Monday, 21 November 2011

Chemistry brings it together

Aha! We secured seats in the Hong Kong Science Museum lecture hall! For Prof Pulman and Dr Henderson's magic travelling chemistry show, all the way from the University of Edinburgh!

Only a minor tiff before and after. Nothing serious. Outside I had to beard a Chinese woman with one of those coily wires sprouting from her ear, but I won by dint of shouting louder than she could.

Otherwise, no major hazards. We were not pipped at the post by a couple of Danes after Squirrel needed the toilet. I engaged in no fist fighting. The family's Health and Safety Inspector, Tiger, did not pass out from shock at seeing a naked flame and hearing a big bang (although it was close).

Better still, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger said they learned something! Success all round! Except that I seem to now bear the added burden of explaining hydrogen cars and Bombardier beetles.

Maybe it all went so well thanks to Shark's soothing words on the escalator (Mummy, please do not punch anyone). Or maybe it was the fact that prior to the lecture we spent an hour in our favourite Hong Kong stationery shop buying three sheets of wrapping paper.

But it shows to me - at least in terms of knowing stuff - that home ed works.

The event brought together the experiments the kids have been doing autonomously and unselfconsciously for years in what they've called play (even pouring oil into the toilet I suppose taught them something).

Their reaction to the content of the lecture proved that the kids are right in line with the 'body of knowledge' that Chemistry as a discipline assumes, thanks to our interest-based inquiries, previous projects, and prepared syllabus (thanks, Ellen McHenry!).

And all my kids said this lecture was stuff they knew, mixed with stuff they didn't, and Yes! Let's find out more!

That is best of all for me. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger all agreed that of course Chemistry is interesting and exciting.

None, I note, are turned off the subject so effectively as I was at school, where it meant nothing more than staring out the window at the staff car park counting the seconds until the bell rang.

None of my kids presently say they want to take Chemistry to high level. But each of them, I suspect, will look at this branch of science with interest and engagement throughout their lives. When new developments come along, or when some oily politician seeks to subvert or use the science for their own agenda, I trust my kids will have the wherewithal to investigate further on their own terms, be able to build an informed view, and not be afraid to independently voice their opinions.

So if I was looking to create a stimulating educational environment to develop people who'll take an active life-long interest in Chemistry and its applications, then yes, home ed has been an excellent way to do it.

Yah boo sucks to the nay sayers.


@notatschool said...

Ugh, chemistry was like that for me at school too, except without the view of the car park! Glad your girls had such a good experience.

peapod said...

Yeah, because of my experience at school I now still have the chemistry fear but really wish I didn't. I'm very envious of your home-ed chemistry success. My youngest is very interested and I worry that I can't help him as much with this subject as I can with others.

kelly said...

do not even think of peeking at the comments made over on the Wright Stuff facebook thread regarding home will either make your blood boil, or you'll weep....or maybe you'll get so annoyed you'll weep blood and become a Catholic pilgrimage site.

Grit said...

hi @notatschool! i think one of the problems with school is that it forces kids to choose either/or subjects, so they're encouraged to concentrate in either arts or sciences for university admissions; but as i've got older i've come to appreciate the creativity in the sciences and the procedure in the arts.

hi peapod - well my only recommendation for the younger kids is to shove a load of kitchen cupboard stuff at them, then stand well back, sometimes offering to set it on fire or put it in the freezer. i think that's how our early years chemistry took shape. maybe with added soil.

kelly, that is another reason not to be on facebook!