A close friend and fairly new homeschooling mom recently asked, “How do you teach science?”
I told her the truth. “I don’t.”
There was a time, years ago, when I would have been embarrassed to say that, because I would have interpreted my own answer as an admittance of deficiency: “I’m not the homeschooling mom I’m supposed to be.” Those words were petrifying to me then. The future was still a big question mark, and I was afraid that the reply that would be staring me in the face would be F-A-I-L-U-R-E.
I still fear failure, but I’ve also gained gobs of trust — in my kids’ natural thirst for learning, in the experience of moms who were there before me, and yes, even in myself as a mom and teacher. It goes without saying, I trust in God’s plans. And so far His plans have worked out for us!
Science is not my strong suit at all. I can explain basic stuff like water boiling or the sun rising or caterpillars turning into butterflies, but please do not ask me to balance equations or explain or demonstrate physics principles. Forget it. Regardless, our 23-year-old still graduated cum laude in Culinology, so she knows her chemistry, and another child is going into engineering. So it’s probably safe to say now that I didn’t damage them all that much. It is now a trust thing.
How does this TRUST translate into the practical — the day-to-day? What did I actually DO?
2. I did try a few experiments, but since they were mostly failures, I gave up. I didn’t stop them from experimenting though, even the silliest things that they made up. They did kinda like and tried some of Janice Van Cleave’s experiments. There’s this funny video we recorded 8 years ago, where I had the boys experimenting with some soda bottles plus I don’t remember what else. It was supposed to work a certain way, but it didn’t. It was a complete flop. I’d post it here just to prove that I’m a science klutz, but no idea where it is now. Suffice to say, whatever science prowess they have did not come from their mother.
3. I bought them toys: Lego, wooden unit blocks, K’nex, Erector sets, to keep their hands and minds busy. Some had lesson plans and even DVDs included, but uhm,
5. I took them outside, sometimes with field guides. We looked at birds and flowers and bugs and rocks and trees. We dug for fossils a couple of times. Every once in a while I took them to the science center or aquarium to assuage guilt. I encouraged nature journaling but it didn’t take, probably because I personally wasn’t enthused about it, though I still want to be!! Maybe when I’m old and gray and they’re homeschooling my grand kids, I can be a better example.
6. I taught them to cook. Kitchen science is the only science I know by heart. Cleaning squid was one of our most memorable lessons, and that student is now a chef and got As in her chemistry classes, so something must have worked, somehow.
7. I let them hang out a lot with Dad, since Dad’s an engineer. I figured they would learn stuff, because GENES. Maybe at least one kid did, since he will be studying how to become an electromechanical engineer in the fall.
8. I took them to the zoo. I suppose they learned stuff there too, though mostly they wanted to ride the train. :/
10. I hung out with science people online, like MacBeth, and Kris; and others who loved to talk about science. I figured I could learn to be a better science teacher by just associating with them. Every now and then they’d post something sciencey on FB or at the forum, and I’d send the link to my kids.
Sorry. I wish I could offer more profound/valuable advice, but like I warned my friend, I’m not a science person!! And THIS (so far) worked for us. So I hope this helps her, and you.