Archive for the ‘Science’ category

Scientifically Speaking

March 17, 2012

I realize I haven’t posted much in the way of homeschooling reflections lately, so here’s a long overdue post with some reminiscing.  One of the things I loved about homeschooling was that a kid who wasn’t particularly inclined toward most of the standard subjects was still able to do well in almost all of them.  Yep, personal experience!

Science was never one of my favorite subjects, but did that mean I didn’t take it seriously?  Hardly!

Science was where I learned what made rainbows, where trees came from, why ice cubes float, and how fossils form.  Science is exciting, though some may tell you otherwise.  I sometimes agreed with them when faced with a lesson in Physics, but I truly enjoyed Chemistry (okay, that’s largely because I loved the curriculum from Beginnings Publishing!), and I had fun in Biology (despite not being enamored of that curriculum – Apologia) because I liked investigating the concepts.

We used mostly library books for science until I got to high school.  In 9th grade I did a general science covering Biology, Chemistry, and Physics: Dr. Dobbins’ Rainbow.  Dr. Dobbins made the argument that science is taught backwards in the schools.  Usually students learn biology, then chemistry, then physics.  But the concepts actually build on each other moving from physics to chemistry to biology.  The reasoning behind the way schools teach science?  High school freshmen haven’t had enough math to handle physics yet.  Biology doesn’t require all the math, so it’s a good one to start with from that stand point.

I rather think Dr. Dobbins is right, and these subjects ought to be taught in the reverse order.  Still, after doing his general science, I proceeded to do Apologia’s Biology (fairly average as science texts go, which is dry).  I already liked biology, which was good, because the text would not have inspired me.  At least it didn’t totally kill my enjoyment of the subject.

In my Junior year, I was back to Dobbins’ material, doing his Spectrum Chemistry.  I loved it.  Dobbins makes the most complicated subject sound easy enough to understand, and that is half the battle.  Once you think you can understand something, it becomes easier to understand it.  If you go in thinking it’s too hard, you won’t be as likely to comprehend even the simplest part of something.  I rarely use the concepts I learned in Chemistry, but I still look back on that year with fond memories of dissolving packing peanuts and of washing all our beakers etc. in distilled water after every usage.  Of course, there’s another reason why I may have liked Chemistry.  I got to do it with 3G, who always liked science better than I did and understood it quicker.  There’s a reason he’s going into Electrical Engineering while my degree is in Human Services . . .

Since I had no plan to study anything scientific, many might have thought that I would skip Physics.  That’s not the way I saw it, nor the way my parents taught me.  I had no real interest in Physics myself, but I wanted to take the course for another reason.  I am going to be a homeschool mom one of these years, and with the genes in my family, the chances that at least one of my children is scientifically minded are pretty high.  Thus, I’ll probably be teaching Physics at some point, and I wanted to have some background with the material.  I know many homeschooling mothers will turn high school math and science courses over to their husbands, and I may yet do so, but I wanted to be able to answer simple questions and keep up with my students to some extent.  My mother sometimes referred questions to my dad, but in our case, my mom is a math and computer science major, while Dad is a mechanical engineer.  When Mom would get to the point where she couldn’t explain something any better, she’d refer my brother to Dad.  Notice I say my brother.  I usually didn’t ask the intensive questions!

Despite not pursuing a scientific field in college, I still took the Biology CLEP exam for my science credits, and I took a Genetics course because I enjoyed that subject when I encountered it previously.  So my science studies have already been useful in that way, and in conversations I continue to have with friends, scientifically minded or not, in which science plays a part.

I may not have been the most scientifically astute kid on the block (okay, so that’s a given with my brothers around), but I still enjoyed discovering the whys and wherefores of our natural world.  I encourage all you homeschoolers out there – stop saying science can be fun, and try saying science is fun!

To the students who aren’t likely to go into a remotely scientific field and therefore think science is a waste of time, think about how often it might be nice to understand what your scientifically minded friends are talking about, even if they have to put it in (to their mind) very basic terms.  And think about how interesting it will make your next walk in the park if you look at every tree and know how deep its roots must be.  And think about the times it will be useful to know the best place to put the fulcrum when you are trying to use a lever to lift something. And think how nice it would be to know why the river seems to be steaming in the middle of winter.  Just think!

Science isn’t just fun, it’s an exciting world to explore, especially for those of us who don’t have to memorize the Periodic Table but who can enjoy a hunt for the atomic number of Uranium for a crossword puzzle!


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