Academic Excellence
Wednesday, 04 February 2015

  • Tags:
  • Comprehension
  • Curriculum
  • Encouragement
  • Learning Styles
  • Science

If you peruse various homeschool chat groups, you will see conversations comparing different curriculums—which ones are too difficult, which are not challenging enough? How do you know which to choose for your child? Academically excellent materials are engaging, help children to use critical thinking and analysis skills, and give hands-on opportunities for children to become creative problem solvers. Perhaps you have heard of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains. If not, you will recognize the underlying principle that there is a progression of learning from acquiring knowledge to comprehension and application of knowledge. When they understand and are able to apply the knowledge to problem-solving, children also are able to analyze by identifying patterns and organizing ideas that will help them then to use the old concepts they have learned to create a new idea. They will be making predictions, inferences, and modifications to formulas or models in order to make improvements. At the top of the taxonomy, students are solving, making judgments and comparisons of ideas, making assessments, and making recommendations based on their evaluation—this is the height of critical thinking.

How does that translate to your child and your choice of curriculum? This progression of learning holds true regardless of your child's ability to learn. Some children struggle just to acquire basic knowledge. Using hands-on materials and asking probing questions helps your child to predict and make inferences, judgments, and evaluations. It makes the "acquiring knowledge" part of learning easier and makes the application even better. Because they can see the value of what they are learning, they can see why it is important to know that concept.

Let’s say, for example, that you are teaching your child about photosynthesis. He is learning words like photosynthesis, chlorophyll, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and chloroplasts. It is good to know the words, their definitions, and how to spell them, but that is just basic knowledge. Knowing the root words and related words, and making application of that knowledge creates more learning. So we set up a model of a plant. We learn about chlorophyll and how chloroplasts make food from the sun. We build a model of a plant cell to help us identify its parts, and we learn what each part does. Is there a relationship between these cells and oxygen and carbon monoxide? What happens if we limit the sunlight? How would a plant react to this type of light compared to another? We plant something and put it in the sun, and we plant something else and cover it with a bag or leave it in a dark place. We compare how the two plants react to light or the lack of light. We take notes and make predictions. We draw pictures and make charts. We evaluate the differences between the plants and analyze what we have learned. We compare the hypothesis of our experiment to our findings. We could make all kinds of variations, but eventually, we draw conclusions. Now we understand photosynthesis, and we can do something with that material. We can certainly answer basic knowledge questions for the tests, but we can also assess real learning. What will happen the next time we plant something? Hopefully, we will use what we've learned to grow a more productive plant.

The academic material that we teach our children plays a large part in shaping their biblical worldview. What is the sum of all knowledge and wisdom without using it for God and to help others? According to 1 Corinthians 13, it is nothing. An understanding of photosynthesis can be much more than just a lesson to complete; it can be a catalyst for feeding a hungry person—not to mention a huge opportunity for our child’s growth and spiritual development. Your child now has knowledge of photosynthesis, hands-on experience with planting, and the ability to use that information to show love to someone else. Wow!

So as you are thinking and praying through these curriculum choices, remember the value of academic rigor. It engages a student to not only acquire knowledge, but also results in real learning for comprehension, critical thinking, evaluation, analysis, problem-solving, and the opportunity for creativity, which in turn provides an opportunity for him to use that knowledge to serve God and others.

You can find more information about critical thinking in our previous blog:

Look for our upcoming webinar about biblical worldview entitled: Shaping Your Child's Worldview.

Below is an infographic for Bloom's Taxonomy (image: Microsoft)

On behalf of the HomeWorks team,
Sharon Fisher

Manager | Curriculum Specialist, Speaker Coordinator, Social Media
HomeWorks by Precept