This is going to be one of the few entries that won’t apply to all homeschoolers, because some people do homeschool for religious reasons. While I can respect their decision, and even respect their devotion, I don’t fully understand why science has to be at conflict with their beliefs. I also don’t honestly get why public schools insist on putting creationism into the realm of science. While it is a theory of origin, the bottom line is that it doesn’t fit scientific method. Now I’m not saying that no one should study theology. Actually, if my son asked to have a section on religion, I’d be thrilled. In fact, I’d like us to have a chance to study world religions and even look at the places where all religions meet, but that would be a class separate from science.
Scientific method is about questioning things, learning more about ourselves and our universe by daring to wonder. You can see the steps to scientific method at right. There’s nothing in science that says you can’t be wrong. Scientists throughout the ages have learned a great deal about the world by being wrong. Questioning the popular theory, testing it, and then disproving it has led to break-throughs over and over. But this is the problem with trying to place religion and science together — to truly be faithful, one should not question God. I don’t have a problem with creationism, mainly because I do not see why the big bang and creationism can’t coincide. Who is to say that a benevolent, all knowing being didn’t decide to make a big bang in order to make the universe? If He (for lack of an all purpose pronoun that isn’t as cold as “it”) really is all knowing, then He would know that’s what would happen from that action. However, you cannot question or test God, and most religions agree that you’re not supposed to.
Schools have a lot of debate about this. It seems never-ending. And while they’re busy trying to decide if prayer should be allowed at assemblies, and whether evolution will offend too many of the parents, what suffers is science. Before you know it, the natural scientist in each of our children is dwindling to nothing.
The part of creationism that collides with evolution was always going to be problematic at our house. Pumpkin LOVES dinosaurs. His brain is filled with factoids on every prehistoric beastie that paleontology has unearthed. I’ll never forget the time that we took him to a dinosaur museum that we had driven by, only to discover it was a creationary dinosaur museum — meaning that the exhibits present the Earth as a much younger planet than the currently held notion and assert that dinosaurs were here thousands rather than millions of years ago. Pumpkin was beside himself, correcting each little data window, and then laughing hysterically at the notion that people and dinosaurs could have coexisted. I don’t think the museum docent knew quite what to do when this tiny boy decided to tell him that a spear wasn’t any match for a pack of hungry raptors. The man got flustered and brought up the idea that we’re supposed to be made in God’s image and asked Pumpkin if he believed that God looked like a monkey. Pumpkin replied, “I like monkeys. They’re really funny.” Adults can get hung up on minutia, but a child rarely is.
When we left that museum and were walking back to the car, Hubby was chuckling to himself. I asked him what he was thinking, and he said, “It’s funny that what bothered that man [the docent] was the notion that we might have evolved from monkeys. Of course, what we all evolved from is an amoeba. Wouldn’t that mess with his head.” We are not atheists. We actually attend an open-minded Christian church. We believe that God is more wondrous than anything we can imagine, and that religion and science were not meant to be at war and no, neither of us pictures God as an amoeba. I try not to picture God actually.
I feel that public school spends too much time apologizing for science and trying to appease religious factions. Honestly, some of the greatest scientists have also been very religious. If the Catholic church can find room for scientific study, surely public school ought to be able to and they needn’t worry about offense. Spiritual belief is not usually hindered by a lack of evidence. Schools should let science be science and let theology be theology, and if the twain should meet, it should be up to each child to discover for themselves. If we teach them to draw conclusions, they’ll get there if the time and evidence are right.
Probably the biggest truth of science is that nothing should ever be taken as an absolute. In the right circumstances, even things we feel certain of — like gravity — can be wrong. Still, the things we’re pretty certain of offer a nice jumping off point for students. Pumpkin and I do a lot of experiments. He assembles and constructs a hypothesis based on what he knows. He writes or draws a picture of what he thinks will happen, then we try it out. Most of the time, the result is predictable to me, but has always been thrilling to him, and his insights make me feel excited too. Occasionally, the results are a suprise — we did the mentos/diet coke experiment using diet coke with splenda and the results were a surprise. I was so proud of Pumpkin when he compared the ingredients of regular diet coke versus diet coke with splenda and was able to single out the ingredients that didn’t match.
I love that Pumpkin can be fascinated and amazed by the smallest experiment. I love the little pictures he draws and the way he looks forward to each new experiment. And I adore the way that anything science draws oohs and ahhs. That fascination carries over too — each scientific break-though we read about or see on the television is cause for marvel. People talk about loving to see the world anew through a child’s eyes — there is no better place for that than when a child is allowed to make a discovery. By engaging curiosity we are opening the door for future discoveries. And if the currently held beliefs are eventually disproved, it will not be accomplished by someone who was told, “This is how it is and you are not to question it,” — it will be by someone who was allowed to question everything, including how we came to be here.