Thinking about Science Education

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Science education is a topic I revisit often.  Recently, I’ve had a chance to get together with a few other homeschooling moms, and we all sit there, scratching our heads at how science is taught.

I’ve spent the last few years plugging away at a science curriculum I don’t really like.  The kids never ask to do it.  What they’re asking to do is play. Experiment.  And frequently, I tell them no, because “we have to get our science done.”  What?

In the meantime, we’ve been reading history books about scientists.  All of these stories detail the scientific experimentation (sometimes playful, sometimes strictly documented) that turned into discoveries.  And the only way we’re imitating that in our homeschool is by writing down in our cookbooks what “went wrong” with the recipes we’re trying.

I’m chucking the bath water for next year.   What we hate are wordy science textbooks that tell us what we’re supposed to see in an experiment that’s been done already a million times and notebooks where we rewrite everything in our own words.  There’s plenty of time to memorize science vocabulary in high school, when they will learn the skills of navigating a textbook and taking science tests.

But I’m hoping to hang onto the baby.  What my children enjoy are the NOVA and Nature episodes we watch occasionally over lunch. Reading about the scientists. Playing.  Taking walks together and asking questions.

I hope we can do science experiments that matter to them.  It might take longer than the one hour I allot, but I promise I won’t be running to the grocery store at the last minute to buy balloons and red cabbage.  I’m hoping the kids will each ask a question and design an experiment. And then fail, so that we can ask questions about why it didn’t answer the question.  I’m hoping this process will stretch over weeks or months.

What about you, friends?  What does science education look like at your house?

More about science education here. And here. And here. And science fairs: asking a question, designing your experiment, and presenting your results.

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