Science is such an amazing cross-curricular subject, it promotes so much natural curiosity, with children asking questions, testing their ideas and pushing boundaries.
So how can you help your child with science whilst homeschooling? There are always lots of different ways of exploring the sciences that will suit the different styles of homeschooling. There are many different curriculums to deliver science if you take a more formal approach or you can use a more organic, child-led route. We are going to explore the latter but all of them cover the content of the National Curriculum anyway.
Before we look at examples of real-life science across the three areas of science (biology, physics, chemistry) it’s useful to consider the concept of science – about raising questions that lead to an inquiry that is based on a hypothesis, making predictions that make use of evidence/patterns or relationships and then comes the planning and carrying out an investigation to test your prediction. For older children, this aspect will focus on the use of appropriate standards of measurement for the task at hand and recording accurately.
During experiments children are taking observations, identifying differences and similarities in what is happening, they often do these through a variety of senses. They will also be communicating these ideas, this may come through writing or speech, keeping notes, graphs, tables and charts. As they get older they will be more able to order events and consider how to present this information but during the younger age phase this is often verbal and an adult may wish to scribe for them to help them present their ideas and model this. When children are able, using video and slide shows to formulate their findings can be much more appealing than writing things down in an exercise book.
If children are forced to follow a curriculum they may ask, ‘why am I doing this?’.
They are wondering and trying to work out if this is relevant to them. Sometimes this needs more explanation as to how it relates to them, maybe it will help them in their future career, it may help them understand the changes their body may go through. Addressing relevancy and then providing contextual learning can create a much more meaningful learning experience for your child and it sticks in their brain. For example, Tony Stark (Iron Man) when he smashed nuclei to make his suit lighter, he created a new type of atom that was lighter and heatproof, scientists are trying this kind of thing today and so this makes it more relevant to children.
You can introduce relevancy by using what I like to call ‘a hook’ (something that might spark interest and create some debate) like:
- Is global warming real?
- What kind of bird laid this egg?
- What do plants need to grow?
- Do small seeds grow into small plants?
You can then use visuals like documentaries, books, films, and the news to research and engage them further.
Some of these kinds of questions or problems may take a more project approach rather than a single science lesson. Such as:
- Can robots take the place of humans?
- How is Artificial Intelligence used?
- Is there already a cure for cancer?
- Do plants need soil to grow?
- How can we clean dirty water?
- You have landed on a desert island. You have caught some fish and you found what seems to be the last coconut. You would like some salt to put on your fish and want to conserve the coconut. How are you going to do it?
- Have you ever wondered why kids like making slime and want to mix all the contents of your cupboard? They are doing early chemistry. Some good things to explore are mixing bicarbonate and vinegar, a drop of red food dye and you have a volcano!
- Kids generally love cooking, this is very much chemistry, when you heat or cool things what happens? Baking with yeast is a good one to look at things changing shape.
- Exploring and creating crystals, if you are close to a mine, going and seeing what is below the ground. You can also explore everyday crystals like salt or sugar.
- If you have a periodic table printed it is nice to highlight the everyday elements you are using and where they are on the table.
- Life cycles of plants and animals, frogspawn is amazing as you can see it change before your eyes but there are other ways of achieving this such as following people online who have pets that are pregnant if you don’t have a pet. Plants, growing from seeds is quick and easy, great to explore what makes them grow (experiment with putting some in a cold or dark place and see what happens, what do they need to thrive) and the human life cycle is always amazing if you know someone who is having a baby
- A perfect chance to learn about our body is as we and our family/friends grow and even minor (or major) injuries this gives us a perfect chance to explore how the various parts of our body work
- Identifying different plants, trees via their leaves
- Looking for footprints in the mud to identify animals
- Caring for animals, if you haven’t got a pet, visits to zoos or farms can be brilliant, schemes like Borrow My Doggy are also great opportunities.
- Exploring how herbs and plants can have medicinal properties
- Foraging for wild plants you can eat
- Keeping growing diaries, plants you grow, animals or babies growing
- Toys/cars that involve pushing, pulling, what happens if you pull or push on different surfaces at different heights
- Parachute a lightweight toy person, make parachutes from different materials, drop from different heights, which drop fastest, why (gravity and forces)
- Heating solids to become liquids and liquids then cooling to become solids (salt added to hot water dissolves but then heated water evaporates and you are left with salt)
- Go to the park, explore the equipment, spinning, sliding, swinging
- Look through prisms, create your own
- Connect with the cycles of the moon, look at it during the day and night and the rotation of Earth, what is happing on the other side of the world right now
- Look at where the sun is during the day and how it moves, make a sundial, compare this throughout the year, explore how people used to use a sundial
- Follow the seasons and explore how the weather changes in our country but also in others
- Name the stars, some apps allow you to hold a phone to the sky and identify the stars
- Much of the equipment you need will be within your house or on your phone such as; a stopwatch, ruler, measuring jugs, materials, cooking ingredients
- Microscopes, don’t have to be expensive, a digital one is useful as you can then you can take photos and create slide shows or videos to show what you have found.
- Wherever you can visit museums, many of the science museums around the world are free, don’t forget to ask if they do a homeschool discount if not.
- Make sure children have access to books that cover all three aspects of science and scientists themselves (Marie Curie or Dmitri Mendeleev, Charles Darwin or Jane Goodall, Issac Newton, Albert Einstein, or Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin).
- Here is a very small list of TV shows that cover the sciences Cosmos, Magic School, Operation Ouch (human body), Wild Kratts (biology/zoology/ecology),
- Access to documentaries and films by David Attenborough, Brian Cox, etc
- Youtube PhysicsGirl, Veritasium, and MinutePhysics
Website with resources
Brian Cox school experiments
Do try this at home (physics)
Oak National Academy (free primary & secondary science curriculum)
Engineering challenges to try at home (Dyson)
Explorify (free primary science curriculum resources)
Science fun at home (primary science trust)
You and AI (artificial intelligence)