Homeschooling and Science

Rose here-

I am a geologist and data engineer, and I was homeschooled. When I was growing up, homeschooling was not very common and most of the few resources available were focused on conservative/religious families. We had a handful of other homeschool friends over the years but most went to public school. While homeschooling may not be for everyone, it is great to see that it is so much more accepted now. Recent statistics show that 3-4% of K-12 students in the US are homeschooled, although that number may be higher at the moment due to the Covid pandemic.

When I first started taking science classes in college, I was a bit nervous because I had had no formal science and especially lab classes while being homeschooled. However, I feel that homeschooling did prepare me for college by requiring me to be self-motivated and good at finding information on my own. Another advantage of homeschooling is flexibility. For example, if an activity or lesson doesn’t take very long, you don’t have to wait for the class to be finished while twiddling your thumbs, you can move on to the next thing and finish everything more efficiently. On the other hand, if a concept is taking longer to learn, you can take all the time needed until you get it down. This taught me time management and persistence.

Another cool thing about homeschooling is the flexibility to develop your own curriculum. Some students work best from textbooks and with lots of structure, others do best with non-structured activities or schedules that change often. The advantage here is it’s all up to you so you can experiment until you find what works best for you.

Since a lot more of you are homeschooling right now, either long-term or just short-term during the pandemic, I’ve put together some ideas for teaching/learning science at home.

  • Your local public library is a treasure trove of resources for whatever you need. Any subject you want, you can find books or videos to check out. If you need help, the librarians always love to help you find the perfect resource to fit your needs. One common way my family approached science at home was to pick a subject and find a good book or video series to take us through it (chemistry, biology, astronomy). We’d watch or read and then discuss together.
  • Another favorite activity was using nature field guides to ID things we saw outside. We had a collection of field guides for things like birds, mushrooms, and native plants and loved looking up a bird we saw at the feeder or a leave we found on a walk. Whether on walks in the neighborhood or park or just in the backyard, take pictures or sketches of cool leaves, birds, critters, etc and then look them up when you get home. The guide will have basic info but once you figure out what you saw you can dig deeper online or in an encyclopedia to learn more if you’re interested. [Editor’s note: Look into apps like iNaturalist, Seek, and eBird for on the go identifications and to contribute to community science efforts!]
  • While not too many are open yet, museums and public gardens are great places to explore and spend some time learning while having fun. Often public libraries will have discount or free passes available for local places like these, so look into those (many may not be available during pandemic restrictions though). Even if they’re not open, many museums are posting activities for families to do at home right now, so check out some websites and see what you can find.

There are also lots of good science-based shows that you can find streaming online. Some favorites for younger kids are Emily’s Wonder Lab and Octonauts.

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