The public library is an excellent homeschooling resource. Using the library to teach science can be a fun adventure! Here’s how:
The public library is an excellent resource for teaching science in your homeschool.
Keep a list.
Be on the lookout for topics your child would like to learn about. Pay attention to comments they make, topics they seem to be daydreaming about, things they seem to be giving special attention to, etc. Ask them to think about what kind of things they would like to learn more about, too. Have your child keep a list of their current favorite ideas in a handy place. Then when it is library day, choose one or two topics to explore.
Plan a regular library visit.
Mark a regular library visit on your calendar. One handy way to plan the date is to count on a couple days before your current books will be due. That gives you a little leeway if you have to push your visit off a day or two for some reason.
Find the right library section.
I think the easiest way for the children to find a book they would like is to look in the card catalog and search by topic/subject. Just pick any random book that appears to be on the subject you are looking for. Write down the call number for that book. You may even be able to do this part of the process from home if your library has an online card catalog.
Find the approximate number you wrote down in your library. (The Junior section can be a huge goldmine for younger children.) If all goes well, your library will have several books on the topic your child wants to learn about. If not, you can go to Plan B. Go back to the card catalog. Search by topic again, but this time try to find a specific book or books that look interesting. Put in a request to have the books held for your next library visit.
Then start another search using the second topic from your child’s list for this time.
Choose a book — or two, or three. 😉
Teach your child to browse the books, using a marker or the next book (pull it out slightly) to hold each book’s place on the shelf.
Look over the titles and covers. Flip through and read a little here and there. Look at some of the pictures.
Encourage your child to pick both a simpler book — probably what they are more likely to pick first — and one that is a little bit advanced for them.
Ask them to hand the books that interest them to you for final approval. One of the big things to watch for, as you likely know, is anti-biblical philosophy, such as evolution. Often it will be packed into an introduction or first chapter and can be skipped. Other times, the book will be steeped in it.
Once you have decided, explain your decision to your child. They will gradually learn to reason through using the same process for themselves.
If you like, you can use a similar process to check out videos from your library. If you can get hold of Moody Science videos, I highly recommend them. Though they are a bit on the older side, they do an excellent job of tying in faith with science.
Read the books!
At home, set aside regular reading time. The first day, you might want to just explore your books a bit. Read the chapter titles. Skim through the section headings. Explore the pictures.
Then decide: Is this a book I want to read the whole way through? Or would it be better to choose the most-relevant chapters or sections and focus there?
Then, read the books! Your child will likely be quite eager for this part, being that they have had a lot of say in the process of choosing the books.
Reinforce and review.
You have already done much to help this science study stick in your child’s memory. It is easier to remember things we care about. But, there is more you can do. Here are a few ideas:
Many science books will have ideas for experiments. Don’t feel like you have to do every one, but maybe your child can pick out one or two that sound particularly interesting or doable. On the other hand, maybe a topic in the book sparked an idea in your child’s mind for an experiment. You can help your child decide whether it is safe. A whole lot of learning happens this way!
Research and summary projects can be another great thing for the hands-on/artistic/crafty child. They might want to go outside and collect specimens, draw some of what they are learning about, put together a poster with magazine cut-outs, etc.
Take a small section from the child’s book for dictation. Pick an interesting fact or two. Read the passage to the child slowly as they write it out. This not only helps to reinforce the scientific fact, but builds on many other skills as well (penmanship, listening, sentence structure, etc.).
We use this one a lot in our family. After the child has read a section or chapter in their book, ask them to tell you about it while it is still fresh in their minds. You may not have to do much prompting for this. Sometimes their excitement will lead them to naturally want to tell you all about it, anyway. Be sure to show interest! If your child is new to this activity or is having trouble, start small. Ask them to read a sentence and tell you about it. Then move to a few sentences, a paragraph, a page … work up to a full chapter. Eventually, they will be able to do a decent job with a whole book when needed.
Written reports kind of go along with Projects, but sometimes it is good to focus on writing, specifically. This works well for the older children, especially, as they are learning to compile multiple sources on a topic and bring it together in a coherent document. A written report can be especially helpful if a child has found a science topic that they are really into. It doesn’t hurt to let them research deeply and check out multiple books multiple times in one subject area. Somebody’s got to be the expert! 😉
Of course, don’t feel tied to any one method. Vary it according to your child’s interests and abilities, strengths and weaknesses – and according to your family’s current stage in life.
Verbal summaries are easy to keep up on trips. Specimen hunts can be lots of fun in new places. Written reports can be great for almost-independent study once your child has the basics down. Most children just plain love experiments and will remember those things.