Overcoming The Fear of Science
- Wednesday, February 23, 2011
With a frightened tremor in her voice, one mom approached me at a conference confessing, "We really haven't done much science and I'm not sure what to do."
"How long have you been homeschooling?" I asked.
Seeking to explore the situation, I dug a little deeper. "How much is 'not much' science?"
With a huge sigh she admitted, "None."
This is not the first mom to confess her "science neglect" to me, nor will it be the last. Everywhere I go, I run into mothers whose children can tell me the history of the world and every battle fought during Napoleon's reign, but they don't know the difference between a gaseous planet and a terrestrial planet. They can explain the details of life in ancient Egypt, but they do not understand the purpose of that yellow powder we call pollen. They can give you an accurate definition of veni, vidi, vici and explain why Brutus was involved in the plot to kill Caesar, but they are unable to define what features determine whether an animal is a mammal, reptile, amphibian, arthropod, or even a bird.
They know the past, but they have little knowledge of the present world that surrounds them. Our students need to understand both. Just as all of history is God's history, the world itself is God's world, and science is our gateway to discovering His work in it.
For some of us, the word "science" conjures memories of tedious hours sitting in a classroom, attempting unsuccessfully to keep our eyes open as a weary, underpaid instructor droned on and on about kinetic energy. Unfortunately, this is likely where many people developed their distaste for the subject. They sat in that classroom and decided that science was indeed dull, useless, and irrelevant.
Later, when these same people began homeschooling their children, they carried their fears and attitudes with them. Sadly, because they never understood science, they assumed that they were inadequate to teach it. Like the mother I encountered, after years of avoidance, denial and false starts, they need help.
If that's you or someone you know, I've got some really great news. If you choose the right tools, you can painlessly make science a part of your homeschool week. And if you need to, you can learn science right along with your children. What's more,our children can even learn science without us! As a last resort, if you have a true science phobia or little time, this is my recommendation.
"How," you are asking, "can I painlessly make science a part of my homeschool week?"
Easy! By providing your children with science reading material. That may seem too simple, but it is truly the answer to your woes. A child who reads science learns science. You only need to assign science reading as you would any other subject. It's as simple as that. When you assign literature for your child to read, you can substitute science reading twice a week.
"But what about all those experiments? All those messy projects, with hard-to-find items, which never work for us? That's why I can't do science!"
May I be honest with you for a moment, from one mom to another? In spite of the fact that every great science book has some hands-on experiments for you to try (and some not-so-great science books are made up entirely of experiments), experiments are not imperative for an elementary student. For your child to have a complete understanding of the planets, pollination, the defining characteristics of plants and animals, they don't have to do experiments! Do they make the subject more fun? Yes. Do they increase the student's retention of the topic? Yes. Will your child be missing out on a great education without them? No. Absolutely not.
Think about it. Some of the greatest scientists of our past like Einstein, Newton, Kepler and many others, did not engage in science experiments in elementary school. They learned scientific knowledge by reading. This is, in fact, the best way to obtain a science education. Experiments are nice to highlight and reinforce what one has learned; but experiments do not impart a science education.
I received an email about a year ago from a mom who wanted to share her daughter's experience with Exploring Creation with Astronomy, published by Apologia Educational Ministries. A few years after her daughter completed the course, they were playing a board game. The answer to one of the board game's questions was an inaccuracy about how many earth's would fit inside the sun.
Her daughter proclaimed, "Mom! That's wrong. A million earths would fit inside the sun."
This was a fact she had learned years earlier in the astronomy course. I asked her if her daughter often looked over her notebook.
She responded, "No. We didn't do any of the activities or notebooking, we only read the book." Yet her daughter retained the things she read, even without an activity to reinforce the reading.
So, if experiments are holding you back, drop them, and don't you dare feel an iota of guilt about it. Just be sure to provide engaging, interesting science books for them to read. Let the children read! They will learn simply by reading.
Would they benefit from doing assignments, such as notebooking and experiments? Of course! However, if the choice is between doing the activities or not doing science at all...the answer should be obvious.
If you provide science books that engage your students, they will enjoy learning from them. Though we may have malcontented memories of molecules, mitosis and mechanical energy, our children's science experience can be powerful and productive. And science, for them, will evoke memories of sitting cuddled in their favorite chair, exploring the world and expanding their knowledge of God's creation, as they turn each page.
Jeannie Fulbright is the author the Young Explorer series of elementary science texts published by Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. These books can make learning – and teaching – science interesting and fun, opening your students' eyes to the wonder of creation.
Copyright 2009. Reprinted with permission from Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. Visit their site at www.apologia.com, and join them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/apologiaworld.com.
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