Science is a subject I feel a lot of ambivalence towards. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with science, I’m just not always comfortable finding ways to actively study it, in a structured way, with my kids. In my mind, science – real science – is about observation, testing, and questioning – not just seeking answers to questions, but questioning results.
I will say, as the years ago by, I am learning (inch by inch) how science is everywhere. I’m a lot more comfortable with seeing math everywhere; seeing science everywhere is something that is still revealed to me in a-ha moments.
Yesterday, I talked about the role gardening has had in learning. I didn’t start gardening as an educational endeavor, but I am heartily grateful for how discussions of botanical reproduction smooth the path for other reproductive discussions, making things matter of fact, and less… weird. I remember some weird episodes in school science classes. Not so much with homeschooling.
How about the weather? Kids are really interested in weather, since it directly impacts so much of what they want to do. I find it curious not only how my boys are fairly good at remembering the names of cloud types, but are totally open to correction when they mis-identify. Knowing the names of the cloud types and what sort of weather they may indicate is more important to them than whether or not they “got the answer right.”
Baking. I have been blessed with a family who likes to eat, and I have boys who aren’t afraid to try their hand. We’ve had many conversations about how baking is chemistry; yeast leavenings vs. chemical (think baking powder) leavenings. When the chemical changes occur; what is the catalyst; how altering the ingredients may or may not impact the pH, which impacts the ratio of acid to base needed for that chemical leavening. I’m sure that it helps that they get to eat all the results, but watching them contemplate the interactions of the substances affirms they’re putting content from science to practical application… which I hope means the underlying concepts are going to stick with them, life long. A couple years ago, my oldest put ingredients (he thought) into the bread machine for a maple pecan yeast bread. When we contemplated the hard, lumpy mass that emerged, he was able, by looking at it and recognizing where the the process the heat (and thus, baking) began, what ingredients he had mis-measured (or, cough, completely omitted). He thought about what he expected to see, compared with what he in fact got as results, and formed a hypothesis based on previous experience… which he later tested and proved.
Electricity. Another one that’s everywhere. Sure, our kids play with SnapCircuits, and attend camps and clubs involving technology where they’ve built quite a few types of circuits. But even day to day… at one point, I wasn’t getting through that we pay for all the electricity that we use… I think that’s hard to “get.” I mean, you can see water coming out of the spigot. We may see the light on, but we don’t see the flow of electricity. So, I got a tool to measure electricity usage, and showed
the biggest culprit my son how to use it, and he spent the next week measuring the electricity usage for everything from computers to lamps to his model train set. I can’t speak for all boys, but for mine – a tool or a gadget, and they’re on it.
Nature. Isn’t science really just a formalized way for us to study how nature works and how we might better understand it? From aquarium trips to walks in the botanical garden, our kids get inundated with science based information, even though studying science is the last thing on their minds. Watching whale sharks is fascinating; encountering a snake on the path is startling; discovering an algae bloom is mystifying and troubling; feeding giant koi is just fun. All these are opportunities for discussion and investigation, born out of everyday life experiences.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Unschooler or no, learning to see the science around us is not only exciting for children, but has been pretty eye opening for me, too.