Homeschooling

To STEM or Not to STEM?

STEM (or STEAM) is becoming a hot topic in the world of homeschooling. The funny thing about it though is that it’s not a new concept. Nope. Not at all. It just so happens that the STEM acronym made its debut in 2001 after being upgraded from what used to be known as SMET. However, as long as there has been education, there have been the core subjects of science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

So what’s the big deal about STEM/STEAM? Is it something that we as homeschoolers should stress about making a part of the schedule? Where are the resources for it? Is there help for incorporating it without is costing an arm and a leg? Let’s talk about these questions (and other concerns you may have)!

So, what’s the big deal?

According to Britannica¹:

“U.S. students were not achieving in the STEM disciplines at the same rate as students in other countries. The report predicted dire consequences if the country could not compete in the global economy as the result of a poorly prepared workforce. Thus, attention was focused on science, mathematics, and technology research; on economic policy; and on education. Those areas were seen as being crucial to maintaining U.S. prosperity.”

If you are one to keep up with the Jones’, or with other countries for that matter, then having children who excel in the STEM/STEAM categories may be a big deal to you. However, if you are more concerned with fostering your child’s natural abilities (whatever they may be), then having a STEM/STEAM-focused homeschool may not be such a big deal.

You see, from a “system perspective,” there has to be standard definitions. There has to be some sort of defining factor to begin building from. That’s why there are growth and development charts that say your child should be doing this or that by such-and-such age. Same goes for what our children should be learning.

Should homeschoolers stress about STEM/STEAM?

Truth be told, if you choose to homeschool you already have one up on those who do not. I don’t mean to sound biased, but hear me out. Another quote from Britannica¹ says:

“A number of studies were conducted to reveal the needs of school systems and guide the development of appropriately targeted solutions.”

When a child is in the “school system,” they are learning according to the curriculum and scheduling chosen by that system. If a child wants to learn about something that is not part of the plan, most likely they will be silenced and left to learn about it on their own time. Whereas for the homeschooling family, an interest-led approach can be taken and explored much more easily.

So, my answer to the question is no. Homeschooling families should not stress about STEM/STEAM because it is something that can be (and most likely is) naturally explored and incorporated. Homeschoolers typically aren’t worried about studying for the test or trying to be top in a class. I also find that most of us homeschooling families could care less about measuring up to some standard.

Of course it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the importance of these core subjects because they are essential; however, we don’t have to stress about it! The next question then becomes…

Where are the resources?

When I started homeschooling five years ago, how I was going to incorporate science, technology, engineering, art, and math in a fun and engaging way crossed my mind quite a bit. I was already transitioning from being a brick-and-mortar preschool teacher myself, so I was naturally going the school system route. I found the nearest homeschool group and became active in their COOP program in attempt to fill some gap that wasn’t even there!

It didn’t take long before I started tossing that method out the window and started on the path of all things DIY (do-it-yourself). This actually made it much easier. With the help of hand-me-down curriculum and resources, couple with Google, Pinterest, and supplements I created myself – we were subconsciously STEM/STEAMing with grace and ease.

Fast forward to today and you can find a wealth of STEM/STEAM resources, all just a click away. Some of my favorites that I highly recommend are:

KIWI CO.

For one low subscription price a month you can enjoy having hands-on activities sent straight to your home. There is flexibility in the style of box that you choose and they are divided by age group and subject category. My two middle kiddos share the Koala Crate and my 11 year old enjoys the Tinker Crate. He has also used the Doodle Crate. Try your first crate for less than $10! Click HERE to redeem!

CRATE JOY

Over at Crate Joy you can find this Groovy Lab in a Box, hands-on Science fun STEM subscription box. Each month young STEMists (your children!) will receive fun, hands-on projects and an engineering design challenge – all focused on that month’s STEM topic. All STEMists will receive a Lab Notebook, where they can read about that month’s topic, perform investigation activities and document their findings.

They will investigate, brainstorm, plan, build, test and redesign their own creations. STEMists also receive access to our special “Beyond…in a Box” online learning portal. This is a unique feature of Groovy Lab in a Box because it gives STEMists a deeper understanding of that month’s topic.

TOYS

Playing with toys may not seem like learning, but trust me when I say that it is! The best part about investing in STEM/STEAM-related toys is the longevity and versatility. Some good ones to check out are: LEGOS, Brain Flakes, Brickyard Building Blocks, Smart Circuits, and IQ Builder.

Is there help for incorporating STEM/STEAM into homeschooling that doesn’t break the bank?

Absolutely! Another perk about the spike in technology is the ability to find good blogs that offer helpful posts, groups that offer amazing support, and programs that offer guidance through interactive lessons, ideas, and even conferences!

Some of the top blogs to follow:

Virtual groups that offer amazing support:

Programs for guidance:

Conferences, meetups, and events (some are virtual, others held in specific cities):

*In order to get the lifetime access to this conference you must enroll by March 9, 2019. Registration will be closed after that date.

Should you have a STEM/STEAM-focused homeschool?

I am and always will be an advocate for homeschooling your way. I believe there is a distinct line between schooling and educating children, one that has been clearly defined over time by the public and private school systems. As a homeschooler, we have the right to educate our children according to their needs and best interests, not according to the best interests of what society or the government thinks.

STEM/STEAM has become a concept that can be misinterpreted to the point of stressing a person out, and that never should be the case. I once heard a wise woman say, “Go where the needs lead.” and she couldn’t be more accurate. For some children, their natural abilities and desires will lead them down an artistic path. For another child it may be technology and engineering.

Regardless, if you build the education around the child, instead of the child around the education, I guarantee you’ll find STEM/STEAM all throughout without having to get overwhelmed.

CHIME IN: To STEM/STEAM, or not to STEM/STEAM? What does this look like in your homeschool? Let me know if the comments below!

¹https://www.britannica.com/topic/STEM-education

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