real science for today's homeschooler

How do you handle the evolution vs. creation issue in your science classes?

I have students from many different backgrounds in my science classes and my goal is to offer a science class that parents of any background can be comfortable with. I do cover the topic of “natural selection” when it is appropriate to the science curriculum. Although I do teach it from the perspective of the most widely accepted theory in mainstream science, I also stress that I respect the personal beliefs of each student and encourage students to discuss the topic with their parents if something discussed in class seems at odds with what they have been taught at home. In short, my focus is on teaching solid science courses that will prepare students for college.

Why do you use textbooks in the high school classes? Wouldn’t the class be more interesting if students were allowed to do their own research?

There are times when students are asked to do independent research in science class. However, since I only see students one day a week, I have to depend on another source for students to use independently at home during the rest of their school week. Textbooks are written to give students information about a topic at the appropriate level for their age and experience. When students research on the internet, they often try to use websites that are at an elementary level or at a college level. The information they collect is either too simple or at too high a level for them to understand. By having students use the same textbook for their independent homework, I know that all students will have access to equal and appropriate information. Students are encouraged to do independent research on topics they find interesting, but the textbook serves as the “base line” from which to expand.

Why don’t you use Apologia curriculum?

My goal has always been to offer an option for parents who are not satisfied with the homeschool science options that are already out there. There are already many science classes in the Austin area using the Apologia curriculum. Another person teaching the same thing is not needed. But many parents find that Apologia does not teach the solid science background needed for their children to score well on the SAT and to succeed in college science courses. My courses are designed to give students a science background equivalent to a student taking advanced courses in a public or private school so they can enter college with the background needed to succeed.

How much time will my child spend on homework each week?

The amount of time depends on the class, the ability level of the child, and their experience with using a textbook. I try to give homework so that the average student will be working on science for 30-45 minutes per day during the other four days of the school week. Many students complete the assignment is less time. Students who have never used a textbook sometimes find that it takes a little longer at the beginning of the year. As they become more skilled at using a textbook, the time almost always decreases as the year goes on. This can be a painful process at first, but is a very helpful skill to master before college!

Will I be expected to grade my child’s work?

Absolutely not! That’s what you’re paying the teacher for! Seriously, since I only see your child one day a week, I assign open-ended questions during the rest of the week so that students “explain” their thoughts and ideas on paper. Students also take quizzes and tests throughout the year as a way to check their retention of the subject matter. As a teacher, as I go through their work week after week, I am able to “listen” to your child’s explanation of various topics and “hear” how well they understand the material. Through that system, I am able to correct misconceptions and fill in learning gaps on an ongoing basis. Yes, grading papers is a lot of work and it does consume a lot of my time each week, but I personally believe it is vital that teachers take the time to grade and evaluate student work if they are going to be successful in meeting student needs.