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My 4yo DS (turning 5 in November) will be attending a Montessori preschool 5 half-days a week in the fall. I'm planning to let the school handle reading and math progression (except playing RS Math Card Games and doing some AAS), but I'd like to afterschool history, art/music, and science. I pretty much have a good idea of what I want to do with history (SotW) and art (Drawing with Children), but I'm having trouble with planning something for science.

 

I very much like the idea of following WTM's science progression and studying biology, anatomy, and botany this year, but it feels like the first year science ideas are a bit simplistic. My DS would definitely not go for just reading about animals and coloring pictures for half a year. (He shares his mother's disinterest in animals in general.) So I've been looking at a few options. In order of preference:

 

BSFU: I like the depth I perceive in this curriculum--that it uses actual science terms and doesn't dumb things down for kids too much. The Socratic method and lack of worksheets are fun. It seems like it might be a good level for DS, but I don't like the spirally nature of it. DS and I are both systematizers, so the idea of studying one area at a time from beginning to end really appeals to me. It's not that I mind the cross-connections; it's just not what I want to emphasize. Is it possible to rearrange this curriculum to follow only one strand at a time? I've seen the charts that show which lessons depend on what, but how dependent are they really? Could I teach the Life Science strand this year without covering anything else? Or should I really just suck it up and go spirally? I'm also concerned about the prep time involved. I've read online that people feel like this curriculum involves too much work on the parental part. Am I going to find this overwhelming? Thoughts?

 

RS4K: I like how systematic this curriculum is, but it seems a bit simplistic. Is it? Could I skip the elementary level and go straight to the middle school curriculum, assuming I help out with writing things? Or is there too much math that needs to be mastered first? And of course, this curriculum is short. Only 10 lessons? What can you do to stretch that out to fill a whole year? Any suggested supplements? Any experience starting with Biology instead of Chemistry?

 

Winging it: I have enough science background that I could wing it from living books. The organization for anatomy/human body section seems straightforward, but I'm having some trouble with how to deal with the biology/zoology/botany part. The systematizer in me would love to use some simplified form of classification, probably deemphasizing microscopic creatures but still covering them, maybe starting with a short section on what a cell is. Any good resources at an upper elementary level on classification?

 

On the other hand, I find the idea of organizing by different biomes very appealing: I could use the documentary "Planet Earth" as a spine, watch an episode and then talk about the plant and animal life in each biome for a few weeks. Anyone else done it this way?

 

On the third hand, I love the idea of doing a nature studies approach for this year and focusing on our local wildlife and plants here in the Pacific Northwest. However, I feel less confident about this approach since my identification of plants is limited to tulips versus roses, and like I said, not a big animal fan. Maybe I would do a systematic study for 20 weeks in the fall, and do nature study for 10 weeks in the spring. What are some good, unintimidating nature study resources for a beginner?

 

Sorry for so many questions in one post. I just see a lot of different ways to go and am having difficulty choosing between them. Feel free to suggest other curriculums as these are the main ones I've looked at.

 

 

 

More info about DS's abilities if that's helpful: began reading at age 2, fluent reader at 3rd grade level currently, has the stamina to read about one section of SotW by himself at a time. Writing is pretty much no go, but I'm hoping Montessori will help that. Mathwise, he loves addition and subtraction, thinks negative numbers are hilarious, and is trying to puzzle out multiplication, can do with powers of ten (ie 10x10=100, 10x100=1000, 10x7=70, etc). Very interested in facts, actively dislikes "fiction" right now, very fact hungry kid who keeps bringing me StoW for bedtime stories of his own volition, not particularly showing any science precocity. Not interested in coloring and crafty activities AT ALL (neither am I).

 

More info about me: I have a chemistry minor (almost majored in it, but hit the wall in Physical Chem, so I went back to my true love, English) and love science. I feel totally confident teaching science at this level; I just don't want to assemble my own curriculum from scratch if I don't have to, especially since we have a new baby coming in about 10 days. :D Oh, and while I am religious, I prefer secular curriculum. I can provide my own personal religious views on the subject without messing up the evidence with them. Another plus for RS4K.

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Quickly -- some thoughts.

 

If you don't like spirally & you are concerned about the prep time, don't do BFSU. If you think I may be wrong in this advice join the Yahoo group for BFSU and post there, they seem very friendly and helpful. If biased toward BFSU naturally. :)

On the other hand, you like SoTW & Drawing with Children and I myself get really irked by both of those (I'm in a minority here, for sure!) and also get irked by BFSU so perhaps you would love it!!! I've noticed that folks seem to like clusters of materials .... I hope what follows is the least bit useful!

 

If you want classification and are religious, you can't beat Apologia. Plus it is super easy to use if you get the lab kits from Rainbow + the Jr. Notebooking. Now I find Apologia seriously flawed and in some places the science is misleading (Jeannie Fulbright does not understand the empirical science perspective) but it has many strengths. We can't use it as written b/c Apologia concepts violate my faith, but I adapt it.

 

Of you could do the full Montessori route with the cards &c at Montessori Services. Pricey, though.

 

Many science mamas have been dissatisfied with RS4K. I honestly think SWB likes it fine b/c science isn't her strong point, but I'm sure to be set straight by science-savvy lovers of RS4K now that I've posted. ;) Before you go that route try the REAL Science Odyssey sample for Bio 1 and see if it suits. A. doesn't like RSO at all but many children do.

 

If you are a biome person you may like the GEMS guides. They are good for lots of other stuff, too; but the biome emphasis particularly put me in mind of them. Science parents love these, though they are work to prepare & execute. They are actually put together by folks expert at (1) science and (2) teaching. So rare.

 

The best open-and-go nature study resources for the beginner are the Shining Dawn units. They are lovely and if you are religious there is nothing to warn you off them (other than they are young earth & Creationist, but I don't find that actively taught much in their units -- the problem from the empirical perspective is that they don't include old earth/evolutionary information). Just a wonderful resource. Print 'em up and you can usually get started right away.

 

Do look at MEP math, too, if you haven't yet. Idiosyncratic but nifty. And if he's still fiction-resistant in a year or so and you want to work on that try the Sonlight Read-Aloud lists (and readers, too). This is one of Sonlight's real strengths.

 

HTH! at the very least I've bumped you :)

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I think you may be my twin. Former Chem major here who also has a serious love of English literature; religious but preferring secular science; not crafty; abysmal at wild plant and animal identification; and I think I just may have tried almost every science option you're looking at!

 

I very much like the idea of following WTM's science progression and studying biology, anatomy, and botany this year, but it feels like the first year science ideas are a bit simplistic. My DS would definitely not go for just reading about animals and coloring pictures for half a year. (He shares his mother's disinterest in animals in general.)

 

Yep. I tried it. We all went batty after a couple of weeks of animals. I did find it helpful to use Draw, Write, Now with it, but still ... :willy_nilly:

 

RS4K: I like how systematic this curriculum is, but it seems a bit simplistic. Is it? Could I skip the elementary level and go straight to the middle school curriculum, assuming I help out with writing things? Or is there too much math that needs to be mastered first? And of course, this curriculum is short. Only 10 lessons? What can you do to stretch that out to fill a whole year? Any suggested supplements? Any experience starting with Biology instead of Chemistry?

 

I used this after WTM animals. It was okay, but not great. (I have a deep dislike of texts printed in Comic Sans, and that was a factor for me in deciding not to use it again.) The experiments were fine, but with only one per chapter, I didn't have a lot of choice. I must have a weird home, because I never, ever, ever had the things listed as "common household supplies." For the cost, the books are short. It would take a lot of supplementing to make it work.

 

BSFU: I like the depth I perceive in this curriculum--that it uses actual science terms and doesn't dumb things down for kids too much. The Socratic method and lack of worksheets are fun. It seems like it might be a good level for DS, but I don't like the spirally nature of it. DS and I are both systematizers, so the idea of studying one area at a time from beginning to end really appeals to me. It's not that I mind the cross-connections; it's just not what I want to emphasize. Is it possible to rearrange this curriculum to follow only one strand at a time? I've seen the charts that show which lessons depend on what, but how dependent are they really? Could I teach the Life Science strand this year without covering anything else? Or should I really just suck it up and go spirally? I'm also concerned about the prep time involved. I've read online that people feel like this curriculum involves too much work on the parental part. Am I going to find this overwhelming? Thoughts?

 

I adapt BFSU here now, and it's the happiest I've been with science. In the concerns you listed, the prep is probably the one you'll want to consider most carefully. I takes about 35-40 minutes a week for me to prep. I do have to get some supplies in, but no more than I did with RS4K. Having a science background will reduce the prep time for you.

 

I don't find it "spirally" (as in repeating topics in greater depth) as much as I do "integrated," and I do find it very systematic. I use the flow chart as a guide for topic studies, and I go as far down a thread as I want before moving to another one. I don't pay a lot of attention to prerequisites for lessons, although occasionally it is useful because the connections are worth the effort.

 

I tend to use BFSU first and foremost as a guide for resources to bring in: books, documentaries, and supplemental kits or units. (Right now I'm loving TOPS science units.) Often I will work through the lessons as they're described in BFSU, because I like using the demonstrations and discussion to think about science. Sometimes we complete a lesson in a day; other times we hang out and take a few weeks or more on a single lesson. For example, this year we ended up spending two weeks on the biomes lesson (mostly because we *had* to watch all of the Planet Earth episodes :001_smile: ), and four weeks on germination because we used the TOPS radish investigation to guide that one.

 

I also threw my own dinosaur unit into the mix, too. Dinosaurs are just so much fun!

 

On the third hand, I love the idea of doing a nature studies approach for this year and focusing on our local wildlife and plants here in the Pacific Northwest. However, I feel less confident about this approach since my identification of plants is limited to tulips versus roses, and like I said, not a big animal fan. Maybe I would do a systematic study for 20 weeks in the fall, and do nature study for 10 weeks in the spring. What are some good, unintimidating nature study resources for a beginner?

 

Yep. I'm with you here, too. A bird feeder and a good bird guide was my gentle introduction to this, because feeding birds sit still long enough and come back often enough that even I can start to recognize them. :lol: Observing the moon phases was another easy-for-me study. Then one of my dds became passionate about rocks, so I'm learning a wee bit of rock identification. It's just a matter of taking a deep breath, saying, "I have no idea, so let's learn this together," and diving in.

 

Oh, and while I am religious, I prefer secular curriculum. I can provide my own personal religious views on the subject without messing up the evidence with them. Another plus for RS4K.

 

RS4K was okay in its neutrality, but ... biology with zero evolutionary discussion wasn't that helpful for me. And I haven't used the RS4K geology books (I believe they use Comic Sans, too <_< ), but I just don't see how geology can be discussed in any depth without referencing deep time -- which means losing the type of neutrality she seems to be going for. So you may find that the neutrality will frustrate you more than secular resources will.

 

I hope that this helps! Have fun!

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BSFU: I like the depth I perceive in this curriculum--that it uses actual science terms and doesn't dumb things down for kids too much. The Socratic method and lack of worksheets are fun. It seems like it might be a good level for DS, but I don't like the spirally nature of it. DS and I are both systematizers, so the idea of studying one area at a time from beginning to end really appeals to me. It's not that I mind the cross-connections; it's just not what I want to emphasize. Is it possible to rearrange this curriculum to follow only one strand at a time? I've seen the charts that show which lessons depend on what, but how dependent are they really? Could I teach the Life Science strand this year without covering anything else? Or should I really just suck it up and go spirally? I'm also concerned about the prep time involved. I've read online that people feel like this curriculum involves too much work on the parental part. Am I going to find this overwhelming? Thoughts?

 

 

There is no reason that you couldn't study just one strand at a time. BFSU is very flexible in this way. To give you an idea of how one lesson depends on another, I will give you an example. In one strand, you teach a lesson on energy, pointing out that there are four types of energy, one of which is light. That lesson is a prerequisite to the one on plants and animals, because the differentiating feature is how they get their energy. You could easily combine these lessons, pulling out of the one just what you need to support the other. Then when you get to the other strand, you would just teach it in reverse, focusing more on the lesson in that strand and pulling out of the other just what you need to each the one you are focusing on.

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I think you may be my twin. Former Chem major here who also has a serious love of English literature;

A rare combo indeed! Glad to meet another!

 

I used this after WTM animals. It was okay, but not great. (I have a deep dislike of texts printed in Comic Sans, and that was a factor for me in deciding not to use it again.) The experiments were fine, but with only one per chapter, I didn't have a lot of choice. I must have a weird home, because I never, ever, ever had the things listed as "common household supplies." For the cost, the books are short. It would take a lot of supplementing to make it work.

Aaaah! Not Comic Sans! I thought they banned it ages ago. :D I have that same problem with "common household items" in most craft projects I try. Do most people really have brads, safety pins, corks, borax, etc. just lying around?

 

I adapt BFSU here now, and it's the happiest I've been with science. In the concerns you listed, the prep is probably the one you'll want to consider most carefully. I takes about 35-40 minutes a week for me to prep. I do have to get some supplies in, but no more than I did with RS4K. Having a science background will reduce the prep time for you.

 

I don't find it "spirally" (as in repeating topics in greater depth) as much as I do "integrated," and I do find it very systematic. I use the flow chart as a guide for topic studies, and I go as far down a thread as I want before moving to another one. I don't pay a lot of attention to prerequisites for lessons, although occasionally it is useful because the connections are worth the effort.

30-40 minutes of prep doesn't seem too bad to me. Especially since I love science. It sounds like this could be a good option for us.

 

 

RS4K was okay in its neutrality, but ... biology with zero evolutionary discussion wasn't that helpful for me. And I haven't used the RS4K geology books (I believe they use Comic Sans, too <_< ), but I just don't see how geology can be discussed in any depth without referencing deep time -- which means losing the type of neutrality she seems to be going for. So you may find that the neutrality will frustrate you more than secular resources will.

Darn. Leaving controversial information out isn't neutral; it's being conflict avoidant. You are right that this would drive me nuts, probably not more than reading some young earth creationist science book would, but still annoying. (My own perspective is to take all the truth I can learn from science, and all the truth I can learn from religion, and withhold judgment either way and deal with the cognitive dissonance in my mind until I can get a better explanation from someone who was there. :D)

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I'm not sure that I have science curriculum figured out, but like you, life science is not my favorite branch of science. So this year, our first of homeschooling, we started out with a different branch of science. If your son is very mathematical, he might enjoy physics or chemistry first, subjects that you might be able to use living books to put together for yourself.

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Many science mamas have been dissatisfied with RS4K. I honestly think SWB likes it fine b/c science isn't her strong point, but I'm sure to be set straight by science-savvy lovers of RS4K now that I've posted. ;) Before you go that route try the REAL Science Odyssey sample for Bio 1 and see if it suits. A. doesn't like RSO at all but many children do.

I kind of got that feeling from WTM as well, that SWB's strong point is not in science and math. It makes sense, given her background. Very few people are well versed on both the humanities end and the math/science end. Very few people even like both. :D

 

I just spent a ridiculously long time looking through the REAL Science Odyssey samples. I really like it a lot! Thanks for pointing me to it.

 

And if he's still fiction-resistant in a year or so and you want to work on that try the Sonlight Read-Aloud lists (and readers, too). This is one of Sonlight's real strengths.

Oh, he still doesn't mind having stories read to him and such. But he really likes non-fiction and it's what's finally pushed him into reading longer items voluntarily on his own. I'm sure he'll come around eventually. I just find it really funny how insistent he is on "real" things. For a while, he would skip all the story sections in SotW (you know, the indented sections that tell stories) because they were "fiction" and therefore not important. LOL Luckily, he got over that.

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A rare combo indeed! Glad to meet another!

 

I've found it the combo rare in my neighbourhood ... but on these boards, it's a whole 'nother story. There are lots of science-and-literature-loving folks around here. They're such an encouragement and inspiration. (Although my poor pocket book has suffered from all of the new books that they've recommended and I just had to get my hands on. :D )

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