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6 Experiment Questions that Homeschoolers Need to be Answered

January 30, 2017 5 min read

We have shared tips for experiments all month long - if you haven't checked these out yet, here you go:

We wanted to wrap up the month answering some of the questions we have gotten about experiments. Here is a look at six of the experiment questions that homeschoolers wanted us to answer!

6 Experiment Questions that Homeschoolers Need to be Answered

1. How can we turn a failed experiment into a learning experience rather than a frustration?

When things don’t go as planned, you can do a quick assessment – something I like to call the Anatomy of the Failure Experiment Roadmap, AFER for short - so that your lesson ends with a learning experience instead of frustration.

You will start your AFER-journey with a bit of preparation. First, you will re-read the directions to see if you missed any of the steps along the way.

Next, you will read the expected results and explanation as reading over the results and explanation can help you to see where things went south.

Then, you need to ask a few questions: Did we follow all the directions?, Did we have all the correct supplies?, Were any of our supplies expired or outdated?, How did what we saw differ from what should have happened?, and Are there any obvious reasons why the demonstration or experiment failed?

Finally, you need to correct any problems you uncovered and try the experiment again. Hopefully, the experiment worked the second time. If it didn’t, you can go through steps one through three again to see if you can figure out where things went wrong.

Working through this quick assessment will help you find out where things got off track so that you can get the learning up and running once more.

Read further: Why does an experiment fail? {And what to do when it does} 

2.  With toddlers underfoot, it seems nearly impossible to do anything hands-on, do you have any tips to help?

You are not alone, many homeschoolers have a wide age range and I understand. Our children are 8 years apart, so I had a ten-year-old and a toddler tornado.

I encourage you to make a point to do one experiment or nature study per week with all your students - this will help your students to encounter science face-to-face. Don't skip over this essential key to teaching science.

One of the best tips a friend gave me to entertain toddlers was to have a box with special toys that you only pull down when you absolutely need to get something done - like when you are on the phone or when you need to do an experiment. Make sure that this box is full of super fun toys - ones that will entertain your toddler for at least five minutes!

When you go to do your experiment, set the supplies up, read over the directions, bring your older students over, set down your toddler-box-of fun, and get start your experiment. If all goes well, your toddler tornado will be entertained as you complete the experiment! 

Read Further: 21 Tips for Hands-on Science

3. How do you store your longer-term experiments? We have a small house and several younger children, so they are not many places to keep ongoing projects safe from little hands.

We have lived in smaller houses (less than 1000 sq ft) as a family of four, so I understand how space can come at a premium.

For longer-term experiments, I would store them on the top of my fridge as long as they wouldn't be affected negatively by heat - things like growing mold. I have also placed cups with growing crystals in the awkward back corner of my kitchen counter that never got used. And in a pinch, our long-term science experiment served as the centerpiece on our table, which made for a great conversation when the grandparents came over for dinner!

With little hands around, the best options are those that get the experiments up high so they won't be poked and prodded - the laundry room shelf, or on top of your kitchen cabinets and bookshelves are options that could work to keep the experiment out of reach.

4. Do you have any tips for doing nature study during the logic stage and beyond?

We use nature study as the icing on our science cake, so we look at different topics each week together as a family on Fridays. 

Right now, I have a 14- and 6-year-old and basically, we pick topics more around the season we are in that are based on the subject we study. Our goal with doing nature study is simply to learn more about our environment, so I don't worry about our studies matching up with what we are doing in our current science programs.

The main difference between how we I do nature study with our younger vs. our older one is that I expect more on the older student's journal sheet. Other than that, our discussions are family style and hopefully, each of our kids walks away learning something.

Read further: Nature Study with Middle Schoolers

5. Do you have any tips for remembering to have the supplies you need for the experiments?

I have an "issue" with this one, too! The best thing I have found to overcome this is to set a regular time to check on the supplies I will need. 

So, after I finish my grocery shopping list, I will pull out my teacher guides for science (and history) to see if there are any supplies we will need for the coming week. Then, I add these to the list - that way I know that we will have them on hand.

I also look over the materials list at the beginning of the year to make sure that I will have the supplies on hand that aren't so easy to find at the local grocery store. Nowadays, I just pull an experiment kit off our shelves to make sure that I have those supplies. You can buy a kit or you can get those materials at the beginning of the year and place them in a box to store in your homeschool supply cabinet.

Read further: How to make your own experiment kit

6. At what level are experiments imperative? My kids love them, but I hate setting them up!!

The hands-on aspect of science is important from the very beginning. As a subject, science is a marriage of facts and applications, but I get that it can be frustrating and messy to set-up experiments at home.

The good news is that you don't have to do full-blown, lab-style experiments every week, especially with younger students. You can do nature study instead! Nature study is a way of using the outdoors to introduce your students to the face of science.

As your students get older - around 7th or 8th grade - I would begin to integrate more lab-style experiments, but at this age, they can do a fair amount of the work on their own. If you really can't stand experiments in your house, there are online options, like those from PHet or Beyond Labz.

Read further: What is nature study?

Do you still have an experiment question?

You can check out the following posts from the archives for more experiment tips:

Or leave your experiment question in the comments below!

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