Thursday, January 21, 2010

Struggling with Science Expectations

I wrote this post a couple months ago but didn't post it then. Further thought on the subject has not changed my mind, so here goes!

Science 3 credits
  • Biology 1 credit
  • Chemistry or Physics 1 credit
  • Plus 1 additional credit 1 credit
That is David's science requirement for graduation (class of 2013).

College expectations for high school graduation are also worthy of consideration, though basically the same: Biological & Physical Science 2 years required including 1 year of biological science and 1 year of physical science; 3 years strongly recommended. At least 1 year of a laboratory course is also strongly recommended. Biology, chemistry and physics should be taken if possible.

So, he is taking Biology this year, like a dutiful home-schooled 9th grader. But we both hate it. OK, maybe HATE is a strong word. I was all prepared to love the Apologia books, since one hears mostly wonderful things about them, but can you say "overkill", boys and girls?

It's just too much information!

I am finding the same thing with the Apologia upper level books that I found with the elementary ones. TOO MUCH DETAIL. I read some of David's Biology aloud to him and "learned" a lot about fungi. I put "learned" in quotation marks because I didn't really learn anything although I read it.

Oh so useful. Can you hear the heavy sarcasm in my voice? I have made it to 43 years of age without knowing about the classifications of fungi and I have not missed the knowledge. Why does my 14yo need to know it? He's not going to be a biologist or a doctor and, as I said, he has ZERO interest in life science.

Of course students need a basic grounding, but this level of detail seems unnecessary to me. If I ever "learned" it, it didn't stick. To be totally fair, I looked at a secular publisher's biology book online and compared it to the Apologia chapter on biology and the information is very similar in depth and scope. So, it isn't just Apologia, but science textbooks in general?

Isn't that one of the reasons I chose to teach my children at home? So they don't have to do exactly what the schooled kids are doing? Why should we use a boring text if we don't find it interesting or effective? What if I can motivate him to learn Biology better in another way?

I was actually thinking about just setting these books aside and doing some "delight-directed" science learning instead.


I have not stopped thinking about it. I am very seriously considering changing curricula, although not replacing the books with anything specific. I just don't find the "read-a-boring-chapter-and-then-answer-nitpicky-questions-and-then-take-a-long-test" method of education very effective.

David probably will go into engineering or computers in some way. Therefore science (Physics especially) is of importance to him. NOT Life Science though. He is utterly uninterested in Biology.

OK, so what I've chosen to do is find some interactive activities online to replace some of the boring text. I've found several already for Module 5. The experiments are, of course, interesting to him - at least for the most part. So, we'll keep those. And I will require a learning journal.

But the process of 1 - read a chapter, 2 - answer questions, 3 - take a test usually leads to 4 - forget the bulk of the info to make room for the new info. I'd prefer my kids to glean some principles that they actually retain. Hopefully this will work.


MICHELE said...

I completely agree.
I don't ever remember learning the Kingdom, Phylum, etc. stuff... and I've made it a long time w/out knowing it.

My problem is... I like learning quirky facts about things... not the dry facts and drill and kill method.

I hope you figure something out.. because a lot of us look up to you and your advice...


Wee Pip said...

Yes, (echoing what Mich said) we are waiting eagerly for you to figure it out! LOL. I can tell you when I was 15 that my textbook based sci class involved a lot of skimming the dry text, drawing my own rendition of the picture on pg 153, and a sci lab (dissection). My own delight-directed science involved spending a day-dreamy hour in the library, waltzing up and down the rows of books, and bringing out a non-fic book occasionally while saying, "hmm, this looks interesting". I learned a ton this way, but don't remember much from the textbook sci way. Now, for my own children? We'll see! I haven't seen a whole lot of "delight driven" yet, but maybe I should give it some time. Sci does not happen here, though; I neglect it terribly!

Christy said...

But do you really think you can do a better job than Mr. Perry? Boy that man could really "teach". :)