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Flashback Friday – Science Lab Write-Ups


yellowstone geyser basin 2011

Yellowstone National Park 2011

My children all loved science experiments…I found them a pain but because I knew that science was a way to engage their curiosity I made an effort. Although they all loved completing the experiments, they did not like to record their procedures or observations. I gradually increased my expectations as they grew and matured but many times I would give them a choice in writing up their work.

science lab write up narration

My Two Top Choices For Science Write-Ups (4-6 grades)

  • Short paragraph explaining the method of experimentation and a short recap of their observations.
  • Sketches with captions

Science Lab write up narrations (2)

Bonus Science Follow-Up

Then when the opportunity arrives, take them on a field trip to see some of the things they have been doing in their science study up close and personal. We planned parts of our family vacations to go along with their study…Yellowstone National Park is a great follow up to a study of geology, chemistry, and biology.

Another Flashback Friday idea for you to think about and see if it works in your family.

Living Books For High School Science

Living Books Sketch

“A book may be long or short, old or new, easy or hard, written by a great man or a lesser man, and yet be the living book which finds its way to the mind of a young reader.”
Charlotte Mason, Volume 3

Science in high school is one of those topics that can put fear into a homeschooling mom’s heart. We can fear we have a lack of expertise or we perhaps fear we can’t offer what public schools can offer. In addition, many of us fear we will not be able to offer a science text in a way that will be meaningful. We may have worked through the years to keep science a living subject with hands-on learning and real life experiences. What happens now that we hit the high school years?

Keeping It Alive
As a science oriented family, I wanted to keep my sons’ interests fed even though we decided that the foundation of our study would be a textbook. I was determined to include living books as part of our weekly plans as well. I didn’t want to abandon our Charlotte Mason feel to our homeschool even in high school. Looking back, I think it was one of the most important decisions we made.

Inspiration Vs. Information
I was trying to inspire in my children a love of learning and not just feed them dry facts. Living books inspire thinking and do not just provide information. Think back to when you were in school and you had a true learning experience, one that impressed you and has stuck with you all these years later. In my experience, those times were inspired either by passionate people fired up about a topic, a book that was written to give you a window into another time or person’s life, or when you made a connection from the written page and related to your real life in some way.

It takes less energy to learn something from a living book than it does from a text. Learning takes place without all the effort to memorize and drill the facts. Learning takes place because it is meaningful and you own it right from the first reading.

Text Plus Something More
I can remember hours and hours of research going into our biology course, trying to find a way to make the text come alive for my boys. I only had to look as far as my own bookshelf and pull the Handbook of Nature Study and some field guides down to supplement our learning. Using those books in addition to a text was what took us outdoors exploring in our own neighborhood and then beyond. They also led us back to our microscope to look at the amazing design and creation right there in the details. We could tackle the topics of high school biology and still keep it real and meaningful.

Applying the Principle to Other Science Courses
The same is true for every high school science course we have completed in our family. There are ways to draw in living books to every topic if you search hard enough. Our study of chemistry, physics, marine biology, and human anatomy have all been enhanced by selected living books offered every week for narration of some sort. Some of the books we stumbled upon, some were recommended by blog readers and friends, and some we had on our shelves already and we just needed to get them down off the shelf and read them one at a time. A few of the books ended up becoming “texts” all on their own like The Elements: An Exploration. This particular book saved our rather dry chemistry course. It brought a spark back to my sons’ learning, leading them down their own road to discovery about the elements.We had discovered it was possible to keep a living books focus in our high school science.

Would you like to see our living books selections from our high school science courses?

I have gathered many living books into one list over on Squidoo. Please visit my lens:
Living Books for High School Science.

You may also be interested in reading Charlotte Mason High School and Notebooking in High School.
Or by Science Course:

This post will be part of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival.

Homeschool Science: Things I Would Do Differently

Einstein Sketch
Mr. B’s sketch based on an illustration in Astronomy Magazine

“Mr. Fisher says, ‘There are real books, and there are textbooks.’ The day is soon coming when everyone will realize that textbooks have no educational value. We hardly ever use textbooks in our Parents Union Schools. Whenever possible, we use books that spark the imagination and have a touch of originality. These are the differences between a real book and a text book.
Charlotte Mason, volume 6 page 272

Teaching high school science can put fear in your heart. Science texts tend to be a little overwhelming and can increase your anxiety that you cannot offer high school science in your home. Setting that fear aside and keeping in mind your goals, it is possible to have a great science experience at home.  Here are a few thoughts from my brain this week on how I would handle the teaching of science in our home if I could go back and do it again.

1. Throw out the preplanned sequences, especially in the lower grades. I can see the wisdom now in allowing the younger years to be left open for exploring and observing in nature. See volume 1 page 43-44 for more information on how to accomplish this with your little ones.

2. Include larger numbers of living books. Living books about nature and the world of science are much more interesting than any textbook. I have learned even in high school that a good interest-drawing book is worth its weight in gold. It takes some more thought and preparation but they are available for just about any topic. (I am working on a Squidoo lens to gather the living books we used for high school science.) Don’t rely solely on textbooks.

3. Do the best you can with labwork and leave the rest for a later date. Labs in high school science are highly overrated. I stressed too much over not having the right equipment and supplies to make labs “exciting”. Most labwork is not all that exciting since our homeschool labs and budgets do not allow room for the WOW! factor. I can offer simple labs that teach what I want my boys to learn: lab procedure, how to record a lab, and to think beyond the text. I am limiting the number of labs to those that are going to teach what they need to know and then leave the rest for online demos, YouTube videos, and then co-op classes, cc, and beyond. I hate it when you put in a lot of time, money, and effort and then the lab falls flat. All that fussing and you could have done just as well to have them watch an online demo and then research any questions or topics that come up.

4. Tell the story of science chronologically. I would teach more of the history of science with stories of scientists who were successful and also struggled and failed. I found a great series for using with our high school science that my boys loved and would narrate with enthusiasm. It tied history, science, and real people together. Check out the Story of Science series by Joy Hakim. Timeline work would be a part of science study.

5. Start the study of Greek and Latin roots early. This will make things easier once you get to high school biology, chemistry, and human anatomy. I used the Science Roots system from Paula of Paula’s Archives when the boys were studying biology and those vocabulary cards are coming back out now as we study human anatomy. She suggests you start the roots before you hit high school biology and I want to chime in to second that idea. Don’t wait…..

I am actually looking forward to Mr. B’s Human Anatomy and Physiology course this year. I chose a basic course that we are adding some CM style learning to with sketching, biographies, and narrative books. I was struggling with a text until I realized that I didn’t want a text… I came up with this:  Simple Schooling: Human Anatomy and Physiology Part 1 and there is a Part 2.

Don’t let high school science intimidate you when the time comes. Stay the course with Charlotte Mason’s principles and make it work in your family.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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