Elementary Science Olympiad

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Since 2013, when I started this blog, I have published 700 posts, which works out to be two posts per week and a bit – exactly what I promised and purposed to do back then. This is post number 701. Here’s to the power of grit and determination.

This year, we joined Cedar Springs Homeschool Group, a support group in Knoxville, which gathers motivated homeschoolers for different competitions: American Math Contest, National Spelling Bee, Science Olympiad, Scholars Bowl, History and Geography Bees etc.

Science Olympiad

They left the stage in a blur after winning their gold medals.

Every team is coached by a homeschooling parent. Since even Susan Wise Bauer confessed she did not do a great job teaching science in her homeschool, I decided I should look for outside support in that area. In the process, our children would become a part of a team and forge some friendships. Continue reading »

Cedar Springs Homeschool Group is not a co-op. It is, as I wrote above, a support group. Moms meet once a month at the Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville. Cedar Springs Homeschool is a ministry of this particular Presbyterian church, but one does not have to be a church member to join.

Gunk Event

Our daughter (pink vest) and her team mate, making gunk for a bouncy ball

Once you pay a nominal membership fee, you get access to their Yahoo Group where most communication happen. They also have a Facebook page for the Science Olympiad. The most recent success is that their middle school team qualified for the nationals, beating all the public and private schools in Tennessee. How do you like them apples?

Circuit Wizardry

Our son and his team mate in Circuit Wizardry

For grade 3-5, Knox County schools organized a Science Olympiad which felt more like a play date. It was not intensely competitive. The kids chose their events and made projects. There was very little writing involved in the events. Most had no writing.

In aerodynamics, they had to build a paper airplane, test it, and then fly it for the judges. The longest flight won. In Circuit Wizardry, they had to build a circuit out of a bag of supplies. In Gunk, they built bouncy balls out of borax, glue and water and tested how high they bounced. You get the picture.

Our team brought eight students and ended up in second place by a small margin (1-2 points). All children won medals in their events. The first three scores in each event receive medals. Then, the totals add up and give the first two teams a trophy they can take home.

Cedar Springs Homeschool Group and three public schools participated: West Hills Elementary (they won), Amherst and Sterchi. The question is, where were the other elementary schools of Knoxville? Dozens and dozens of elementary schools with no team for the Science Olympiad. Private schools, where parents pay tens of thousands of dollars every year, decided not to show up. Why? I can only speculate but I won’t go there.

We left with three medals: our son got a bronze in Mystery Architecture and a gold in Metric Mastery. Our daughter was his team mate in Metric Mastery so she also received a gold medal. They also have the pride of having contributed to the team’s second place finish. They got such a boost of confidence.

Also, they became part of a team. They made fast friends with some of their team mates and we have play dates set up for the Aquarium and the Zoo – what else? These are future scientists.

Here I thought we did not do enough science this year, not enough experiments, not enough notebooking about the science that we did cover. Sometimes you have to come to these events and put things into perspective: good enough homeschooling gets children farther than fancy private or public schools.


Homeschool Parent Support Night

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Once a month, homeschooling moms in Sevier County get together in a hospitable home in Pigeon Forge. We bring something to munch on and we have a good time talking.

Sometimes there are 15 of us and the room gets noisy. Other times there are only four of us. That’s when the conversations get deeper and trouble spots work their way into the conversation. “How do you know you are doing enough?” “What if my son is two grades behind?” “How can I make myself stop from worrying?” and many other similar questions come up.

What strikes me is that homeschooling moms really have the same questions as public or private school moms. Sure, we have a few additional questions about curriculum choices, umbrella schools and dealing with negative people in our lives. Besides that, it all goes back to parenting.

“Are you already praying for your son’s future wife?” somebody asked me. I answered in the affirmative. “Since he was born.”

We don’t see each other between meetings. We are all too busy and scattered across our county to get together. Maybe we should make an effort. Maybe not. I find that many homeschooling families uphold standards they are proud of. But they are all different. While we respect each other’s freedom of choice, we just don’t want to impose our standards on others. And getting to know what somebody wants to do with their children takes time. Who’s got any extra these days?

“Who is your best girl friend and does she support your decision to homeschool?” I was relieved to find out other moms confessed they did not have a “best friend.” Neither do I. When you are married with children, there’s no time for a BFF. There, I said it. But my close friends do support my decision to homeschool. They even homeschool themselves. They just don’t live nearby. I wish they did. But life has spread us all over the world after college and now we stay in touch as well as we can.

The friendship of my local homeschooling support group means a lot to me. I get refreshed and encouraged every time. I am thankful to the hostess and the group leader who keep us all going.