When asked which subjects they are worried about teaching, homeschool parents will often list science as one that intimidates them, especially in the higher grades. I used to be one of those parents, and I realized that it was largely because my own school experience with the sciences wasn’t entirely positive. I remember almost nothing about science in grade school, but had a couple of very good teachers in middle school that inspired me to take more interest. However, in high school I was shoved into the pre-packaged courses which forced me to take Biology and Chemistry in the same year, but wouldn’t allow me to start Physics (which was the course that interested me and the one I wanted to study) until my junior year. When I talk to homeschool parents that are concerned about teaching science to their own kids, I find that their own schooling experience was rife with the kind of frustration and confusion that I faced. How can we do a good job teaching our kids a subject that we don’t understand?
There are co-ops, tutors, and online classes that can take the pressure off the parent to handle science, but let me assure you, Homeschool Mom, that you can teach science, and it’s quite possible that you’ll enjoy it too! I learned to love science as I was teaching it. Here’s how:
- I adjusted my own attitude! I realized that the sciences are how we learn about God through studying what he has created. This focus shift helped me see the world in a different way, and helped me understand science. My own enthusiasm to learn helped my kids take an interest too. Science doesn’t have to be “hard” or just a dry list of chemical formulas or physics equations. It’s a fascinating exploration of patterns in nature and how the world around us works.
- I learned along with my students! This works in all subjects, obviously, but whenever I was faced with needing to teach a subject I didn’t feel I understood, I made myself a student and tried to stay at least one step ahead of my kids. Teaching chemistry to my middle schoolers and physics to a middle grades co-op class prompted me to study ahead and to gain a new understanding for myself.
- Choose curriculum that fits your needs and style! Again, a principle to apply in every subject, but when faced with a subject I didn’t feel confident about, the right curriculum choices made a huge difference. I chose a series that featured lots of hands-on activities and was suitable for multi-grade teaching when I had students in Kindergarten through middle school. We found high school elective sciences that were self-contained and easy-to-use, one of which was a family project. I admit that the required credit of Biology for high school was tough as far as finding the ‘perfect’ curriculum, so I’ve kept the expectations simple for that particular course.
- Make science fun! My favorite way to do that was hands-on activities. We did lots of hands-on stuff when the kids were younger, and not so much when they were studying high school science. Although we didn’t do much in the way of labs and experiments, we did go on field trips, construct a backyard compass to study astronomy, and we actually learned a lot by watching TV shows and DVDs like MythBusters that applied science to the real world. And yes, I allowed my boys to take things apart, burn things, and explode things – under safe conditions.
Which curriculum choices were our favorites?
- God’s Design for Science curriculum from Answers in Genesis was our gold standard favorite for many years. Lots of hands-on, very easy to use with little teacher prep required, and is suitable for multiple grades from Kindergarten through 8th grade.
- Survey of Science History & Concepts is a general science elective that gives an overview and foundation in concepts of Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Suitable for a first year high school student or an elective, but not a rigorous course.
- Signs and Seasons: Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy was a favorite science elective. We studied as a family and my older students also used the accompanying field guide in order to earn high school credit. A great course on the patterns of movement of the heavenly bodies. Fascinating for the whole family.