When I ask for homeschool questions on our blog, the one topic that comes up time and time again … the one that nearly all my home-school mom friends dread and avoid… and the one topic that all children seem to love and adore… is: science. It is unanimous, before folks say, “What math do you do?” I am almost always asked, with hushed awe and wonder in there eyes: “How do you get science done?” This is true for non-homeschooling friends too. How many times have I heard: “I couldn’t possibly home-school high-school, I could never do the science experiments?” And many folk have asked with confidence: “So when do you schedule science-lab time at school?” Assuming we visit a local school to make use of equipment.
So here we go an open and honest reflection on the actual science that goes on in our house…
For our children, science is better than arts and crafts, science is better than drawing, science is even better than glitter. I will tell you why they can do arts and crafts and drawing anytime… but science is something that I don’t naturally say, “how about some science, kids?” For our kids there is something magical about the word science… just the word invokes: Mysteries unfolding, perpetual questions answered… and don’t forget concoctions. With science there is no pressure to get it right, there is no resulting effort to stick on the fridge… it is something you do a process that passes. Yes, you can document it in a notebook… but the thing about science for my kids is that they get to do something that involves: action, thinking, creating, discovering… and at the end of it all, certainly at this stage of their careers… it doesn’t really matter what the outcome is… as long as they have been a part of it. An afternoon of trial and error, pottering about with things that are normally put away… discovering what works and what doesn’t, sounds like heaven to them!!!
As their teacher I should want them to spend days in a row like this, not once a month or even less often. It doesn’t help that I forget to call many of our science projects “Science:” a little eco-project, a new vegi-garden, an outing to the wetlands… I forget to mention that that would be classified as science in school and that they are actually living it. For the lazy mother in me… science means: little bits of office equipment all over the house for the next ten weeks. A project that requires a soda bottle requires a glorious unpacking of the everything in the recycling and then we only find six soda bottles… we will definitely need se7en +1, so joyful glee as an errand to the store is required… and then who gets the two bottles of soda… and parachute arguments are nothing compared to what follows.
Not to mention the experiments that requires one balloon or one elastic band… will in reality require and entire pack of balloons scattered to the four corners of the house and elastic bands shot into every possible and impossible place on earth… weeks later I will find elastic bands in the sugar bowl (no we don’t use our sugar bowl often enough to notice things like that), ten inside a shoe that is only worn to concerts, a swim cap stuffed with carefully snipped apart elastic bands – why oh why? And these are just one or two examples of why the thought of science can fill even the most resilient mother with dread and her children with glee…
Now we are twelve weeks into our school year and I had big ideas for some microscope science… plotting and planning projects on every level. While we had a microscope in good working order, ready to rock and roll… I had plans for my high school students to use their microscope, which for a number of “critical error” reasons took about twelve weeks to ship here… but I was determined to do science and not let the whole project sit on the back burner. In the past I have tried to be terribly disciplined and do weekly science experiments, that fails because “minimum school days” always tend to fall on science days… We have tried taking a week off school every now and then and just doing science experiments… and that works well and I still do it with my younger kids… but we started school late in our year and I don’t really want to take a week off school…
So I decided to perform an experiment… and determine a Scientific Method that actually seems to be working for us:
Se7en’s Scientific Method:
The Question: How Does One Find the Time to Do All the Science Experiments?
Background Research: Weeks of school flying by and apparently not an experiment in sight.
Hypothesis: Science Experiments Are Not Easy for HomeSchool Mom’s to Get Round Too.
- Material: Scienctific kits made readily available to all participants…
- Procedure: Leave the materials available and inspiring books lying around and observe the results.
- Observation 1: Our kids can easily turn the kitchen into a lab.
- Observation 2: Notes can be made, without too much effort.
- Observation 3: The Human body can be researched with out doing actual dissection… heart rates monitored, breathing rate checked… and exercise done.
- Observation 4: Life-cycles are all around us to observe.
- Observation 5: Science is music to many ears…
- Observation 6: Gases escape and raisins bounce… and even really little people love science.
- Observation 7: Botany is a scientific subject that everybody just loves. Plants were planted…
and the se7en + 1th:
- Observation 8: Chemistry is al over our house and not necessarily found in a lab… sugar crystals happen almost instantly with just sugar and water.
Analyse the Results With Regard to the Hypothesis: Science experiments are not too time consuming at all and rarely take more than ten minutes to set up. Science experiments take space and need a place to linger for observations to be done. Kids spent hours together figuring out stuff… and had a lot of fun.
Conclusion: Science can be done and it doesn’t take up a lot of time to inspire our kids to do science.
And the lesson learnt, for me at least… often I don’t want to do science experiments with my kids because honestly I don’t want to spend an afternoon balancing a pin on a peg and connecting elastic bands to wires, connected to flimsy light bulbs and heavy batteries, but my kids do!!! They don’t want to watch me do their science either… they want to do it themselves… that’s it: They want to do their science themselves. And they are so capable… my three year old is perfectly capable of placing seeds within damp cotton wool and watching them grow… with a little help he can make a perfectly adequate paper jet… They can do it… really and they love it.
So at least for this year of school: Science for my kids is that dreamy place where they are free to try things out, I will leave them to their own devices, to mess and create and do whatever they are inspired to do. Clearly these young and scientists can do a lot of science for the pure pleasure of it. When they haul out their school science experiment book and work through it from end to end in two days… doing every single experiment to check if they work, then I am going to say a resounding BRAVO… and more of the same kids – go to it!!!