Monday, September 15, 2008

Science in the real world

When homeschoolers see me speak or first encounter something I've read, they might assume that I'm a science or math professional. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, I write and speak about math and science a lot more than writing -- I am a writer -- because I had such a hard time with math and science in school. Although my science grades were more consistent than math -- math fluctuated from As to Ds, while I almost always had Bs in science -- I struggled to earn those Bs. Teaching science in the classroom is as bad as trying to teach writing through sentence diagramming. Kids can't learn science without living science. My youngest has a blog where she writes about Science on the Farm. While most people don't have a 32-acre classroom in their backyard, they do have plenty of places to study science:
  • Even a small backyard has plenty of opportunitites to study science. Get a bird feeder and a bird guide for your state and start checking off your visitors.
  • Ask your child to help you decide which plants to put in your flower gardens. Does it need shade or sun? How many hours of sun does each area of your yard get in a typical summer day? How much water does the plant need? What type of soil?
  • Natural areas, such as parks and recreational areas have lots of plants and animals.
  • An aquarium is an ecosystem unto itself and provides great opportunities for kids to learn about aquatic animals and plants.
  • Zoos have programs for kids, such as the Junior Zookeeper program at the zoo in Bloomington, IL.

These are just a few ideas. The most important thing for parents to know is that science is one of the easiest things for kids to learn without textbooks. And having a strong foundation of practical science can make it easier for kids when they go into the college science classroom. When they start seeing all of those scientific names, they have a framework to make it all fit, rather than just trying to memorize a bunch of meaningless facts and names.

What surprises a lot of homeschoolers is that most public school teachers would be doing what we do if they were allowed to do it. Here's a post by a public school teacher in Alaska. He talks about what a positive experience it was to take his students into the woods for 20 minutes. We can take our kids into the great outdoors for hours. But it's a big deal for a public school teacher to do something like this for 20 minutes, because it takes away from the time they need to spend teaching kids what they need to know to pass the standardized tests.

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