As my kids get older, I sometimes worry about their high school years and subjects I may not know as much about. Of course I want them to get the best education I give them, but I’m not above admitting I will need help. This post by Greg Landry talks about 9 mistakes to watch out for when teaching homeschool science.
This post is sponsored by College Prep Science. Copyright 2020 by Greg Landry.
Having taught science to several thousand homeschooling and college students over the past 20+ years, several things stand out to me. I’ve put together a list of 9 homeschool science mistakes and 9 concrete steps we can take to better prepare our budding scientists.
Mistake #1 – Generalizing the names for, and thus the way we teach, science. Call it Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc. and not “General Science”, “Physical Science”, etc., even in the young grades. Doing this virtually eliminates the intimidation that comes with “Physics” etc. in the high school years and clarifies what you’re teaching in the middle grades.
For example, at College Prep Science, rather than a homeschool year of “Physical Science,” we teach a semester of “Pre-Physics” and a semester of “Pre-Chemistry.” Rather than a homeschool year of “Life Science,” we teach a semester of “Pre-Biology” and a semester of “Pre-Anatomy and Physiology.”
Mistake #2 – Not doing enough testing.
Testing in the sciences prepares our students for the rigors of high school level homeschool science, college science, standardized testing, and assures that they are learning the material and how to take tests. Of course, it should be age-appropriate, but we should be testing.
Mistake #3 – Teaching science year-round.
I know that many parents are proponents of year-round school (no summer break), but I believe it’s actually counter-productive. From experience with thousands of students, I believe that students need to know they can work hard for a prescribed period of time and then have a total break from classes for a while.
Mistake #4 – Not starting the high school sciences early enough.
I know it’s easy to put off starting the high school sciences, but it’s important, especially if the students may be a college science major. Critical decisions should be made going into 8th grade. The critical factor is being ready for standardized testing and being able to fit in the needed sciences in the high school years. High school Biology should be taken in the 9th grade for most students and in the 8th grade for very capable students who will likely be science majors.
Mistake #5 – Not beginning to take the ACT early enough.
Success on this standardized test is critical for college admissions and plays a direct role in how much financial aid a student will receive. Taking these tests twice per year beginning in 9th grade gives students experience and confidence which enables them to do well when they take this test for the final time in 11th or 12th grade. See my article on this topic, “6 Reasons to Ditch the SAT and Laser Focus on the ACT.”
Mistake #6 – Not training students to write good lab reports.
As a college professor, I saw the pain of students who came in as science majors without good lab report writing skills and experience. Students get better at this with experience – there’s no substitute for that. Lab reports are simply the written record of the scientific method. It takes lots of practice to develop the skill needed to do well on these.
Mistake #7 – Not creating a lab manual for every science class.
A lab manual is a collection of observations, data collection, and lab reports from a class. This gives students one place to neatly keep all of this information and gives them a sense of accomplishment. It’s impressive to have them lined-up on a shelf from all of their science classes. It’s also required by some states or umbrella groups for homeschoolers and some colleges want to see lab manuals as evidence of labs being completed.
Mistake #8 – Being squeamish on Creation.
Despite what you may hear in the media and elsewhere, God wrote the book on science. We need to boldly teach our students about God’s creation. Science and the world around us support biblical creation.
Mistake #9 – Not using graphing extensively.
Graphing, when done regularly through the middle and high school grades has a unique ability to develop critical thinking skills in students that not only benefit them in math, science, and academics in general, but also in life! We encourage families to have students construct one graph daily as part of their homeschooling day. They can graph anything. Let them run with it and you will be surprised at how creative they are. The resulting skills can be very beneficial.
Homeschool dad, scientist, and former college professor, Greg Landry, offers live, online homeschool science classes, the Homeschool Mom’s Science Podcast, in-person two-day science lab intensives nationwide, freebies for homeschool moms, and homeschool print publications that students can be a part of.