“How did they teach themselves Biology? Did they do dissections and was it a lab course? I am planning to teach them Apologia Biology this year, but it’s the one subject I didn’t think they could teach themselves, even though they’re waaay more gifted in science than I am. Did you just give them the book and a schedule and let them go for it? I would really love to know, as I’m feeling very intimidated by the time requirements of Biology!
Thanks so much!”
Learning to be independent is a process, and biology usually comes along pretty early in that process. I’ve seen children successfully learn biology on their own, but we were just beginning the process of independence at that point. I’ll be glad to share how we did it – just remember that every child and family is unique.
We used Apologia Biology as well. I did have a list of assignments that told them what pages to read or what lab or test to complete. I prepared that during the summer months. It was in a checklist format, so I could easily see if it was checked off each day.
With biology we had a morning meeting like I described in a earlier blog post: Homeschool Accountability – Try a “Morning Meeting”. During that meeting, I went over their vocabulary words, and would sometimes ask them questions found in the book (not very often – I didn’t have it all together that much!) They were responsible for reading the chapter on their own. I think going over the vocabulary helped the most. That’s a tip I read in a book about college success; if you know the vocabulary words you can pass most college tests.
The labs were a little different. I’m a nurse, and I love biology. I loved every dissection and every microscopy lab. Sometimes I had trouble giving the microscope to my children to use, but I don’t believe I taught them anything. I was present in the room when they did their experiments. With biology labs kids are either working with expensive microscope equipment or are wielding sharp dissection tools. Not wanting them to get hurt, I was always in the room. They read the labs on their own. They followed the directions, and I watched – usually while getting some laundry folded.
Once complete, I would leave them alone to complete the lab write-ups. I asked them for a paragraph of what they did and learned, and a drawing, graph or chart explaining the lab. At the end of the day I would look at their lab report to make sure they truly had a paragraph (not a sentence) and they had some sort of chart or drawing. If those things were present and I understood from their lab report the purpose of the experiment and what happened, then I gave them 100%.
When it was time for a test, I simply handed them the test, confiscated the solution manual and walked away. I corrected the tests when they were working on their next course. I gave them the grade, and wrote it on a piece of notebook paper I kept in their binder. Then had them correct their answers.
I suppose you could say they were learning independently. They did all the reading, and I didn’t lecture (except about how expensive the microscope was. ) They did the experiments with an adult standing by. Perhaps I did try to teach them how fun and exciting biology is, because I remember I did a lot of squealing, but it didn’t work. Of all the sciences, they liked biology the least.
I know other successful mothers who took a much more hands-on approach. Dealing with learning challenges, they may read the entire chapter, or carefully assist them in following directions for labs. It’s important to remember to do what works for YOUR family. Some homeschool parents may want to judge others, and call it “spoon-feeding.” I think it’s important to remember that some students will learn and thrive with one-on-one tutoring because of challenges that others don’t understand, so do what works for your student, regardless of what others say or think.
In the four years of homeschool high school I became less involved each year. The following year I found that chemistry didn’t require as much help, so we didn’t include it in our morning meeting. The labs were rarely dangerous, so many times I would just peak in. With physics I felt completely overwhelmed, and I didn’t understand any of it. They worked completely independently with that science.
I hope that helps! Learning to become independent is a process that has to start somewhere and then build.
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