Our Homeschool Science this Year

This is an ongoing series where I share how we’re doing different subjects in our homeschool this year. You can see my previous post “Our Homeschool Language Arts this Year” here.

And here’s how we’re doing science this year!

11th grade: My 11th grader started out the year with Oak Meadow Environmental Science but to be honest, she hasn’t gotten far with it. I am hoping one of my other kids will pick it up at a future date because it was a bit spendy! She is currently “outsourcing” her science by taking an Intro to Psychology course at the local community college and will probably continue on that path next year.

9th grade: My 9th grader is using Apologia Biology this year and we have been pretty happy with it. It is definitely a Christian-based program and we are a secular homeschool, but it has not felt like an issue at all. There is an occasional religious sentence or two here and there, but the science is solid and I am really pleased with the friendly tone it’s presented in. Much more interesting than I remember science textbooks being!  We got the CD-ROM version with the schedule from Sonlight and this has made completing the work much more do-able for both of us. The schedule breaks everything down into manageable pieces to complete each day and lets him know what he needs to have on hand for upcoming experiments. The CD-ROM has been great and I am glad we chose it over the traditional text. I think reading the material on the computer feels less intimidating than having a giant science book to get through. Throughout the text there are links to short videos. You can also click on many unfamiliar words to hear them pronounced, which I think is an awesome feature since I am terrible at pronouncing unfamiliar terms.

Apologia Biology Student Text ~ I chose to order the CD-ROM version from Sonlight

I also purchased the student notebook from Apologia for him and it has really made organizing all the notes and studying for the quizzes much easier. This is the first time  he has experienced a course where he was expected to take notes and study for tests, and I am glad he’s getting this experience. The only downside I have found is that if you don’t get to it every day (we have trouble with this) it’s easy to get behind. I would prefer to move on to chemistry (or something else) next year, so we may end up finishing this one up over the summer. The experiments so far have been successful and easy to do, but we’re not up to the dissections yet, so ask me again in a few weeks! He does this program independently, but I do check in to see what he has done each day and remind him when he needs to get ready for a quiz or a lab. He probably spends 45 minutes a day, on average, on this course.

7th grade: My 7th grader is using BookShark Science 7 this year, which comes with a daily schedule ~ my favorite way to do science, otherwise I find it tends to get put off! We have been mostly happy with this program. He has enjoyed the book selection so far, especially Cool Stuff 2.0 which he was very happy to see in his book pile. We started out having him do the questions provided with my Instructor Guide but he tends to get bogged down answering those, so we have switched to mostly discussing them. This has really saved him a lot of time and I find I get better, more detailed answers than when I have him write the answers out. I love the diversity of topics and titles in this level – there are books about robotics, canals and dams, garbage, weather, the Industrial Revolution, and more. The only downside we have found is that some of the experiments have been disappointing. Some of them were a bit “fussy”, some of them just plain didn’t work, and at least one didn’t seem doable. A few weeks ago, for example, we were instructed to create a robot, bring it to a crowded setting, and operate it secretly to observe people’s reactions. We quickly realized that with today’s security concerns it was probably not a smart idea to set something like that loose in a crowd of people! I have been letting him pick and choose from among the experiments and he probably does about every other one or so.

A few of the books scheduled in this level:


4th grade: Last, but not least, my 4th grader is using Sonlight Science D this year. She is really enjoying it so far. Like BookShark and Apologia, we have a daily schedule for this one and she has no problem keeping up with it. So far, she has read a book about Rachel Carson, learned about seas and oceans, read a Magic School Bus book about the human body, and spent a lot of time reading her favorite book, Mysteries and Marvels of Nature. She loves checking out the internet-links for that title after she reads. We are currently working through TOPS Radishes, as mentioned in my last post. We have a “divide and conquer’ approach to this curriculum that is working well. She reads some of it to herself, answers most of the questions on the activity sheets provided, and checks out the internet links on her own if she’s reading an internet-linked book. I read some of the more complex books with her, watch the science DVD with her when we’re scheduled to, and assist with experiments.

A few of the books scheduled in this level:

 

And that’s how we’re doing science in our homeschool this year…thanks for reading!

Our Homeschool Technology Unit

Christopher finished up his BookShark science a few weeks ago and we were in limbo about what to do next – get the next BookShark science? Jump right into high school biology, since he is finishing up his eighth grade year? I was leaning towards the latter, but then decided  I just didn’t have time to plan and research such a thing this time of year…. so together we decided on a mini technology unit.

 The  plan is to have him work through the following three resources for about 10 weeks.

  • The Way Things Work Now ~ What a fun book! All of the diagrams, explanations, and illustrations are right up his alley. He reads several pages a week (a bit each day) and then just tells me what he read about.

  • Can You Feel the Force? – Like the book above, this one is full of color ~ but with photos instead of illustrations. The two books go quite well together. Christopher picks up whichever book he feels like reading that day and then just tells me what he read about.

  • Snap Circuits – For some hands-on fun, I picked up a snap circuits kit. We have never used these in our homeschool, though I have always meant to give them a try. The plan is to spend an hour a week or so playing around with the kit. I purchased a Snap Circuit student guide from Rainbow Resource to help flesh out the experiments. Tomorrow we’ll be our first day experimenting with this, and I’m excited to see how it goes! 

And that’s our simple technology unit to round out Christopher’s eighth grade year of science. 

A Review of Home Science Adventures

I have been using Home Science Adventures in our homeschool this year with Rose, my third-grader, and James, my sixth-grader. In this post, I’m going to share a few photos of the things we’ve been doing and some thoughts I have about this program.

First of all, Home Science Adventures offers six different science kits ~ plus two triple sets, which include three of the regular kits. I decided to go with one of the triple sets so we would have our science activities set for the year. We settled on the Astronomy, Birds, and Magnetism set. At the time I ordered, I wasn’t totally sure if I would incorporate James into our lessons, mostly because I wasn’t sure if the program would feel too young for him. The HSA website recommends the kits for grades 1-8. When I got the materials, I looked everything over and decided it would work fine for him to use along with Rose. He is definitely having a lighter science year this year than last, but that’s okay with me. I do think that for us, 6th grade is the upper limit I would use HSA for. To me, it feels too light and “introductory” for an eighth grader.

The lessons in HSA are short, simple, and to the point. The focus is on the hands-on activity. This is definitely a “less is more” type program, and only a few key concepts are introduced in each lesson. I really like that about it though, because I feel like what we learn is really sticking. Also, we only spend about 60-90 minutes total each week on science, usually split over two days.
That gets us through two HSA lessons.  So, it’s a very do-able program, even if you are a bit crunched for time, like  me.

How far apart are objects in the solar system?

 As far as the younger grades go, as I said, Rose is a third-grader this year, and I think that age is pretty perfect for this program. It could certainly be used with a first-grader, but it would probably help if they were a bit science-oriented, at least for the two units (astronomy and magnetism) we have tried so far. The other thing is that James could do this program entirely by himself, if I needed him to. Rose would be able to do some parts of it by herself. A younger child would most likely need help the entire time.

Comparing the sizes of the planets

Okay, so you here’s what you get when you order the Astronomy-Birds-Magnetism set!

                   

As you can see, you get a lot of stuff! This is a really fun box to open. It has literally everything you need for a whole year of science, except for a two-liter soda bottle. And I really mean everything – we were given tacks, paper cups, string, a nail, a little bag of birdseed, a ruler, a thermometer, toothpicks, and even a pin stuck in a piece of Styrofoam so we don’t poke ourselves. In the colored folders are the lesson sheets and any other reproducibles for each lesson. I chose to get the optional binoculars with the astronomy set, and for the small extra price, they work well. You get a ton of little pieces in this box!

The set also comes with a parent guide, which is just a set of stapled notes for each lesson, including answers, hints, and ideas for further study. One of my few complaints about this program is that I would have preferred to have a nicer parent guide, perhaps a small spiral-bound book. I am always afraid of losing the stapled pages, but in retrospect, perhaps I should have hole-punched them or stuck them in a sheet protector. The lesson sheets have the directions for each activity (these are written to the child) and spaces for them to record their thoughts and observations. Writing is pretty minimal, so this program has worked well for my sometimes pencil-phobic children. There is a suggestion in the parent guide to make a science notebook, but we chose to keep it simple and only use the lesson sheets. There is only set of lesson sheets, so I copy an extra for each lesson so both kiddos can have their own.

Testing which poles attract

Some thoughts on doing this with two kids – there are definitely enough supplies to have two kids share this program – you’ll just need to copy the lesson sheets if you want them each to have one. Sharing has not been a problem and I often ask James to do the set up, demonstrate how to do the experiment to his sister, and help her fill in her sheet.

The three units of the triple set can be done in any order; they stand alone. We chose to start the year with astronomy, and the very first lesson we did was on tracking the moon. The kids kept a moon chart and noted what phase the moon was in every few nights. Simple, but a really  nice way to get us paying attention to the night sky on a regular basis. Incidentally, we have this calendar at home, and it’s a great go-along to the astronomy unit. If we weren’t totally sure of the moon phase we just checked our calendar. Our next lesson had the kids draw the moon while observing the craters with their binoculars. We learned what ejecta rays are and how craters form. This lesson had a fun optional idea to design your own moon base, but the kids weren’t interested, so I didn’t push it.

For other astronomy lessons, we figured out how high the kids could jump, and how high that would be on the moon and on other planets (and why). We did a greenhouse experiment to see just why it is hotter on Venus than Mercury. Again, each of these lessons has go-along hints, tips, and extra facts included in the parent guide, as well as simple ideas for extra study – many of these are just other things to discuss or briefly research and only take a few minutes to add in.

At this point, we hit the holidays, so we took a break from science. Getting back to our astronomy studies proved difficult – it was either cloudy, too cold, or someone was too tired from practice to go outside. We also had several weeks of sickness, which did not help! So, I decided to switch to the  magnetism kit for a while and we’ll pick astronomy back up in the spring (we have six lessons left).

Testing out magnetic fields

Another magnet sculpture

Home Science Adventures is not a secular program, and there are a (very) few religious references, but we have not found this to be an issue at all as a secular homeschooling family.

Making predictions ~ what is magnetic?

 So to sum up – I really like this program and I think the kids do, too. It is easy to use, which is always a plus, especially for someone like me who tends to push science to the back burner. This program gets done, which is huge in my book! I also really love having everything provided for me! For so many other science programs we have to hunt around for things, go shopping for items we need to do an experiment, or modify experiments to fit what we do have. Not so here! It is light, but I am okay with that; it fits what I wanted for science this year. If you have any questions about Home Science Adventures, I am happy to try to help; just leave me a comment below. 

Homeschool Photo Journal: Valentines, Snow, & Science


Flowers from the kids:: Seeing how food coloring spreads through water :: experimenting with magnets in Home Science Adventures :: Getting ready for the Great Backyard Birdcount:: learning about chromosomes and extracting DNA from a banana (BookShark Science 6) :: a new Five in a Row book :: pompom monsters for Valentine’s Day :: cupid floats :: snowstorms :: stacking conversation hearts.

Have a wonderful weekend!