by Chuck and Pam Geib
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy work (Psalm 19:1 KJV)
What is science? Science is observation. That means we must take the time to observe our environment around us. We can formulate questions or a hypothesis and then we can set about to prove that question by experimentation. The experiment must be repeated many times to verify the results are not just random but that they are always the same. Then we can call the conclusion provable science.
Many fine Christian curriculums are available to assist us with the making up of the right questions and how to go about and prove the results. For instance, Good Science by Institute of Creation Research has this approach and also the Backyard Scientist series. Not only will you and your children learn to observe, but you will also have a great deal of fun planning out and implementing the experiments (they often use items readily available in your home).
Another wonderful way to observe is to take walks with your children to observe God’s magnificent creation. Now these walks can be as simple as taking them down the street of your neighborhood or you may actually drive to a more rural location such as a farm or a large regional park.
One of Charlotte Mason’s approaches to home education is implemented on these walks: A Nature Journal. Your journals can be a little paper cover with some computer paper stapled inside (for all of us who have computer paper left over and no use for it). Another nice journal is the composition booklets you can buy at a stationary outlet type store (they usually come lined but sometimes you can find them unlined-the lines won’t hurt). Or you might pick up a nice hard bound journal from a large book store chain (they have them on sale every now and then, and you can pick them up relatively inexpensively).
Now be sure to have a journal for yourself as well. As you walk you might stop and all draw a pretty flower you see. Your little boy may find an unusual bug that you all enjoy sketching. Your drawings may be nothing more than stick people to begin with but those who draw often tell me you will improve as time goes on. If you know what you are drawing then by all means label it. Soon your children will be asking when their next nature walk will happen. It will be a happy, sunny part of your science curriculum.
There will be times when you do not know what you are drawing. Say you find a leaf to a tree you just know nothing about. You can sketch the leaf by putting it under your page and turning your pencil sideways and rubbing it over the leaf. This will give you an accurate impression of the original leaf. Now the fun begins. You have a mission to search out and find what that leaf belongs to. What is the name of the tree? What is the nature of the tree? Where does it come from originally? Does it lose its leaves in the fall or keep them all year and shed them here and there?
To investigate you may have some resources in your home already. Encyclopedias often have colored sections of trees and their leaves. When visiting large discount stores I have often found nice hard bound editions of field guide books about animals, trees, plants, or bugs.
Picking them up as part of my grocery budget often affords me another tool for discovering what that leaf might be. Christian Book Distributors sells field guides and usually at a discounted price. Also when you visit California State Park’s information stations, they sell nice books about the flora and fauna of their state. They are great resources.
A trip to the library is always an inexpensive and fun way of foraging for information. It can be a good learning tool for your children as well. Teach them to find the information and watch with them as they find out all the wonderful information you may want them to learn. Most California libraries now have computers that makes this a pretty easy thing to do. But also teach them about the Dewey Decimal system so they learn how to do it for themselves when the computers are busy.
A third source for observing the world around you is the providential approach. Perhaps you are never going to be a great experimenter or nature walker. Just observing what God brings to your home will open up avenues of discussion and research. For instance, one year a tiny green worm was found inching its way up our window sill. I ignored it hoping it would go back where it came from. Later that day when I determined to deal with it, it had made itself into a cocoon. We watched daily in anticipation of the butterfly or moth it might become and sure enough a couple of weeks later it became a pretty green butterfly.
Another time we saw a little humming bird build her nest in the tree outside our front door. We could watch her with the door slightly ajar and stand in awe of a quiet and peaceful mother who sat on her eggs for days on end. What a contrast to the humming birds who flitted about our garden.
Soon she was coming and going and we surmised the babies had hatched. Soon we could see little bills over the top of the tea cup sized nest. Finally, two little heads. Unfortunately, only one baby made it. We read where two babies are usually born and often times only one makes it. When he finally flew out of his mother’s nest our children felt they had raised him themselves.
Science is observation. We just need to open our eyes to God’s rich and varied creation and teach our children to do the same.
©Copyright 1999 Chuck and Pam Geib.Used by permission of the authors. Originally published in Parent Educator News, October/November 1999.
Chuck and Pam Geib have been involved in home education since 1985. First they were involved by homeschooling their two youngest sons. They also served on many home education leadership boards throughout California. They are now grandparents to seven spectacular grandchildren whose parents are homeschooling them. Chuck and Pam are always honored to speak to groups and/or individuals when requested. Currently they serve on CHEA’s Regional Advisory Board.