Science is a subject that many homeschoolers are afraid to touch. But it
shouldn’t be! This week on Homeschool Heartbeat, author and scientist
Paige Hudson debunks some common myths about homeschool science and shows how you can
effectively and engagingly teach it to your child.
Diane Kummer: I’m excited to introduce today’s guest,
Paige Hudson. Paige is an author, speaker, scientist, and homeschooling mom of two.
She’s written over 20 science books and curricula, including a homeschool science
program called Elemental Science. Paige, welcome to the program!
Paige Hudson: Hi Diane, and thanks for having me on.
Flaming gummy bears and homeschool science [0:40]
Diane: Sure! When did you first discover you had a love for science,
Paige: Well, I remember getting hooked into science by my high
school chemistry teacher. She started our first day of class with a flaming gummy bear
flying from the back of the class room to the front, and that was enough for me.
Diane: Well, then what made you decide to start writing homeschool
science books and curricula?
Paige: Well, we started homeschooling our daughter and I
couldn’t find a science curriculum that I really liked. So I started writing my
own just for her and my husband saw me one night working on this program and he said,
“Why are you doing this much work? Isn’t there something out there that will
work for you?” And I said, “I just can’t find it.” And he said,
“Well, if you’re having this problem, don’t you think other people are
So I kind of fell into writing science. It wasn’t really something that I
planned on doing, but [it] ended up being what we’re doing now.
Common homeschool science myths [1:35]
Diane: Paige, science is a subject that many homeschooling parents
feel unqualified to teach their kids. In your experience, what are the biggest reasons
that parents are afraid to teach science and how can they overcome those fears?
Paige: In my experience, there are three main reasons that
homeschoolers struggle with teaching science and the first one is experiments.
We’re always afraid that they won’t work. But I’m going to let you in
on a little industry secret: Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed,
I’ve just found ten thousand ways that don’t work.” So even the best
scientists out there have experiments that fail, and just because you have an experiment
that fails doesn’t mean you have a failed learning experience.
The second reason that homeschoolers particularly shy away from teaching science is
because of equipment—the idea that we’ve got to have these big, full labs
with chemicals and equipment and all this dangerous stuff. But really, there’s
kitchen substitutes: things like lemon juice for acids and ammonia for a base. And we
can use simple macro-lenses or look stuff up online when we’re talking about
microscopic stuff. So there’s lots of options that we have as homeschoolers that
we don’t necessarily need a full industry lab to be able to teach science at
And then the final reason is education. A lot of times we’ve struggled with
science ourselves or our science education has been lacking. But you know what? With the
right materials in your hand, anybody can teach science at home.
3 elements of an engaging science program [3:02]
Diane: Paige, when people think of science, the first thing that
comes to mind is usually a big, fat, boring textbook—but that’s not exciting
for anyone. What are the best ways for homeschooling parents to develop in their
children an interest in and a love for science?
Paige: Diane, the very best way to teach science is to actually do
science. So, I really like to say that when you teach science there’s three basic
things you need to have to really inspire your kids to learn about this subject.
The first one is to have some kind of hands-on [element]. So you’re doing a
scientific demonstration for them, a nature study, experiments—anything that could
present them with science face-to-face.
And then you’re feeding them with information. We don’t have to use a big
old boring textbook for this. We can use things like children’s encyclopedias from
Usborne or Kingfisher, or we can use living books to help present the information they
need to know about science, the basics of it. We can go to the library and hit that
section of the nonfiction corner and look for books about the subject we’re
And then the final thing we need to do when we teach science is to have some sort of
record. The students need to write down what they’ve learned because, after all,
we’re all more likely to remember something if we write it down. So we like to use
notebooking, which is a great way of having a picture, a visual representation of what
they’re learning, with a little sentence or two that’s personalized to what
they remember from what we’ve studied. And in this way they’re more likely
to remember what they’ve learned.
So if you do those three things—you do some kind of hands-on [activity], feed
them with some kind of interesting information, and have them keep a record of what
they’ve learned—your students will be much more likely to develop an
interest and a love for science.
Get out in nature! [4:45]
Diane: Paige, many younger children enjoy going on nature walks or
doing nature studies. Can you explain why this is such a fun yet effective way for
Paige: Well, a nature study is simply heading out to find science in
nature. So you look for and observe the subject and then you journal about it. This is a
great way to involve your younger children and makes it a lot of fun for them because
they get to be little discoverers, where they go out and explore and find things and
then they get to write their personalized record or journal of what they found and it
helps them to really get excited and interested in science through nature.
Diane: Paige, what are some creative ways for homeschooling parents
to incorporate nature studies into a regular homeschool science program?
Paige: One of the ways we have loved to include nature studies in
our science plans is to have what we call Friday fun-day. So on Fridays we’ll do
our regular reading and our math because we need to get those subjects in. And then
we’ll either head out for a field trip or we’ll go for a walk out in nature
and do our nature study time and go to the library and do some art and lots of things
that will make that particular day fun. So we’ll typically incorporate our nature
study into our Friday fun-days.
Shifting focus [6:01]
Diane: Paige, how should a homeschool science program change as a
child gets older? Are there specific concepts that parents should focus on in high
school versus, say, kindergarten?
Paige: Most definitely. A high schooler definitely needs to learn
more than the kindergartner would. So basically in the beginning, for your younger
students, you’re trying to spark an interest. You want them to be interested in
learning about science. But if you can start to teach them the basics and build upon
those through the years, then by the time you get to high school, those scary math parts
of science aren’t so scary, if you focus on learning the math because they already
have that basis of knowing the principles of science.
So, for instance, if you have the classic elephant-toothpaste experiment: in the
beginning, if you teach a kindergarten or an elementary student, you’re just
showing them, “This is what a catalyst does,” and introducing them to the
idea of how a catalyst speeds up a reaction. But a high schooler, if you’re doing
that same experiment with them you’re teaching them what the actual equation is,
you’re talking about different types of catalysts and researching how those
contain the different reactions to know about.
So that’s the difference between how you’re teaching younger kids to get
interested in science and the older kids the more basic principles and mathematics
Diane: That’s really helpful, Paige. What are some of your
favorite resources and tools for teaching science in the homeschool?
Paige: There’s a lot out there to help us these days to teach
science in the home, but the things that I regularly reach [for] off my shelf are the
Janice VanCleave experiment book; the encyclopedias by either DK, Usborne, or
Kingfisher; we use the Audubon bird identification app, and we use our smartphone a lot
when we’re out on our nature studies. And then I like to listen to a science
podcast. And then of course there are programs out there to help you teach science
regularly—like ours, Elemental Science—and that’s what we
Diane: Well, Paige, thank you so much for being with us this week
and sharing your science tips with the homeschool community. And listeners, thanks for
tuning in. I’m Diane Kummer, and I’m cheering you on.