Help with Physics – Middle Years and High School

I know it’s only April, but if you’re like me, you’re already thinking about next year’s homeschooling adventures! And judging by the number of first grade syllabuses and other things we’re selling at the moment, there are a lot of you who are in the “plan ahead” camp!
Right now I’m thinking about not just next Fall for my will-be 10th grader, but also about how the next years of his high school education might unfold. There are two other Waldorf homeschooled students of about his age here where we live – and we will probably do a number of things together (we already do). Some subjects are easy (for me at least) to teach and organize – others are a bit more difficult. Science is one of the topics which, though I love it, does not thrill my son. It is also incredibly hard to find resources which lend themselves to being used by people struggling to keep at least a bit of a Waldorf approach to science intact!
And the same is true for those of you figuring out how to work with science in the middle years. Eventually we will have a wealth of materials which will spell it all out – but we’re not there yet and some of you have 6th, 7th and 8th graders next year and need some help.
At the moment I just want to talk about physics – the only area of science which fills me with horror! It just does not go in! I love the color experiments in 6th grade and fiddling about with sending sound through a garden hose, but pulling it all together is well, rather a challenge. And to be honest, as brilliant as Roberto Trostli’s Physics is Fun book is (this is a highly recommended book written by a Waldorf teacher) it just doesn’t really, really convert 100% to the home situation.
So for those of you with middle grades students next year, I do recommend our Nature Stories to Natural Science to help you understand the flow of the Waldorf science curriculum and, specifically, what happens in 6th, 7th and 8th grade. There are many book reviews and practical ideas. I also think that getting Eric Fairman’s Path of Discovery books (from www.waldorfbooks.org)  for those grades is a must – he does a great job with science – though again…. it’s not quite translatable to one parent teacher and one student at home. But they’ll definitely help.
So I’ve been gloomily looking through physics websites trying to figure out what might be helpful in my situation. I’m banking on one of the other students’ dads doing a lot of mechanics type physics with them…. but that might not happen. My son is interested in astronomy – and he’d like to understand theoretical physics – I can handle that. So we might spend more time than recommended in Waldorf schools reading than doing… but sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
Anyway, here’s a physics teacher’s website which is somewhat helpful. I like it for a variety of reasons – the positive is that there are some really wonderful lesson plans here which, even if you don’t use them as they are (because a) they’re for groups and b) they are not Waldorf at all) can be useful in helping one think through various physics concepts and/or inspire you for more Waldorf projects and ideas. The negative reason is that by reading through all the silly, inane and ridiculous lesson plans, I can feel better about what I’m doing, reassured that in public schools they spend an awful lot of time doing things that really are not worthy of the time.
The lesson plans on this site range from k through 12th grade.
Then there’s a funky looking free astronomy and Newtonian physics e-book which I found. The author’s credentials look impressive – the material looks great at a cursory glance…. But I don’t vouch for it until I look it over before my son and I use it!
Lastly, I think I will order a programmable robot kit for Gabriel for this Fall. There are some really sophisticated  (and expensive) kits which use both engineering and computer programming skills to create robots which perform a variety of tasks. You can get these kits from www.homesciencetools.com. Once we get the robot and use it, I will report here how it went!

Posted on April 11, 2008 in 7th Grade, 8th Grade, High School, Older Children, Science

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