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Science for Middle School: Elemental, RSO, Other?


Maryam
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My sixth grade dd is doing Holt and Technology Earth Science.

Although she's doing very well in it, she finds it quite dry and boring. I'm seriously considering dropping it and switching. Suggestions please! Any reviews on Elemental science for Logic Stage, RSO or any other secular science that you found successful, or dare I say, interesting?

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We are using Elemental Earth Science and Astronomy, also for 6th grade. It's okay. I am not a science-y person, although dd loves science, especially earth science. It gives me a framework to build upon, with reading assignments and discussion questions, etc. so I can see what she's retaining. That's about all I can say for it.

 

I have found some errors in the book (none related to the subject matter -- mostly things like saying "biology" where it should say "earth science" -- but again, not really my area of expertise, so I might not catch scientific errors anyway). None of the experiments has worked well for us so far (a couple have been major fails). We don't use the tests.

 

If you already have a curriculum, honestly, you could just use the Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia for topical readings and outline/summarize, maybe draw a sketch, define some vocab, and/or keep a timeline. That's about all Elemental will do for you anyways.

 

I don't think we'll use it again next year. We switched from Noeo because dd really wanted earth science this year, and they don't offer it.

 

Rengentrude -- I really like the idea of doing science as interest-led, just using good books and documentaries, etc. Did you include a hands-on element to your MS science? I'm not good at that sort of thing, and I'm afraid it would be lacking if I go "off script." Would love any insight here.

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we are using ES Earth Science and Astronomy for 7th grade. 

 

I like it.   My ds is not very interested in any science and he hates experiments.  This actually works for us because he can do it independently and just knock it out and be done.  The experiments have been hit or miss...he hates all of them, but we usually get a laugh out of trying to get it done. 

 

Basically, you do an experiment on day one and complete the experiment sheet.  From there, you read the assigned encyclopedia pages (outline or make a list of facts), record important dates on a timeline, color and label a sketch, and finally do extra reading and write a report.  There is assigned memory work and tests are optional. 

 

I honestly think it's boring, but I thought the same thing about NOEO and yet, he liked it...again, because he can just read and do it.  What I like about it over NOEO is that I feel like it has more specific instructions as to what to include in your "output."  NOEO had blank notebook pages that you used as you wish.  Since my ds just wants to be told what to do and get it done, I needed to do more work to specify for him *what* to sketch or write about.  ES lays that all out for me. 

 

I keep wondering what to use next year, though...I can't seem to find anything that we both like, but for now, this is working.

 

I don't have any experience with RSO. Sorry.

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Some science that could be used for middle school that actually went over really well in my house are Bite-size Physics by Science Jim (I downloaded it a CurrClick) and Guesthollow's chemistry schedule. Neither of them are textbook approaches, though Guesthollow schedules a worktext if you want it.

 

My 7th grader is currently reading and enjoying Exploring the Way Life Works by Hoagland. It was written for non-STEM focused high schoolers.

Edited by SilverMoon
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We did not use any textbooks at all in middle school science - just non fiction books, documentaries, nature and science centers.

I have not seen middle school science curriculum that I did not find either boring or overly simplified and riddled with mistakes in the process.

 

This.

 

This year, ds11 asked to do astronomy, so I looked up a bunch of nonfiction "living books" on astronomy topics (I can give you my list if you're interested). I've decided that experiments at the K-8 level are usually useless. We have more fun discussing science topics and watching real-world situations in documentaries.

 

DS13 is working through some of Tiner's books (Exploring the World of Physics, Astronomy, Biology, etc.) In January, I'm going to start him on a basic high school chemistry course, because he loves chemistry and he can maybe take AP chem when he is in high school.

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I really like the Holt Science & Technology series. Earth science is the easiest (targeted to 6th grade), so your dd may find life and physical more interesting. They are very thorough courses. Reading nonfiction books and watching documentaries would not have taught us anywhere close to the amount we learned from the textbooks. I used the worksheets and tests too.

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Real Science 4 Kids is what we are using and like it a lot.  They have a new Building Blocks series too.  We are using the Focus On Middle School series and cycling through them all (which is basically using the Focus On like the Building Blocks ....so that we aren't covering one topic at a time, as each Focus On book is designed to do.  Hope that makes sense.  If not, ask and I'll explain).  

 

Another secular science is NOEO.  

 

If you weren't looking for just secular I'd suggest Science Excursion.  

 

ETA: It does seem difficult to truly find a secular science curriculum (as is the case with history).  Some could (and have) argued that RS4K and NOEO are not truly secular, and they probably aren't.  I'm suggesting them as secular choices only because the school program we are in through our school district only lets us choose secular curriculum, and they allow both RS4K and NOEO (probably what Christian parts, if any, are in them are not known by our school).  They denied my request to get Science Excursion, which is really what I had wanted to use a few years ago.  

Edited by BatmansWife
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Thanks for the info Batmanswife, I just took a look at both Building Blocks and the Focus on series. Which would be more in depth? Building Blocks or doing 2 "Focus On" books per year in middle school?

Are your children finding them enjoyable or boring?

Edited by Maryam
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Can I add on to this thread to ask which of the programs mentioned do not necessarily have projects as an integral part? I'm looking for chemistry for next year for my will-be seventh grade son. He will likely have an older sister doing high school chemistry and a third grade brother doing Real Science Odyssey chemistry, so he can participate in their projects. I don't need a third set of labs to keep track of. So I want something more or less independent for my seventh grader (who is a very good independent worker) that doesn't require projects or labs.

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We use RS4K, and it is secular. My charter school approves it and promotes it, but Noeo is Christian and not approved. I have not seen anything religious in RS4K, but we are using chemistry. I gave used ES at grammar stage, but I often used it as a framework and build extras in. Next year, looking at logic stage ES biology and will probably follow as planned bc I will also be doing grammar stage. So far, I like RS4K better. I like using a text over encyclopedias, and it's well written. The experiments and labs are in depth, and I like that it's shorter. We do a lot of supplemental science classes so that works well for us this year.

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Thanks for the info Batmanswife, I just took a look at both Building Blocks and the Focus on series. Which would be more in depth? Building Blocks or doing 2 "Focus On" books per year in middle school?

Are your children finding them enjoyable or boring?

 

Focus On (FO) "focuses on" one topic per book.  So if you did two, you'd cover those two science topics.  Building Blocks (BB) will touch on all 5 of the topics, but not as much of those topics per year.  So, let's say you wanted to cover chemistry.  You could do it all in one book (FO) or you could do a couple of those chapters in BB...but then you won't get back into the next couple of chem chapters until the next BB, and then the next.  BB is a little more wordy.  

 

As for which is more in depth...that's hard to say.  It reminds of math....do you want mastery or spiral?  Mastery would be the FO...do it ALL in one shot.  Spiral would be the BB....take a little, go on to the next thing, then the next year cycle back around a do a little more of each.  If you strictly looked at the way it's written...then BB would be more in depth.  Here is an old post of mine where I compared the two.  I've quoted how they both take the same material but how they each word it differently...BB being more in depth.  BTW...I changed my plan that I had in post number 4.  I have all the Focus On books and I'm using them similar to the BB set up.  Taking a few chapters at a time and then going on to the next topic...then back around again and again (if that makes sense).  We really like the books....simple and to the point.  They are not very rigorous, so that may be a good thing for you or not a good thing.  It's perfect for us.  

 

 

 

How do Rainbow Science and RS4K compare in terms of rigor (or appropriate high school science prep)?

 

I haven't seen Rainbow, but my guess would be that Rainbow would be more rigorous than RS4K.  

Edited by BatmansWife
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Can I add on to this thread to ask which of the programs mentioned do not necessarily have projects as an integral part? I'm looking for chemistry for next year for my will-be seventh grade son. He will likely have an older sister doing high school chemistry and a third grade brother doing Real Science Odyssey chemistry, so he can participate in their projects. I don't need a third set of labs to keep track of. So I want something more or less independent for my seventh grader (who is a very good independent worker) that doesn't require projects or labs.

 

I'm only familiar with RS4K and NOEO.  With NOEO he'll have multiple books to read from...a little from this book, a little from that book, per lesson.  I'm sure it's easy enough to skip the labs...but you'd have to buy all of the books and the manual to know what parts of the books to read for each lesson.  Probably not the best choice.  I think RS4K would be much more easier to just read from the book and skip any labs.  But, it also won't last very long to go through.  

 

If you can find RS4K chem student books used and reasonably priced, you could actually have him read through elementary, middle, and high school...since he'd just be reading and not doing labs (although it's basically the same info in each book, but each one is more in depth).  You can go to their website and see a lot of samples from each book.  Don't discount the elementary book.  It's wonderful.  It really helps you understand the basics of chemistry. 

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  • 1 month later...

This year, ds11 asked to do astronomy, so I looked up a bunch of nonfiction "living books" on astronomy topics (I can give you my list if you're interested). I've decided that experiments at the K-8 level are usually useless. We have more fun discussing science topics and watching real-world situations in documentaries.

Would you be willing to share your list :-)?!?!?!?

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Would you be willing to share your list :-)?!?!?!?

Sure.

 

Find the Constellations by HA Rey

Exploring Our Solar System by Sally Ride and Tam O'Shaughnessy

To Space and Back by Sally Ride

Destination: Space by Seymour Simon

Along Came Galileo by Jeanne Bendick

One Small Square: The Night Sky by Donald Silver

 

I have a few others on my shelf that we probably won't get to:

A Child's Introduction to The Night Sky

The Stars by HA Rey

Lots of Seymour Simon books I got from the library, but decided I could check them out again if I want them.

 

I also bought Astronomy for All Ages by Harrington and Paswcuzzi. It has 51 activities related to astronomy, but I'm lazy about doing it, and we are living in a part of the country with high humidity and a lot of light pollution, so I can't just schedule clear nights to go outside every week.

 

So far ds11 is enjoying it. He's reading more slowly than I expected, but every time he sits down to read he peppers me with interesting facts he's picked up.

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