“Learning science could include conversations, reading, thinking. It might or might not include experiments. Experiments are tests of theories—so first you need a theory to test. Theoretical physicists do no experiments at all. They think. The same could be true of a child.”
– Sarah Fitz-Claridge
From the archives: The original post was posted on 1st January 1997
A critic of unschooling wrote:
“Science is something you DO. A child cannot learn science without doing it, and most of those texts have the kids read about it, perhaps with doing one tiny experiment per chapter.”
This is false, unless by “do”, you include thinking about. Theoretical physicists do no experiments at all. They think. The same could be true of a child. Learning science could include conversations, reading, thinking. It might or might not include experiments. Experiments are tests of theories—so first you need a theory to test. If the child isn’t interested in testing theories but wants to find out what the current state of knowledge in science is (though conversation with scientists, say), that should not be viewed as a problem.
“Learning Science actually means learning an organized system to examine anything. To learn an organized system you need a wide assortment of data to fit into that system.”
I think this (and the sentence below) suggests the false theory that scientific knowledge is created by induction. It isn’t. Science is primarily explanation (and these explanatory theories are tested experimentally).
“That’s where he’s wrong. Science is not doing math to study things. Science is collecting and sorting and quantifying and making theories”
Another poster wrote:
“In Practical Homeschooling #13, Arthur Robinson wrote a two column article. I am having some problems with what it says. […]
Basically he says that until a child has learned all of mathematics through calculus, the child is not ready for Science. Science up until that time should be an extracurricular activity. Textbooks that are not based upon a knowledge of calculus are ‘pretend’ science books.”
This is utter rubbish. I am learning quantum theory, which supercedes Newtonian mechanics, and quantum theory does not require calculus at all (although that is one way to go if you are so inclined). To return to the earlier point, my quantum theory studies have not involved any experiments either, just a lot of thinking, talking, questioning, and a few scribbles on bits of paper.
Hope this helps.
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