Can You Teach Physics? ... Of Course!
- Tuesday, May 31, 2011
So, the word physics has entered your homeschool conversations as of late, and you’re a bit stumped as to what to do with it? Yes, you could ignore it, but that wouldn’t be in the best interest of your child. Your child is nearing an age where it may be an option, but does he/she need it? And if so, how will you teach it? How could you possibly? Will it consume your time?
Is Physics Too Hard for You to Teach?
Science is an amazing discipline. I am an engineer and I love math and physics, so when I accepted the invitation to teach physics at our co-op, it was a no-brainer. Sure! I’m excited!
Now if you don’t love math or science, well, that’s another story. However, as one who teaches children like yours, in these academic areas it’s not only your personal skills that should determine whether you should teach it or not. Other qualities of your personality come into play here.
Fabulous textbooks designed for “non-math” homeschooling parents are available. They are written to you, and for you, and they make it possible to teach math and science. They offer easy access to help with online explanations and 1-800 help lines. Now, that still doesn’t make it easy. You still will need to learn the concepts, work fairly well with your child, and take on what I would consider to be a significant challenge. If you don’t have the time, inclination, or mental capacity, you should find another physics teacher for your child. However, if you are a driven type and you like a challenge, you should take it on. Only you can determine your own capabilities and tendencies. Evaluate your past schooling behaviors, and decide whether or not you can add this to your agenda.
Now, as far as your child goes, he must be mature enough in the areas of discipline, responsibility, and perseverance to work through what will surely be a tough course. If he does not demonstrate maturity in at least two of these three areas, you may want to wait a year. A lot of information, definitions, concepts, and formulas have to be memorized, and not only must they be memorized, but then they must be manipulated and applied to different concepts. It’s a really grueling mental workout, to say the least. Physics is like algebra and trigonometry with logic and mystery-solving all wrapped into one.
Additionally, the student should have successfully completed these three courses: Algebra, Algebra II, and Trigonometry. The greater his level of mastery in these courses, the more successful he will be in the Physics course. It pains me to see students understand concepts on tests and set up the problems correctly with the proper equations, only to miss the answer because of an algebraic error. Don’t set your student up for failure; make sure he has a strong foundation to build on.
If you decide you are not up to the task, there are options. First, you may have the option to contract with a local community college or private school. Online courses with live teachers who will teach it to your student for you are available as well. And if you are blessed to have a nearby homeschool co-op that offers a Physics course, you can choose that route, which is probably the least expensive choice. Typically, co-op classes or online courses schedule weekly sessions and are considered supplemental to your at-home instruction. Thoroughly evaluate each option, including how much at-home instruction is necessary, and then make the best choice for your situation.
The Time Factor
Because a high schooler is preparing to work independently as a college student, I expect my high school students to complete work on their own, and I hold them accountable. It’s your job to track their work, verify their understanding based on their scores, and to facilitate the course plan, or syllabus. Diligently monitor your student’s progress, especially at the beginning. This is the type of course in which falling behind in the beginning will likely mean failure in the end.
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