February 12, 2014

Teaching Science is My Waterloo

You know how Napoleon's final defeat by Lord Wellington in 1815 at Waterloo came to be a catch-phrase for a defeat or setback? That pretty much describes my relationship with teaching Science. I love it. I really do. But when it comes to teaching it...well, I always end up going in unprepared, taking hits from my left flank and then I just have to retreat and try again another day! I'm afraid to admit it, but it's true...Science is my personal Waterloo!
struggle teaching science
Science is awesome. I actually adored all my science classes in school and did exceptionally well in them. I loved the labs. I rocked out dissection. And did explosively good in chemistry. My boys adore science too. Little Britches will tell EVERYONE that science is his most favorite subject. But seriously, isn't that the favorite of MOST kids? 
There is just something pre-programmed  in our minds that wants to explore, discover and learn! Science FEEDS this need, which is why it's so necessary for our children's curriculum.

So what's the [MY!] problem with teaching it?

I've pondered this a lot and here is what I have come up with. Our science right now is not structured. We don't have a nice "in order" book to work through (my favorite kind!). The My Father's World 2nd Grade (Adventures in US History) incorporates a LOT of science...but it's very hodge-podge in what and how it does it. One week it was all about birds. The next it was all about plants. The next it was all about buoyancy. The next all about juice.

I don't like this structure. I prefer something that follows at least SOME semblance of an orderly plan.

Another thing that I don't like is that (for me) "fun" science requires labs and experiments--and I'm afraid that BECAUSE they require more out of me to prep them and require more time to complete...well, that means they typically get shoved to the bottom of the pile as an "if we have time" subject. This then turns science into something to be earned rather than a regular curriculum subject. I don't like doing this. For awhile (per a friend's suggestion), I tried to make sure we did science first thing in our day.

#1 The boys loved it.
#2 It stressed me out.
#3 It didn't last.

Remember that whole Waterloo comparison? See I start out strong, but then I'm quick to throw in the towel if something comes up, or I am missing an ingredients for an experiment, or we have a lot of things to do. And then science defeats me.


There are these random successful days when I can juggle our schedule and then do like 2 weeks worth of experiments all in one day. Those are proud moments. I feel like a Nobel Peace Prize winner when that happens. Sadly they, like the bestowing of the elusive Nobel Peace Prize, are rare moments. Like once every 4 months kind of rare.

So what do I do?

Well, deciding to stay on top of my lesson planning this year HAS helped a TON! Now I can flip through 1-2 weeks at a time and note any experiments that might be coming up. This allows me to make sure I have the supplies I will need, if when it is time for the studies. See? Did you hear it? I was already making science conditional!! 

I told you--I have a Science problem!! LOL!

The GOOD NEWS--is that I *think* that I've determined HOW to fix it. We are in the process of reviewing a science curriculum and thus far we are having excellent results. I will bring you a full review on the curriculum (Science4us.com) later this month, but here is the most exciting thing I can share...Not only is science being done EVERY SINGLE WEEK...but it's being done EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! Little Britches is happy. I'm happy. It's a win-win! The curriculum review has opened my eyes as to what I NEED from a science program.

So what DO I need to conquer my struggle with Science and start being Lord Wellington instead of Napoleon at Waterloo?

  • I need there to be cohesion in the science studies--to be able to study one subject in detail for a week or two or three!
  • I need there to be opportunity for a LOT of independent work--both the teaching and the hands-on.
  • I need to be more of the guide than the teacher.
  • I need the curriculum to be 80-90% all planned out for me, so that I only have to worry about 10-20% instead of the whole she-bang.
With even these four changes I know that I can love teaching science again. That I can have it to be the favorite because we do it all the time. That it can stop being a "treat" and be a real core subject in our homeschool. That I can embrace it, knowing that I am riding to victory instead of probable defeat!
Subject Struggle
Do you have a subject that you struggle to teach? Come see what some of the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members have chosen as THEIR trouble area and see if you can find yours!


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