Thursday, March 13, 2014

Including Science in Classical Education

I should have known that I'd home school for almost seven years when I watched the kids dig in the backyard (whether authorized or not). They love discovery.  I do to, but I thought those who homeschooled were CRAZY back then.  Discovery is one reason I became a science teacher and love learning.  But I haven't always shared that love of learning with others.  Many moms would ask me how I even get to science, actual hands-on exploration each week of homeschooling these three creative people.  And, sadly, I haven't always had good answers for my faith in the importance of science study.

The classical education is organized around reading and writing, arithmetic skills, and history.
The Well Trained Mind, p. 158.

Yes, we have to do spelling and grammar and math, but those moms just didn't understand why they should have to do science with their kids, when they themselves hated science from their own school classroom experience.  Well, I loved my science class, teachers and experience.  I couldn't put it into words until I watched my kids begin to use the scientific method in everyday we've continued no matter how much we stick in our classically educated schedule (and sometimes it seems like too much), science is a mainstay and another reason I homeschool.

But for many, science isn't that easy to get to each week.  I've always regretted not having the information for moms who are struggling to give their kids science lessons each week. They would ask me what worked for me, and I answered that we were constructing a grammar stage curriculum that is (k-4) from some suggestions in The Well Trained Mind by Dr. Bauer. They looked at me blindly and changed the topic. I didn't understand their reluctance to use this book.  The book was easily available in my public library, and told me to study biology for one for one year, geology, meteorology, astronomy and oceanography another year, then chemistry and physics. I agreed because my Junior High science classroom experience taught me it was "wonky" to make kids study back and forth from one topic to the next in successive chapters from a book called "7th grade science" (otherwise known as integrated).

... classical education is...orderly.  ...use notebook pages for their drawings..your record of their narrations from read alouds.
The Well Trained Mind, p. 160.

Often these moms change the topic because Susan Wise Bauer wrote from a non-biased or non-biblical perspective (for example secular vs religious; many people can be religious about being secular as well). I rejoiced in the freedom of teaching my kids about God's creations within the framework of The Well Trained Mind structure that closely follows a traditional classical education method.  I've never been accused of being structured, so WTM recommendations gave me guidelines.  And I hadn't read about Charlotte Mason or The Bluedorns back when I found the TWM in the library. something every day touching on science or nature. Teaching the Trivium, p. 382.

Now, I am emphatic about the same scientific method that I loved before the struggle to actually study science.  I now suggest reading about nature and physics, chemistry and habitat. We record observations from all these experiences we have with science (suggested in nature study from HFA Mom) and the format we've learned in Elemental Science study.
Notebooking has become a wonderful way to document and solidify learning. 

I have bright kids and they seem to need more challenge.  So I introduced a creation based text book, really that's what it was, for them to study about astronomy.  This lacked what we needed, so we moved on to activities involving more hands on work to study astronomy. We moved back into the textbook route to study birds and then ocean habitats, but it never really kept them attentive. Then in 2nd/3rd grade (my children were born within a 16 month period so they follow the same topics for science and history each year) we found chemistry materials that moved us into a realm of challenge, structure and substance that directly tied into the WTM suggested guidelines for science. Even if you are an eclectic, secular vs traditional, Christian homeschooler who never "gets" to science, don't let your kids miss out.

1 comment:

Amy Maze said...

Great thoughts on science in the classical homeschool. I think it's interesting that there is a difference of opinion on science from different classical sources. Like you mentioned, The WTM, has you starting the first cycle in first grade, while Veritas Press doesn't even include science until the logic stage (I think). We've been using Elemental Science for the past few months and I'm enjoying that. We started science this year because my son kept asking questions, so he was ready to learn! We are pretty relaxed about it, but he is really enjoying it. I am looking forward to lots of nature study this summer and then we will move on to the second year of the cycle in the fall.

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