Some home schooling parents have concerns about teaching science at home. Science may be a subject that parents struggled with themselves at school, or they simply remember the subject requiring lots of resources such as Bunsen burners and chemical elements.
It’s very unlikely that home teachers will be able to have laboratories as equipped as a school’s science lab, but parents can still make the most of kitchen science, online demonstrations through sites such as You Tube, and similar resources to help their homed schooled child to understand science in an active and interesting way. There are also a myriad of ideas for experiments that can be carried out at home. This article looks at the opportunities and teaching ideas for science in a home school environment.
Teaching Science as the World Around Us
Break down the ‘big ideas’ of science being biology, chemistry, physics, etc. and instead help your child to see biology as living things, humans, plants and animals, chemistry as the study of the elements of the world and how they mix and come together, and physics the study of the world’s forces and the rules of the universe.
Encourage children to ask all those ‘why’ questions – why cars move, why tables do not, why radiators are hot, and snow is not – every time a home schooled child asks these kinds of questions take the opportunity to talk through the answer, looking it up together if necessary, from a science textbook, the library, Internet or a reference source. This kind of active learning and intellectual curiosity will make a good scientist!
Encouraging Scientific Thought
Encouraging children to ask questions of the world rather than accept its incomprehensiveness can boost their science ability: help them to propose an answer to their question, then experiment to find out whether his or her answer works in reality. Set up experiments to answer their questions – when they start thinking about what substances are needed for growth, for example, you could plant garden seeds, some with water, sun and soil, some with one of these elements missing – the process will show what plants need to grow, and you can then study further about what plants use these substances for.
Playing with Kitchen Science
Fun experiments in the kitchen with normal store cupboard ingredients can instigate challenging thoughts and scientific enquiries from kids. Some ideas include making ‘burping pots’, crystals, self-inflating balloons and invisible ink. Look in kitchen science ‘how to’ books in libraries and on the Internet to find out more. Here’s an example of how to make invisible ink and what to talk about – ‘the science stuff’ – afterwards:
Introduce the child to the concept of invisible ink by talking about how spies communicate, or how useful it would be to send secret messages to a friend. Then carry out the promise by making invisible ink. First write a message with a paint brush dipped into a generous helping of lemon juice directly on to a piece of paper. Then let the lemony message dry – it will then appear to be a clean piece of paper, with any message invisible to the naked eye.
To re-produce the message on the writing paper, place the secret message paper on a piece of baking parchment, and put bake it in an oven preheated to one hundred and eighty degrees celsius. Monitoring the paper throughout, bake it for around five minutes – when the paper comes out of the oven, the message should be visible and possible to read all over again.
The reason behind this is that the lemon juice’s sugar content turns the liquid brown when it is heated, while in the meantime the paper stayed white so the brown became more visible. These kind of experiments put the fun back into science and are a great way to capitalise on the freedom of home education.