Understanding Science

It amazes me how many folks are intimidated by the idea of science.  I think this is because of a deficiency in their science-knowledge.  People just didn't understand it when they were learning in school, and so now they don't understand it as adults.  Every day we are bombarded with messages based on science.  Media representations of science and science-related policy are essential in quickly communicating scientific messages to the public.  However, important parts of the scientific message can easily get lost or garbled in the translation.  Understanding the nature of science can make a better-informed consumer for those messages and policies.

Understanding science can help you:

  1. Separate fact from fiction.
  2. Identify misrepresentations of science.
  3. Find trustworthy sources for further information.

Science is essentially, our knowledge of the natural world and the process through which that knowledge is built.

Today's children have the opportunity to learn about science in a different way than generations before them.  And the need is increasingly urgent that we deliver a significant science-education to the children that will endow them with the knowledge needed to bring in a new age of civilization.  By better understanding the world around us, we can make better choices for our families, our people, and our world.

As homeschoolers we can freely pursue that significant science education with any style or method that we choose.  The important thing is choosing to study science.  We must be brave, and open ourselves to the natural world.  By utilizing the scientific method of observation, questioning, hypothesizing, and testing, anyone can learn about the world around them; and with so many different areas of study there's bound to be something that intrigues every individual--something that ignites a spark of curiosity.  It's that curiosity that drives science.

Studying science need not be intimidating or overwhelming.  It's okay to admit to your children that you do not know all the answers.  When you can't sufficiently answer a question take the opportunity to encourage the child to do the research himself.  "Look in a book!"  If you do not have the necessary reading material, try the nearest library (if they do not have it, they may be able to get a book through the inter-library loan program), or research it on-line.  You don't need to "know it all" .

For any formal science program, you should expect it to be a messy endeavor.  Science is, by nature, a hands-on subject, the scientific method dictates testing, following the process of observation, questioning, and hypothesizing, so any program you implement should utilize experiments and hands-on investigation.  To encourage a more scientific environment, keep a bountiful supply of reference books in your home library.  Don't limit these to merely children's resources, be sure to include plenty of science references intended for mature adults, children will benefit from these because they are not limited to one age range.  They will be able to "grow into them", and will refer to them repeatedly throughout their youth.  Encourage questioning, allow them free-time for thinking and self-exploration.  Keep science-materials on hand, things like magnifying glasses, a microscope with accessories, binoculars, field-guides, rock-kits, fossils, science-posters, etc.  Most importantly, spend time outside--copious amounts of time outside--observing and interacting with the natural world.  Take field trips to geological sites in your home-state on tank-full of gas.  Go hiking, mountain-climbing, scuba-diving, plant a garden, start a compost heap, it doesn't matter so long as you're outdoors. Nature is vast, the universe is mysterious, but if we're brave we can face science and impart a more knowledgeable way upon the next generation, using the scientific method and encouraging our interminable curiosity.

Samantha Burns is a self-taught homeschool teacher to 2 sons, and wife 10 years to a citizen scientist. You can visit her website at www.squidoo.com/chronologicalhistorystudies.

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