Do NOT Teach Science (Today)

There’s a great big world out there.  And you want your kids to learn about it all!  Science!  Yay!  (Or maybe it’s “Science! Yikes!”)  How do you make sure that you’re doing all the “right stuff”?

Science Disposition

How would you describe yourself when it comes to homeschool science?  Are you …

  • Nervous about teaching science.  It never was your thing and you’re sure the kids will figure out how much you don’t know.
  • So excited to teach your kids about science but don’t know where to start or how you are going to fit it all in!
  • Used to be excited, but the kids get distracted easily and it’s a pain trying to keep their attention.
  • Used to be excited, but it takes so much time to get through the textbook and the experiments are overwhelming (or require supplies you never have on hand).

If one (or more) of the above applies to you, I think I might have just the thing to help you kick-start (or revive) your science exploration journey.  Here’s the strategy:

Don’t Teach Science (Today)

Yep.  That’s it.  Don’t open the textbook.  Don’t pull out the worksheets.  Don’t even grab the science read-aloud books.  Instead, just watch and listen.  Listen to your kids.  Watch what they look at, think about, read and explore.  Maybe keep a notepad handy and jot down their musings and wonderings.  Maybe keep a notepad handy and let them jot down things they’d like to learn more about.  Make a space on the wall for post-it notes or a sheet for scrawled learning wish-lists.

Listen to the conversation; there is science all throughout.  The taste of food.  Pouring water. Drawing realistic looking shapes on paper.  Running, jumping and doing the splits.  Light, shadows, time and measurement.  We eat, sleep and breathe science.  You’d have to work to avoid it (and I don’t think you’d succeed!)

Think about Thinking

In all the hours of free time, you will now have not teaching science (haha) think about something.  Think about how you learn and discover new things.  Think about what motivates you to study something, research something or engage with ideas.  What was the last nonfiction book or article you read?  What motivated you to read it? If I had to guess, I’d say it was a …

  • Cookbook because you needed to make dinner.
  • Homeschool book or website to help you make homeschool decisions.
  • Marriage or parenting book to support your growth in relationships.
  • Spiritual book to help you understand things you’ve been wrestling with.
  • DIY website to get tips on a project you’re working on for the home.
  • Crafting blog for new sewing or quilting patterns.
  • Industry website or publication related to your hobby or field of employment.

Do you see a common thread there?  You, as an adult, choose what to read and study based on what you are interested in knowing.  You read to gain skills to complete projects and fulfill responsibilities.  You study things that feel immediately needed or relevant.  Why would your children be any different?  Find out what is immediately relevant to them or of interest to them by listening and observing!

What to Do with the Questions

Children naturally want to know more about the world in which they live.  Your job as a parent isn’t so much to have all the answers but to facilitate and encourage the questioning.  So here’s what you do with those questions and concepts you watch your children investigating.

  • Play and explore with them.  Your first job isn’t really to supply information at all.  It is only to reinforce their natural wonder.  “Look at this cool leaf.” “Yea, and look at all these tiny lines on the back!”
  • “Seed” their environment with resources.  Lots of talk about leaves recently?  Grab a few books from the library and just leave them laying around.  Or pick up one and read it yourself.
  • Be a co-seeker of answers.  When they ask you a question, ask your phone about it.  Hop on the library catalog online and request a few books.  Look for a YouTube video.

When You Don’t Know the Answers

Maybe a textbook feels safer.  You can predict ahead of time what topics will come up and you can have all the answers prepared.  Let me let you in on two little secrets:

  1. It doesn’t work that way.  Engaging information always leads to more questions.  Questions the book doesn’t cover.  But you don’t have to be afraid of this because …
  2. You WANT your children to see you not know the answer.  Why?

We always say that we want our children to be life-long learners.  That means that we, as parents, need to practice life-long learning.  People who already know all the things do not need to be life-long learners.  The only way to model life-long learning is to let your children see you not know things and then seek to find out more.

life-long learning

In fact, studies have shown that children are more motivated to learn science if they understand that it is supposed to be a process, even a struggle.  This article talks about the importance of exposing children to stories of the challenges even famous scientists experienced in their own processes of learning and discovery.

Many high school students view scientific ability as a fixed trait that is not responsive to effort. As the researchers wrote: “When students struggle in science classes, they may misperceive their struggle as an indication that they are not good at science and will never succeed.” When students learn about how even famous scientists struggled, they began to see that learning and growing from setbacks is part of a successful professional journey.

Listen.  Co-explore.  Seek answers.  You don’t have to “teach” science.  You can live it.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t use textbooks or that there can’t be parent-directed programs of study.  It means that we don’t present “science” as a collection of facts to be memorized but as a method for exploring and understanding the world God created for us to enjoy.  Science should lead to worship!


Want to join in the fun?  Today, don’t teach science!  Then, share what you hear and observe your children exploring.


Lynna Sutherland is a homeschool mother of eight always-homeschooled kiddos ranging in age from high school to kindergarten. She loves to encourage parents in the freedom and flexibility of homeschooling and offer creative ways to manage a large family and a multi-age homeschool!

  • We spend many days outside observing nature and the world around us; I count that as science. Each hike, very inspection of a leaf, bug, animal or bird is science. The more they watch and observe the more they learn about animal behaviors, identifying insects & birds, and the cycle of nature. We often pick up books at the library to help us answer any questions that observation brings up.

    • Mother of 3, this is lovely! Thanks for sharing your experiences and practice with us!

  • Our latest ‘science lesson’ started when we wondered why the tail of a freshly boiled shrimp cooled down before the rest of it. I like your emphasis on just waiting till the kids are curious, and then diving in!

    • That sounds like a delicious science discussion! Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

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