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Please suggest quick overview resources for life science, astronomy, and earth science


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We have tried several times to study all three of these subjects.  The problem is that both of my kids (7th and 9th grade) have always preferred to jump right to in-depth, detailed study of chemistry, physics, and biology.  When they grab books far above their supposed level (Zumdahl's Introductory Chemistry, for example, or Hewitt's Conceptual Physics, or even Campbell and Reece's Biology) and start working very hard with joy and excitement, I'm just not going to pull them back and insist that they slog through more general science texts for younger kids.


However, what this means is that both of them lack a basic "cultural literacy" level of understanding about some things: the digestive system, the way muscles work, the ways life is classified by modern scientists, the general differences between the planets, what an amphibian is versus a reptile, the ways we talk about the far reaches of space, the differences between a meteor, a meteorite, and an asteroid, what an aquifer is, how the water cycle functions, the three main kinds of rock....I'm not talking about detailed information, but rather stuff that most people will recognize as familiar ("Uh, yeah, I think Neptune might have rings like Saturn, or is it Uranus, or both?" or, "The kidneys, huh?  I think they have something to do with purifying the blood," or even, "The kidneys?  Oh, darn.  I know I learned about that, but I always get its function mixed up with the liver..." or, "Yeah, I remember something about the Hawaiian Islands being formed by volcaniic activity")  Right now, they're both like, "Kidneys?  Huh?  What do you mean, small and large intestine?  Seriously, other planets have rings, too?!  And what's this about Hawaii?")


So, while they are busy joyfully balancing chemical equations and getting all psyched about deriving the forumula for acceleration of a falling object and learning what happens on a chemical and molecular level with photosynthesis, there's this whole other, more general level of knowledge they lack in a big way. 


Maybe I'm asking for the impossible, but is there anything, aimed at any age, that might plug either or both of these gaps in their knowledge (astronomy?  Movies, books, whatever?  (Computer games probably not so good.)  Even resources for much younger kids would probably do the trick.  We don't need to go deep--in fact, we need to stay broad, and make it a quick, get-it-done thing.


Many thanks for any ideas!

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Maybe something like the Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia could give a short overview of "gap" subjects? http://www.amazon.com/The-Kingfisher-Science-Encyclopedia-Encyclopedias/dp/0753458861


Similarly the DK Eyewitness series has volumes on the universe, earth, the human body, ect. http://www.amazon.com/Universe-Eyewitness-Books-Robin-Kerrod/dp/0756650305/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414886886&sr=1-5&keywords=Dk+eyewitness+books

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I find it hard to believe that such smart sounding kids that age really don't know what the water cycle is. And I'll add that it takes all of five minutes to understand at the level you're talking about once you're old enough. In general, I would also suggest a science encyclopedia to look over, but I doubt it's as needed as you might think. You could also just let them watch all the Bill Nye episodes about topics they never got around to but at that age it will seem a little dull. Or, since they're older, maybe something from Crash Course/SciShow? Most high school courses start with the assumption that the students know nothing. Kids who do know a little more have a slight leg up, but not much. Since they're already old enough and sound pretty sciencey, I would just dive in with upper middle school or high school programs for the subjects you feel like you haven't covered and go with that and not worry about the cultural literacy of know the difference between sedimentary and igneous rocks. It's okay to have slightly unbalanced educated kids, IMO.

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I think this is a great, cheap resource.



ETA: I was on my Nook, so I wanted to get on my computer. Honestly, I've thought that the book above would make a great spine. I have it if you have any specific questions. 



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I'll recopy what I posted in your other thread ~


For the human body, you might take a look at


Linda Allison's Blood and Guts


The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body by David Macaulay


This book in the Brown Paper School book series might also be of interest:


The Reasons for Seasons: The Great Cosmic Megagalactic Trip Without Moving from Your Chair  (out of print) by Linda Allison




Hmm, one other thought ~


You might take a look at the young people's version of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.  It's entitled A Really Short History of Nearly Everything.


"Enter the world of science as Bill Bryson unmasks the mysteries of the universe.

Did you know that:

• Every atom in your body has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to being you?

• If you are an average-sized kid, you have enough potential energy inside you to explode with the force of several hydrogen bombs?

And—What happened to dinosaurs? How big is the universe? Why are oceans salty? Is a meteor going to hit us?

Tackling everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bill Bryson’s inimitable storytelling skill makes the why, how, and, just as importantly, the who of scientific discovery entertaining and accessible for young readers."




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Oooh, wow.  Many thanks to all of you!!  What a bunch of resources to look into.  I am going to check into all of them.


Farrar, I agree, it would seem they would know about the water cycle somehow, but they don't.  Then there was the day it became clear they had absolutely no idea what the kidney is (besides a bean), and I realized they had both washed out of early life science before we got to the human body, and...well, maybe it's just a homeschool-insecurity moment, but I thought, okay, at their ages they really should have a basic idea what the kidney is! :huh:But thank you for the wise reminder that some imbalance is fine and maybe even a sign of good things!


Kareni, wow, what a great list.  We have actually had Short History out from the library and they've paged through and enjoyed them.  Maybe if we do a slow, systematic read-aloud through it.  I think that's a brilliant idea.


And now I'm off to research all of these great ideas...science encyclopedia, DK Eyewitness, Bill Nye, Crash Course, Science Fact Book, Tiner, Cartoon Guide, Big Book of Knowledge, Horrible Science, Nebels, Brown Paper School, Macaulay, Blood and Guts....I think this could actually be a lot of fun for me and the kids.  Thanks again to everyone!

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