In our house, we love science. My father is an engineer. My husband’s father was an electrician. Both of us spent a lot of time outdoors seeing science and nature up close and personal. Insatiable curiosity is in the blood. So in our homeschool, I teach a lot of science.
We’ve used Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (my favorite elementary science for hardcore science fans), Sassafras Science, Singapore science, TOPS science, and more. But most of our science happens outside science hour.
You don’t need “science time.”
Life is science-y.
We go outside and explore. We do nature study, carefully observing what we see and questioning why it is that way. We draw or paint or collect samples of our observations. I send kids up trees with binoculars and a bird guide. We notebook. My daughter took apart a huge (previously sprayed/killed) wasp nest. I brought out a science notebook and some colored pencils so she could draw and note the different stages of wasp she found in the nest. We take glasses of water, put food coloring in each, and run a paper towel strip to a class of clear water and wait. When someone gets a bloody nose, a bit of the blood is smeared on a slide and examined under a microscope. We check out most of the nonfiction section at the library on our current subject. We watch Bill Nye, Beakman’s World, Magic School Bus, and all the documentaries Netflix and Amazon Prime have to offer.
But that’s not our main science time either. Life is science-y. Mostly, we talk. We observe. We talk. We question. We talk. We answer. We talk.
We talk about the difference between the tasty purslane and the poisonous woody spurge when we spot some in the church lawn. We talk about chlorophyll when the leaves change color. We discuss condensation and evaporation when water builds up on a soda can. We talk about blood pressure when someone gets dizzy when standing suddenly. We talk about the logical flaws in zombies when a child is scared at bedtime. We talk about four-chambered digestion and the number of hours a horse spends eating when we pull up a handful of grass while resting under a tree. We talk about insects burrowing and bark shedding when we notice a wiggly tunnel on a dead branch. We talk about colors blending when we paint. We talk about how only the water molecules evaporate and then other molecules remain and leave a sticky residue when we spill milk. We talk about the foibles of genetics and methods of adaptation when the children notice someone with unusual characteristics, as children do. We talk about the evolution of cultural standards when they want to know why they can’t run around naked at the park.
It doesn’t need to be complicated or advanced.
For example, this very morning my preschooler cut a large piece of construction paper to serve as an ocean. The wavy edge was much more zigzag and sharp, so naturally it turned into a dinosaur as he cut, and roared, chomping at me. After laughing and roaring along, I asked if those sharp pointy teeth would eat plants or animals. “You mean meat?” he asked. We’ve talked about this before, evidently. “It eats meat!” Then he finished the cut and glued it to the page.
That’s all it entails. Just take the opportunities that present themselves, and explain the why, the how, the when. You’ll be surprised how much they remember from these seemingly casual conversations. When science is applied in real life, it sticks.
Now, all this science talk may have unintended consequences. Your kids may start to talk about science all the time. Your daughter might create a detailed puberty-changes coloring sheet and be offended when you won’t let her sell it at the yard sale. Your son may insist on food coloring in everything after exposure to the first experiment. Loud conversations about when body odor begins in girls versus boys may punctuate the Doctor Who playtime when friends visit. When your children learn life is science-y, the science may never stop.
Faith–Faith is a highly distractable mother of four. She believes in doing what is best for each child and has experimented with various combinations of public, charter, and home schools.Her children struggle with autism, severe ADHD, anxiety, and more, but are blessed with an overabundance of creativity and other talents. Faith is an unabashed feminist and “crunchy” mom, strongly LDS with a passion for knitting, avoiding cooking, and Harry Potter.