At first glance, it seems like homeschoolers will just have to miss out on certain “school” experiences, like science fairs. We all remember the dreaded science fair projects from our own childhood, right? But for most of us, the science fair was part of a traditional public school experience. How can we give our kids a science fair experience they’ll enjoy and learn from, if they’re homeschoolers?
Many homeschool support groups put together small science fairs for their members. Some of the larger groups have quite elaborate programs, with judges and prizes for the winners. Sometimes state homeschooling organizations will put together something similar. It can’t hurt to ask around and see if other homeschoolers you know have some leads. If not, consider starting your own! Other homeschooling parents you know are probably thinking the same thing.
Too many options makes a choice pretty difficult. If you’ve found a science curriculum you love, it probably covers the basics of what your kids need to learn, at least from book-based learning. But what about hands-on learning? The hands-on approach lets children apply what the textbook says to real life situations, and it lets them figure out how to use the knowledge they’re learning. Science experiments are in invaluable part of school, and they should have a role in homeschooling too.
If you aren’t using a book that includes experiments to go along with the lessons, you can always design your own. Especially at the elementary level, this isn’t a difficult task. Just figure out how the material applies in real life. It doesn’t need to be a formal experiment, with a hypothesis to test, and variables to control. Young children just need some hands-on reinforcement of what they’re learning. If they’re learning about weather, for example, how about measuring the temperature outside on several consecutive days and learning how to graph that data? Measure rain with a rain gauge. Look for trends in the weather over a period of time, and maybe let the kids pretend to be a weather forecaster to give the day’s weather report. Make it fun!