Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Science in Our Home

Science is one subject that I feel that I haven't figured it all out, even though we have been learning science since the beginning of our homeschool journey.  In many ways, our approach has been somewhat haphazard.  We tend not to follow any specific curriculum (although I have tried to do so several times in the past), and just tie the experiments with whatever topic Tiger is interested in at the moment.  To those who are left-brain orientated, such 'jumping around' can be very unsettling.

Nowadays our approach to maths looks, from the outside, to be skipping around as well since we no longer follow any specific curriculum.  However, I am more confident about applying the same approach to maths because Tiger has had a few years of covering the ground work (number sense, basic operations, etc), so to speak, but I don't feel that I have any means to measure what the ground work is in science.

"Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value."
-- Charlotte Mason

We started off Year One following the Classical approach.  The recommendations from The Well Trained Mind sounded very logical to me: start with Life Science, followed by Earth Science, then Chemistry, and last comes Physics.  As the Classical approach started with Life Science, I was able to incorporate Nature Study at the same time.

The one year of following the general scope of Life Science was an interesting learning process for me.  We tried several science curricula but could not find a good match.  We would start off very enthusiastically only to find, after a few weeks, that one of the following scenarios would inevitably happen:

  • the curriculum that started off with great promise of rigour became underwhelming one-third of the way;
  • required too much writing that Tiger wasn't ready for;
  • the experiments leaned too much towards entertainment or craft rather than science;
  • too much theory; 
  • too confusing;
  • too much spoon-feeding;
  • unnecessarily complicated experiments

Despite the unsatisfactory start, we still bumbled along using various sources of hands-on experiments that were relevant to the topics that Tiger was learning, as well as keeping up with regular nature study.  At the same time, I began to realise that the compartmentalisation of science as suggested by WTM is counter-intuitive, and that science happens in real life in a myriad of fascinating, interrelated ways.  I also began to wonder whether there really exists a specific sequence to the learning of science.

I got my answer through observing how easily Tiger understood and completed the experiments at the science classes in the co-op last year.  That series of science classes were all physics topics which, according to WTM's schedue, we were nowhere close to covering in Year Two.  The ease at which Tiger grasped the lessons taught at those classes reassured me that learning science in the elementary years has much to do with:
  • using common sense
  • observing and participating in real life
  • being open to new and/or unconventional ideas
  • maintaining a sense of wonder and curiosity about a great many different topics
  • being interested to learn and understand
  • avoiding dogma
The above points are also the guiding principles of how we approach the learning of science in our home.

To get an idea of how science is learned by other homeschooling families, please visit the other contributors to this series:

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hip Homeschool Hop - 5/28/13
  2. Hearts for Home Blog Hop #19
  3. Collage Friday - Joy and Loss
  4. TGIF Linky Party #78
  5. Creative Learning #16
  6. Weekly Wrap-Up: The First Week of Summer Break 2013
  7. Share it Saturday - Awesome Science
  8. Sunday Showcase - 6/1/13
  9. Science Sunday: It's no kids week!
  10. Homeschool Science Share & Tell - May 2013 edition 
Inspiration Laboratories


  1. I LOVE your Tolstoy quote! I've written it down-brilliant!
    You are so right, science is all around us, and primarily it is a study of observation and exposure, both of which Tiger has in spades!!

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words, Claire! I really appreciate your positive affirmation of our efforts at studying science, especially when I always feel that we are on uncertain grounds in this area. :-)

  3. I really relate to your comments about left brains. I love creative projects that support concepts, but when there is so much jumping around I feel like we haven't made any progress. Instead I like to have a backbone math curriculum and backbone topic for science and then do projects that relate to our core. When I find others that look good but don't quite fit, I pin them for when we are studying that topic.

  4. It has taken me a long time to be comfortable to do science without following a sequence, and I'm still not totally comfortable about that! The idea of having a backbone topic is very similar to what we are working towards here, except that our topic can come from anywhere. :-)

  5. Wonderful, very organised post, Hwee! I love both the quotes too. We started out trying to follow the Classical science sequence, too. I only lasted a term, though, before I skipped ahead to try a chemistry curriculum, only to find it much too theoretical for my kids' ages. It was at that point that my son started doing experiments out of a book for his projects, and I decided I might as well follow his lead!
    I've bookmarked the TED talk to watch - thanks for that, looks interesting.
    Loving this series - I'm learning so much!

  6. You're welcome, Lucinda. This series has been very useful for me as well, because writing it each week has given me a reason to put some of my thoughts down, and to learn from others at the same time. :-)

  7. "science happens in real life in a myriad of fascinating, interrelated ways" Totally experience this all the time.

  8. Thank you for the affirmation, Erin! :-)

  9. I love the Charlotte Mason quote. That sums it up beautifully. :)

  10. I am including your blog in a round-up of must follow homeschool blogs and was hoping you might have a "button" I could add to the post.

    If you do, could you email it to me 123homeschool4me(at)gmail.com

    Thanks =)

  11. Hi! Great post! I struggle with science too so I love reading others' insights! Right now we are working thru the CM Nature study method but this our first year so I have no idea how it will go! Thanks for the analysis of your experience. Newest follower from the Hip Homeschool Hop! :) Jenn @ http://teaching2stinkers.blogspot.com/

  12. Chareen - thank you! It's an apt quote, isn't it? :-)

  13. Beth - thank you! I feel honoured to be included in your list. :-)

  14. Jenn - Welcome! And thank you for your kind comments. I'm glad you find the post useful. :-)

  15. You are not alone with the Science struggle...raising my hand! Hope next week is awesome!

  16. I love your statement, "... science happens in real life in a myriad of fascinating, interrelated ways." I commend you on not giving in but continuing to seek out different options and allowing the child to take the lead. Kudos!

  17. Oops, forgot to comment........ Now you've got me curious what you've tried.

    We pretend to follow a classical cycle, but I don't think we really have done so with science, more so with history. Kind of.....


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