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January 18, 2009


Y'all know that we've never really done science in our homeschool. Not formal science. We try, and fail. And try again, and fail.

We don't fail because we're not science-minded, or because we don't have an interest; I think we fail because we do have an interest. Looking at elementary science programs usually led me to screaming off into the night. And frankly, most junior high programs aren't much better. They generally give bits of information with little depth, are full of busy work, and require "experiments" that are really demonstrations that do nothing to inspire curiosity.

The higher levels of Singapore Science held us for awhile, because they contain more critical thinking and open-ended questioning than most texts. And the experiments require cooler materials. I am, so far, more likely to go back to that than any other. We also quite liked Real Science 4 Kids' Chemistry program, but it is short.

(And anyway, why do I need a program to teach science to kids who just yammered at me for the last hour, telling me everything they read about the potential for life on Mars, and at how many atmospheres humans can function, and the exact mechanisms of death in space?)

But the time has come to try "science" again, mainly because I want to shore up a few things before sending my oldest out to the community college for real classes; and I think my current approach will serve us much better than the various programs available. So here I present to you one version of a not-formal-science curriculum:

We are using the Elements Newsletter from How To Teach Science to learn about the periodic table. This is something you can do as a family, with all age groups. It's easy, and it's fun. For instance, after reading about hydrogen this week, the older boys and I ended up spending time at the website for the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Center, an excellent example of how you can use science and factual information to create alarm about anything. Now, that's a valuable lesson about science.

When my budget permits, I'm going to sign up for a subscription to the Bite Size Physics website. This is something the older two can do on their own, and if we aren't able to do the demonstrations ourselves, we can watch YouTube videos of them. The little boys will enjoy either the experiments or the videos.

We are going to borrow Physics In Your Life from the library; this lecture schedules optional readings from Conceptual Physics. All in all, this will be the equivalent of a decent, pre-math physics survey.

Posted by lynx at January 18, 2009 10:31 AM

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Science is going to play a bigger more formal part this year for us too. At least that's the plan. So far for the high schoolers we're going The Teaching Company route starting with The Joy of Science before moving into more specific studies.

I've also got a chemistry set somewhere that I plan to play around with.

Will that be enough? Will we stick with the plan? Who knows...?

Off to check out some of your links.

Posted by: L at January 19, 2009 7:23 AM

I've handled science the same way I handle history-- just keep throwing books at them. :) Jared has been reading Secrets of the Universe and loving it. I'm still considering Rainbow Science for this year, but I haven't purchased it yet, so if you know of anything that might make me want to change my mind, LMK, 'kay? But I need to go check out some links, too. :)

Posted by: KathyJo at January 21, 2009 2:34 PM

We also find it difficult to find science currricula we like, although my very scientifically oriented 11 yr. old manages to "unschool" in science quite successfully.

Thanks for the alien earth's link- it was a perfect fit with our current science meander Astrobiology/The Origin of Life.-Here are some of the other pieces we have used:

free download-
Astrobiology After School Curriculum


Derived from a High School textbook, called: Astrobiology: An Integrated Approach, which can be bought here: http://astrobio.terc.edu/index.html

We really enjoyed the extremophile game, and are having even more fun looking for images on the web to make the cards illustrated.

Then- pricey- but good- The Origins of Life from the Teaching Company. By the same lecturer as The Joy of Science- chock full of organic chemistry, in a really interesting way.

Then as you explore the periodic table- be sure to check out the University of Nottingham's Periodic Table of Videos:

Again- thanks for the great link.

Posted by: Carrie at January 24, 2009 12:41 AM

I happened upon your blog when searching for info about non-vaccinating moms and the public school system in TX. We are in Austin, and I am a selectively vaccinating (also secular) mom. I LOVE your blog, you are a talented writer and I am so thank you for posting about your home schooling experience and mom experience! I find it really inspirational and am considering home schooling for us as well. If you don't mind, I would love to post your blog entry from 2003 about responding to a woman who was SHOCKED that TX had passed a law allowing parents to have control over their child's vaccinations for other than religious reasons. I think it would be great for the moms who read my blog to see. Or, if that isn't ok with you, I could just post a link to that entry on your blog. Either way I will link to your blog, whichever way you prefer. Thanks! (You can email me directly or just respond in a comment)

Posted by: ravyn at January 27, 2009 9:39 AM

"I think we fail because we do have an interest."

I think you're exactly right there.

We gave up on formal science studies the other year. My eldest is 11 and her interests lie in history, literature, and natural history, so I won't start anything formal until the boys (now 9 and 8 -- the younger one adores Robert Hazen from the "Joy of Science" DVDs, go figure) are a bit older. In the meantime, we're slowly assembling a lab -- flasks, bunsen burners! -- so that we can start working our way through Robert Thompson's "The Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments".

Posted by: Becky at February 6, 2009 11:38 PM

We tripped over this great physics resource a while ago and the kids love it. Physics in action!


Posted by: katharine at April 1, 2009 4:32 PM

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