Science, It Can Be Done
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By Katherine Headley
Iíve met many homeschool parents who pay only passing attention
to science or ignore it all together. That really is a pity since
so much of Godís creation is fascinating and science helps us
to apprehend that Godís ways are higher than ours. Science neednít
be difficult and whether your experiments work or fail they should
always be fun.
A good science education should include learning in the content
areas as well as science skill building. Content areasóthatís
the facts, maíam. Science skills include understanding the scientific
method, how to collect data, what makes good science or bad science,
and how to use the basic tools of a scientist. That sounds like
quite a lot and all you science phobics are reinforcing your anti-science
barriers. But wait....you donít have to do all that in one or
even two years. Youíve got time. Dabble a little in a study of
plants while you prepare your garden one year. Learn more about
the human anatomy and nutrition during your post holidays diet.
You donít need to plunge into elaborate experiments immediately,
and by the time your kids want elaborate experiments theyíll be
ready to do them on their own. By that time you may be ready to
Where do you turn for easy to use science resources? First, science
resources really fall into two categoriesócurriculum and equipment.
You will probably want to start out with curriculum adding a piece
or two of equipment as you go along.
When looking for good science curriculum you should really start
at your local library. Remember that curriculum is anything you
use to help your children learn. Too often we think of it as textbooks.
Itís more. Most of us know that the library has many wonderful
resources, but particularly in the area of science it often surpasses
other resources you may choose to use. A good library continually
updates its collection with the most recent books published. Text
books are often years behind current scientific discovery even
when they are brand new. The textbook editorial process just doesnít
allow for quick turn around. Libraries also carry a wide variety
of magazines which offer the very latest in scientific discovery.
If you are working on astronomy, you can read an astronomy magazine.
Magazine subscriptions are expensive. Itís so nice to have many
different magazines to choose from at the library including all
the back issues.
That doesnít mean that a textbook can have no place in your homeschool.
I have several elementary level textbooks that I purchased our
first year of homeschooling. Thatís when I was deep into the school
at home mode. Now I use those textbooks as reference points. And
every so often I pull one out to actually read to the kids. Especially
in the younger grade levels science textbooks can have great illustrations.
For elementary level education I also have a set of books published
by World Book, The Young Scientist. Usborne has several science
series on different levels that are good resources to have on
hand. I also recommend that you get some nature guides. For kids
I recommend a set of books by Thunder Bay Press, Science Nature
Guides. Each book covers a particular topic and has many easy-to-do
science projects. You could spend a month or two on birds, fossils,
rocks & minerals, seashells, wild flowers, trees, insects,
amphibians & reptiles, butterflies and mammals. Weíll be using
Freshwater Life this spring for a study on ponds we have planned.
If you find you have a burning interest in a particular nature
topic, you may want to get an adult field guide.
I mentioned a plan to do a study on ponds. You may be wondering
what I mean when I say I have a plan. Itís usually not very elaborate.
We pick topics in the summer, four or five. Then I find resources
to use for each study. For our ponds study Iíve chosen a couple
of books and a project which will be to build a backyard pond.
This study came as result of my desire to have a backyard pond.
I donít undertake huge projects like that purely for the sake
of science learning. In fact, the pond will be our single largest
science endeavor. Prior to that it was probably the fish our family
and another dissected one afternoon. Nature units are the easiest
to plan because they require a little reading, watching an Eyewitness
video or nature shows on cable TV, and a day or two out in the
field looking for our subject of study. When we studied birds
we set up bird feeders.
For physical science I rely on kits which are available from
many different sources. Stop by your local toy store or hobby/craft
store. Iíve gotten great deals on science kits in clearance racks.
I really like the Scientific Explorer kits because they cover
a variety of science topics in each kit. For example the Galileo
kit includes some astronomy, optics, force & motion, and matter.
You build your own telescope and thermometer, discuss our solar
system and use your telescope to look at the night sky, conduct
your own Leaning Tower of Pisa experiments, and learn how a pendulum
clock works. If you would like to track what areas of science
your child has covered and what he hasnít, Kathryn Stoutís Science
Scope will help you do just that. If you need to prepare a scope
and sequence for the state, this book lists objectives by level
for the different areas of science.
For those who are donít feel comfortable planning their own science
units, there are two resources that allow you to do hands on instruction.
Developing Critical Thinking Through Science Book One and Book
Two help you by providing step by step instructions and a complete
dialogue to go along with each lesson. Yes, the questions to ask
your kids and the correct answers. If you plan to use this book,
I suggest you get a box and start putting all the supplies for
the lessons in it. Things like baby food jars, rubber bands, chalk
and paper clips. I found I was more inclined to do a lesson if
the supplies were already in one easy to find spot. These books
cover the scientific method and physical science. Task cards and
task activity sheets are the approach TOPS Learning Systems uses
to provide easy to do science investigation for all ages. By copying
these reproducible pages you can have a science workbook for each
of your children. Since these books can be used for multiple ages,
they are a good investment for larger families. Topics include
pendulums, light, oxidation, sound, electricity, corn and beans,
planet and stars and many more. You can also get Global Tops which
contain 100 activity sheets taken from the elementary level books
all of which can be done with only 15 things. Youíll want to visit
their website for their list of Simple Things to put together
your own science supply box of recyclable, consumable and non-consumable
Eventually you will want to start investing in equipment. One
of the earliest tools you will want to have is a good balance.
If you are planning to use the balance all the way through high
school, youíll want to get a good one that has at least a 0.1
g. minimum sensitivity. Some high school curricula require a 0.01g.
sensitivity. Youíll also want a set of glass beakers, some test
tubes and a stand, petri dishes, thermometer and an erlenmeyer
flask. Home Training Tools is a good inexpensive source for these
supplies. They have many instructive articles about teaching science
and choosing equipment on their website. I recommend getting glass
rather than plastic beakers. I chose plastic to start with in
elementary school. We used them only occasionally. By the time
we really needed beakers in junior high and high school plastic
wouldnít work. Weíve also used magnets, iron filings, bulb holders,
batteries and many other things which went with specific units
of study. Because we were steadily adding to our stock of equipment
science has often been the most expensive subject for us. If you
are able to participate in local science workshops you may be
able to avoid completely the need to buy your own equipment. However,
itís always nice to have some of the basic glassware on hand and
a science experiment book or two to let kids do their own thing.
If you plan to do high school science at home, you will probably
want to purchase your own microscope. Plan on spending between
$250-300 for a good basic microscope. For the elementary years
there are many inexpensive microscopes available. We purchased
ours from Science Inc. If I had the funds Iíd get a Brock Magiscope.
They are close to indestructible, can be used in the field and
have excellent optics. At a cost of around $150 they are a definite
wish list item.
With good resources you will find that science is a little less
intimidating. Be warned, though, it will never go smoothly. If
you expect it to, you are bound to be disappointed. Once I placed
a soda and vinegar powered balloon vehicle in the bathtub ready
to foam itís way across the tub. When it didnít shoot forward
as it should, I picked it up to inspect. Naturally the soda and
vinegar finally mixed and I had foam shooting out all over the
front row of kneeling expectant preschoolers. Much screaming ensued
but fortunately soda and vinegar are both excellent cleaning agents,
so the bathroom got a scrubbing and my kids have never forgotten
the day mommy sprayed stuff all over us. Science can be messy,
sometimes it can be boring as you wait for your liquid to boil.
Sometimes it takes three or more tries for something to work right.
But when it finally works, what a thrill. Figuring out why something
didnít work can be equally instructive. And sometimes the words,
ĎI donít have a clue" are all you are left with. However
your science learning turns out, it will be learning and your
children will be blessed.
Where to Get These Science Resources
Many of the items suggested in this article can be purchased
through the Eclectic
Homeschool Resource Center in association with Amazon.Com.
Copyright © 2000 Eclectic Homeschool Association