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MistyMountain

Lack of secular science options

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I am getting frustrated that a lot of the science options I liked and my kids found engaging are not really secular but neutral. Ellen McHenry got me at first. I thought it was secular but it is not and now I found out Mr. Q science is neutral too. I really like how both of those curriuculum were engaging though I think Mr Q needed a middle school option. The advanced is higher math based and the elementary is more like younger elementary. I tried RSO Level 2 Biology last year and it was pretty meh after a while. I loved all it covered, the labs and how the info was not simplified but it really covered so much concepts that are hard but with not a lot of reading to explain it and there was so much writing. It is frustrating that the secular group does not even allow you to discuss other curriculum that are not secular but really only their curriculum (RSO) and BFSU are secular. It is frustrating too that so many options appear to be secular but at further glance they are not. For now I think I will just stick with Mr. Q but supplement with stuff it might try to take out but I wish there was more out there.

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The lack of decent secular science is  frustrating, (as is the secular group in general, IMO). 

 

My aunt is a retired scientist, and I keep joking with her that she needs to write a good quality secular science curriculum for homeschoolers because we'd eat that up!     

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I agree.  I liked pairing Elemental Science with RSO, but apparently that isn't acceptably secular, either.  RSO honestly wasn't enough for my very inquisitive kid, and pairing the two worked out really well for him in elementary.   I think Oak Meadow is secular (possibly not by the secular group standards), but I'm not sure how rigorous it is.  I have 7th grade OM science, and it's a bit simplistic for my 6th grader, but I have an older version before the recent updates.

We are secular homeschoolers, but I don't mind 'neutral' science because I know that we use *a lot* of different resources and that my kids will end up with exposure to more concepts just by virtue of the variety of resources we use.  Just the same way we use a lot of resources in all of our subjects.   I really like Ellen J. McHenry's books - they make science concepts really interesting for kids.  I loved her Botany in 8 Lessons book, and we just started her Elements book.  If we need more information, I pull out another resource like our Kingfisher or Usborne Science Encyclopedias.

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I used Bookshark (secular Sonlight) K-2, and we really enjoyed it.  It uses many Usborne books and stories of scientists, had 4 day week and weekly experiments.  We would have stayed with it, except my younger child was too young for the next level.  I can see us returning to Bookshark when both kids fit into the same level again.  Trying Noeo Chem I this year.  It is from a Christian publisher but science is secular.  It has the living book approach but looks like less reading than Bookshark.  Mystery Science is secular.

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Oh man, oh man!  Don't even get me started about science!   

My children are just starting middle school, and it is becoming *really* hard to find decent science options.   Honestly, I didn't find science hard to teach in elementary.     But logic and rhetoric stage science is a whole new ballgame!   I feel like everything available is either REALLY light (basically repeating what we learned in elementary), or filled with false information/pseudoscience, or made for large school districts and difficult to teach at home.    

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I actually had to lay out our science plans through middle/high if we go that far.  Right now our possible choices are:
-BFSU volumes
-Science Daybooks/Science Saurus
-Supercharged Science (love this!)
-Noeo
-various readers
-Centripetal Press for middle school.

Mr. Q didn't work in our house on two separate occasions, so I'm loathe to bring it in for a third.  BYL has a good evolution year for 9th grade, but I'd have to adapt one of the literature books that goes with it and find something else due to strong content in the book/series that I don't want to discuss with a 14yo.

Edited by HomeAgain

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I never checked for home school materials. I suppose you could buy the textbooks from a PS curriculum depending on what you're looking for, just go on Amazon and search around.

You could also use college-level textbooks for non-majors as your spine and frequent the library for books on more information if you're interested in a topic, or just keep reading if you're not.

My reasoning is that a good non-majors textbook is going to be highly-readable, provide a secular and systematic over view, that is not dumbed down and you will be able to use it for years and it should have repeat value.

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I want to like BFSU as a curriculum. I love the concept, hate how the book is laid out, hate the way the author's voice comes across and hate how disjointed it feels in places. I find myself using it more as a reference guide than a curriculum. I use it to beef up lighter science curriculum and that seems to work for us.

On a related tangent, I also hate the idea that something isn't "secular enough". There are lots of different flavors of being secular just as there are lots of different flavors of religion. There are also just as many reasons for using secular curriculum as there are flavors of being secular. Plus the idea that there is a gold standard for "being secular enough" just reeks of the same sort of superiority as "not Christian enough" arguments to me.

Personally, we treat secularism and the ideas of evolution and the orgins of the universe the same way a religious homeschooler might treat teaching their faith. We use science resources that some may deem "not secular enough" and then teach evolution and big bang the same way others teach the creation stories of their faith. A child of elementary school age is less interested in the debate of evolution vs creation and who is right and more interested in just answering their questions about the world at large in my experience. I see no reason to muddy the waters for them until they start really questioning why others do not believe evolution which in my experience, even living in Bible Belt areas, doesn't usually occur until late elementary or early middle school.

We regularly read books about evolution and orgins of the universe. They live in our morning basket full time. We discuss how these ideas tie together in science AND history lessons. We study volcanoes and we also read about why the earth has magma in it which leads to discussion of the orgins of the universe. We study history and we also talk about why we know more about history since Mesopotamia than we do about history before Mesopotamia and how we know what we do know about prehistory and how academia even divides these topics into different branches of study since obtaining the information of each branch requires a different process. This often ultimately leads to the ideas of evolution and the cross over of the history of the earth and the history of mankind. None of these ideas live in a vacuum, they are all interrelated and I prefer to treat them as such.

In twenty years of raising children and homeschooling, I've learned that there isn't a perfect curriculum that requires no tweaking whatsoever. So I find the options that appeal most to me and my children, regardless of whether or not others find it "worthy" and then I tweak it to fit our particular secular beliefs. It works for us.

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2 hours ago, Gil said:

I never checked for home school materials. I suppose you could buy the textbooks from a PS curriculum depending on what you're looking for, just go on Amazon and search around.

You could also use college-level textbooks for non-majors as your spine and frequent the library for books on more information if you're interested in a topic, or just keep reading if you're not.

My reasoning is that a good non-majors textbook is going to be highly-readable, provide a secular and systematic over view, that is not dumbed down and you will be able to use it for years and it should have repeat value.

 

Yes to this^^^ Plus, they are super cheap online if you get older editions. And there's no real reason NOT to get older editions.

I'll also suggest Singapore Science (RR carries it) ... I really love junior high books, with the Questions, especially. And Oak Meadow science, which is separate from the other courses beginning in fifth grade. 

Of course, if you prefer to go the living books route, that's simple enough to do secularly. 

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19 minutes ago, sweet2ndchance said:

I want to like BFSU as a curriculum. I love the concept, hate how the book is laid out, hate the way the author's voice comes across and hate how disjointed it feels in places. I find myself using it more as a reference guide than a curriculum. I use it to beef up lighter science curriculum and that seems to work for us.

 

Someone has taken BFSU and re-configured it to make it simpler to use. The first level is out and presumably she is working on the rest. 

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I use a mix of resources.  College textbooks, RSO, BFSU, anything free I can find - I have the Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments, the Chemistry one, and the Forensics one.  It can be a lot of work but I'll match up what I want to teach next with ideas from Pinterest and text books.  

I find that so many of the general experiment books and curriculum have basically the same experiments for the same things over and over and over and over again.  But some of the college texts have experiments that would be dangerous or overly expensive to do at home (or outside a fully equipped lab with venting hoods).  Using the college texts for background and other sources for experiments seems to be working the best for us.

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We have really enjoyed building unit studies around the Nomad Press books. Geology of the Pacific Northwest was a big hit. Explore the Solar System has some fun, easy projects. We plan on using the Evolution book alongside the BYL evolution unit study. We did the BYL prehistory unit study last year and my kids loved, loved, loved it, so we're looking forward to the evolution study when they are a bit older. ACS has some chemistry units that we haven't used yet, but we will integrate into our non-secular chemistry choice for this year. lol

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I'm going to run into this when I run out of Mystery Science. *sigh* and science is one of the areas where I feel like I really need to hit the mark for her because she thinks she wants to go into a very STEMy field. We tried Supercharged Science one year. We love the creator, she's very engaging, but her site was an unholy mess, all the instructions were in video form (no thank you! Just let me read!), she sent what felt like 12 emails a day (still does), and we found the site really hard to use, with the ages recommended for units totally unrealistic, and no scope or sequence. She really should have spent some money to let someone else re-do her website to make it usable. 

I guess I disagree with some here. If a  Science curriculum is "neutral" or comes from a Christian publisher, I'm not using it. I can't remember where I heard it, but something stuck with me long ago - maybe it was the scientist who videoed her trip to the creation museum, but she was talking about how the very foundation of science is having a question, and doing the work to figure out the answer. But for those engaging in "neutral" or Christian science, their worldview is "I already have the answer, so now I just need to fill in the question and reasoning based on that." I agree and I just feel that that's toxic to actual scientific inquiry. I'm not giving them my money. So for science in particular, I really appreciate the FB group's hard line. I can get a recommendation for Christian or "neutral" science literally anywhere else on the web. I'd be very disappointed to get it when I asked for secular science recommendations in a secular group.

Edited by Sk8ermaiden
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Other options I didn't see mentioned...

TOPS is secular - it's all experiments
Thunderbolt Kids is secular and free
Supercharged Science is secular
ACS's Middle School Chemistry is secular
Joy Hakim's Story of Science is secular and has teaching guides that are more focused on the science end than the history end
In the olden days, lots of people just used Janice Van Cleave books and called it a day - those are secular and there are a lot more books in that mold
In the olden days, people also would have been happy to give kids a series like Let's Read and Find Out in early elementary school or the Basher Books in upper elementary/middle and just called that a day as well - which is not to say that that's enough or right for everyone, but there are semi-comprehensive, age-appropriate texts, which is a huge thing
There are lots of textbook options beginning in middle school, such as the Science Explorer series - ps textbooks are secular
Conceptual Science does a middle school program and some kids are ready for their high school/college stuff early
There are lots of MOOC's out there - Dino 101 from Coursera was one of our favorite sciences - we did it in 5th grade, I think and just added in lots of books

High school is a whole other ballgame, but there are more options then too.

I'll also add that a lot of Christian families also not satisfied by their science options. And that... honestly, I think us secular people have higher standards for our science that are even above and beyond just that it be properly secular. So while there are a lot of Christian options... I think if you could wave a magic wand and have them become secular, we still wouldn't be satisfied by the format or general approach for a huge number of them. In a way, it might be easier to teach "science" if you think that it's more of a fixed thing handed down by God, you know?

Which is not to say that it wouldn't be great if there weren't more options. It really would.
 

Edited by Farrar
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I'm coming from the opposite perspective but I also wish there were more science options.  I want engaging video lessons and pre-made kits and a lab book.  Like Mystery Science for older kids with all the experiment materials in a box that I can buy. 

As far as all the "neutral" curricula, I think that those companies are trying to please everyone by not excluding either the secular or Christian homeschoolers, but in doing that they are actually not pleasing the majority. 

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I like that the secular group doesn’t allow discussion of neutral science. I don’t believe that there are shades of secularity. Something either presents a subject matter as accepted by the scientific community or it does not; neutral material is not neutral, it specifically chooses not to present material as accepted by scientists. People can discuss the non-secular options in pretty much any other homeschool group out there, including the WTM forums.

Like some others on this thread, I simply don’t look for homeschool-specific science material. We did use BFSU K-2, and I have the other volumes on the shelf for reference. I found all of the homeschool stuff rather dull and uninspiring. Same with the stuff aimed at public school kids, really. We use library books, hands-on kits, experiment books, setting up our own investigations/experiments, Great Courses, MOOCs, a local guided hiking group, etc. I find science to be one of our easiest subjects to source materials for.

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Have you looked at AIMS? The science units focus on skills and methodology more than other resources I've seen. Content is easy to cover with books and BFSU makes a good guide.

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I used AIMS, Singapore Science, Uzzingo, and Various PS and college textbooks available cheap. This is for a very Science-focused kid.

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8 hours ago, HomeAgain said:

I actually had to lay out our science plans through middle/high if we go that far.  Right now our possible choices are:
-BFSU volumes
-Science Daybooks/Science Saurus
-Supercharged Science (love this!)
-Noeo
-various readers
-Centripetal Press for middle school.

Mr. Q didn't work in our house on two separate occasions, so I'm loathe to bring it in for a third.  BYL has a good evolution year for 9th grade, but I'd have to adapt one of the literature books that goes with it and find something else due to strong content in the book/series that I don't want to discuss with a 14yo.

 

Noeo is neutral and her website is super religious.

I want to like Supercharged but that lady is so aggressive with emails and marketing. I had to turn off the firehose.

BFSU never worked for me. You can't dip in, it's systematic. Required order to learn things makes me itchy, unless it's obviously related (i.e. you have to understand what an atom is to know atomic numbers).

Mr. Q is ehhhh.  Its' about as good as a Harcourt Science textbook I got at the thrift store. It's good enough, it's fine, but - eh.

RSO is a mixed bag. Life was a complete flop, Chemistry was so good.  We are trying Bio 2 this year.

There is supposed to be a zoology one that I thought my kids would love - Sassafrass? But they already knew all the stuff, basically, from Wild Kratts and documentaries.

We watch DIY Sci, the TV show.  I find it to be about as useful as using actual chemistry elementary curriculum.  Concept  + Demo, rinse and repeat.

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1 minute ago, poppy said:

 

Noeo is neutral and her website is super religious.

 

Noeo still uses the same books, and the original website had the statement that while the company is religious, it is not up to them to interpret religion for you.  Their job was to present God's works, and you were to use your own religion to filter it.  The life science level 2 had notes in it when it came to topics in the books that talked about evolution or age of the universe so parents could skip.  Unless the schedule has changed, I wouldn't read too much into the new website.  All the curriculum was before was a schedule of readings and science experiments using mostly Usborne internet linked books.

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I've been collecting the Prentice Hall Science middle school Science Explorer series used from eBay, Amazon, local used bookstores, etc. I think they're fantastic (and secular). We started RSO Bio 2 with my very science-y kid who turned down RSO Life as too simple, and while I think Blair Lee is an amazing and cool person who has done great things for the secular homeschool community, I just don't like Bio 2. ? Heresy, I know. I don't like the labs, the order the topics are presented in, the dryness of the presentation, the fact that some things seem to be over-explained while others are given very little text, etc. I love protozoans (I could spend hours looking at pond water in our microscope), and my kid wants a stuffed amoeba and paramecium for Christmas, but there's basically no study of these critters in Bio 2, which is baffling to me. I mean, bust out the Proto-Slo and pond scum and find some cool stuff! The Science Explorer Books are well-written, have great photos/illustrations and interesting labs, and they're written to specific topics like Ecology, Animals, Cells and Heredity, Sound and Light, Astronomy, etc, so you can pick and choose as you go. 

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Agreeing with Gil and others. For me it's a lack of good science material in general, regardless of whether or not it is religious (for any religion).

What I have done was bump down the ages/grade requirements down and that made materials fit my kids' needs. What I mean is that toward the end of first grade I started using the grade 4 Harcourt science textbook (rather cheap) with its workbook. We finished this in second grade and moved on to middle school texts. Prentice Hall Science Explorer is very good as shared earlier, and my kids had no issues going through them in mid to late elementary years (this varies by child, obviously - no such thing as "one size fits all.")

In middle school we use high school and non-major college materials, such as Conceptual Physics by Hewitt. Georgia Public Broadcasting has great video lessons for physics and chemistry (Algebra-based), and you can buy teacher materials cheaply - around $20 if I remember correctly. After we go through these, we move on to more challenging texts such as Miller-Levine Biology,  Physics by Knight, etc. If a child is interested in science, I have them work on two science courses at the same time (Mon-Wed for one, Tue-Thu for the other, and Friday catch-up day). We school most of the year, so this works very well.

At this pace, when we hit high school, my kids are at (or close to) AP-level work. At that point, I outsource if needed or teach it myself depending on child's interests and my confidence levels.

 

Edited by RosemaryAndThyme

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