Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Science the School Way

This evening was devoted to helping Sean study for an Earth Science chapter exam — he didn’t do too great on the first one so I wanted to demonstrate the process of studying a textbook — something he doesn’t know much about. He is having the easiest time in Language Arts, the class I was most worried about, and having more trouble with science, because of the memorization required. By chance, while I was pondering his problem during this day, I was sorting through old papers and found this very good article by Cafi Cohen:

Older Kids — Learning and Doing Science

Classroom science instructors and textbook publishers - purveyors of traditional science instruction - focus on the first definition, the “body of facts” and “systematic knowledge” and “general laws.” The result? Students taking biology read the text, complete worksheets, bumble through “experiments” (which, sadly, have but One Right Answer), and take exams to demonstrate that they can differentiate porifera from coelenterates. Classroom science, despite the efforts of some outstanding teachers, rewards memorization and regurgitation. Answers are prized; questions are discouraged. We all know the drill. And we all know that traditional instruction is more likely to discourage rather than encourage interest in science

I suspect Sean would agree. He didn’t look too thrilled with science as he reassembled his backpack in preparation for tomorrow. I can see some benefits to learning to master a body of knowledge by sheer memorization. But it isn’t how we’ve done it up till now. However, now is the time for him to learn how to cope with this method of assimilation, because he will need it in order to do decently in the course. We sat down with him and showed him how to use the end of chapter summary and the teacher’s Reading Guide to quiz himself. Then both Kevin and I tried to explain our understanding of basic chemistry (which this chapter covered). Then we did a sort of interactive summary. Kevin told him he should quickly scan through the notes the next day before the class to refresh his memory. Sean dragged himself off to bed with a headache. Anyway, we shall have to have a more regular study plan.

There are more science in the homeschool articles at HEM.

This blog seems to be a lot about school, not homeschool, recently. But that’s because of the inevitable compare and contrast transition going on.