At Home with The Classical Method – Teaching Science


“Understanding the classical sciences allows each of us to appreciate the beauty and harmony of the cosmos while equipping us to participate in the investigative process.” (p.179)

I believe that understanding the sciences is important to all students, but is especially beneficial to the believer.  We know the creator of the extraordinary cosmos personally, so knowing His creation is (yet again) another powerful way to know Him and to make Him known.  Our desire to know God better should lead us to wanting to know His creation better, because through it we can see Him.

As an adult, I know this.  As a younger student, I did not.  I allowed myself to settle the matter of science by knowing God created the universe and all it contained.  But, wow, how I limited my knowledge of Him.  How I limited my ability to praise Him.  I do not want my little scholars to miss this chance, while they are young, to revel in God’s glory seen through His creation.

The Core teaches us, as classical educators, to start by helping children to identify scientific principles in four chief ways:

1. fostering curiosity through the development of observation skills.

2. defining and classifying terms that describe the universe.

3. conducting experiments and demonstrations to study cause and effect.

4. presenting the ideas of influential scientists.

Our job is “to teach young students to be keen observers to know how to utilize all their sense as they discover how the world works.”  Remembering that you must first build the basics, which will allow for more abstract thinking later, teach your students to observe.  What is observation? Nothing more than really seeing the world around you in detail.  I love the example Leigh shares in The Core – 

“Notice what naming can do when taking a walk with the family.  When a creature crosses your path, you can simply think ‘bird.’ or you can observe the identifying features and think ‘kingfisher’ or ‘egret’ or ‘swallow’ as it flits by.  Identifying the bird by color, size, and beak structure allows a parent to grab the child’s attention with the words, ‘Look! A female wood duck heading to her nest in that bald cypress…'”  (p.184)

Our families can have these conversations when we’ve first developed the observation skills and secondly, defined terms (in one way, learning the names of the creation around us).  We’re teaching them so much in this basic exercise: learning to look closely and to describe specifically.  How many times have you been told to look at something “over there”? Only to ask, “Where?” and to be given the repeat instructions of “over there.”  Talk about frustrating! We want to teach our children to look and give them the skills to define and classify.  These terms gradually broaden to give our children an organized manner with which to classify.  Following the story from above, you might teach them to classify a swallow first with birds, then vertebrates, and next under biology, etc.

With conducting experiments, it’s not so much the experiments themselves that matter, but learning the scientific method during those experiments that matters.  The discussions centers “around these questions:

1. What is the purpose of this experiment?
2. What are the procedures to complete the experiment?
3. What are the materials needed for this experiment?
4. What did you learn from this experiment?”

Breaking the discussion into these questions allows the student to organize their thoughts beyond, “wow, that was cool!” and starts them thinking through the scientific method (question, research, hypothesis, experiment, result, conclusion).    

Learning about influential scientists classically is best done through (can you guess?) reading.  Besides great books, Leigh suggests science magazines which contain short reading on interesting, cutting edge material.  We have a copy of Smithsonian Natural History on our coffee table and it is regularly being read by someone in our family.  The Core recommends the following science books: A Handbook of Nature Study, Biology: 100 Reproducible Activities, Lyrical Life Science, Vol.3: The Human Body,  National Audubon Society Field Guides (can
be bought individually also), The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy,  Usborne Internet-Linked Science Encyclopedia, and 201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre and Incredible Experiments.


Excitement is catching.  Have you been able to create excitement around scientific discovery in your home? If so, please share! I’m sure we could all learn from your experience.  In the next few days, I hope to share specific ways our family explores science at home.

Comments

  1. says

    We love “A pocket naturalist Guide” booklets – they are basically laminated fold-outs that teach familiar things. We have butterflies, insects, animal tracks, birds, wildflowers, and a number of others. What is nice is that they are easier to carry on a hike, not so hard to look something up for the young kids, and the kids love to study them. We just love to get outside and look at the world God made. We also make a point to go to science museums and exploration-type situations – seining at a beach state park, a river boat with science being taught on it, and so on. We teach our kids to look for and point out creation mistakes like references to millions of years or evolution as well.

    • says

      Ooo, Becki! Just looked those up. They look great! I think I’ll share about them in my next post about science. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. says

    I totally agree with that bit about being able to name things. It’s great fun to be able to take a walk through the woods and be able to identify the many bushes, trees, herbs and wildflowers that you see. It really fosters curiosity, observations and a love of the natural world.

    I would also highly recommend the magazine Nature Friend. It seems a little bit pricy, but it is well worth it being that it comes from a christian perspective. Our kids love it.

    • says

      thanks, christy! i haven’t heard of Nature Friend. my mom likes to get magazine subscriptions for my littles for their birthdays sometimes. maybe this’ll be the next one we try! :)

  3. says

    I’m doing a lesson planning link-up and the topic July 25th is science. http://highhillhomeschool.blogspot.com/p/homeschool.html – I love how you really explained your approach to science in this post and hope you will join in. Observation is an excellent skill to teach. We also began our science studies with good books and nature study. Now my kids are 6, 10 and 12. They still love nature walks and learn so much by just being outdoors. Here is how our science studies have evolved. http://highhillhomeschool.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

  4. says

    Another great post! We have not done much with science yet, but I plan on slowly getting there next year =) Thanks for the reminder to focus on observation and the scientific method!

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