Science Conundrum

Science has given me a headache as far back as I can remember.  I really don’t know how I managed to get As in high school science because all I remember is how much I disliked it.  Now that I’m homeschooling, I feel enormous pressure to not pass this down to my kids.  As it turns out, I’m fairly certain one of my boys is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) student. With high school looming on the horizon and college just a few years beyond that, I recently realized (okay, I panicked) I can no longer postpone the science conundrum.

With my Homeschool Bible, aka The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition) I studied the science curriculum working backwards from twelfth grade to seventh grade.  One of the firm beliefs of its author, Susan Wise Bauer, is that the university should not be the first time a student is introduced to a new subject, nor should it be high school.  The building blocks of all subjects should be laid during the Grammar stage (1st – 4th) then developed and analyzed at the Logic stage (5th – 8th) and expressed and defended at the Rhetoric Stage. With a legal pad in hand and a laptop on the table, I made copious notes and looked up reams of information.  Then I got a terrible headache and went to sleep.  I was overwhelmed.

Read about Classical Education.

Fortunately for me, there are some amazing homeschooling parents on the Forums of The Well-Trained Mind.  After about a week of reading the dilemmas of others, I took the plunge and posted my own thread asking for help.  Now, less than a week later, I have looked up numerous sources, read through tons of parent reviews, had many discussions with my sons and husband and thoroughly inventoried what we have and what we need.  Yes, I have actually worked beyond at least three headaches while doing this.  I can no longer wing it and hope for the best.

The result? Amazing books, a completely feasible curriculum (even for me!) and best of all:  a science lab of their own!

Book List:

My husband and I realized that my mental blocks were only part of the problem; space is a huge issue.  We currently do all of our school on the dining room table.  There is zero space for projects that need to stay out for long periods of time.  He had been hoping to convert part of the laundry room (laundry room/tool shed/junk room) into a home office but wondered if it would be better used as a schoolroom. The entire experience – from reading suggestions over at TWTM forums to bemoaning the science kits sitting dusty and unused under the stairs to acknowledging the problems of limited school space – culminated in a Eureka! moment.The laundry room has water – perfect for chemistry experiments.  It has lots of outlets and a mini-fridge my parents left. Might a refrigerator come in handy for chemistry experiments? It has great lighting and best of all – it’s NOT in the middle of the dining room table.  This is good not just because of meals and cleanliness but also because my STEM guy is easily distracted.  A study location that is not in the middle of the house where all people, animals, letters, books, and other projects congregate will finally allow him to work uninterrupted.

Thanks to the forum, I don’t have to wait for a year or two to go by, then look back with regrets at what I could have done.  We can start work today and finish before fall.  The boys are so excited, they’ve already started working on the room.  Together we’ve filled up one truckload for storage, one truckload for Goodwill and one truckload for the barn to wait the next dump run. Now the real work can begin: adding windows, insulating walls, installing sheetrock, etc.  With luck and lots of hard work this time next week, we’ll have the beginnings of a classroom with lab space. Out will come the kits.  Let Chemistry and Physics begin. 


What do you think?  Can it be done?

This morning:




This afternoon:



This evening:


Note: This has been a room we’ve wanted to tackle for a while but it hasn’t been as urgent as other problems, like falling trees, overflowing septic tanks, and chopping wood for the stove.  Today it moved to the very, very top.

17 thoughts on “Science Conundrum

  1. Good job! I would love a science lab area. Can’t wait to see the finished job.
    I love The Well trained Mind Forum, the people over there are fantastic. I also have most of those books, recommended years ago on the WTM, and we get great use out of them. I find it hard to limit my book choices, so our house gains book shelves yearly😉

  2. I’ve been meaning to comment on this for some time (a week?) … I know you raised a few questions.

    Don’t forget the link to the local. Yes, we can study the table of elements in a vacuum. And do fun experiments. But if you’re composting stuff, then hey you’re already doing chemistry. There are things that go on locally, regionally, state wide that are so dang pertinent to science and math.

    And also: why so much focus on the math-based sciences?Is that student interest or a pedagogical choice?

  3. Hey Doctormama, how fun to see you here! I tend to avoid the books and experiments because I don’t feel like I have a good way of thinking and talking about science, so it’s my hope that the books will help give us a way to discuss the things we do, like composting. I feel like I need to create the “shelves” in my mind to compartmentalize or hang/hook things we’ll learn in the future. I don’t know if that makes sense. Maybe it will be a way to help us even do more locally…?

    Hmmm… math-based science? If that’s inventing, designing and engineering then those are subjects he loves that I want to help him develop. It’s definitely going to be a science-focused year within a classical curriculum.

    When you say statewide and regionally, what do you mean? I’m sure there is so much I’m missing.:)

  4. Hi Jacqui, we will study chemistry this fall and I’m really looking forward to it. I’d love to see whatever websites you have to supplement. Thanks!

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