Électrium

On the south shore of Montreal, on highway 30, just east of the 20, there is a hidden gem called the “Électrium” that not many people seem to know about…

Really, unless you are going there specifically, or out to one of the towns past the 20 (including where I live) you would never see it.

The Électrium is Hydro-Quebec’s “Electricity Interpretation Centre”… It is full of information, experiments and hands on activities about electricity and best of all, it is free! If you have read my blog for while or looked back in the archives you will see that I have already written about it, but another visit, warrants another post.

Last Friday the boys and I headed to Montreal for Wilhelmina’s Dr. Appointment… (btw… everything is looking good!!!) On the way back I went to the Atwater market to get some veggies and food for the week and then on the ride back home I decided to stop at the Électrium on a whim. Each time we had passed by the boys would talk about it but it was never a good time, so this time it was perfect and they got so excited when I took the exit.When we arrived, there was no else there.

We were met at the door by one of the guides and she asked if we wanted to just go around by ourselves or if we wanted the guided tour… The last time we were there we were with a french homeschooling group, so even though the kids understand french, it takes a bit more effort and were not able to really listen and follow. Of course, it was also more than 2 years ago so the age difference adds much more to comprehension also. So I said that it would be fun to have an english guided tour. We were asked to wait for a minutes in the unlikely event that others that wanted to follow an English tour may arrive, but no one did so we started…

(Waiting for the tour to start)

Waiting for the tour to start

The first part of the tour is watching a series of clips on electricity made by the NFB.

Movie starting... 

They only showed the ones on electricity but the whole set can be watched here… (they are really fun to watch!!!)

 oehttp://www.nfb.ca/film/science_please_1

 oehttp://www.nfb.ca/film/science_please_part_2

After the watching the clips we were led into the next room which is about safety. The guide was great and really engaged the kids… even Willa was interested… well… somewhat…

learning about safety

Because it was just us and the guide, the boys were able to ask as many questions as they wanted and the guide was great at answering them. He was also very passionate about his job and about what he was talking about which made it so much more interesting and informative.

After learning about safety, it was the section on electricity in nature. Our own nervous system, our reflexes, the brain, heart etc… and of course, on of the highlights of the show is the electric eel (did you know that it is actually not an eel but a knifefish?). A blue panel next to the tank has lights that light up when the eel becomes electrified. Pretty cool of you ask me…

Electric Eel lights powered by the eel

The next section is about static electricity and starts with a small film on the Aurora Borealis/Australis and lightening… both natural reactions of static electricity…

(making balls move though glass using static electricity)

discovering static electricty

This is of course a favourite section for all because static electricity means playing with the Plasma ball and the Van de Graaff Generator.

(Wilhelmina loved the Plasma Ball)

Willa's turn

(Van de Graaff Generator)

Khéna

Colin

Xavier

The last section is on magnetism and generating electricity. The boys listed and took in as much as they could but soon started getting restless… they last about 90 min before this so it was actually pretty impressive!

 Listening...Learning about Magnets

Since we were getting the private tour we were able to cut it short at that point and the guide left us alone so that we could go back to the beginning and the we could play with everything again…

playing with magnets

Again, this is a great, free, hands on place to head with the kids… If you are in Montreal it is worth the short ride and will make for a great outing. They do ask for people to call ahead to not be at the same time as a group, it is a small place so if a school group is there, it will be cramped and not much fun but if it a lazy day, like on the day we went, it is a great way to spend a few hours…

the boys in front of the turbine

Colin's Carebear essay

I just had to share this text that Colin wrote…

The funny thing about Colin writing is that he doesn’t read yet, but he loves to write. I can’t wait to see what happens when the two click together!

To write, he sits next to me and asks how to spell most words but he often figures words out on his own also..

 

Colin's essay

Half way through, I casually told hom that his “s” was backwards and he corrected himself for the rest…

Colin wrote about Carebears

By |September 12th, 2011|Unschooling|Comments Off on Colin's Carebear essay|

What Unschooling is not…

Colin writingIt’s September, which means that we are in the throes of the not-going-back-to-school period that seems to be the start of a new year for most. This means that along with all the schoolers, many homeschoolers are writing about the new year, talking curriculum, talking methodology, new homeschoolers are asking questions and many terms are flying around. One of those terms is of course unschooling.

I have already wrote what unschooling is to me…

 ….it is an ideology and a lifestyle in itself. It is seeing learning in a different way, a way that happens through the learner instead of the teacher.

Let me explain again, unschooling is a lifestyle. It is trusting that children will learn what they need to learn when they are ready to learn it. It is a process of letting go of arbitrary expectations that children should learn certain things at exactly/or by a certain age. It is shifting from the idea that we must teach in order for someone to learn. Unschooling is entirely philosophy in itself and it is as different from homeschooling than it is from school.

To unschool, I believe, that you have to embrace the educational philosophy (whether you embrace radical unschooling/child-led living etc. is then another issue). You have to trust that children will learn everything they need to know and that it may not be exactly what you think they need to know. It is a struggle, yes, and I freely admit that I do struggle with it also,  as I still have all of my school baggage behind me and have outside criticism that at times penetrates the barrier that I put up…  but it doesn’t change what unschooling is.

And this is where my pet peeve comes in…

What gets to me is not that people don’t know exactly what unschooling is. To be fair, it is fairy complex philosophy and far leap from most mainstream views of learning and there are so many misconceptions around it. But, it is when they don’t know what unschooling is and then still use the term to describe what they are doing or part of what they are doing. Perpetuating the myth that unschooling is basically the time that you don’t care about what your child is learning.

Here are a few quotes that I have seen in the last few weeks just to show what I mean…

“I unschool until they hit about 4 then I start incorporating a curriculum.”

or

“I unschool kindergarten then add more structure each year.”

Um… that is letting toddler be a toddler…a kid be a kid…  it is not unschooling… it’s childhood…

“We do school work in the morning and then I let the kids unschool in the afternoon.”

So basically, you are teaching your kids what you think they need to know and then letting them play/or do unstructured schoolwork in the afternoon. I would define this as homeschooling… not unschooling.

“My kids go to school and then we unschool on the weekends.”

yes… I have heard this said and um.. no!!!  again… that is letting kids just be kids and that would mean that ALL kids are being unschooled.

“We’re unschoolers…  the kids choose the subjects and then we make a curriculum around that.”

I would call that relaxed or eclectic homeschooling…and it is a great way to homeschool, but it is still parent-led and is not unschooling.

Don’t get me wrong… it is not that I really care about what kind of labels people want use, I really don’t care if people don’t unschool and it is not that unschoolers feel elitist and don’t want people in their club. It’s just that there are already varying degrees of unschooling that using the term is these contexts just cause confusion. Unschooling is more than just a method, it is instead a philosophy and it simply can’t be done part-time.

If an outsider was to hear these statements they would most likely come away with the idea that unschooling is not a way in which kids can learn the “important stuff” and that is sounds like another word for unstructured learning or play.

I mean, the people who say they are unschooling in these statements are saying they believe in “unschooling” then are contradicting themselves in the same breath by saying that they will teach what’s important. Their definition of unschooling has nothing to do with trusting that children will learn on their own, it is just pointing out that their children have unstructured learning periods.

So, when unschooling is put in that context, hearing that people choose to only unschool is basically like hearing that they are choosing for their children to not learn the important things and setting them up for future failure willingly. It sounds drastic, but it is easy to understand that if this is the way unschooling is presented, it is the way that people will understand unschooling and it is understandable that their reaction will most often be  negative.

By only hearing such statements, they would never see the possibilities that unschooling provides. They wouldn’t know that unschooled kids can and do learn “the important stuff”. They wouldn’t know that as time goes by the learning that happens is more complex and that as kids grow they will learn more, and learn quickly.

Furthermore, and most important, though unschooling is all about self-guided learning instead of what is being taught, by only hearing the phrases above, people will never know that unschooling can also involve structure, taking classes, using curriculum, having tutors, and even choosing to go to school later on..

Unschooling is just so much more than just “not doing school”.

So I ask you, if you are a unschooler, what do you think? Is it s pet peeve for you also? Do you see the same problems?

What about the others? What is your notion of unschooling?

By |September 9th, 2011|Unschooling|Comments Off on What Unschooling is not…|

Spring walk…

One of my favourite things about unschooling is the freedom…

After nearly 2 weeks of rainy and cloudy days the sun has come out and we are all feeling the great effects of fresh air and sunshine. These are not the days to be in the house or stuck in a building…

Spring...

After lunch, we headed out to some trails not too far from our house. As soon as we got far enough to no longer see the car, I took Wilhelmina off my back and let her follow us… she was so determined to follow her brothers and discover all that there was to discover…

Wilhelmina determined walk...

She walked and walked….

Wilhelmina

 

 

She ended up walking nearly 2 km before she finally just sat down and refused to move and as I was about to put her back on my back Xavier offered to carry her the rest of the way… I adjusted the ERGO for him and she had a big smile as she realized that she was going to tagging along with her big brother…

 

Xavier and WilhelminaBig Brother

It’s these little moments that erase the harder parts of being a parent…

My fabulous four...

 

By |May 10th, 2011|Family Life, Misc Ramblings, Unschooling|Comments Off on Spring walk…|

Dry Ice Ice Cream…

We had so much fun at our friend’s house with dry ice…

I didn’t have my camera, but I did get some video of making the Ice Cream. Not the best video either with the light we had but is was too fun to not share.

In the bowl was an Ice Cream base made with eggs, soy milk, cream etc… The dry Ice was crushed and added to the mixture…

By |April 27th, 2011|Unschooling|Comments Off on Dry Ice Ice Cream…|