Teaching Science When You’re a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl

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In The Book Thief, Markus Zusak describes words as “clouds, waiting to be held and wrung out like rain.”

Teaching Science When You're a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl - Tips for a living books kind of science program

Zusak is right. When dropped gently–like summer-day raindrops–or strung together painstakingly, on tip-toe, the perfect combination of words rumble through one moment of our life and never leave.

But did you notice what Zusak did with his allegory? Much to my joy–since I’m a language-arts-kinda girl who feels inadequate teaching science to my homeschooled daughters–Zusak combined natural-science and language arts beautifully.

{{ Thoughts of test tubes and dissections looming in my future unnerved me. }}

When I embarked on my homeschool journey, thoughts of test tubes and dissections looming in my future unnerved me. That and fears that my daughters would never attend prom or have a proper graduation day.

Mind you they were still wearing pull ups and diapers, but there I was haunted with thoughts of my daughters being denied expensive, gaudy prom dresses and tassle-bedecked cardboard hats. Turns out the two who peddled a tricycle and bounced in a baby seat when I succumbed to those terrors are now studying mechanical engineering and applying to marine biology schools. (And both had plenty of opportunities to go to prom, and could have worn awkward graduation hats, but neither wanted to.)

So how did little-ole-language-arts me raise daughters to be saturated in a love of science? I simply recognized things in science that mesmerized them and I encouraged them to learn more about those topics. I think Rev. Alfred McBride explained it well. I don’t know a thing about Rev. McBride, but after reading his quote last week, I’m thinking he would have made a great science teacher… He said “The gift of wonder God gave us as children was meant to be kept alive.”

Teaching Science When You're a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl - Tips for a living books kind of science program

So how does a language-arts-kinda homeschool momma manage that? The short answer? By God’s grace. The long answer? By God’s unbounded, daily grace that He pours into this inept momma’s ridiculous, worry-laden attempts at teaching science.

Oh, and I fill their science hours with great books.

{{ Science, just like almost anything in life, should revolve around a good book, or two, or three. }}

I delved into the natural science sections at our library, finding gems on subjects my daughters were currently interested in. Butterflies. Sharks. Wildflowers. Tornadoes. Charlotte Mason calls them “living books”—books that “warm the imagination,… and nurture thinking.” Markus Zusak would say they were books with words that, like clouds, are waiting to be held and wrung out.

Yes, you can teach science with living books. After all, science, like almost anything in life, should revolve around a good book, or two, or three, or a bookshelf full of them. I remember countless living books of my childhood. Books that I cherished. Books that became a part of me. I don’t remember one single textbook. Not one. Find books they love to get lost in, about topics they can’t get enough of. Add hands-on learning, and you will have subjected your kids to the best science curriculum ever–one tailored for them.

Based on a decade and a half of science lesson plans pulled together by an inept language-arts-kinda momma, here are six ways my daughters and I love “doing” science…

Teaching Science When You're a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl - Tips for a living books kind of science program

1. Curl up with fascinating books.

Surely, there are wonderful books written about whatever natural science topic they’re interested in. Books that are waiting to be held and wrung out for every juicy fact that your child is longing to know.

2. Investigate your own backyard.

Welcome all opportunities to dig into a nature ID book with your children to learn about anything their inquisitive minds discover outside, from flowers to amphibians to dragonflies. Help them make their own ID book all about their own backyard. (Peruse this post of mine to see my family’s treasured decade-long project of Our Backyard Book and for a complete list of the natural science books my family owns and loves.)

Teaching Science When You're a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl - Tips for a living books kind of science program

3. Learn how to cook with something that grows.

With something in hand that grows right in your own neighborhood (or that can be discovered on your favorite grocery story produce aisle), delve into wonderful heirloom cookbooks and see if you can even make syrup or pie from flowers or seeds that grow in your little corner of the world.

Teaching Science When You're a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl - Tips for a living books kind of science program

4. Consider FIRST robotics.

Yes. (Cough. Gasp.) I’ve coached many robotics teams over the years. (Here’s insight from one team.) Yes, it’s crazy-hard work. Yes, it meant some weeks we never cracked open a science book the entire week… we were too busy doing science. But no, I have no idea how to actually program a robot. The kids figured that out for themselves. So how could I help the robotics teams? There’s research work. There’s brochure writing. There are drama presentations. And every speech, brochure, or presentation reinforced all they were learning from their scientific research. Imagine that–combining language arts and robotics!

5. Work with animals.

On our homestead, there is always a new animal, or two, or a dozen of them, who make us want to find a good book to teach us more about their needs, habits, and quirks.

Teaching Science When You're a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl - Tips for a living books kind of science program

Teaching Science When You're a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl - Tips for a living books kind of science program

But just training a dog a new trick is an amazing learning experience for the child as well as the pooch (and, for our family, that always involves reading).

6. Grow something!

We gave my daughters their own field. They turned it over, fenced it in (do you like their free pallet fence?), and tend to every day under a crystal blue sky.

Teaching Science When You're a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl - Tips for a living books kind of science program

But all you really need is one plant, one flower pot, and one eager gardener (and maybe a great picture book for inspiration). And there’s no better way to learn about sepals and stamen and ovaries developing into ripe fruit than to witness it, patiently, from seeds you planted yourself.


Teaching Science When You're a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl - Tips for a living books kind of science program

Teaching Science When You're a Language-Arts-Kinda Girl - Tips for a living books kind of science program

{{ He reminds me daily that I am just a jar of clay. }}

Through it all–facing my fears of teaching science as a language-arts-kinda girl–I bravely combine the two, not unlike Zusak, with his allegory. Through it all–going on 16 years now of teaching science and knowing I am totally inadequate for this job God has given me–I rest deeply in the knowledge that indeed this is exactly where God wants me. Through it all, He reminds me daily that I am just a jar of clay, worthless and incapable on my own, but oh-so-beautiful and purposeful when I am a useful vessel in His service.

Let Him illuminate your school planning.

Ask Him to provide where you lack.

Place your children’s education in His all-capable hands.

And watch how He uses your interests and abilities, which He gave you, to do exactly what He’s called you to do when teaching your children. Even if it seems so unnerving that it includes test tubes and dissections.

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” (Mother Teresa)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 

Michelle from SoulyRested

Michelle is a wife to her high school sweetheart, mom to four girls whom she’s been privileged to homeschool for 15 years, ardent fan of Toblerone, freelance editor, professional storyteller, dog lover, and robotics coach who doesn’t know how to program. She’s blessed to live in a New England home that was built in 1800 and situated by a mountain lake that bubbles into a sun-kissed river that flows along 14 wooded acres. The floorboards creak, the barn roof sags, the lights and water are not always guaranteed to work, the land is rocky and unforgiving, and yet it is perfect. Because it is where God has placed her family. Follow her musings as a newbie homesteader and veteran homeschool mom at SoulyRested.wordpress.com, on Pinterest, and enjoy a daily glance into life on a rocky, critter-packed New England homeschooling homestead on the SoulyRested Facebook page.


This post is a part of the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop with The Schoolhouse Review Crew and Homeschool Blogging Connection. We’re bringing you a week full of back to school encouragement. We have 56 homeschool mom’s sharing their combined wisdom and insights covering everything homeschool related. That’s 280 posts of encouragement and information just for you! Come check them out

Back to Homeschool: Encouragement and Tips for YOU!

 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I love the article – I believe in keeping the God given imagination alive…I like how you entwined art and science together.
    Although I am a single mother whose children are not home schooled – I try to supplement their learning with some of the great ideas the home school community uses, lets face it – all of us cant stay home, some of us have to pay the taxes and house payments – and while I cannot be homeschooling my children – I love the ideas – keep them coming!

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