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Æthelthryth the Texan

Making hands on science a habit when you dread it......

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Any tips from others who dread the set up, mess, and time of hands on science for the younger set, but have a science crazy kid? 

I'm hoping this is sort of like when I started with Right Start and hated all of the manipulatives and dreaded every lesson, and you wonderful people gave me all sorts of tips and tricks that made it go so much easier, to now 3+ years later I'm an old RS pro. 

Kids in question are dd6 and ds7. Things I have/we have done some of- MindBlowing Science, Apologia Astrology, Apologia Winged Things (whichever one that is), current Mystery Science subscrption, Magic School Bus Science kits, and Sonlight Science Level B. I've made it through no more than 1/4-1/3 of any of those.

Ds7 is the hands on one. Dd6 is easy- she loves paleontology so we just read a bunch of books and then go outside and dig in the dirt. He however, wants to be doing experiment type things. I bought them some Steve Spangler stuff for Christmas and he's been nuts for it. How do I keep this going? I'd like to have a goal of 3x a week for something hands on for him/them. He's somewhat advanced in math, but both are still early readers- not reading really independently apart from ABeka 1 books. 

He's an excellent candidate for RSO Chemistry, but I wanted to use what I have for the rest of this year through May instead of just keep buying more with no real plan of how to make using it happen. We get everything else done- Science is my only sticking point and I know it's because of the prep and clean up that I dread it so. Well that and that so many of the experiments never quite deliver as promise. We've had crystal and slime flops of late and it just adds to the already existing aggravation. 

Any helpful organizational or motivational hacks for me? 

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I have some suggestions.

First, take a baseline of how much you are currently doing.  It sounds like you may be doing more than you think.

Two, count repeats.  Repeat things that you have already done, it will be easier the second time.  

Three, look for some easy things that can be done a little every day.  Like — plant a seed in a cup.  This can be looked at or watered every day.  I still remember this — my mom put a rubber band around a cup at the water level, and we watched the water get lower over time.  I really liked that, and it’s easy, and it is easy to have set up to do once a day.  

Four, look in the library for a pre-school or K book of science ideas.  It will probably have stuff that is easy and uses items around the house.  This can be a lot lower-pressure and just easier.  

To me — maybe if you tried for once a week (or less) of a “reach” hands-on thing, but two a week of easy or repeats, that might be more doable.  

 

 

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Are there any decent food science resources? At least the results should be edible!

Can you start with a question? Reading aloud is more tolerable if you enjoy the book yourself. Science is probably more enjoyable if you are answering a question. Ours this weekend was "Why will people get cross if you clean their wok with detergent?"

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3 minutes ago, Rosie_0801 said:

Are there any decent food science resources? At least the results should be edible!

Can you start with a question? Reading aloud is more tolerable if you enjoy the book yourself. Science is probably more enjoyable if you are answering a question. Ours this weekend was "Why will people get cross if you clean their wok with detergent?"

Food science would be far better for me! Or well, maybe not, diet wise..........:) 

And Oh no! on the bolded! Hope the wok survives! He's definitely a question asker, so maybe I should start writing stuff down. I'm bad about saying "we'll look it up" and then we don't. 

I think some of the fatigue might be that neither of these kids are not having an easy time learning to read- it's taking a lot of effort and prep on my part, so I feel like between that and Math, even though time wise it isn't a big commitment, it's making me feel more stretched. By the time we get through Bible, reading, handwriting, math separately, and then read alouds, I'm sort of done and ready to move on to my older one's stuff. But they need the "fun" part of school- I don't want it to all be drudgery for them. 

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I taught my kids how to do experiments and let them do it to it once they were old enough to be about 90% responsible for the clean up. I loathe doing those things, so I don't. 

You can't stop science crazy kids from sciencing lol. But you can make them clean up afterward.

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Thankfully, it was a hypothetical wok! No idea why it came up in conversation when I don't even own a wok, but life is like that...

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Have you got access to Citizen Science projects? My dd liked recording and logging birds onto the website each year.

We're planning to try solar cooking this summer to see what happens.

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31 minutes ago, Rosie_0801 said:

Have you got access to Citizen Science projects? My dd liked recording and logging birds onto the website each year.

We're planning to try solar cooking this summer to see what happens.

I hadn't seen that before- I'll check it out, thanks! 

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I found it much easier to dedicate entire afternoons or days to messy experiments and projects instead of doing smaller ones three times a week. Once you cover the floor, cover the table, and resign yourself to cleanup, you might as well do 6 things rather than one, yeah?

How often should you do it? However often doesn't fill you with dread, lol. If one day a month is what you can handle, then do one day a month. You can get quite a lot done. It's easier to build a catapult and experiment with dry ice if that's all you're doing for the day, rather than trying to do one of them while also completing all the subjects and doing laundry. 

In between, have things at the ready that he can do on his own. Different shapes and sizes of measuring cups to explore volume using water and also dry materials like rice and beans. Instant snow - some cleanup, but not much, and no parental setup or involvement required. He can experiment with adding water slow or fast, a little or a lot, seeing how long it takes to dry again, and so on. A nature journal to draw in - my kids aren't super-sciencey, but they would observe and draw interesting things like a dead bug being devoured by ants for quite a long time. Yeah, gross. Judicious use of science videos, maybe some that demonstrate experiments. 

  

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Why can't your kids clean up after themselves? Maybe there are changes you can make to help them become more independent with clean up (organized tubs with paper towels for instance). We use the kitchen table for messy stuff and eat primarily at the dining table so the mess isn't in the way. Can you carve out a space that won't drive you bonkers if a mess is left for a little while?

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7 minutes ago, Sarah0000 said:

Why can't your kids clean up after themselves? Maybe there are changes you can make to help them become more independent with clean up (organized tubs with paper towels for instance). We use the kitchen table for messy stuff and eat primarily at the dining table so the mess isn't in the way. Can you carve out a space that won't drive you bonkers if a mess is left for a little while?

They try. I keep most of the supplies up where they aren't to get to them, just from out of habit when they were younger. I had a Professional Organizer scheduled to help me come revamp the art table set up to where it would help, but we had a big storm come the day she was scheduled so it has been delayed. To be honest, there is no way a 6 or 7 year old though is going to clean up to my standard on a lot of this stuff. They'll try, but things won't be shut tightly, or picked up completely to where dogs and cats might not find a scrap of something, so it still falls onto me. Not to mention, he can't read well so I don't know how much he would get on his own of the level of experiments he is wanting.

Edited by Æthelthryth the Texan
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Does he read well enough so that if you pre-read everything with him first he can figure it out as he goes along? I'm not familiar with your resources so I don't know how feasible that is. Also, is the art/science station in a place where you can be available to help with reading but still be doing other things you need to do?

As for the mess, if everything goes into a giant tub with a lid, then it's no huge deal if the smaller things don't get closed completely as long as everything is inside the giant tub. Yes some stuff may leak or be ruined if they didn't clean up properly, but then they will learn, just don't put anything expensive or dangerous in there. You're right, he won't be able to clean to your standard, but he should be able to wipe the table, sweep, and spot mop with a rag well enough to wait until your usual cleaning. If the main concern with that is the pets then perhaps you can separate the science experiments into ones safe in case the pets get a hold of something and ones that should be with your supervision only.

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12 minutes ago, Sarah0000 said:

Does he read well enough so that if you pre-read everything with him first he can figure it out as he goes along? I'm not familiar with your resources so I don't know how feasible that is. Also, is the art/science station in a place where you can be available to help with reading but still be doing other things you need to do?

As for the mess, if everything goes into a giant tub with a lid, then it's no huge deal if the smaller things don't get closed completely as long as everything is inside the giant tub. Yes some stuff may leak or be ruined if they didn't clean up properly, but then they will learn, just don't put anything expensive or dangerous in there. You're right, he won't be able to clean to your standard, but he should be able to wipe the table, sweep, and spot mop with a rag well enough to wait until your usual cleaning. If the main concern with that is the pets then perhaps you can separate the science experiments into ones safe in case the pets get a hold of something and ones that should be with your supervision only.

He doesn't read that well yet- I am hoping in the next few months. But there is definitley too much small print on any of the stuff I have right now.

I'll have to figure something out on the organization. I need to reschedule the organizer I think. She really "got" my ds and said that he was never going to be a meticulous kid on cleaning up, so we needed to set up accordingly to make things as easy as possible for him to access and put up as he went. He's very much a whirl wind of constant creation, and that's a lot of the battle too. His art work/supplies have sort of taken over what space I have as far as easily accessible space for supplies, as that's what he uses for hours a day.  We have a super open concept house with very little storage, so I have to store science things in cabinets in our sunroom which then makes it harder for them to access. I'm sure it can be shuffled. I just really stink at visualizing things like that, which is why I've had to hire the organizers! 🙂

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2 minutes ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

He doesn't read that well yet- I am hoping in the next few months. But there is definitley too much small print on any of the stuff I have right now.

I'll have to figure something out on the organization. I need to reschedule the organizer I think. She really "got" my ds and said that he was never going to be a meticulous kid on cleaning up, so we needed to set up accordingly to make things as easy as possible for him to access and put up as he went. He's very much a whirl wind of constant creation, and that's a lot of the battle too. His art work/supplies have sort of taken over what space I have as far as easily accessible space for supplies, as that's what he uses for hours a day.  We have a super open concept house with very little storage, so I have to store science things in cabinets in our sunroom which then makes it harder for them to access. I'm sure it can be shuffled. I just really stink at visualizing things like that, which is why I've had to hire the organizers! 🙂

I get it. There isn't a closet or shelf in my house that doesn't contain science or art supplies. We've finally given up on keeping the garage for our car and now it's a permanent Lego/Maker Lab. 

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For me, devoting one afternoon a week (or even just two per month) for science experiments was the way to go. I was much more motivated if I was doing several at once, and then maybe ended with something messy for art that they always want to do (painting or fingerpainting being higher on the messy list!) 

My kids really loved various magnet kits, or things like a laser maze game--some sciency types of things don't require you to lead & that might fill some of that desire for doing things. We also kept a box of things for tinkering & taking apart with tools, and they liked that. That was more middle to upper elementary though I think!

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1 hour ago, katilac said:

I found it much easier to dedicate entire afternoons or days to messy experiments and projects instead of doing smaller ones three times a week. Once you cover the floor, cover the table, and resign yourself to cleanup, you might as well do 6 things rather than one, yeah?

How often should you do it? However often doesn't fill you with dread, lol. If one day a month is what you can handle, then do one day a month. You can get quite a lot done. It's easier to build a catapult and experiment with dry ice if that's all you're doing for the day, rather than trying to do one of them while also completing all the subjects and doing laundry. 

In between, have things at the ready that he can do on his own. Different shapes and sizes of measuring cups to explore volume using water and also dry materials like rice and beans. Instant snow - some cleanup, but not much, and no parental setup or involvement required. He can experiment with adding water slow or fast, a little or a lot, seeing how long it takes to dry again, and so on. A nature journal to draw in - my kids aren't super-sciencey, but they would observe and draw interesting things like a dead bug being devoured by ants for quite a long time. Yeah, gross. Judicious use of science videos, maybe some that demonstrate experiments. 

  

Can you share which science videos you mentioned? Hopefully a YouTube channel? 

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26 minutes ago, Sarah0000 said:

If the main concern with that is the pets then perhaps you can separate the science experiments into ones safe in case the pets get a hold of something and ones that should be with your supervision only.

 

My kids haven't been that young in a long time, but I'm blanking on listing much that is both interesting and safe without supervision of the cleanup, particularly when paired with the low reading requirement. There's actually not a ton I'd have been comfortable with letting my kids have on their own even if I cleaned up, because even the most responsible of kids can be impulsive and lack sense in the moment. I didn't supervise them every second, but I didn't leave the room for long. 

Most chemicals that cause any interesting reactions are not on the super-safe list. Heating more than a bit can be problematic even in the microwave. Magnets that are too big for the pets to eat would be okay. No batteries or wires. Most of the experiments I can remember that were on the safer side also definitely required reading, because you had to follow set steps. So lots of art supplies, yes, but not as much science. 

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42 minutes ago, Earthmerlin said:

Can you share which science videos you mentioned? Hopefully a YouTube channel? 

 

My kids are in college now 😱 so I don't remember specifics, but YouTube was definitely involved. I'm pretty sure I would just search "science demonstrations" for general stuff and sometimes add more specific topics if I wanted. There was some wacky stuff on YT even then, so I mostly stuck to videos or channels that were done by actual schools. I'd just search and browse for a bit and add things to a playlist. 

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Engineering, biology, botany, mechanical physics, sound, light, geology, astronomy...

The main ones I can think of that would require more supervision are chemistry and electrical studies. I'm sure there are others but there's lots of stuff littles can do safely. The reading issue though I don't know about. 

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Use library books and videos on topics of interest.  Most of the titles in the Let's Read and Find Out series include one or two easy hands on activities.  Primary Physical Science titles include multiple experiments.  Watch the Sid the Science Kid episode on irreversable change, then make cookies.  Read about the solar system then go outside and pace off the distance between the planets.  

For messy science, go outside.  Set off film canister rockets.  Experiment with different ratios of water and Alka-Selzter and different temperature water.  Supervision is required, but clean-up is minimal.  Same with Mentos in Diet Coke and baking soda and vinegar volcanoes.  In warmer weather, fill a large container with water and learn about buoyancy.  Nails and rocks sink.  Can you make one float? Build clay or aluminum foil boats.  

Read about simple machines then find or build some.  Klutz Lego Crazy Contraptions ties in nicely and does not require reading.  Snap Circuits pairs well with a unit on electricity.  Others have already mentioned magnets.  

If you really don't want to do experiments at home, do you have a children's museum near you? Or a park with children's programming?  Plan your science reading and videos around their offerings.   

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I don't really have any helpful advice, but I totally get what you are saying. I have always had an irrational dislike for doing science experiments, but my boys absolutely loved them and thrived with them. So I bit the bullet and used programs that very heavily focused on experiments, but I never really liked it myself. Thankfully for me, my current student learns like me and is very happy to learn mostly by reading.

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1 hour ago, Skippy said:

I don't really have any helpful advice, but I totally get what you are saying. I have always had an irrational dislike for doing science experiments, but my boys absolutely loved them and thrived with them. So I bit the bullet and used programs that very heavily focused on experiments, but I never really liked it myself. Thankfully for me, my current student learns like me and is very happy to learn mostly by reading.

Mind sharing what you used? I think I realized some of what isn’t working for him are the more biology related things we have- he’s not a fan. Astronomy is okay to him- we have a telescope but our viewing months are limited by mosquitoes. 🙂 He’s all about chemistry type things at the moment, where the reading is minimal and the hands on are max. 

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Yep. All I can say is that if I don't have it all planned out with everything ready to go, it doesn't happen. So, that's my plan. But, I'm not very enthusiastic about planning it for the same reason you aren't.

No advice, just commiseration. It is a bit easier here because my boys are slightly older and thus better readers now. I can give the youngest a Tinker or Eureka crate and he usually doesn't need much help. Next one up really liked Ellen McHenry's Elements, but youngest didn't. Might have been age . . . 

I also volunteer DH to do science experiments quite often.

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43 minutes ago, RootAnn said:

Yep. All I can say is that if I don't have it all planned out with everything ready to go, it doesn't happen. So, that's my plan. But, I'm not very enthusiastic about planning it for the same reason you aren't.

No advice, just commiseration. It is a bit easier here because my boys are slightly older and thus better readers now. I can give the youngest a Tinker or Eureka crate and he usually doesn't need much help. Next one up really liked Ellen McHenry's Elements, but youngest didn't. Might have been age . . . 

I also volunteer DH to do science experiments quite often.

I might need to sign back up for the crates. He really loved those, and the pictures were usually enough to keep him going with minimal input form me. And they aren't messy!! And yes, I should enlist dh. Good plan! 🙂

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1 hour ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

Mind sharing what you used? 

It has been a really long time, so I have forgotten a lot. I know that they really liked things like A Reason for Science, but this was back when I could get that stuff a whole lot cheaper than you can get it today. We also had a weekly science where their homeschool friends would come over, and we would do science experiments.

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It's really not necessary to do "hands on"' science with...anyone, really.  In fact, I would argue that there isn't such a thing as hands on science. 

Real science is about thinking, not doing.  Little kids--and big ones too--get the idea that science is all about playing with materials and guessing outcomes, and most of them will be sorely disappointed when they get to real science in high school or, more likely, college and discover that they need to spend years acquiring the requisite background knowledge necessary to think scientifically before they actually get to "do" science.

My point here is that, educationally speaking, if you never do another hands on activity for science until high school it won't be any great loss.  In fact, your kids may even come out ahead of the game.

Use the time you save and instead do the following:

  • Model curiosity and encourage it in your children
  • Allow your children to immerse themselves in the natural world on a regular basis
  • Cultivate observation skills
  • Devote time to puzzle solving
  • Encourage persistence
  • Read library books and watch documentaries about science
Edited by EKS
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Not really answering your question, but here is my 2 cents... 

start a garden or at least grow something from seed 

let your kids bake and cook often - follow a recipe exactly and then experiment from there - pancakes are the best for this, imo

get a microscope 

get a nature book and learn the plants and trees in your yard so you can talk about them 

start a rock collection 

hatch animals - chickens, ladybugs, tadpoles, praying mantis....

get the caterpillars and do the butterfly thing 

have a center area that you let your kids explore - switch out magnets, electiricity stuff, gears, marble runs, light box - include a prism... 

visit a science center 

Have fun!!!

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44 minutes ago, lmrich said:

Not really answering your question, but here is my 2 cents... 

start a garden or at least grow something from seed 

let your kids bake and cook often - follow a recipe exactly and then experiment from there - pancakes are the best for this, imo

get a microscope 

get a nature book and learn the plants and trees in your yard so you can talk about them 

start a rock collection 

hatch animals - chickens, ladybugs, tadpoles, praying mantis....

get the caterpillars and do the butterfly thing 

have a center area that you let your kids explore - switch out magnets, electiricity stuff, gears, marble runs, light box - include a prism... 

visit a science center 

Have fun!!!

We do all of this, so I know they aren't really "missing" anything. But he really, really just loves all of the experimental stuff. Peter Parker is his current hero and I think that plays into a lot of it. I'm not big on "teach small kids the scientific method" by any means, but I really, really stink at the hands on stuff be it these experiments/projects he loves, or art. Thank goodness for him he has taken art completely into his own hands and is a fantastic artist. But I do feel like somewhat of a slacker that I cannot bring myself to do all of these chemistry and physics demos he would so love to do.........

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1 hour ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

FWIW we live on a hobby farm- rabbits, chickens, horse, dogs, cats. He has all of the outside observable hands on nature stuff in spades. 🙂

That is awesome! I am amazed at how many kids do not have access to nature and gardening. 

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I am really big on having kids do observational stuff.  Realistically, most "experiments" really aren't. They are just reproducing an effect.  But you can do something like build a little weather centre, then record from it every day, and then draw a graph to show the results.  Mark of a patch of grass and count insects or plants of different types, etcI think that's a lot more like real science.

The other thing though is that some kids really like to work with their hands, and that is maybe a separate thing that has to be accommodated - but not always with sceince.  You can do engineering projects - there are lots of good books about that for various age groups.  But also things like teaching maintenance skills, carpentry projects, messing about with motors and so on.

What is it do you think that he really likes about the "experiments"?

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We don't do any bc I detest them myself.  it is why I farmed out chemistry this yr. 🙂 I know myself well enough that I don't care how easy or easily accessible, knowing they are there waiting to be done would just put me on edge every day they wanted to do them.

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On 12/31/2018 at 7:06 PM, OKBud said:

I taught my kids how to do experiments and let them do it to it once they were old enough to be about 90% responsible for the clean up. I loathe doing those things, so I don't. 

 

 

Pretty much the same here. Except for part of one year when they were young, my kids didn't do science experiments until they were in 7th or 8th grade and could handle them largely on their own.  I try to leave the vicinity when they do science experiments...

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12 hours ago, Bluegoat said:

I am really big on having kids do observational stuff.  Realistically, most "experiments" really aren't. They are just reproducing an effect.  But you can do something like build a little weather centre, then record from it every day, and then draw a graph to show the results.  Mark of a patch of grass and count insects or plants of different types, etcI think that's a lot more like real science.

The other thing though is that some kids really like to work with their hands, and that is maybe a separate thing that has to be accommodated - but not always with sceince.  You can do engineering projects - there are lots of good books about that for various age groups.  But also things like teaching maintenance skills, carpentry projects, messing about with motors and so on.

What is it do you think that he really likes about the "experiments"?

I'll have to ask him, because you know I never have other than him just saying "I Love Science!" 

From my end,  the experiments he likes the most- I think he likes just the general hands on/physical experience of it if that makes sense. He likes seeing the reaction- the change.  I've given them vinegar and baking soda since they were toddlers and done things like the food coloring in the milk etc. back then- and even at 2 he'd sit for longer doing that than just about anything else-- he's just always really taken to that stuff. I did a ton of the sensory stuff with he and his little sister when they were toddlers simply so I could get some school done with oldest. We did water beads, and instant snow, shaving cream, you name it- and he's just wanted to keep upping it from there. He always wants to know how and why it works like it does. He doesn't give two figs about reading about biology type stuff though. He'll collect bugs all day long and look at them under a microscope, but pull out a biology type book or even a kids reader, and it's a snooze fest to him. 

I know his current obsession is partly to do with Peter Parker and what he "perceives" as being a scientist through Spider-Man books with Professor Lizard or whatever his name it. I honestly haven't done much to correct him at his age. He's also fascinated by magic tricks, so I bought one of those Thamses and Kosmos Science is Magic kits (and some others with magnets etc.) and he's enjoyed some of those- some are too gimicky. But overall I'd say he's a very kinesthetic kid, and I am a very NON-kinesthetic Mom. 

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My kids favorite subject is science and only rarely did I accomplish a formal curriculum with lots of hands on demonstrations.  Sure they would have loved it but it is my least favorite subject.  (This homeschooling thing has to work for mom too I have found).  I gave up the idea of being super pinterest homeschool mom and we read good books and watched documentaries, we went on field trips and had rock collections and nature walks.   We had very relaxed elementary years where they had plenty of time to explore their own interests so I just quit feeling guilty about making science (and history) super fun time.  It removed a lot of my stress and made homeschooling long term more doable.  There was a long thread about this somewhere and it really relieved my guilt over the whole thing.  One of the things it mentioned was doing a science fair once a year for the hands on part when they get older.  We always explored topics they expressed an interest in but with very little crafts or demonstrations.   Sounds like you are doing lots of hands on compared to me even without finishing a curriculum lol...

Science is still their favorite subject btw.

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I'd have to go with something simpler---Usborne books, for example, which have lots of easy-to-prepare-for activities. Your local library probably has books, as well.

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I wonder if you could check out experiment books from the library and encourage him to read more and read better so he can do some of them on his own.

 

(Particularly any books in the Let's Read and Find out series. They often have simple experiments in them)

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This is where a co-op really helped me.   We were lucky to have TWO very "science-oriented" teachers (one who's former profession was actually in the sciences).   It was such a relief not to have to organize the experiments myself! 

Edited by goldenecho
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4 hours ago, vonfirmath said:

I wonder if you could check out experiment books from the library and encourage him to read more and read better so he can do some of them on his own.

 

(Particularly any books in the Let's Read and Find out series. They often have simple experiments in them)

Our library is unfortunately horrid. I do have almost all of the Let’s Read and Find Out at home though . Maybe we’re doimg something wrong, but my biggest experiment fails have come from those books and now he hates them.

I ordered some stuff from Steve Spangler Science and at the moment he’s having a ball and it’s pretty low mess, so we’ll see how long this lasts. 🙂 

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