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Can't I Put This [science] Off Until College?

By Jay L. Wile, Ph.D.

Not too long ago, I was speaking at a home education conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. During the question/answer part of my talk, a parent told me that she had heard a speaker who said that homeschoolers should not bother to teach science at the high school level. After all, the speaker said, homeschoolers simply do not have the laboratory facilities to "properly" teach the sciences. Thus, homeschoolers should simply put it off until the student reaches college. At that point, the student will be free to learn science "properly." It turns that this notion is rather popular in some homeschooling circles.

I understand why it is popular. Certainly, many parents send their students to public or private school during the high school years primarily because they are afraid of teaching science. Also, science probably takes more time to teach than any other subject, especially at the high school level. It is easy to see, therefore, why some parents might be happy to embrace such a misguided philosophy. If they choose to do so, however, it is the student who will suffer the consequences.

What consequences? First of all, if a student puts off learning the sciences until college, he or she will, most likely, never learn them. You see, the main difference between a college class and a high school class is the volume of information covered. In the introductory chemistry and physics courses I taught at Indiana University and Ball State University, I covered, on average, one chapter each week. These classes met only three hours per week; thus, we covered an entire chapter in three hours of class time! Because of this excruciating pace, few students were able to pass my courses unless they had taken the relevant high school class.

The next consequence I have already written about in a previous issue of the Informer. If a student is not allowed to sample the three basic disciplines of science (biology, chemistry, and physics) in high school, the student will never know if he or she has a talent for the sciences. Thus, the student will have lost some valuable career exploration and, as a result, might miss the very career for which he or she is most suited!

Finally, the whole misguided notion of putting off science until college simply ignores those students who choose to go straight into the work force after high school. Can anyone reasonably assert that a person entering the work force today does not need to know science? The Nation Safety Council doesn't think so. In a recent article, they stated that many workplace accidents could be avoided if the workers had even a rudimentary knowledge of the science behind their jobs. Clearly, high school students need to learn science.

But can we effectively teach science at home? The answer is an overwhelming "YES!" Study after study indicates that even with "inadequate" laboratory facilities, homeschoolers educate their students at high school science better than public or private schools. For example, a nationwide study concluded that homeschooled students who took the ACT (a college-entrance exam) consistently scored higher than their peers in science. Other studies on a state-by-state basis come to the same conclusion. Despite the notion that high school science education requires sophisticated laboratories and "expert" teachers, homeschoolers still get the job done, and they do it better than anyone else!

About the author: Jay L. Wile earned a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in nuclear chemistry and a B.S. in chemistry from the same institution. He has won several awards for excellence in teaching and has presented numerous lectures on the topics of Nuclear Chemistry, Christian Apologetics, Homeschooling, and Creation vs. Evolution. In addition, he has published 30 articles on these subjects in nationally-recognized journals. His teaching credentials include:

  • The University of Rochester
  • Indiana University
  • Ball State University
  • The Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities (a high school for gifted and talented students)

Currently, Dr. Wile writes curriculum for homeschoolers as well as Christian apologetics material. He has written five high school science textbooks designed specifically for homeschooled students as well as one Christian apologetics book. See Dr. Wile's products at Christian Book Distributors' Apologia specialty shop. Dr. Wile can be reached from his website for Apologia Educational Ministries. Resources Related to This Article's interview with Jay L. Wile, Ph.D.
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