Teaching Science: Four Essential Investigation and Analysis Practices Every Homeschool Student Should Know

Science education has evolved beyond rote memorization. Homeschool science teaching now embraces hands-on learning that encourages young minds to engage with the natural world. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) advocate for inquiry-based approaches, emphasizing science and engineering practices that guide students in understanding and explaining natural phenomena. These practices serve as the foundation for a comprehensive science homeschool curriculum, fostering curiosity and investigation.

Science and engineering practices are the things children DO to make sense of events, which includes:

  1. Asking questions and defining problems
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data

These four practices are interconnected and build upon each other, becoming more complex as students progress through their education. They provide a comprehensive framework for hands-on, inquiry-based science education that emphasizes communication and collaboration.

In this article we will go more in depth on each of the practices and how you can incorporate activities into your child’s homeschool curriculum to help them excel in science and engineering practices.

Asking Questions & Defining Problems

In the realm of science homeschool curriculum, nurturing the art of questioning is paramount. To help your child develop these skills, encourage them to slow down and reflect on what they’re learning, model good questioning techniques, and teach the difference between open-ended and closed questions. Praise their inquisitiveness and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. This can be a valuable opportunity for both you and your child to learn together and seek out help when needed.

Ready to ignite your child’s curiosity? Explore the “Falling into Fall” unit from LMU, an excellent resource for pre-K through second grade homeschool science. This engaging unit will spark your child’s interest in the natural world and enhance their questioning skills through hands-on activities.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your child’s curiosity, check out this helpful tip from attachmentnerd on Instagram. Their post offers practical advice for handling those endless “why?” questions and fostering a love of learning in your child.

Developing & Using Models

Models are an essential tool for science and engineering education, enabling students to understand complex concepts and theories. They provide a tangible representation of abstract ideas, making it easier for students to visualize and comprehend scientific concepts. Tailoring homeschool lesson plans to include various model types aids comprehension.

    • Physical Models: Suitable for homeschool pre-K and beyond. These are three-dimensional representations of objects, systems, or processes. They can be made from a variety of materials, such as cardboard, plastic, or metal. Physical models can range in size from small prototypes to large-scale exhibits. They allow students to experiment with different scenarios and make predictions about outcomes, fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
    • Mathematical Models: Ideal for homeschool first grade through middle school. These are mathematical representations of systems, processes, or phenomena. They can be expressed as equations, graphs, or computer simulations. Mathematical models are used to make predictions and analyze data. They help students to develop their mathematical skills and understand the relationships between different variables.
    • Conceptual Models: Appropriate for homeschool pre-K to middle school. These are diagrams or illustrations that represent scientific concepts or theories. They can be used to help students understand complex ideas and relationships between different elements. Conceptual models are useful for visual learners and can help students to develop their spatial reasoning skills.


  • Scale Models: Best introduced in homeschool first grade through middle school. These are representations of objects or systems that are reduced in size compared to the original. Scale models are often used to demonstrate the workings of complex systems, such as engines or machinery. They allow students to understand how different components of a system work together.
  • Analog Models: Most effective from late elementary school onwards. These are physical or mathematical representations of systems that use analogies to explain complex concepts. For example, a model of the water cycle might use a rotating wheel to demonstrate the movement of water from the ocean to the atmosphere and back again. Analog models help students to make connections between different scientific concepts.
  • Computer Models: Best introduced in middle school and beyond. These are computer simulations of real-world systems, processes, or phenomena. They can be used to test and analyze data, make predictions, and explore complex interactions. Computer models are useful for teaching students about complex systems that cannot be easily observed, such as weather patterns or ecosystems.

Using models in science and engineering education allows students to engage with science in a hands-on and meaningful way. They help students to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and spatial reasoning skills. Additionally, models make science more interactive and approachable for students of all ages and learning styles. Whether students are constructing their own models or using models provided to them, they are able to explore and understand scientific concepts in a way that is both fun and educational.

Explore the rich world of models with our science units. Check out our “Flowers, Bees, and Honey” unit to try a few.

Planning & Carrying Out Investigations

Variety shapes science homeschool curriculum. When conducting investigations in science, there are different types of approaches that can be taken to gather data and draw conclusions. These include:

  • Descriptive Investigations: This type of investigation involves making observations and drawing conclusions based on those observations. The goal is to describe parts of a natural system without manipulating any variables. Examples of descriptive investigations include observing the behavior of animals in their natural habitat or describing the characteristics of a particular rock formation.
  • Comparative Investigations: In comparative investigations, the goal is to determine relationships between different elements in a system. This type of investigation involves making comparisons between different parts of a system. For example, scientists may compare the growth of plants under different light conditions or the survival rates of animals in different habitats.
  • Experimental Investigations: Experimental investigations are designed to determine cause-and-effect relationships. This type of investigation involves manipulating one or more variables and measuring the effect on another variable. The goal is to establish a causal relationship between the independent and dependent variables. Examples of experimental investigations include testing the effect of different fertilizers on plant growth or determining the effect of temperature on enzyme activity.

By understanding the different types of investigations, students can develop a deeper understanding of the scientific process and learn how to ask questions, design experiments, and draw conclusions based on evidence. Science investigations can be a fun and engaging way for students to explore the world around them and develop critical thinking skills that will serve them well in all areas of their lives.

Bring investigations into your homeschool curriculum through our “Wiggly Wonders” unit, where your little ones will examine and learn all about worms.

Analyzing & Interpreting Data

If you’re a parent, you probably want your child to have the best education possible and develop strong critical thinking skills. One exciting way to achieve this is by introducing them to the world of data science. By teaching your child how to analyze and interpret data, you can help them build a foundation for a lifetime of learning and exploration.

Here are some simple and fun activities you can include in your homeschool science lesson plans:

  • Graphs and Charts: Your child can make simple graphs and charts of their favorite things, like their favorite colors, animals, or foods. This activity can help them learn about counting, categorizing, and different types of graphs like bar graphs and pie charts.
  • Surveys: Kids can create and conduct surveys to collect data from their friends, classmates, or family members. They can ask questions about their favorite sports, TV shows, or hobbies and then use the data to create graphs and charts. This is an excellent way for kids to learn about data collection and analysis.
  • Experiments: Simple experiments like counting the seeds in a pumpkin or tracking the growth of plants over time can be a fun way to gather data and draw conclusions. These hands-on activities can help kids develop their problem-solving skills and learn about data analysis.
  • Weather Monitoring: Encourage your child to observe and record temperature, rainfall, and cloud cover each day. They can use this data to create graphs and charts and make predictions about future weather patterns.

These are just a few examples of the many possibilities for kids to learn about data analysis and interpretation. The key is to make these activities fun, engaging, and relevant to your child’s interests. By providing them with opportunities to explore and understand data, you can help them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.

See how analyzing and interpreting data works in our “Force and Motion” unit for kindergarten through second grade.

Introduce Data Science at an Early Age

Introducing your child to data science at an early age can be a great way to help them develop critical thinking skills and a lifelong love of learning. 

Harnessing the advantages of homeschooling, the days of mere memorization have yielded to a world of immersive discovery, prompting young minds to engage with and grasp the intricacies of the natural world. These practices, encompassing questioning, modeling, investigating, and data interpretation, form the bedrock of a comprehensive homeschool science curriculum, nurturing curiosity and critical thinking. So, whether they’re asking questions, constructing models, conducting investigations, or deciphering data, students are engaging with the very essence of science, taking steps toward a future of limitless discovery and innovation.

So, go ahead and encourage your child to dive into the world of data science and unlock their potential as a future data scientist!

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