Sunday, July 1, 2012

Random Facts Versus Whole Science Approach to Homeschool Teaching

Robert Bakker (right) teaching at the Houston ...
Robert Bakker (right) teaching at the Houston Museum of Natural Science (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Dr Rebecca Keller

When it comes to learning science, most of us were taught in the public school system, which is a big proponent of the random fact teaching methodology.

In other words, science was a single subject taught in a vacuum separate from other subjects. When it comes to teaching difficult or complex subjects such as science, it makes more sense to take a holistic approach. Here's why.

The Science Random Fact Junk Drawer

There has been much news lately about the American education crisis in regards to a lack of interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines. The United States is falling behind other developed countries when it comes to new technologies and discoveries, mainly because it is producing fewer graduates with related degrees.

One of the reasons for this lack of interest in STEM disciplines is due to the way kids are taught. Students often learn a bit of science here and a bit of science there without being provided any logical way to connect the dots.

This collection of random facts can be likened to your junk drawer at home - you know there's a screwdriver in the midst of all those rubber bands and paper clips and batteries and gadgets somewhere, you just can't find it amongst all the clutter.

The same holds true for kids learning science. For instance, if a child learns a little something about the earth and the moon and how the shadow of our planet can cause a lunar eclipse, that's an interesting, but random, fact.

You might also have taught your child some astronomy concepts and explained how the moon affects the ocean's tides. Perhaps your child has also learned something about gravity and the moon's gravitational pull.

But if you are using many mainstream homeschool science curricula, those facts were never pulled together to show the student how the moon is at the core of all these facts and they are interrelated.

That's why it's so difficult for many kids (and adults alike!) to make the leap between one science fact and how it impacts so many other areas of the world around us. This also makes it very hard to extract a random fact later because the child must rely on rote learning.

The Whole Science Teaching Approach

A better, more effective way to teach homeschool science is through an exponential approach. By helping kids make their own connection between subjects, they are much better equipped to draw broader conclusions. This is also a great way to encourage their natural curiosity and develop hands-on experimentation that offers exciting new discoveries in the child's mind.

The whole science homeschool teaching approach is all about extrapolation. Once your student has assimilated some core concepts they are prepared to expand that knowledge and apply it to different, everyday situations.

For instance, let's go back to that random fact about the moon's gravitational pull on earth. That's a physic concepts and that explains much about a lunar eclipse, which is a topic generally brought up in astronomy. Those same gravitational forces are at work when it comes to oceanic tide cycles, a topic that may be part of biology learning. By painting the bigger picture, a student can connect the dots between physics and astronomy and biology herself and become excited about learning more.

This approach also compartmentalizes and organizes bits of information so they can easily be retrieved at will and on demand. And it aids the homeschool science teacher, who often doesn't understand the information herself, present complex concepts and help the student come to a conclusion that need not be foregone.

When it comes to teaching a difficult subject such as science, the homeschool teacher would be wise to use a whole science approach rather than relying on a random fact methodology.

Dr. Rebecca Keller is the founder of Gravitas Publications, which produces Real Science 4 Kids homeschool science curriculum. RS4K includes student textbooks, lab workbooks and teacher's manuals on the topics of biology, chemistry, astronomy, geology and physics which makes teaching these difficult subjects easy and FUN!

Please join her and other homeschool parents on Facebook or visit the Real Science 4 Kids blog. Receive Dr. Keller's 10 Tips for Teaching Real Science by visiting either page!

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