Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Countdown to school: The Universe and Everything

"Section III: The Knowledge of the Universe:  Science and Geography; Mathematics; Physical Development and Handicrafts"   ~~ Charlotte Mason, Toward a Philosophy of Education

It's three weeks till school starts.

What do homeschool parents worry most about in finding the right kind of science curriculum?

If they're Christians, the answer might be that they want something that glorifies God; sometimes that just means they want something that gives at least some credence to creationism.

But aside from that, there's often a concern that in whatever we're doing, we might "miss something."  Or do it "wrong." The public worries of the public schools (and the media in general) include the never-ending fuss over whether children are getting enough science, the right kind of science, up-to-date science.  Tiny little kids have as many science objectives as the big ones.  The biggest guns aimed at homeschoolers (besides the religious issues) come from the high school level:  You Can't Do Lab Science.  Not at home, not without a trained teacher, not without the books and equipment, at least not without filling your kitchen with rat cages and bottles of chemicals that a ditzy homeschooler might mistake for nutmeg and vinegar.  Science, all the cute videos and chemistry kits aside, has become very much a domain of the initiated.

A sub-worry is finding an effective teaching style for our circumstances and our children.  Yes, hands-on is good, but does that mean that books are no good?  Field trips are good, if you have the places to go and can get there.  Experts, ditto.  You-tube and other videos, good to a point but can be overused.  Does it have to be planned out, formally taught, with lots of objectives, right from the start?  The Apprentice's elementary-level science curriculum was kind of osmosis-style, "relaxed homeschooling," and included a large amount of help from Ms. Frizzle; we didn't use a textbook or even a really formal plan for science until middle school.

There's always a worry, too, that if something just seems like fun...maybe it's not learning.  That can be quite true: for instance, we used to visit the Toronto Science Centre when we were kids, but I cannot tell you if we really learned much science while we were there.  The exhibits were "neat" and "cool," there was the big static ball that made people's hair stand up on end, there were anatomical models and lots of buttons to push, but our visits were really for entertainment, not education.  The same can go for what someone called "zip, pop, bang" science experiments.  Do the effects of dropping pepper in a plateful of soapy water make as much of an impression on our children as we think?  Is it really worth building a whole papier-mache volcano just to let it splurt baking soda and vinegar all over the place?

And where does "nature study" fit in?

What is the science, and why is it, that we're really trying to teach?  Maybe the "why" should direct the "what" and "how."

More in the next post.

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