Friday, February 1, 2013

THe "Messing About" Science Curriculum: Homeschool HIgh School Carnival

"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing," he went on dreamily, "messing-about-in-boats--messing--"    ~Kenneth Grahame The Wind in the Willows, quoted by David Hawkins in Messing About In Science (PDF)

This edition of Homeschool High School Carnival is hosted by Theresa at Lapaz Home Learning and the suggested topic is:  

Science in High School....What does your science program look like?  What influenced your choices/selection?
  I am one of those people who doesn't particularly enjoy hands-on science but loves to read science books because it inspires their imagination and expands their view of the universe.  But I am raising boys who like to actually do science and am married to someone who works in a STEM field.   I am using a Charlotte Mason/classical type curriculum.   I will try to sum up what we do with links to further reading.  

How We Prepare

In elementary school, our science curriculum is scattered and interest-based but fairly lively for all that.    We have lots of science related books around the house -- Usborne type experiment books, field guides, "Let's Read and Find Out" type books, and whatever else looks interesting in the thrift store or the homeschool catalog.  We check out books in areas of interest from the library.  The kids pore through them focusing on what interests them most.  One child loved volcanoes and lizards and space exploration, another read all about dinosaurs, another was fascinated by ants and theoretical physics, another one loved learning about domesticated animals (horses, cats and dogs, etc).

Their interests overlapped and interlocked through the years, leading to many discussions and much shared learning.   We sometimes buy science kits, which my more physical-science oriented boys love.  We watch science videos sporadically (generally because my husband turns them on).    We do a lot of informal nature study, also known as watching what walks past our home in the Sierra National Forest, or playing or walking outside, or playing with the Bryans' kittens in their garage.   In former days, playing with the baby counted as nature study, too.  Unfortunately we don't have a baby to center everything around anymore.    We kept nature notebooks (very informal indeed, often involving complicated storylines). 

Transitioning to Secondary Level Science

When the kids reach middle school I try to get a little more focused, though it takes 2-3 years to build momentum and figure out what works best for the kid.   We may actually have topics to cover.  I pore through the Ambleside Curriculum for recommended books.  Particular favorites are The Boy Scientist and the works of JH Fabre.  He is a great guy.   I also go to MacBeth's Opinion which has all kinds of fascinating living science books.  Every school year I buy a couple more of these, and there have been some treasures.  I discovered Richard Feynman that way, and Michael Faraday.   MODG's Natural History Syllabus has great recommendations, too.   We all were fascinated by King Solomon's Ring and use examples from it not infrequently. 

I will generally introduce a  biology text in 8th grade along with natural history.  That gives us time, which is very valuable so I don't have to lock them down to textbook study alone.  My goal is to cover three high school science courses in five years (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics; we don't generally bother with Earth Science because that seems to be learned fine informally).   Or at least come as close as possible given the circumstances and the child.  Giving ourselves five years lets me break it up with living books and reading/study projects and biographies.

How it Actually Looks 

How this plan works out in practice varies --  my second son gave himself practically a grad-level background in national-forest lore, while getting through biology and halfway through chemistry in formal textbook work.  He already knew all about geology and astronomy etc from childhood immersion studies.   My oldest plowed through biology, chemistry and physics using Apologia for the latter two, and also read quite a bit about the philosophy of science, and about physics (his favorite).   My daughter did a LOT of natural history but otherwise a fairly informal science curriculum, but she had learned a fair amount from riding along with her brothers' interests.  

My third son went to public high school, and acquired a vigorous hatred of "school science". He did Earth Science, Biology and Chemistry.   I wrote about it in Science the School Way and More on School Science

My fourth son, my current high schooler,  has always been a science hobbyist.   Like my older three, he spent a lot of time outdoors catching lizards and snakes, watching ants and that kind of thing.  When he was in middle school I enrolled him in The Young Scientist Club, which he really enjoyed.   We also got him the basic type kits like Volcano Kits, Crystal Making Kits, and Electronics Kits (I can recommend Snap Circuits).  He  watched numerous science videos and has listened to Great Courses along with my husband and me.    He is also the computer hardware consultant around here, taking a burden off my husband's shoulders.    I hope to get him started programming soon.     There are courses available at GiantCampus but they are not exactly cheap.

I look for AP science Youtube video courses and Khan Academy and that type of thing for his science.   I wrote some thoughts about his high school biology here, with some thoughts on teaching science in general.   Currently he is studying physics.    I have a small science booklist in this post:  High School for 2012-13 if you scroll down.   

How It Turns Out

For further reading,  I liked these posts at bearing blog: plan for science next year and follow-up. Good points about homeschool science teaching, made by a homeschooler with a science (engineering) background.    Also some quotations on the problems with science-as-she-is-taught by scientists Richard Feynman and David Hawkins

I think that is all I have to say about science.   For my next child, currently in 4th grade, I hope to get more into science notebooking/lapbooking.  I think there is lots of potential there for developing a customized and creative curriculum.   "Developing a curriculum" didn't really happen with the older set -- we had sort of a grab bag experience, since I am not very organized and also was quite busy during their high school years -- but it did not seem to hurt too much, since all of the grown ones have had positive experiences in college level science, and two of them either have or are likely to have science-related careers (computer programming and forestry). 

Go to Lapaz Home Learning to read more high school science posts.

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