Magnetic magic with Homeschool Hands-On STEM

Written by Mariah Kennedy-English, Children’s Librarian, Downtown Main Library

As many Cincinnatians know, one of the most common questions asked when making a new acquaintance is “what school did you go to”? When it comes up in conversation that I was homeschooled by my parents until 7th grade, the most common reactions are that of surprise or shock, confusion, or disbelief. This is for a variety of reasons – and all understandable to me, but they all seem to stem from a lack of understanding of what homeschooling really is. 

For my brother and I, homeschooling involved spending a lot of time reading and learning at our own pace - with close guidance by our parents - and especially from our mother who was a trained elementary teacher. For us, the decision to homeschool was an easy one. My mom wasn’t satisfied with our neighborhood public school, we couldn’t afford private school, and she figured she could do just as well herself. 

My parents put together a curriculum by utilizing many of our city’s greatest institutions; the Library, the Art Museum, Union Terminal, our local YMCA and the Great Parks of Cincinnati. Each trip and experience a piece of our education, coupled with the learning that occurred in our home. 

In 1997, approximately 1 million people in the U.S. were homeschooled. As of 2016 data, 2.3 million people are now homeschooling, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. That’s more than double the amount of kids and families present in the homeschooling community now than there were when I was a young learner! When you take Facebook and other easily accessible online communities into account, connecting with other homeschooling families has only gotten easier as we’ve moved into this first quarter of the 21st century. 

When I became a Children’s Librarian in the Youth Services Department of the Downtown Main Library I was surprised to find that very few Library locations across Cincinnati and Hamilton County offer any sort of specialized Homeschool events during regular school hours. 

With the Library’s first two vision statements: “excelling in customer service” and “being the first choice for information” in mind, I went about crafting fun, hands-on programs with specified learning outcomes. Additionally, I align each class and activity with Ohio’s Learning Standards and Model Curriculum (adopted in 2018), with the hopes of making it easier for students and parents to relate this Library program to their own homeschooling curriculum. 

We kicked off the classes on Wednesday, September 11. We had an excited crowd of kids ready to dive head-first into all things magnets. We discussed the properties of magnets and the force at work inside them, and then proceeded to make our own temporary magnets by exerting the magnetic force of a bar magnet on common objects, such as a butter knife, envelope opener, and scissors – turning them into magnets as well! 

The second half of the event involved discussing magnetic force fields and testing how far they extended by manipulating paper-clip characters and objects magnetically on a cardboard scene. Each student crafted a small story and shared with the group, directing their magnetic objects almost magically across their scenes. 

Interested in joining us? Homeschool Hands-On STEM meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month. Kids can make their own five-cent flashlights and will explore static electricity with static goo and balloons! This program is recommended for children ages 5-12. No registration required, all are welcome.