CM Science

I. Stem Science begins at birth, but for six years it has nothing to do with  ‘academics:’

Science begins with:

    1. Baths: splashing, floating, dropping things in the water, kicking, and more.


    1. Food: smearing it, fingering it, smelling it, wiping it on one’s face, and sometimes, eating it.


    1. Dropping things, over and over and over and over and over and over and over….


    1. Throwing things over and over and over and over and over


    1. Bumping into things.


    1. Getting hurt sometimes.


    1. Exploring, crawling in and out of cupboards and closets and losing things under the couch and feeling things – sharp things, soft things, pointed things, round things, angular things, faces, hands, puppies, water, ice, things that squish and things that don’t, things that are smooth or gritty, silky or prickly and more besides.


    Outdoor play in the wild- not on equipment at a sterile park, but play with mud puddles, ponds, dirt, trees, and the risk of skinned knees, bug bites, and splinters.  Play transitions into noticing- listening- smelling- seeing- feeling- wondering.  “Oh, look at this caterpillar!  I love that colour.  I wonder what it those bits that stick out are for?”  “Wow, this weed looks beautiful, but it stinks. I wonder why it smells?”  “See those tracks in the mud by the creek! I wonder what made them?  Do they remind you of anything? They kind of look like two crescent moons to me.  Let’s look these up when we go back home.”

All that is just off the top of my head. I am sure if we took more time we could come up with more things, but they would still all have this in common- they are what human babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and small children do and have done for ever and ever.

II: the nature notebooks, sketching

    You’ll transition to sketching, and let me stress here that it does not matter that you cannot draw, that you hate to draw.  The goal here is  not to produce lovely drawings (it’s nice if you can, bonus! But that’s NOT THE POINT!).  No, all you are trying to do is two things:
    ~Produce enough of a rough draft to serve as a reminder of what you saw to help you look it up later.
    1. ~ Notice details.  Try it and see.  Pick any two objects on your next nature exploratory, the leaves of two houseplants if you need to, or slice two different fruits into a cross section and sketch one, and take a photograph of the other to put in your nature journal. Set them aside. A week later think about them, compare, write a description from memory.  Look at them and write a description.  See which one has resulted in clearer, more detailed recollection *in your mind.*

    It’s fine to desire a beautiful product, and you can keep striving for that.  But what I’m saying is don’t give up because you don’t get there.  The other two things are excellent results, even if you never sketch better than rough scrawls.  Don’t give up!

    There is a deep, important relationship, a connection (or multiple connections) made in the brain that happens when you combine these experiences- seeing something wonderful, experiencing awe, wonder, curiosity, and then reprocessing that by recording it (by hand, not machine!) and putting it into words, words on paper, words you exchange with others- your kids, your parents, your classmates.

    I was in the sixth grade and we had a series of science assignments where we had to find short little science experiments or demonstrations to present to the class, and also write about them and give our written work to the teacher. EAch part of the assignment was half the grade for the assignment, which was a substantial portion of our class grade. They could be very, very simple, but we had to write at least a paragraph about what we’d done. It isn’t really science, said our teacher, until you’ve communicated about it. One could nitpick the finer points of that, but essentially, he was right.

    III.  Why is nature and time outside so important:

  1. Outdoor play, and lots of it, followed by first informal and later some more formal Nature study is building an important foundation for later formal science. Your child is stocking his mind with an incredible collection of real, concrete experiences with the physical world and how it works. These experiences are vital to a later conceptual understanding, to the later ability to translate those experiences into the abstract concepts he learns of. IT will enable him to more accurately hypothesize and predict results.

    You want “to stimulate observation and to excite a living and lasting
    interest in the world that lies about us” (Home Education by Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 of her 6 volume series, p. 267)  Miss Mason is quoting Edward Holden, author of The Sciences there.   Nobody has any business asking ‘but what about STEM’ if they haven’t been out in the great outdoors getting gloriously dirty- the outdoors can be your backyard, the neighbor’s yard, the empty lot up the road, the back corner of a park, a 3rd story balcony with a variety of potted plants, possibly a bird feeder, and inside a goldfish bowl with a water snail and a couple water weeds to observe.


    While the science is important, as is the appreciation of the natural world, we actually are also looking for something more, something deeper- a type of sanity, common sense, and level headed approach to life which flourishes best in minds and hearts which regularly have the cobwebs brushed away by time in the natural world contemplating a larger world and the Creator who formed it.

    In the Parents Review article “The value of Scientific
    Training”, Prof. J. Logan Lobley says:

    “So wondrous, too, are the revelations of natural science in opening to the view illimitable fields of knowledge, that instead of generating conceit or hateful priggishness in the youthful student, they suffuse the spirit with awe and reverence for the majesty of the universe, and modesty and humbleness from the consciousness of the little that is known and the boundless extent of the unknown.

    With the increase of the habit of observation comes an increase of the power of observation, that is, in fact, the power of accurate observation. More is seen, and the ability to discriminate between similar objects rapidly develops. Use of the power increases the power, even as the muscles of the body are developed by their frequent employment.

    Beyond this development of the observing and discriminating powers, which is most valuable in itself, thought, consideration, deduction, and analytical and synthetical mental processes, are begotten, encouraged, and developed, with the result that mental activity becomes usual and normal instead of being merely occasional and abnormal. Thus the mind is both fed and stimulated, developed, strengthened, and enlivened, its range of vision is vastly enlarged, and its activities largely increased. It is consequently less liable to be unduly influenced by those small considerations and allurements that in so many cases most injuriously and sometimes disastrously affect the life.”

    Nature study, outdoor time, is absolutely unconditionally, irrefutably valuable for building up the foundation for future science learning. IT’s also good for the soul.
    It is not that nature is some minor deity. It’s not magic, it’s not a replacement for other things (teaching, heart, the Holy Spirit, a relationship with God)- but it is a tool, and a highly effective one, for resting the fractious soul, renewing vigor, strengthening the will, building relationships both God-ward and with other people, for informing the conscience. A child who has spent some time really observing an ant hill and watching them work, who has watched a nest from building season to hatching season and beyond, who has put food in a bird feeder and filled the bird bath regularly is less likely to be a child who cannot put himself in the place of creatures smaller and weaker than himself, less likely to be a carelessly cruel child (this happens over time, don’t despair of your small 3 year old psychopath who stomps on caterpillars).

    There’s a Reason for this. I will look up to the hills, from whence cometh my strength. Consider the lilies. Go to the ant. Ask the birds and they will teach you. The Heavens declare the glory of God. The sky proclaims His handiwork. His invisible attributes…. have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things which He created. Ask the beasts, and they will teach you. Speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you…* The same Creator who made the world made us and put us in it- the first place he chose for mankind, made in His image, was a garden. There is already a connection. Some of us need more effort to winkle it out and strengthen it because it’s been squelched by years of air conditioned, sterile, insect free, indoor living.

    Not every child is going to grow up to be a scientist. But every child should be somebody who can find delight in science in both childhood and as they become adults. Every human should be able to read the science and technology sections of a paper or news site with some basic ability and interest- especially interest.


  2. More to follow
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In lieu of flowers, watch a K-Drama

Some husbands bring home flowers when they make a mistake.  Mine is watching k-dramas with me, finally. He impetuously gave away our savings,* sold our youngest child to pirates,* and gave somebody permission to do something we previously had agreed we would *not* give permission to do, and he feels very embarrassed and so he should.

It was a day or two later when he suggested that he would watch a K-drama of my choosing with me, and that  was, I believe, his substitution for flowers, and an adequate substitute it was.  We watched Descendants of the Sun.
Then we watched City Hunter.
And then we watched King 2Hearts and he’s wondering how anything ever can top that (it can’t).  
Then it was Strong Girl Do Bok Soon, and he was utterly charmed.  

Now we are watching My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (Nine-tailed fox) . Earlier today- before breakfast, in fact-  we finished episode 6. He has pestered me for spoilers multiple times. While I was making hamburgers for supper he tried again, “Really, HOW do they resolve this? What happens?”

Me: exasperated glaring at him over the cheese I am slicing for hamburgers.
Him: Come on, you can tell me.
Me: Well, you realize we haven’t hit the halfway point.
Him: yeah, so?
Me: Well, this was all just build-up to now. Next we switch to the real story. The ajusshi who owns the acting/stunt school and the eomo become the main couple, and they get together and make adorable babies by the end. Koreans really are not into mixed marriages, so that whole human/gumiho relationship was too daring for the regular audience. (we have spent the last year working closely with lots of Koreans, and he knows they value their homogenous culture).
Him: Blink. Blink.
Me: putting the cheese on the burgers with a straight face.
Him: Blink. Blink blink.
Me: slices tomatoes and pulls apart lettuce.   They are a very charming couple.  Possibly they got married in real life, I’m not sure. He’s a big name actor and he’s senior, so maybe he insisted, and his hoobae couldn’t really argue.

Him: Really? Like how the Korean teachers at the school can’t really speak up in the teacher’s meeting with the Head of School there?

Me: Mmmmm.  Slicing red onions for the burgers and keeping the straight face almost to the end.
Him: Oh. That was good. And I guess that’s all you’re going to say?
I don’t even answer that. I don’t give spoilers. But it’s funny that he is not sure how it ends, because I don’t watch sad dramas, and if I ever accidentally do, I never watch it twice. The fact that I watch a K-drama with him is itself a dead giveaway that the OTP do not die, and do get together.
Oooh. I had planned on Secret Garden next, and it’s still in the line up.  However (insert evil chuckle here)….. He is the very sensitive, tender hearted papa of six daughters (and a son). I think we’ll watch It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl soon.
*Parts of this account may have been exaggerated or lightly fictionalized for effect.
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Difficult but important read

I just bought The Last Closet, by Moira Greyland.  I had read enough of the background to expect to find this a searingly painful read, and I thought I might not be able to finish it.  But I also have read enough of the background to know that I want her story to get out as widely as possible, and I want her to know, in real and tangible ways, that she is not alone, and that there are strangers who care, who support her, who hate what was done to her.  And reading the foreword inspired me to hope that I will find it possible to read it all and be inspired as well.

Peter Grant reviews it.

You can read the foreword here.  And you should.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Her story is more than a triumph of the human spirit, more than a tale of survival, and more than a devastating indictment of a seriously depraved community. It is an inspiration to everyone, particularly for anyone who has ever been subjected to abuse or ill-treatment as a child.

Moira’s message is clear: they can hurt you, they can harm you, and they can leave you with scars that last a lifetime, but they cannot touch your soul. Their sins are not your sins and their shame is not your shame. And there is a light that is always waiting to heal those who summon the strength to walk out of the last closet and turn their back on the darkness inside it.”


Updated to add, partial disclosure- as most of our readers know, there are real and personal reasons why Moira’s story is also personal and why it’s particularly painful to read, and why I want people to know about his book.  Her story is hers, and mine is mine, but there are similarities.

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Phrasal Verbs Follow Up

Follow up, there’s another one.  They are everywhere.  Why is it follow up, and not follow on, or follow in, out, down, over, beyond, etc?

They trip up native English speakers, too.  Sometimes, as somebody pointed out in the comments, they trip up people who have been taught to be too squeamish about ending sentences with a preposition.  Incidentally, that was one that drove my father nuts, particularly ‘Where’s it at?’  I am quite sure not one of the three of us ever, ever adds the ‘at’ to the “where is it?” question, but probably we have quit wincing when somebody else does, now that we are almost all over fifty.

But not all English speakers use the same phrasal verbs to mean the same thing.

I spent several embarrassing moments in confused ignorance recently when a Filipina friend was taking me to a restaurant and she stopped the car in front of a parking space near the entrance and said I should ‘go down’ here and she would go ahead and park the car. I could not see any stairs, so I didn’t know what I was supposed to do or where I should go to meet her. After a confused couple of minutes where I asked about stairs and she looked baffled and repeated her suggestion that I go down here, I finally stepped out and while I was looking for stairs, she parked the car right in front of me. The issue was the space was so narrow, I couldn’t have opened the car door once she’d parked, so she was telling me to exit the car before she parked it. Nothing to do with stairs. But Americans don’t go down from the car, we get out of the car. At least, this American exits the car that way.   Seems obvious now, but in the moment, my brain could not interpret ‘go down’ as ‘exit’ because I’d never used it that way, and if I’d heard it used that way, I don’t remember it.

Many of the signs directing customers to get in line say ‘Fall in line here.’ And I picture customers keeling over because that’s not quite American usage. It’s close, but just not quite.  I expect it’s British.  But we do say ‘fall in’ when we are talking about a military line, a moving line of marching soldiers could be told to ‘fall in’ and they’d fold themselves into the line in order.  Isn’t it odd?  I wonder where and why we came to use language in just this way?

And why does it seem so obvious when it really isn’t obvious at all?  I understand usage accustoms us, but what about new phrasings?  Did the first person to say her mom liked bragging on her kids confuse everybody around her, or did people grasp the meaning intuitively because as native speakers, they could make that little jump in connection?    Did the first people to hear “Peace out, man” stand around scratching their heads in confusion, or did they get the gist, as dopey as it is?

Also, in an only tangentially connected bit of information, not only can you and should you verb your nouns in Visaya, you can verb your ‘what’ question.  Adding a verb prefix to ‘what’ is basically ‘What’s up?’ I find this language struggle every week as I simultaneously strive to learn one language while trying to help native speakers of an entirely different language maneuver their way through the complexities of English both exhilarating and really painful for my brain.

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Nature Study Picture: Muskrat

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