Thursday, April 17, 2008

Science for the secular homeschooling family

is always a challenge. Over the 8 years we have homeschooled, I have bought waaay too much science curriculum. We've tried Young Scientists Club, Singapore Science, Science in a Nutshell kits, TOPScience, Janice Van Cleave books, textbooks and some whose name I can't even remember. I have looked at even more - Noeo, MSNucleus, Real Science 4 Kids, R.E.A.L. Science. Not all of these are from secular companies.

Below are selected reviews with the caveat that Noach much prefers hands-on ,and frankly, I have given up on much writing. Until recently he hated to write anything. I think that the "too much writing" problem has been recurrent because I found the writing a burden as much as he and his siblings did. Blowing things up is preferred.

Young Scientists Club
Pro - Noach LOVED getting these kits in the mail. He could not wait to do the experiments. I was happy to find all the supplies in the box so we were never without the needed material. He did not want to do the writing in the kit but who says you have to follow all the instructions. We are homeschoolers, right? We can do it our way.

Con - I wanted more reading with the experiments so I had to plan ahead to have the right library books available to flesh out the experience. Also cost.

Science in a Nutshell from Delta Education
Pro - Complete kit with 10 - 12 activities per kit. Each kit has enough material for 3 kids. Rock Origins, Electrical Connections, and Ponds and Streams were favorites.

Con - I needed to coordinate the reading and there was too much writing for my kids. These are pricy but I have gotten most of ours on ebay. Watch for incomplete, used kits, though.

Pro - cheap. We did the Electricity unit for younger kids many years ago. It was fun. The circuits were made with tape, folded aluminum foil and paper clips. The worksheet/instructions were perfect. Draw your results, answer a few pertinent questions. Also we did Green Thumb:Radishes and Oxidation. I have to say that I really liked these units. I have some to use with high school chemistry next year.

Con - More reading needed.

Janice Van Cleave books
Pro - Cheap, if you can get them from the library or buy used. Many have lots of good reading material with the experiments. We have enjoyed Physics for Every Kid and Biology for Every Kid this year.

Con - I can't really think of any unless you want worksheets and I don't.

So, what did we do for the 5th Grade? For the early part of the year, we did Cub Scout science. Noach needed to complete some of the pins so we did weather, astronomy, engineering and science requirements. I added in some relevant Van Cleave experiments.

We studied evolution for a month, reading The Voyage of the Beetle and Horrible Science, Evolve or Die. We do the reading aloud rather than having him read to himself.

We have done Science in a Nutshell kits, The Human Machine and Vision and Hearing and Biology for Every Kid most recently.

Next year? First I have to decide whether I will do a group lab for 11-14 year old kids. I am thinking positively. Yesterday the mother of one of the biology lab kids asked me to do a chemistry lab next year. I'm not sure I can do both.

I'm still thinking. PRM


Lorna said...

We have had similar struggles in finding a good solid and inspiring science course that is also secular.
We are really loving Ellen McHenry's The Elements curriculum right now. And she has a follow up, Carbon Chemistry (for grades five to nine). I agree about the writing. I occasionally get the children to write down what they have done, but I think there is enough writing in their day without killing their love of science with it!
I am so excited about finding your blog! Fantastic!

Ruth in NC said...

I looked at that curriculum this weekend. What age are you using it for? Is The Elements a year-long program?

I am looking for something for high school chemistry and was not convinced that The Elements would work. I am thinking about using it with my 11yo in another year, say 7th grade.

Do you know anything about Spectrum Chemistry? Not secular for sure but I can't tell how intrusive the religion is.


Lorna said...

I am using 'The Elements' with a 12 and 10 year old. We are finding it a perfect fit. We will certainly go on to use the follow up Carbon Chemistry. If you click on my name it should take you to my blog. We have been using the curriculum over the past few weeks and there are plenty of posts that it features in.
We are an English family. I want to delay using textbooks with the children for as long as possible and this has been fantastic. It is a great way of familiarizing the children with all the elements; explaining the different types of bonds; getting them memorising the Periodic Table and explaining the groups (such as noble gases, metalloids etc) and a great deal more. It is very easy to add in your own experiments and field trips and it is full of wonderful ideas. It isn't high school level but some of it would make excellent background material for revision, memorising and getting to grips with concepts.
I haven't seen Spectrum.

Lorna said...

I meant to add that it isn't a year programme. Doing several hours a day, with a lot of activties, it has only taken us a couple of months. It covers a great deal though, and so well. There seems so much wasted time in the text books I have seen for this age - it appears to cover more.

Ruth in NC said...

I copied the sample pages and Noach wanted to do them immediately. Mind you it was about cooking and that is one of his interests but he has enjoyed the first activities. I may well order The Elements for him to do in the fall.

I have been able to avoid textbooks through high school biology. But it looks like I may be using Spectrum chemistry which may be considered a textbook.

Thanks for the suggestions. I've enjoyed your blog, too. PRM