In my last post, I wrote about some of the reasons that teaching science is hard. Today we'll explore the first problem--the set up!
I used to barely knit (stick with me here, this has to do with the science problem!) Then one day another mom was talking about how she'd finished 12 projects during the previous year. I was floored. She homeschooled her two kids, worked part time as an architect, and volunteered at her church. We knew each other from waiting for our kids at an activity. How did she have time? I asked her.
She had realized that she never knit because she didn't have time to gather up all the stuff she needed, plan her project, etc. So she started putting together "kits" for herself. She'd decide on a project while waiting somewhere and then start gathering everything she needed into a project bag, bit by bit when she had time. She'd always start planning the next project at the same time that she started working on a new project. Then when she finished a project, she'd already have everything she needed to start the next one, assembled and ready to grab as she walked about the door.
I started doing that with my knitting--and with my homeschool science. When I have a couple odd minutes, too short to really get anything done, I spend a minute assembling what we need. I have a cupboard in my dining room where I stash the stuff in a gallon storage bag until I have everything we need. If I'm using a kit, I'll open it and dump it into a bag and then figure out what a few pieces are, maybe read the instructions. And then move on. When we do have time to "do science," everything will be ready.
Don't Put It Away
I also have a friend who had some great equipment--a microscope, a telescope--but the family never used them because they were put away for safe keeping. She decided she'd rather have them destroyed than not used. The telescope now stands next to the patio door, always ready to use. The microscope sits at one end of her kitchen counter and the drawer underneath holds prepared slides as well as everything they need to make their own slides. Suddenly science is just part of their lifestyle because someone can say, "Hey, I wonder what that looks like under the microscope?" and then just go look.
Do Science That Doesn't Need Set Up
I have an app on my phone that tells me the names of stars and constellations and another one that identifies plants and gives me basic information about them. This means that if we are outside, we can "do science" by just holding up my phone to something and then reading about it. It may not be as in-depth as a curriculum, but my kids can now identify a wide range of plants and plant families by sight and have become much more observant about the small details that let us tell one from another.
Make Your Life a Science Lesson
Since we have to eat, brush our teeth, bathe, and do other self care, it can be a great opportunity to throw in some science. I learned all about nutrition from my mom, who took a class in college about nutrition for kids. We were allowed to have anything we wanted for breakfast so long as it met certain parameters. ("It has to have protein and calcium," was her most common.) And when she planned meals, she'd make sure we were getting a mix of different vitamins and minerals. I was surprised to learn that other kids didn't know about essential amino acids, fat soluble vitamins, or the fact that we can only absorb a little calcium or iron at a time so can get constipated if we try to get too much at once.
Cooking also gives an opportunity to learn about weights and measures. We use a scale in the kitchen and have recipes written in grams, ounces, or cups. So my kids have to be able to switch between different units and also convert units. They certainly don't enjoy doing conversions, but they are both capable of it. This has also allowed us to discuss other concepts like density--a cup of molasses weighs a different amount than a cup of flour.
Watch Science Videos
I have never forgotten many of the science documentaries I watched as a tween and teen. Even though I've now taken entire classes and rotations on many of the topics, my foundation is still those Nova and PBS specials. There are so many more options these days (and we have a curated list for current students who are looking for videos to extend their learning).
Give Yourself Grace
The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up about it. You're doing the best you can with the resources you have now. Every day is a fresh start. Start by picking something easy (watch a video!) and go from there. Our curriculum is also a good, easy place to start. It's log in and go...most lessons don't require any preparation.
But That's Only Part of the Problem
In my next post, I'll address other difficulties with teaching science