Moms’ Science Weekend

Me and my girl, Sally

Me and my girl, Sally

Science can be the monster in the closet for a lot of homeschoolers.

Maybe you never really made your peace with it or only took a course or two of upper-level science, and now you find yourself responsible for your kids’ science education. How are you going to pull this off?

The fact is science doesn’t have to be that scary.

It also doesn’t have to become an ancient memory once you’ve finished your formal schooling. Personally, although I loved what chemistry I took in high school, biology and I never seemed to get along, so I got the idea that I “wasn’t a science person.”

Yet I find that much of the reading I do is centered around health and nutrition studies. Actually, I’m intensely interested in those things, and guess what? They’re ALL ABOUT SCIENCE!

IMG_6148I do find myself wishing that I had a better foundation in certain things, like chemical or molecular structure or taxonomy, so that when someone gets to talking peptides, I’d be right at home. The fact is, it’s not too late to learn, and science is still relevant in my life, not just because I’m a homeschool teacher but because it’s involved in my health, diet, love of nature, habits, and even possibly, my political choices. And these days, in a world where a false dichotomy between faith and “science” is set up, I’d venture to say that a good understanding of science is crucial to maintaining a tenable faith.

Professional Development for Moms

Moms really need to cultivate their thought life, yet we rarely get the opportunity to fully indulge in this.

We invest a lot in our kids learning and getting proper guidance in tricky subject areas, but we tend to put ourselves last when it comes to this, as if the importance of us being educated faded away when we gave birth to our first child.

So when I heard about Landry Academy’s Science Retreat for Moms, I was all over it. Okay, I was all over it after Jackie signed up and prodded me to go sign up too. (She knows me.) For just $25, the price was totally right, and I was really excited about the prospect of learning some new things and getting to ask questions to someone knowledgeable.

The retreat was led by Greg Landry, a homeschool dad with a Master’s of Science who, six years ago, started offering online classes in biology and chemistry at the request of some families after he had taught some classes in person for homeschoolers in his community. Since then, they’ve expanded to 180 classes in science, history, English, SAT/ACT prep, and other subjects, taught by Christian teachers who are passionate about and have expertise in their field.

I discovered I'm more squeamish about pricking my own finger than dealing with sheep guts.

I discovered I’m more squeamish about pricking my own finger than dealing with sheep guts.

The details of what we would do on the retreat were kind of a mystery until we got there. All I knew is I would be sleeping on a bunk bed with a room full of other women. The food and accommodations were basic but clean and comfortable. Think summer camp, but I, for one, think the slumber party atmosphere was part of the fun.

Greg set us up with some nifty notebooks full of anatomical diagrams and charts we could use for experiments when we got home and had several tables of give-aways we each got to choose. Saturday morning, we dug into the science by typing our blood and doing what I never thought myself capable: dissecting pregnant sheep and cow uteri. We also used PTC strips to see if we were “tasters” or “non-tasters” and linked that to a discussion of basic genetics.

Greg told us lots of memorable stories related to anatomy that we’re not likely to forget soon, and he shared his belief, based on everything he’s seen and studied, particularly about the human body, that the most reasonable explanation for the elegant, fine-tuned design of everything from the cellular level on up is that we were made by a Creator. He mentioned that he thinks it’s particularly important to teach biology with a view toward this and recommended Science Shepherd as a text for this.

Some of the goodies: PTC paper and pH testing paper

Some of the goodies: PTC paper and pH testing paper

Two Landry Academy teachers were there to talk to us also. Jen teaches Intro to Marine Biology via webcam at the beach from her home in Tampa. I’m thinking my aspiring marine veterinarian would be pretty awed by that! Angela Little was on hand to give us some tips on her field, SAT/ACT prep. I was amazed to learn that it’s really recommend for kids to begin sitting for these tests as young as 7th and 8th grade, if only to get accustomed to the test conditions. Angela said the child taking the test during her junior or senior year risks missing application deadlines or the opportunity to retake for a better score.

The camp looked out on a small lake.

The camp looked out on a small lake.

The science and the getaway were great, but the best part of the weekend was being around and getting to meet so many other moms of faith. Sometimes (ok, how about every day) you just need to hear out loud that God is working in your life, in the lives of us who don’t do prestigious jobs and who are prone to major imperfections. You need to see people who are trusting him and putting him first and maybe doing some things you could do better.

That’s the Body of Christ at work, strengthening and edifying its different members, right?

You need to be around other people who can listen to your struggles and understand why they’re worth it and know that it’s not necessarily time to throw in the towel.

I’m definitely considering enrolling Mustard Seed in one of Landry’s classes at some point, and I’d recommend the moms’ retreats. They’re held all over the country. Find out here when one will be held near you.

What other ways  have you heard or thought of for intellectual “professional development” for homeschooling moms? I’m not just talking about going to a conference where they talk about curriculum options and heart inspiration but ways to help us moms get into the meat of the material in the various fields we will be teaching in our homeschooling career? Retreats? Book clubs? What would make it easier for you to dive into a subject that intimidates you?


4 thoughts on “Moms’ Science Weekend

  1. mummyshymz

    This sounds like a wonderful idea to learn something new. I tend to read a lot on subject matter that I’m not so comfortable teaching. A retreat like this would be great to focus on the subject, and get to know other mums at the same time!

  2. Lis @ Acorns of Gold

    Thanks for your “Review” of this weekend~ I just received an invitation in my email to attend one this fall. Curious… are you generally a non-dissecting-type of person? I tend to be incredibly squeamish (hey… I hate to put worms on a fishing hook… and I LIKE frogs, etc… the thought of dissecting is just not my thing…). Just curious. (I’m thinking I’d just opt-out of the dissection and maybe the gross anatomy talk… those are NOT up my alley, and I don’t think they’d want me fainting… 😉 )

    1. Michelle Post author

      Lis, no, I wouldn’t call myself a “dissection person.” This was my first dissection, if you don’t count getting a baby octopus from the seafood department (which didn’t have anything left inside, we just inspected the suckers, basically). I can’t say that I was totally gung-ho about this one, but I just kind of toughened up and did what I had to do. Really, using the lancet on my finger was more difficult, but to each her own. It is sort of sad to see the little fetuses but also awe-inspiring. They are so like a real little lamb or calf! I think the least pleasant part was the formaldehyde smell. We did it in partners. You could definitely choose to be the less hands-on partner. It helped me to try to have the mindset I have when dealing with, say, a chicken breast that I’m cooking. As far as gross anatomy, it’s not much more than diagrams and discussing functions and amazing facts about different organs. However, he does have a few CSI-type stories, so FYI. Let me know if you end up going to one!


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