How to Use Homeschooling to Encourage Science
An adult who grew up homeschooled shares the best ways Christian homeschooling parents today can foster a love for God, science, and curiosity in their children.
I was homeschooled from grades 2 to 12. As an active member of the homeschool world, there was a lot I learned about the reasons why people choose homeschooling over public or private school. Some of those reasons include things like the freedom to choose your own schedule, interests, learning pace, and faith-centered curriculum. Homeschooling also allows for a more personalized instruction. Thanks to growing homeschooling cooperative programs, students can learn from each other and other parents who have interest or training in a specialized area. Homeschoolers are in a wonderful position to make the most of their education. Here is what can happen when homeschool families use the discussion on science and faith to their advantage.
Use the Freedom of Homeschooling
As a homeschool family, you are not bound to a specific schedule, curriculum, or pacing of other traditional forms of education. Homeschooling affords you the freedom to explore a wide variety of subjects, at your own pace and on your own time.
Use that freedom to fan the flame of curiosity. As a homeschool student, I was given the freedom to study nature with curiosity. Asking questions was just as important as finding answers. I would frequently take walks in nature and bring home “specimens” of leaves and insects. Once as an eight year old, I saved a couple of my baby teeth and subjected them to the light of my microscope and “chemical testing” from my junior chemistry set. Everything I learned spurred me on to further exploration. Discovery fueled my curiosity.
All good science begins with curiosity. Noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said in a recent interview that kids are born naturally curious, but parents and our current public education system can sometimes unwittingly squelch that curiosity. When kids play and make messes, they are experimenting with their environment. When they disassemble furniture or toys, they are investigating how things are made. When we discourage such behavior, we do more than bring “corrective” action; we also discourage their curiosity. We subtly teach them that being curious is “bad,” or at the very least, not acceptable.
Encouraging curiosity can give kids a major advantage in learning. More important than finding answers, it can teach them to ask good questions. This is so important because our kids are the next generation of scientists. If they are going to explore new worlds, develop new medical treatments, or better understand the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, we need our kids to know how to ask good questions. Encouraging their curiosity helps them to do that.
Encourage Your Kids to Pursue a Career in the Sciences
If you are homeschooling older students (middle school or high school), why not take field trips that will encourage them to pursue careers in the sciences? Local natural science centers offer a wide exposure to various fields of science. The one I went to as a homeschool student gave kids hands-on learning experiences in everything from botany and entomology to organic chemistry and astronomy.
Local resources like natural science centers and museums give your kids positive interactions with nature and the professionals who investigate it.
Let your kids talk to someone who works in the sciences. Help them think about what a career in the sciences mean, and what it would look like. A biology professor I had in college used to let high school students shadow her for a day. They would attend her meetings, lectures, and even help her in the lab. She eventually asked me if I would be interested in being her lab assistant. She let me prepare and present several lab lectures to “get a feel” of what it would be like to teach biology. I would frequently poke my head into her lab while she was running experiments just see what she was doing and get a picture of what the work of a scientist was really like. Of course, exploring nature and the natural sciences isn’t all field work. There is a good bit of reading that can be done as well.
Be a Good Reader
On rainy days, when exploring outside wasn’t an option, I took advantage of my local library. As a kid, I read age-appropriate biographies of scientists like Gregor Mendel. Mendel was a clergyman who is considered the father of modern genetics. Through his use of plants that he had at his disposal, he created a new approach to heredity. I learned from him that there were pieces of nature at my fingertips that I could use and enjoy. And more than this, he showed me that the Church and the Christian faith were not inherently opposed to each other. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries we owe to women and men of strong Christian faith. Reading about such amazing people strengthened both my faith and my scientific curiosity.
Reading books from various viewpoints is also important. By reading authors whose viewpoint I disagreed with, I was able to understand that what other people think. This helped correct any misperceptions I had about their viewpoint, and it also helped me better understand and articulate my own view. A good education comes from wide reading. But it isn’t enough only to read. Discussions also play an important role.
Talk About Science and Faith with Other Homeschool Families
Dana is a friend who homeschools 3 boys. One day while searching for information and resources about science and faith to share with her homeschool science co-op class, she stumbled upon a couple of my posts here on BioLogos. She used those resources to talk with her students about science and faith in an age appropriate way. After talking with her, she made me realize how important the work of BioLogos is in reaching all generations of people. And how important it is for homeschoolers to support one another by sharing good resources.
Whether you are a student, pastor, teacher, or parent, you have an opportunity to help all ages of people see the harmony between science and biblical faith through an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation. Homeschoolers are in a unique position to help each other embrace the harmony of science and faith.
Another great resource is the INTEGRATE curriculum from BioLogos. It is a flexible teacher’s resource for exploring biology from a Christian perspective and presents a positive science-faith paradigm for students. By emphasizing Christian virtues such as wonder, humility, and wisdom, and by addressing common questions related to evolution, creation care, and bioethics, INTEGRATE helps young people develop a deeper love and stronger understanding of God’s world.
As Christians, we don’t always have to agree with each other. The important thing for Christians is to remember these famous words, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” A person’s view on creation (evolutionary creationism, young earth creationism, intelligent design, etc.) is not an essential issue. Uniformity of belief is not necessary on this issue, but charity is. We must be loving toward others when we discuss the issues of creation.
As a homeschool graduate, I had so many advantages to grow in my faith and understanding of nature. My only regret is that I wish I could have shared more of these advantages with other homeschoolers. So, share your beliefs with others! Share the resources you have for exploring God’s creation with others! Read widely, and challenge others to grow in knowledge of nature and other viewpoints. In so doing, you will help others to appreciate God’s creation, and may lead them to worship the Creator.
The description of the BioLogos INTEGRATE curriculum was modified on October 20, 2020.
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At BioLogos, “gracious dialogue” means demonstrating the grace of Christ as we dialogue together about the tough issues of science and faith.
About the author
Mario A. Russo
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