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How are you teaching science at home? Need suggestions!

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 

Mothering is putting together a new guide on great options for teaching science education at home. 

 

Please share your favorite curricula, kits, online and offline resources, books and methods. 

 

Also, any reviews of science products left in our education reviews section in the next couple of weeks will be included in the guide. This is your chance to share your faves!! Leave your reviews HERE or just tell us about them in this thread. 

 

Thanks so much for your help!

post #2 of 40

I am happy with Oak Meadow's science curriculum, and we have several kits from Thames and Kosmos including physics and solar power and others that have all gotten heavy use in our home.

 

Do you also want reviews/recommendations for books that are not marketed as curriculum?  We have encountered some good books on our journey.

post #3 of 40
While we have used formal curricula over the years, I think my young kids learn best by simply observing nature. We own many nature field guides, and I also purchased field guide apps for use on my phone that are even more portable (Audubon Birds, Mammals, Butterflies). Inevitably they'll ask what's happening and why, which gives us a chance to learn.

I keep a pretty large home library of books picked up at yard sales and used book sales. I shelve science books together. If the kids see a tadpole and wonder what it eats, chances are I have a picture book about it. I have many Magic School Bus books, which are accurate and loved by the kids. I also like the older Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-About-Science series because the books are short picture books to hod little ones' attention, yet they explain complicated concepts in ways kids can understand.

A favorite activity that gets kids paying attention to their environment is a nature scavenger hunt. There are so many ways to do it, it never gets old. I've printed some found online or made up my own. Sometimes I just make dots with different colored markers in the bottom of an egg carton and they have to find something that matches that color.

We take advantage of free workshops at nature centers and earth fairs when we can. We've learned from experts about bats, snakes, salamanders, how Native Americans used earth materials in daily living and lots more.

Our family makes maple syrup in the spring, which gets us out in the woods a lot. My parents are farmers, so we get lots of chances to watch life cycles in the real world -- from seeds to crops, from a calf being born to a mother cow.

I try to have the kids involved in at least one hands-on project with something living each year. We might catch and raise tadpoles, then release them, or try to hatch butterfly eggs we've found. One year I bought a butterfly kit with caterpillars and feed. This year we hatched ducklings in an incubator.

Our kids participate in 4-H, which gives them opportunities to share what they learn. Last year one daughter took photos of five types of habitat around our home and listed which birds she had seen in each. This year another daughter is working on a wildflower exhibit.

Sometimes I do worry they aren't hearing the terminology used in a science textbook (mitosis and meiosis, anyone?), but they are absorbing what they learn because it's so real. I recently overheard my 10-year-old explaining to my older brother how bats echolocate. treehugger.gif
post #4 of 40

Probably this isn't that helpful, but by talking, answering questions, getting out in nature, gardening, cooking, doing experiments, life. 

 

My kids are 9, 7 and 5 and we are a highly science orientated family, both myself and my partner have studied maths/science at university/graduate level and he works in a science career. Its enormously important to us that our kids know and love and feel excited by science-in fact we homeschool partly to keep this alive.

 

We have used various curricula in the past but have never found anything as good as just chatting away.

 

All that said, my kids have liked ScienceJim's online lectures a lot. The only issue is that they are maths-light and as kids get older/are more into maths, it would be nice to have a maths-heavy alternative.

post #5 of 40

I really like what IncompetentHousewife and Fillyjonk have said about science learning in their homes, as it's quite similar to what we have done. Exploring and experiencing the real world with enthusiasm and a questioning mind is really the foundation of science. Book learning and what passes for "hands-on science" so often gets it backwards, because it poses either answers or questions for the student. In real science the questions come from the learner. The kid who notices that the car windows fog up in the winter but not in the summer and wonders why is on his way to being a scientist. A kid who labels a diagram to show the water and nutrient transport system of a plant is only learning about science. Obviously both are important, but I think nurturing scientific thinking is all too easily overlooked in favour of gathering the knowledge of other scientists. If you nurture being a scientist, the knowledge about science will naturally follow.

 

Fillyjonk's family culture with respect to science has been ours. Dh and I are trained in scientific fields as well. And this has made us confident that a scientific attitude towards the world that surrounds us is more important that any specific bits of scientific knowledge. The knowledge itself follows naturally if children's observant and questioning habits of mind are nurtured. The early years (up to age 10 or so) were almost entirely about living, working and playing with scientific-thinking radar up. As the kids got older (and mostly to deal with winter cabin fever) we also watched a lot of nature and science documentaries -- including of course the great BBC/Discovery series like Blue Planet, Planet Earth and so on. We especially liked the James Burke "Connections" videos from the 1980s, because they are so evocative of the scientific process, showing how events conspired to create the conditions necessary for scientific observations, questions and innovations that propelled history and science forward, resulting in new conditions that led to new discoveries, and so on and so on. 

 

We have kept lots of nature guides around and spent a lot of time outdoors. We are also DIY'ers by nature, and dh and I both greet the idea of making or building things 'from scratch' with genuine enthusiasm (growing dye plants, making soap, building a forge, making a cob oven, building websites, rebuilding bicycles, hatching and raising laying hens, growing a kitchen garden, building a simple walking bridge, etc. etc.). Figuring out how to do things from scratch necessitates really understanding the science behind how things work, and that has been an excellent model for the kids. They usually get swept up in whatever it is we're doing. We have a few decent scientific tools around that we've gathered gradually over 19 years of being home-educating parents: a microscope, a digital IR thermometer, a telescope, some nice binoculars, a digital scale, etc.. But there was no rush for any of that, as simple senses were enough for most exploration. For a year we had a Science Club, an informal science-based co-op learning group we organized with one other family. We did it one morning every two weeks. We'd choose a theme for the session: the solar system, plant reproduction, playground physics, snow science, human anatomy and physiology, whatever appealed to the parent who took on the planning, and we'd do some activities together (crafts, experimental demonstrations, field trips, problem-solving challenges, etc.). It was kind of fun as an enrichment thing, and socially, though with just the two families and an insane age- and interest-range amongst the nine kids it made for a huge amount of work falling on each parent, so we just did it for a year. 

 

My ds (now 16) did no formal science curriculum at all until age 15 when he started school. He is currently acing his school's most advanced biology course (cellular bio and biochemistry). My other kids have transitioned to school-style curricular easily and precociously without any systematic curriculum. 

 

Besides the "Connections" videos that I've already mentioned, a couple of lesser-known resources that we've liked: "How Stuff Works" podcasts, "RadioLab" podcasts, "The Story of Science" in 3 volumes by Joy Hakim, and Howard McGee's "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen." 

 

Miranda

post #6 of 40
I focus on Science quite often with my twin boys. I would love to share a blog post I wrote about the science activities I do with my twins. Note my blog is NOT a commercial blog. I just blog about homeschooling my twins

http://graham-and-parker.blogspot.com/2012/11/fun-preschool-science.html

.








post #7 of 40
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for your replies!

 

Littlest birds -- yes, I am looking for reviews of any science related items for kids--kits and other hands-on learning opportunities especially. Anything that makes science fun for kids and simple for parents. Thanks! 

 

GPTwins08 -  LOVE what I am seeing on your blog. Perhaps you want to share something from your site in our upcoming guide. Write me at melaniem@mothering.com if you're interested. 

post #8 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Melanie Mayo View Post

Thanks everyone for your replies!

Littlest birds -- yes, I am looking for reviews of any science related items for kids--kits and other hands-on learning opportunities especially. Anything that makes science fun for kids and simple for parents. Thanks! 

GPTwins08 -  LOVE what I am seeing on your blog. Perhaps you want to share something from your site in our upcoming guide. Write me at melaniem@mothering.com if you're interested. 

Thank you!! I sent you an email!
post #9 of 40
Hi there,

We use a lot of art projects to introduce the themes of science with our 1, 3 and 6 year olds. It's amazing the resources available for science related crafts for kids. I particularly like Redted and The Imagination Tree blogs for great ideas.

Also www.mightygirl.com has a great selection of both toys and books relating to science that can get the girls more involved too - and as I have two girls I'm always interested in ways to get them motivated!

Sara
post #10 of 40

It is quite interesting to me really in some ways that there would be a concern with young kids learning science. Seriously, growing up in the UK in the 70/80s this was so not an issue at school. We did various bits and pieces I guess, mainly life stuff. We grew plants for the school garden, had a nature table and shelves with interesting things that could be drawn for art, did various open ended feats where the outcome but not the method was specified (get a 2p coin across a bathtub, which, amazingly, we had in my school). But we never did anything called Science. We never had any equipment more specialist than a garden trowel (for the teacher-the rest of us had to use spoons) . And it was very slow, very experiential, and never ever about learning anything in particular. This was, incidentally, considered to be a very good school indeed, and a high percentage of us kids got in, often on scholarships, to various famous public (private) schools for secondary.

 

I totally agree with Miranda/Moominmamma about this business of teaching little kids facts. It just seems completely the wrong way round. I have literally never met a little kid who does not love science, that door is incredibly open.

 

However I also feel a bit uneasy about giving kids the idea that science is something special, that requires special equipment, coloured lights, prisms, what have you. That is something your parents set up for you rather than just part of life. And there are so many routes into science it is crazy! In science, most paths interconnect at some point so a passion for geology can easily generate knowledge and interest in biology, physics, chemistry not to mention the softer sciences and engineering. For me its passion, interest and motivation that's pretty much what we need to be communicating to our kids in the 5-11 type age range. Science is one of those subjects you just don't need to learn facts in at a young age, it lends itself quite well to specialist niche knowledge so if you want to end up with a scientist I'd say let your kid find their passion and then give them the space and whatever else they need to pursue it.

post #11 of 40

We're using Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding (http://www.amazon.com/Building-Foundations-Scientific-Understanding-Curriculum/dp/1432706101/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360797206&sr=8-1&keywords=building+foundations+of+scientific+understanding) which we chose because it was recommended here on Mothering.

 

Its a great text that teaches how to look at things critically, along with learning the basics about matter, energy, etc. In addition, there is email group support for the text so that you can post questions and the author will assist, and you can also see how other parents are implementing the text, and share ideas.

post #12 of 40

We LOVE Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding by  Bernard Nebel.  It is great!  I teach a first grader and a kindergartener right now and we like to notebook and read real books so this curriculum is right up our alley.  It is affordable and the most complete science resource we have found.  Most of the real book recommendations that go along with the lessons can be found at our library.  The book is organized into 4 threads: Nature of Matter, Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth and Space Science.  There is a flow chart so you can follow your family's interests but still continue to build on info learned.  There is a yahoo group for support and the author is a frequent contributor,

 

We also nature journal.

 

Initially we followed Elizabeth Foss's Alphabet path and did storybook science when we were very young but now we are six (average age) ha ha!  and wanted to dive a little deeper.

 

We like poetry too :)

post #13 of 40

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding is an Excellent Science Curriculum!!!!!!!!!!!

So much elementary level "science" curricula is a smattering of disjointed factoids and "science experiments" that are just a list of things to do, watch, be entertained, move on and not know why anything happened. 

This curriculum gives you a strong, scientific and comprehensive FOUNDATION in scientific ideas and thinking.  Dr. Nebel's goal of getting kids to Love the science in the world is evident and active.  We especially love to keep our flora and fauna logs of our neighborhood. 

It's all hands on and lends itself to living and flowing discussions. The girls really concretely understand the theories and Big Ideas underlying each lesson. Their questions are sometimes lessons in themselves. It is ALIVE and INSPIRED.

The lessons are fully contained information pages. Ideas at the end of what to do with your children. I've come up with an easy way to use and prepare the lessons so that I don't miss anything I want to hit upon but am not continuously reading the book and, instead, am having a living conversation with my kids.
 
We LOVE this curriculum.

post #14 of 40

I have been homeschooling for 6 years now (since the kids left preschool), and I also want to chime on behalf of BFSU (Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding).  

 

BFSU arrived with a big splash and is all over the internet homeschooling community now, and with good reason.  Dr. Nebel's socratic approach to teaching and learning science is such a breath of fresh air compared with the more school-y worksheet-y approach to science.  

 

We are now using his 3rd book in the series, and all along he has been careful to make sure we have a big picture view of science.  We don't memorize the organelles of a cell and their functions.  We think about the unity of life, how glucose and ATP are consistently found in all organisms, from mushrooms to butterflies to humans.  We don't just learn that proteins are a chain of amino acids; we constantly bring it back to how the particular proteins a cell makes determines its function and differentiation.  He is careful to include the history of science in his approach.  These aren't just facts to be memorized, these were discoveries that were unknown to science not long ago, and we discover them along with the actual scientists.  

 

Read the Amazon reviews and join some homeschooling online discussion groups and you'll find plenty of BFSU fans like me.  

post #15 of 40

I have been using Dr. Nebel's Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding for the last three years.  I agree with the previous posters comments, so I won't repeat them except to say that BFSU is an outstanding program and that there are good descriptions of the program on Amazon.

 

My husband and I both have careers in the science field, and we wanted to find an excellent science program with which to educate our children.  BFSU has exceeded my expectations, being the most rigorous, in-depth program that I have found. 

post #16 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post
For me its passion, interest and motivation that's pretty much what we need to be communicating to our kids in the 5-11 type age range. Science is one of those subjects you just don't need to learn facts in at a young age, it lends itself quite well to specialist niche knowledge so if you want to end up with a scientist I'd say let your kid find their passion and then give them the space and whatever else they need to pursue it.

 

What sort of facts are you talking about when you say young kids don't need to learn science facts?  I agree that there's no need to memorize a lot of detail, but I tend to think there are some basic facts everyone ought to learn, and the sooner the better.  For instance: 

 

The Earth is a sphere and it orbits the sun, along with a bunch of other planets.  Stars are other suns that are very far away. The Earth rotates and that's why we have night and day - because sometimes our part of the Earth is facing the sun and sometimes it's facing away.

 

Life on Earth depends (with a few exceptions) on energy from the sun.  Green plants can capture that energy and store it as food and everything else has to get its energy from plants, so everything we eat comes either from a plant or from something that ate plants.

 

There was once no life on Earth.  Then simple living organisms appeared, and gradually, over a very long time, more complicated organisms evolved.  The species that live on Earth now evolved from previous species.

 

I could go on, but you get the idea.  I guess there's no real harm done if a kid doesn't learn any of that until she's a teenager, as long as she does end up learning it.  But it seems better to me for kids to start building a basic understanding of the world pretty early on.  I expect in your house, as in mine, those concepts all come up very naturally and your kids couldn't help learning them.  But I wouldn't want to give less science-y parents the idea that cooking and gardening and picking up worms is really all the science kids need.

post #17 of 40

" I wouldn't want to give less science-y parents the idea that cooking and gardening and picking up worms is really all the science kids need."

 

Why? I'm genuinely curious as to why you wouldn't consider that to be a good science curriculum for a youngish child. Cooking = basic chemistry (really) gardening = biology. Why not  to pick up worms with your fingers also = biology. Its also worth pointing out that a ten minute discussion in the garden in the spring might well easily cover all the facts you mention in your post, in a memorable way. I cannot think of a single gardener I know, including your flowery wellies arty type weekend gardeners,  including devotees to all sorts of interesting world views, who have not worked out that you need the sun to grow a plant. 

 

Also what do you see as the advantage of starting early? Or to put it another way, and assuming that the alternative is not Oprah, what do you see as the disadvantage of waiting until a child finds their own route into science and then running with that? 

 

I actually see two real disadvantages of starting early. First off,  I think information overload, teaching a kid when they are not interested, or cognitively ready for the levels of abstraction of some parts of science, can be a surefire way of turning a kid off science, giving them the idea that Science Is Hard. And if a kid IS interested, why would you use a curriculum rather than letting them lead? Teaching a motivated, interested kid who is racing ahead of you vs plodding through a curriculum? No contest in my book.

 

I think there's a place for structured and systematic aquisition of scientific knowledge by the way-all scientists have done this in their chosen field at some point. At some point, if my kids want to be employed as chemists, physicists, geologists then they will probably need to head to university (online or bricks and mortar) and follow a fairly standardised course in their chosen field. There's a reason these courses are quite standardised, because all chemists, physicists etc do need to know certain basics to specialise further. You need to learn the common language and the current state of knowledge in your field in order for things to move forward. What I just do not agree with is that you need to start doing this at 4, or 7, or 10. This is exactly the kind of knowledge that can be gained much, much more efficiently when you have a. had years of pondering stuff over, experimenting and so on and b. when you are cognitively ready, which I'd dispute most 9 year olds are relative to their 14 year old self.  

post #18 of 40
I agree with Fillyjonk. When a kid is picking worms, they're liable to ask at some point "where do worms come from?" which will lead to incredible wide-ranging discussions about life, reproduction, the origins of life and evolution. That sort of natural learning will be so much more meaningful and well-retained than something that comes out of a textbook on some adult's schedule. Sure, it's not systematic, and some kids might not ask some questions until age 11 or something, but I see no big issues with that. At some point there may be a need for a systematic curriculum to ensure gaps are filled before moving to higher study. For my kids that came at age 13 or 14 or so, and it was very easily accomplished in very little time.

MIranda
post #19 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

" I wouldn't want to give less science-y parents the idea that cooking and gardening and picking up worms is really all the science kids need."

 

Why? I'm genuinely curious as to why you wouldn't consider that to be a good science curriculum for a youngish child. Cooking = basic chemistry (really) gardening = biology. Why not  to pick up worms with your fingers also = biology. Its also worth pointing out that a ten minute discussion in the garden in the spring might well easily cover all the facts you mention in your post, in a memorable way. I cannot think of a single gardener I know, including your flowery wellies arty type weekend gardeners,  including devotees to all sorts of interesting world views, who have not worked out that you need the sun to grow a plant. 

 

Sure, a kid can learn a lot from a 10 minute discussion in the garden.  But the discussion is a key part of the learning.  Just being in the garden without the discussion may or may not be a learning experience.  Cooking, gardening, and worms plus introduction of relevant facts and discussion sounds like a fine science curriculum for a young kid.  Cooking, gardening, and worms alone won't necessarily guarantee any science learning. 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

 

Also what do you see as the advantage of starting early? Or to put it another way, and assuming that the alternative is not Oprah, what do you see as the disadvantage of waiting until a child finds their own route into science and then running with that? 

 

I actually see two real disadvantages of starting early. First off,  I think information overload, teaching a kid when they are not interested, or cognitively ready for the levels of abstraction of some parts of science, can be a surefire way of turning a kid off science, giving them the idea that Science Is Hard. And if a kid IS interested, why would you use a curriculum rather than letting them lead? Teaching a motivated, interested kid who is racing ahead of you vs plodding through a curriculum? No contest in my book.

 

Why start early?  Well, the earlier you start hearing some of the important facts, the sooner you can really understand and use them.  You need to hear or read or think about a science concept multiple times before you really get it and it gets permanently lodged in your brain as an easily-accessible bit of information.  The sooner you understand the basics, the sooner you can start seeing connections between different ideas and asking the deeper, more complicated questions that you once didn't even know enough to wonder about. 

 

But when I talk about starting early, I'm certainly not thinking of trying to cram facts into a kid who's not interested or can't understand.  And I'm not thinking of plodding through a curriculum, or even using a curriculum.  I don't think I'm really talking about anything very different from what you're talking about by "waiting until a child finds their own route into science and then running with that."  I'm thinking of the kind of thing it sounds like you do: 10 minute conversations in the garden and so forth, maybe talking about something the kid is already interested in, or maybe bringing up some interesting fact the kid might like to hear about.

 

I didn't have to buy a curriculum or plan anything out in order to ensure that my kids got a good introduction to basic science facts from an early age.  It just happened naturally.  It sounds like it worked the same way in your family and in Moominmamma's.  But if we were to say, oh, we didn't do anything special, just got out into nature and talked about what we saw, we'd be leaving out a big part of what was actually going on.  Those discussions that just happened naturally were fueled by knowledge and interest not everyone has.

 

To bring this back to the original thread topic, I guess the question is how parents who don't have a scientific background can best ensure their kids learn the basics of science.  I'm not talking about systematic study of chemistry or physics, just basic concepts like what makes day and night, why plants need sunlight, why we can't live without plants, what air is made of, etc.  Going through a curriculum doesn't seem like the best way.  But what's the alternative?  If you knew someone who wasn't actually interested in learning more science herself but wanted her kid to learn the basics, what resources would you advise her to use?  That's the kind of person who really needs this thread.  I have no idea what would work well for that person, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be the same approach that works well for us science-loving parents.

post #20 of 40
We enjoy using Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, because it fits with our Charlotte Mason way of exploring in nature, learning from books and things. Nature Studies and this book together with living books are our ideal way of learning Science.
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