High school is the time to assess what the future holds for our children and to determine how in depth or serious their study of science should be.
Teaching Tips for the Upper Grades
•Be realistic. Use the elementary grades to study plants, animals, minerals, heat, sound, light, electricity, magnetism, and machines firsthand and spend as much time outdoors as possible. Save the laboratory and serious study for high school. By eighth or ninth grade you should know your child’s scientific inclination. If he or she shows a natural bent towards science or plans a career requiring a great deal of science, high school is the time for more serious study and independent research projects, possibly in conjunction with a local continuing education program. If science is not in your child’s future, find out your state’s (or the future college’s) “bare minimum” science requirements and focus on covering those skills and concepts.
•Be sensitive to what your children’s desires really mean. A child may repeatedly express a desire to become a doctor, or nurse, or veterinarian, or engineer, or another profession requiring a lot of science. Examine these desires closely.
We know a child who has wanted to be a veterinarian ever since he was very young. So, of course, the parents arranged for the child to help at a veterinarian’s office, to visit the Veterinary School’s open houses, and to spend time doing things related to becoming a veterinarian. After a long period of “feeding the interest,” the parents realized that this child doesn’t really want to become a veterinarian. He loves horses and thought if he became a veterinarian he would spend a lot of time with horses.
Sometimes children express a desire for a certain career because of a misconception of what that career will involve or because that is the only profession they have ever heard of that includes some of what they would like to do.
•Find help for your weak areas. If you feel insecure teaching high school science, find people willing to either tutor your child or help you over the rough spots. Our former church was filled with retired scientists from the atomic energy laboratories at Oak Ridge, TN. Sometimes they helped one-on-one and other times they taught groups of home schoolers once a week, giving assignments to be done at home. Another option for parents who find science instruction intimidating is to rent the video science courses from Abeka or School of Tomorrow.
•Don’t worry about leaving “gaps.” Fear of leaving educational “gaps” is what usually drives parents of teenagers to prepackaged curricula or drives them to send their children to public school. However, most states only require two high school science courses for graduation, and the requirements usually don’t specify exactly which sciences have to be taken. This means that no matter what your child takes, there will be gaps. If he takes earth science and biology, there will be chemistry and physics gaps. If he takes biology and chemistry, there will be earth science and physics gaps.
Unless your child takes every science course imaginable in high school, there will be gaps. So feel free to forget about gaps and focus on those science courses you think will be most helpful to your child. Usually the best two science courses to cover in high school are Biology and Chemistry.
If you are worried about whether your child will score well enough on the ACT or SAT to be accepted by a college, invest in some guides to these tests and find out exactly the science concepts covered. Another idea is to buy a guide to the Advanced Placement Test in Biology (or the CLEP test in Biology) and gear your high school biology course to the test. That way your child may be able to do well on the AP or CLEP test and exempt college biology courses.
•Don’t be intimidated by lab sciences. A major fear in the hearts of teaching parents is that they will have to teach labs in biology, chemistry, physics, and who knows what else.
This is not true. Generally only one of the sciences required for high school graduation is a lab science.
If there are no restrictions in your state as to what that lab science must be, you can substitute many things for lab science. For example, study electronics and have the child wire a lamp (or a shed). If you have a microscope, study microbiology. For Botany lab, collect, press, and catalog plants. Plastic models of humans or animals can take the place of dissecting, or you can purchase dissecting kits to accompany anatomy study. There is even an on-line virtual frog dissection. The The Everyday Science Sourcebook suggests experiments using common materials for any scientific concept you happen to study.
Other good labs would be to help a veterinarian or a midwife for a semester, or take a CPR or First Aid course. Since the whole point of laboratory study is to reinforce the scientific concepts being learned and to allow the student to participate in the Scientific Method and learn to record data in a scientific way, you can devise your own labs to accomplish these purposes.
•Give the child more responsibility. We attended a conference where, during a question and answer session, a man shared his frustration with a teenaged son who hated school. David Colfax, the main speaker, told the parent to consider having his son build a room addition to the house. We were astounded at this answer, but saw the great wisdom in it. If the boy really did build a room addition, he would learn math, electronics, building skills, thinking skills, financial skills, and who knows what else, plus he would have acquired valuable building experience.
The high school years can be a time for practical application of many scientific concepts, such as keeping a garden, raising livestock, building and wiring a storage building, and so on.