Teaching Children Physics To Inspire Life of Learning

I’m teaching my young children physics. Sounds silly, right? Let me explain.

I’m very concerned about the quality of my children’s education. And while I have spent a lot of time in researching about homeschooling options, private school, and other advanced programs for my kids, I’m not sure that I am going to utilize those methods of learning for them.

There are a lot of reasons why I don’t want to do homeschool, or pay a premium for private school. I don’t want to vent about all of my concerns for either method, or criticize parents for selecting those paths for their kids. I’m a live and let live sort of woman. We all do the best we can for our children.

We know from emerging research studies that the soft skills, what the kids are learning about communication, problem solving, overcoming challenges, regulating their emotions…all those things are more important than whether or not they learn about advanced physics, biology, writing, or history. This is one of the reasons that I do think public school is important for the kids, even if it means that my children do not get advanced education or opportunities that they might have access to in private school.

But I’m not going to lie and say that I’m not concerned about the quality of their academics, or that I don’t think academics are important.

Consequently, even though I believe that they are getting what they need at public school, I can’t stop myself from wanting to help them learn more than they are getting in school academically, and to help them and encourage them and push them to be more curious about the world.

So what I have chosen to do and what I am actively doing instead of putting them in extra programs, and taking away their free play time, and time spent playing with friends, is that I have embarked on a journey of learning myself.

And when I learn things, I can find ways to filter that information down to my kids, in a way that they can begin to process and understand the topics without interrupting the other important aspects of their lives.

For example, (and don’t laugh because I do feel silly for having done this) I check out some books at the library. (And again I don’t want you to laugh because I do feel self-conscious about this but it is something that I’m doing.) Specially, today of all days, I checked out a book on AP Physics.

For my kids.

This sounds incredibly stupid, right? My older children, I have three of them by the way, the oldest ones are five and six. No one on Earth would say that my kids, who are pretty much average in the way of their learning and development, would be able to sit down and read, or get anything necessarily out of, advanced placement physics.

I didn’t get this book because I intended to use it as curriculum for study. Instead, what I hoped to do was to begin introducing them to the concepts that are contained in this book. Just generally. But not from the point of view of dumbing them down, or watering them down based upon the assumption that young children can’t learn advanced concepts, or big tough words.

I have seen my kids quickly grasp words and concepts that I myself struggle with. I know what they are capable of, especially when we trust them to struggle and come to the learning moments on their own.

(and don’t force them)

We know from what the scientists are telling us, that kids who are read to from an early age tend to have larger vocabulary then children who are not read too, and they also begin to learn to read early on, or earlier, themselves. They tend to have greater and larger and more complex vocabulary the more words that they hear. The more that they have an opportunity to hear unfamiliar syllables, the easier it will be for them later to use those words.

In the same vein, children who are not read to, who are not spoken to, who do not have a chance to hear of complex words or be exposed to complex language, develop language more slowly, and develop reading comprehension skills more slowly. They spend their entire lives trying to catch up, and sometimes they never do.

Is it laughable for me to make the connection and assumption that the same is true for other concepts and ideas? Should we dumb down the materials we provide to our kids simply because they seem too young for them? The answer for me is NO.

I want physics (and chemistry and math and history) to come more easily to my children when they are big, as it definitely did not for me. I believe with all of my heart that I need to begin introducing them to the conceptual aspects of complex topics to make that happen. And I don’t mean that I’m going to sit down and force-feed them about acceleration, kinetic energy, Newton’s Laws, resistance, and forces.

Instead, I want to just begin talking to them about the concepts that frame the world that they already exist in.

A child can understand acceleration. After all, if he has ever ridden a scooter or a bike, he understands that at first you go slowly, and then as you pedal harder or push harder with your foot, or you go down a hill, you go faster.

And if you need to stop, you have to figure out a way to slow down. There’s nothing wrong with giving the actual scientific name to what it is that the child is already experiencing.

So yes, I have an AP Physics book in my house. And I intend to read through it, and over time, introduce my children to the various topics in the book and read to them in grown-up language the definitions of these words.

I intend to help them draw graphs, and help them to begin to understand why it is important to understand about physics, and also other important disciplines that they will learn about as they grow.

What I want my kids to be as they grow and as they become adults, is curious. I don’t want them to be happy just sitting in front of a television zoning out. I loathe the idea of them sitting on the computer playing Fortnite for hours at a time.

I want them to wonder about the world, and I want them to choose to go out and explore it rather than choose to sit behind a screen and experience it in a very passive way.

It is my hope that by modeling that curiosity and that continual learning, they will want to do the same. So, not only do I intend to read to the children from this advanced placement physics book, but I intend to read it myself, and try to learn as much as I can about the topic.

I think it is a good idea, not just because I want them to learn it. I see in the future that this is something that they will be learning about and it will make it much easier for me to be able to help them and encourage them in their studies because I will know more about what it is they’re doing.

So don’t be surprised in the future if you see that on my bookcase I have books about biology, chemistry, mathematics, history, and philosophy.

When I was a child, my parents put us in front of a movie every day. My parents did not ever introduce me to non-fiction books or to learn about the world. Mostly because they were not interested in learning about the world either. They enjoyed watching movies and sitting down and vegging out. I know my parents were tired, they worked very hard and took care of us but we didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid. So work was a priority. And exploring their world was no.

It is my hope now that I do not have to work like they did that I will be able to provide a better education for my kids that I received, and help prepare them to go out into the world and continue a life of like long exploration, learning, and curiosity. 

And I intend to do that starting with physics.

Wish me luck.

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