you what to study. 

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I have written a book on what I do. A simple summation is I use their interests to design courses. I select the resources and generate the assignments, but the topics are interest-driven.

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1 hour ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I want my DD to learn how to study a topic, form opinions, and be able to express those opinions using evidence.

But generally her opinions about subjects like this are emotional, e.g. wolves aren't really mean, instead of based on facts. 

Let me start with this one. The best way to tackle this is to discuss the issue from different perspectives. What I am suggesting here will require scaffolding from you, but it is process that she can use again and again as she studies different topics. 

1) brainstorming the different perspectives on the issue. You are likely to come up with something like: the ranchers, the tourists, the ecologists, and the animal rights activists.

2) Find 2 resources from each perspective (this does not have to be done all at once). Draw up a table in the computer to track this complete process.  The column headers would be something like resource, description of author, summary of facts/argument, bias/emotive language. (It may be that you do all the typing and she does all the talking for this whole thing, especially for the first project)

3) For each row, she puts in the resource (documentary, book, website etc). If you want, you can show her how to formally reference it, but that might be for further down the line. 

4) She then has to do the research on the author or group that produced it. (This is likely the hardest part, so you may need to really help here).  If it is the Ecological Society of America or National Geographic Society, she can look up their purpose on the website.  If it is a rancher's blog, she can find out where they live, how long they have been ranchers (generations), political slant would be good but this might be beyond what a 10 year old can handle.

5) Next, she needs to read/watch the source.

6) She needs to summarize the facts/arguments from each resource. This could take an hour for each resource over the period of 2 weeks as she reads/watches different sources. And she may need to re-watch the documentaries and hit pause to jot down some notes. 

7) She needs to identify the biases of each group.  What is their agenda? Why do they have it?  What is their worldview? Have they used emotive language to manipulate you? This is the crux of helping a kid to see that different people have different but VALID opinions on the same topic which lead them to different conclusions/solutions. 

8.) Finally, she needs to think about how to synthesize this together in an oral presentation (I wouldn't try to do a paper yet). By having her go through this process, she will come to understand why different groups see things in different ways.  They all have their own set of problems which lead to their perspectives.  Then these perspectives impact how they try to influence the reader/viewer to their point of view. Only after clearly and fairly representing all the competing views, is she allowed to form an opinion. 

This is an incredibly powerful process.  Not easy and not fast, and will require a ton of scaffolding especially in the beginning.  But this kind of organization structure is what changes child-led learning into Project Based Learning. The first is about dabbling and joy in learning, the second is about building analytical skills using a topic interesting to the child.  Both are valid for different children at different levels in their education, but clearly PBL drives high end thinking more effectively.

Hope this helps!

Ruth in NZ

Edited by lewelma
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Thanks Ruth! Wow! 

Thinking about education in a different way helps me to understand that we aren't huge slackers. We have a lot of great conversations about what we read or watch online. However, we do this more with topics that are in my comfort zone which does not include animals or ecology. 

 

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Just now, Ordinary Shoes said:

Thanks Ruth! Wow! 

Thinking about education in a different way helps me to understand that we aren't huge slackers. We have a lot of great conversations about what we read or watch online. However, we do this more with topics that are in my comfort zone which does not include animals or ecology. 

 

Glad you found it helpful!  You titled this thread Depth without Rigor.  Rigor is clearly hard to define. Some people would argue that what I described above is incredibly rigorous and deep; it is just interest based and problem based rather than set content, set time-frame, test based. 

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We're two weeks in and things are going pretty well. To go with the theme or depth without rigor and depth instead of breadth, I picked 4 things that we're studying and we delve into one of these things 4 days a week. These are topics which my daughter specifically requested to study. We're had many very good conversations about these topics. Instead of trying to get through material, I've focused on the conversation. I've recently been influenced by two other things: the Habits of Mind from the Mission Hill School and The Writing Revolution. We've gone through the 5 Habits of Mind when we are discussing a topic and I can see that it helps us to delve deeper. I've been influenced by The Writing Revolution to embed our language arts work in our content studies. 

It was pretty amazing to listen to my daughter talk about subjects that she's really passionate about. 

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