Science is defined by Merriam-Webster as: “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.”
Science can be an intimidating subject for homeschooling parents, but it can also be one of the most exciting! Do you remember walking through your school’s science fair in awe of the projects? If you participated in the fair, you’ll also remember the hard work involved to get a properly complete experiment on the table. Science is an incredible subject because it literally explains the how and why of life. Science answers every question about our world physically, biologically, microscopically, and more. All that to say, science explains the reality of life–and what could be more exciting?
However, unfortunately, due to mass-produced textbooks throughout the school system, science has a bad reputation for being boring, complex, and confusing. This is a shame because science can be an amazing course to study with your homeschooled children! With the right resources, science may even become your children’s favorite. The key to the enjoyment of science is following a delight-directed learning approach. Delight-directed learning focuses on your children’s interests and explores everything about those topics, including the scientific aspects with homeschool science tools. When your children are already intrigued by a subject, they will be far more interested in its related science.
Does it seem like a seismic difference between the painfully boring science lessons you know now and the idea that it could be fun or exciting? Then this guide is for you. While there are innumerable approaches to teach any subject, there are four main techniques we love using for science. These ideas can be used alone, combined, or mixed–however it works for your family! Science at the high school level can be even more intimidating due to transcript credits, but these techniques can still help teach your teenager. In this article, you’ll learn how to:
- Teach Homeschool Science with Unit Studies
- Teach Homeschool Science with Living Books
- Teach Homeschool Science with Projects
- Teach Homeschool Science with Classes
Teach Science with Unit Studies
If you haven’t heard of unit studies, you are in for a treat. One of the benefits of homeschooling is our freedom to change curriculum and programs as needed. If something isn’t working for our family, we can just try something else. Sometimes, certain curricula or even just styles of homeschooling can begin all right, but turn out to not work well in the long run. For example, perhaps you started with a computer-only program, but midway through the semester, your child begins to dread her schoolwork and even starts to avoid it. It could be that she just doesn’t like doing every subject on the computer, and switching at least partially to books may be the solution. Regardless of your situation, the important thing to remember is that homeschooling offers parents the opportunity to change things up as needed.
Unit studies are most often used with elementary children, but they can be equally helpful for older students as well. A unit study is a time of dedicated research about a chosen topic. A unit study engages all of the core subjects in one by exploring the history of the topic, the science behind it, the implications in our world, and the literary aspects.
Homeschoolers using unit studies for science may start with reading a biology book, and then be out exploring nature to see it for themselves. They may create a model of the cell with playdough, play an educational board game, or try gummy bear osmosis to see how it works in real life. Finally, they could research the history of biology studies and how far scientists have come. Students could then apply their knowledge to the present day and understand why certain medications work for ailments and why others do not or participate in citizen science projects.
To use a unit study for science, you could either create one yourself or use premade units to make it easier, especially if you are new to the concept. Unit studies are not only helpful by engaging multiple subjects at once; they are also a popular choice because they can be as flexible, short, or in-depth as desired. Follow your student’s interests for a month if it means uncovering every facet of the topic, or perhaps just research for a day and then move on. Either way, it’s a known fact that people learn more effectively when they enjoy the process. Unit studies present a way to research through enjoyment!
Here is an overview of how unit studies may help your homeschooler with learning science!
- Select custom resources. Consider involving your kids in the choice. Children are more interested when they have a say!
- Learn from a variety of mediums. Curriculum, textbooks, online articles, YouTube videos, documentaries, audiobooks, movies, field trips, cooking, sports, music, and more!
- Effective for all learning styles. The flexible study materials makes it simple to support a specific learning style.
- As hands-on or hands-off as desired. Do you want to create a DIY unit study? Have at it. Would you prefer to use a premade unit study? Also a good choice. Want to combine both and add in field trips? Go for it!
- Custom unit study length. The length of the unit is up to you and your selected resources! It could be anywhere from a day to even a full month or semester!
- May be helpful for special needs. Unit studies allow homeschoolers to learn with creative flow and interests. It also allows for as many breaks as needed or a change in locations, and they work with your schedule!
Teach Science with Living Books
Sometimes, homeschooling parents also like to add variety to their homeschool program for sparking extra interest. A classic but fun option is to teach a subject of your choosing through living books. We love this idea specifically for teaching science! A science course based on living books can breathe fresh life into the study, make it exciting, and enrich your child’s experience. Let’s talk about how to do this.
Living books are a Charlotte Mason concept. The Charlotte Mason style of education began in the late 1800s by Charlotte Mason herself, a British author, teacher, and lecturer. Charlotte’s style of education has endured through the years and is now considered a style of homeschooling. The Charlotte Mason philosophy focuses on a literature-heavy approach through the use of “living books.” She referred to high-quality literature as living books because she chose books written in a passionate, engaging manner by an author with a credible background, who was dedicated to, and fascinated by, the written topic. These books are intended as the opposite of dry, structured textbooks created by school boards for government-determined education standards.
If you have been unfamiliar with the Charlotte Mason philosophy until now, you’re not alone. Charlotte Mason homeschooling belongs to a subset of homeschoolers, and what’s most important is to do what works for you and your children! However, Charlotte Mason homeschooling is loved by many homeschoolers for its focus on literature, nature, and lifestyle. While it’s possible the philosophy of Charlotte Mason homeschooling may not be a good fit for your family, you can always borrow elements from different homeschool methods, and in this case, you may want to consider borrowing the “living books” approach.
Living books fit perfectly within many models of homeschooling, and here’s why:
- Living books don’t merely list facts. Academic information is relayed through entertaining narrative.
- Living books involve emotions, which is more engaging than reading a textbook.
- Living books have been written for nearly all subjects, even STEM.
- Living books are written in a conversational style, but don’t let the simplicity fool you. The best learning happens when you don’t even realize it.
- Living books are written by an author who is passionate about the subject, and that passion is transferred to the pages, and is evident through the story.
All things considered, living books make a wonderful option for homeschoolers. These books enliven the senses, engage the mind, stoke the imagination, and fill the heart; all while teaching valuable facts, lessons, and essential information for schoolwork. Children often enjoy reading these books simply because they are captured in the story. Homeschooling is such a great medium for encouraging learning through curiosity, and that’s exactly what living books provide.
If your child is struggling with science topics, or if it’s become a weekly struggle to work through the assignments, perhaps consider putting the traditional textbook aside and try teaching with a living book instead.
Here are five great ways you can use living books to teach science!
- Choose science-themed titles. This is a great list of our favorites for science living books which covers more than just the younger years! When looking for living books, try to find titles that revolve around the main story set within your desired topic. You want it to be narrative-driven with engaging prose to catch your reader’s attention. You can find a comprehensive list of living science books on the Charlotte Mason website as well.
- Accompany books with hands-on activities. These activities help apply the knowledge your children learned from the books! Pinterest is a fantastic resource for finding related, easy hands-on science activities!
- Document what they have learned. After your children have applied these new concepts or lessons, you’ll want to document it for their records. After all, the living books method doesn’t use typical worksheets, quizzes, comprehension questions, or assignments. To document your children’s progress, consider notebooking.
- Customize your living books approach as needed for more advanced levels. Simply reading living books and doing a fun craft is sufficient for young, elementary students, but what about the upper levels? While high school students need a structured program for state requirements and proper credits, you can still supplement the textbooks with living books to inspire excitement. For middle school students, living books are a wonderful option. Our suggestion would be to include as many experiments, labs, and written reports as possible. Not only will these elements impress the lessons in practical ways, but they will also help prepare your child for the more rigorous high school years ahead.
- Combine it with textbooks. If you don’t subscribe to the Charlotte Mason approach, or you just feel your kids’ science experiment will be better covered by using textbooks, that’s fine as well. You can combine living books as supplemental reading alongside your textbooks! This could be especially helpful for the upper grades, but it could work well for any level if you want to use a formal curriculum. The addition of living books to your homeschool science program can keep their interest and excitement fueled!
Charlotte Mason focused on the use of living books because she viewed education as a lifestyle itself, not a means to an end. She stated, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” As homeschooling families, we couldn’t resonate more with that idea. Homeschooling is not just an education choice, but a lifestyle! It affects everything we do, what we learn, and how we learn it. It influences how we process information and even the dreams for which we reach. Living books encourage students to see that any subject can be intriguing, given the right presentation!
Further, living books are rooted in delight-directed learning. These books are researched to teach students specific academic topics while engaging them with narrative and character developments. Your homeschooler will follow the plot with interest, unknowingly learning valuable and essential lessons. Living books awaken all of the senses so the student feels there in the story, exploring the cave, escaping the storm, crossing the ocean, etc., to teach the practical applications of real-life science.
Delight-directed learning pursues your children’s interests. For science, consider the topics your homeschooler feels drawn toward. Perhaps put aside the textbook, especially if you have a reluctant learner, and use a living book to learn about this aspect of science. The writers of living books work carefully so the content is vetted and as engaging and educational as possible.
As mentioned previously, living books can still be used as a strong tool for science with older students. Perhaps incorporate writing assignments, like research papers with your homeschool science course, add requirements for sources and citations, or include as many experiments as possible. Homeschooling science with living books can be customized to your unique family and academic level.
Living books bring science alive! By placing the student in the narrative and exploring a topic enveloped in a story, students will learn from a perspective of fascination and wonder. Here is an overview of how living books are helpful for studying science.
- Avoid dreaded worksheets. Instead, read a story! It’s much more appealing.
- Take the focus off facts and memorization. Your student will still learn these facts, but in a manner that feels important and fun, not just for memorization.
- Learn the application & importance. Living books help the student recognize both the what and the why when science is explored via a story and not a “this-then” textbook.
- Engage interest with characters. These science stories involve emotions, unlike textbooks.
- Enjoy a conversational writing style. Academic writing can be difficult to work through, even for the best of us. Conversational writing will keep your children’s interest and they will retain more knowledge than if they plowed through a textbook.
- Become passionate about the scientific topic. The pages of the books are exciting thanks to the invested work of the author!
Teach Science with Projects
One of the best tools for teaching science is with hands-on experiments! Science is one of the few subjects in which students can actually witness what they are learning. They will learn the reason behind the rules for not mixing certain ingredients (either because the experiment fails or produces an unwanted result), rather than studying it as merely textbook knowledge.
The duration of science projects can extend over months if the project requires gathering data (a common scenario) or it could be a short experiment completed in an afternoon. Projects work well for any age level because they can be simplified for younger students or deepened for the more advanced homeschoolers. A popular choice is for high school students to join a homeschool co-op class to experience the lab experiments together. Finally, there is no lack of ideas for projects or experiments in all areas of science! Simply take your pick, or even better, find a few to follow your homeschooler’s interests! Thanks to the numerous homeschool science tools available, such as Pinterest, YouTube, and the abundance of science-focused websites, it’s easy to find a project for your needs, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
By teaching homeschool science with projects, the course becomes interactive rather than just reading about the information. Even with fun, engaging videos, they don’t quite reach the same level as hands-on projects. Science projects involve all of the senses, which helps to better impress the information in a student’s long-term memory while also making the experience more enjoyable. Additionally, science projects can be combined with textbook learning, unit studies, living books, classes, or any curriculum. One major merit of science projects is that they blend seamlessly with all learning styles and homeschooling methods.
Summarized, here’s why project-based learning is a great option for teaching science:
- Hands-on experiences. Science projects convert book learning to a fully interactive experience.
- Students learn in real-time. Homeschoolers will absorb new information as they experience it for themselves.
- Flexible duration. Project lengths can be as long or short as desired.
- Custom difficulty levels. Projects can be as advanced or simplified as needed for varying ages.
- Improves long-term memory. By involving all of the senses, students retain the information easier.
- Works with existing scientific studies. Experiments and projects can be added to any current curriculum or program.
- Effective for all learning styles. Due to projects being as flexible as needed, they can be adapted to any learning style for the best student experience.
- Compatible with any homeschool method. Regardless of your preferred homeschooling style, science projects can enrich the homeschooler’s science study!
Teach Science with Classes
A favorite method for teaching homeschool science is through the use of co-ops or classes, as briefly mentioned in the science projects section. It’s important to know when you as the parent may not be the best fit to teach a certain subject and/or level. Some of the factors for deciding this may involve a busy schedule (not enough time to spend on it yourself), a personally challenging subject (no matter how hard you try to understand it), or a lack of opportunities on your own (for example, labs can be difficult for individual homeschoolers).
Regardless of your reasons, it can be one of the best decisions for your student’s academic success to involve another teacher. Perhaps a parent in your homeschooling support group is surprisingly skilled or even holds a degree in the subject, and is offering to teach a chemistry co-op class. Perhaps the opportunity for your elementary student to work on teamwork skills in the zoology co-op class is a good choice for your child. Another great option for kids is online science classes, such as those offered by Generation Genius, a mostly free science resource. Or, perhaps the right journey is enrolling your high schooler in dual enrollment classes at the local community college.
Whether you enlist the help of a fellow homeschooling parent, a graduated homeschooled student, or even a certified teacher, this can be a fantastic option for teaching science. In these classes, your students may enjoy experiences otherwise inaccessible to them.
Here are a few benefits of teaching homeschool science with classes:
- Labs and class experiences. Groups may have better opportunities for labs and field trips than independent homeschoolers.
- Build teamwork skills. These classes can encourage helpful skills for college group projects as well as the career field and working with colleagues.
- Class discussions. Complicated courses may be more enjoyable with classmates for encouragement than if taken independently.
- Satisfy state laws. Classes can occasionally fulfill state requirements with less stress on the parent’s part, especially in states with strict homeschooling laws.
- Earn dual credit. Dual enrollment classes earn college credit and high school credit simultaneously, which could shorten a student’s time in college as well as improve acceptance odds at universities.
- A teacher/skilled parent could provide an invaluable experience. “It takes a village to raise a child,” which means we help each other. It’s important to recognize your limits and when your student may learn better from a different opportunity. Working with another teacher may provide an improved learning experience for your homeschooler.