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Cleaning Out The Science Closets

© Teresa

I don't know about you but when I start a new year I like to clean out corners and closets and clutter and rearrange the furniture and pictures. I like a different start, a new perspective and this change in my surroundings gives me motivation and a lift to help me see things in a new way. Also, living with hurricanes taught me that I needed to live ready to pick up and go at any time and so I learned to live lean and constantly keep the clutter and unnecessary stuff, cleaned out. While it's nice to not live in a hurricane zone anymore, old habits die hard. As I was cleaning and rearranging, I started thinking that I wish I could come to all of your homes and help you with a new attitude in science. That new beginnings should bring a time to clean out your science closet! I know, you hate it, it's boring, or scary or there's such other fun things that you could be doing. But you also know how much better you're going to feel when we finish, right?

So let's begin with the guilty closet.

I know what you keep here. You feel bad that you always feel so excited about all the other subjects, you really get into it and make cool notebooks and lap books. You have maps on the wall and you do cool activities with math. You always talk about the cool literature you're reading and you can't wait to get to this unit on pirates. You make posters and cut out stuff, you brag and go on and on. But, when it comes to science, you buy whatever you need, last. You buy another curriculum that you hope will solve all the problems and you do the bare minimum. The kids read and answer questions. You buy the occasional experiment and do it but sometimes it fails and you don't know why. Oops! I think I see the corner where you sometimes even skip science or didn't even do it this year. Wow, that's a dirty dark box. I think it needs to go in the trash. And you can send the failed experiment to the thrift store. You want to keep the curriculum? Okay, what are you going to do with it? The thing to keep in mind is that you are not the only one. As a science advisor, you wouldn't believe the huge numbers of people I get writing me telling me these little secrets. Each of you thinks you're the only one in this huge crowd of homeschoolers who just don't like to teach science and who feel guilty about the job they're doing with it. If it were just you, I wouldn't have a web site that's growing by leaps and bounds and there would be no need for me to travel and speak or even be writing this article. So maybe the entire guilt thing can be thrown in the trash now.

How do we get rid of guilt? There's several things do be done to eliminate it.

First- we forgive ourselves, realize we are in good company and let the light shine on this problem. I address this in my audio CD on the fear of science, but you are not the problem. The field of science has helped to create this mystique about science and has perpetuated this elitist attitude. So you came by this honestly.

Second-We find a way to change our old behaviors about science so that we know we are taking action. This action will resolve a lot of guilt. And lastly we address the next issue.

The closet of perfection

OOH, don't cha just love this closet? This thing is so full sometimes the door won't even shut. No, don't be afraid, we're going to do this, let it all fall out, we'll clean it up. The tendency in teaching any subject is to do a bang up job. The tendency in parenting is to do our very best and when we fail, snap our kids, forget to bathe them, skip teaching today, we think we've somehow failed and then the guilt closet gets more junk piled in it. So when it comes to science, this whole perfection thing can really do a number on you. I mean, if you can't be perfect in the things you feel proficient with, I can't imagine how bad you must feel about this.

But the real problem I see, are really misguided beliefs about how other people do science. You should know something. As a science teacher, many times my experiments failed. They will always do this. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. But that's not failure. The whole purpose of an experiment is to see what kind of result you will get. NOT to get a certain result.

The other perfectionist attitude I see about science is that you have to teach it all, and do it thoroughly. When I help other people with a topic, and stop and say that's all, they question me about more detail. When I explain that that's all that's really important to cover at this point they are surprised and tell me that they thought they had to teach it all and be thorough. I gave them permission to slow down and teach a little at a time. You don't have to be super teacher and the kids really don't want that. For instance, when it comes to putting a periodic table on the wall, very early I hear parents say they can't do that because they don't know all the details about the table or how it works and how to teach it. I have to remind them that they don't have to. Just point out items on it and talk about nickel, or talk about helium in a balloon.

When you teach math, you don't sweat it when you show them how to add, and worry that you didn't teach them about the square root table, right? I mean, sometimes my kids ask me a science question and I just say, I'll explain it later. Sometimes I just don't want to go into it, you know? Sometimes, I don't remember or I find it hard to find a way to explain it on a level they can understand so I want to think about it first.

I hear that! A sigh of relief! Good for you. I think I see this closet emptying out finally. Please don't go and put more junk in here as soon as I leave okay? What? You don't have a periodic table on the wall? Oh no, you can't go back to the guilt closet again. We just cleaned that out. Just get a periodic table and we'll take baby steps with it okay? See? No problem. Yes, I'll help you with it at the end of the article.

The Closet of Fear . fear .fear. fear . fear

Stop begging, we're opening it. No, I won't be surprised. I won't judge you. No, I won't laugh. Stop it, already. Move away from the door, you're being silly. I already know what's in here, anyway, it looks just like everybody else's, honest. Fine, I'll tell you what it looks like. When you were a kid in school, you had this teacher and they were not very kind. And you had this experience with science and you felt so stupid and like the only kid in the class that couldn't get it. Everyone seemed excited and all you could feel was stupid. Or you saw all those numbers and letters and diagrams and immediately you knew that this was NOT something you could do. . I know. Can we open it now?

Whew, thank you. Okay, this really isn't so bad. And we can easily just throw all this stuff away. No, you're not going to do anything with it. What are you going to do with the idea that science is just hard? Spray paint it? Well that will just look dumb and no body will buy it. Please just throw it away, you don't have time to do anything with it anyway, right? Okay, good. Done.

So here's the deal. That fear, it was put in a brain of a child who was intimidated easily. As we grow and become stronger, for some reason, we never go back and update the database on our past. The you that was afraid then is not the same you or the same brain that you own now. Can we all just admit that one fact? No, stop, you can't pull it back out of the trash. I thought you said we could throw it away? I guess all I can do is prove it to you. Get it out, fine. Hang it on the wall, but watch, you'll be taking it down and throwing it away. Here's the proof. You can do any one of several things at this point. I have a workshop on how to teach science. You can sign up for that and after you finish, I promise you'll take that fear off the wall and throw it in the trash. Or you could sign up for the elements of the periodic table newsletter. Once you get started on those, I bet you take it down. Or better yet, you could get my audio CD on the fear of science. One listen and you take the entire contents of your fear closet and out it will go!

Now then. How does it feel? Geeze, all that empty closet space. What will you do with it? Oh, I have a great idea! I say you fill them with boxes of things the kids have made. And you could put lots of memories of science experiments on the shelves to pull out and show the grandkids! You could put rock collections, elements collections and lab reports in there! And don't forget all the trips to science museums, photos of nature walks and trips to rivers and lakes! Wow, so much to do and so little time before they're grown. Better get busy!

We'll have to do this again sometime. But this time, you come to my house. I live at www.HowToTeachScience.com . See you then!

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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