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Momto6inIN

What elementary science curriculum *haven't* I looked at yet?

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I don't know why science is always such a struggle *sigh* There are aspects I like about all of these various programs, but none that I like everything about and am really excited about. So far I have looked at Apologia, Mr Q, God's Design, Berean Builders, REAL Science Odyssey, REAL Science 4 Kids, Elemental Science, Noeo Science, Mystery Science, and Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding.

I want: geared towards 3rd-6th, organized by topic (as in, life or earth or chemical or physical - not a little bit of each in each level), clear explanations, demonstrations that reliably work, some type of output that is guided more than just "write about something interesting you read", and a text/spine that is not an encyclopedia. I prefer Christian but could easily make secular work. I also need it fairly open and go. I don't mind looking ahead and making sure I have all the supplies I need, but I can't spend a lot of time prepping lessons and demonstrations.

Am I looking for a unicorn??? Please give me suggestions for other things I should look at ...

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I have used a good number of the ones you listed (just call me a science curriculum junkie 😎), and I think God's Design fits your qualifications the best.  When you looked at that one, what did you not like about it?

Elemental Science would fit everything except that it usually uses an encyclopedia type of book as a spine.  But typically has good activities and a variety of output.

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Guesthollow maybe. I used their chemistry one year and it was well loved. 

Bite-size Physics from Science Jim was a good one. 

Never found an earth or life to be very excited about. 

I never did find an elementary science program we could stick with for multiple years. We started strong and ended up on piles of real books halfway through most of them  🤷

My 6th grader is doing chemistry this year with a pile of books, many collected from that Guesthollow year with her older siblings. No experiments at all so far. She was horrified at the schedule breaking all those books into small pieces, but her older siblings loved it. 😄

The 3rd grader gets his through Adventures in the Sea and Sky from Winter Promise, and being insatiably curious about everything. 

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The Good and The Beautiful has a one topic at a time approach but not for the full year - they use a unit study approach. You can flesh it out and go longer or shorter depending on what you want, but I think generally people do 3 units a year. 

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Well, we went DIY all the way up thru 8th grade and it was fantastic... BUT that's not open and go -- although, it can be somewhat open and go if you plan it out the previous summer, and while you're planning, make a week-by-week list for yourself of the books, hands-on activities, and supplies you'll need... But clearly that's not going to be an option for you in the middle of the school year. 😉 

Of your wish list -- JMO, but I don't think students below grade 7-8 NEED "output". Or if you need to "document" for state regulations -- what about printing a few photos of kids doing hands-on activities, once a month print out a worksheet related to your current topic and have the children fill that in, or once per quarter, DC research/write a short science topic?

Here are more ideas to look at, although I don't think any of these have everything you want 😉 -- but maybe one of them has *enough* of what you like and what will work for your family that you can "forgive" the parts that don't match your wish list:

Exploration Education
Nancy Larson
Sonlight Science
Ellen McHenry
Quark Chronicles
Master Books

Edited by Lori D.
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Um, screw the curriculum. Go to the library and get out books. Worked for us up to 8th grade. 

Ruth in NZ

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9 hours ago, Denise in IN said:

I have used a good number of the ones you listed (just call me a science curriculum junkie 😎), and I think God's Design fits your qualifications the best.  When you looked at that one, what did you not like about it?

Elemental Science would fit everything except that it usually uses an encyclopedia type of book as a spine.  But typically has good activities and a variety of output.

I actually own all of God's Design and am currently using it with my 6th grader 🙄 I don't hate it - so far it and Mr Q (which I also own all of LOL so you are not alone as a curriculum junkie!) are the least bad - but I feel like the explanations in God's Design are frequently a little hard to follow and the oral questions afterwards with sporadic worksheets haven't led to good retention with my 6th grader. That could be because she's typically a lazy student and not the curriculum's fault 😉 but I was hoping to find the "perfect" solution with my upcoming 3rd grader. I liked Mr Q well enough for life and earth/space but the chemistry was just b.a.d.

Elemental looked oh-so-promising, but I just don't like encyclopedias as the main source of info - they seem so disjointed and chopped up to me. Maybe I'd get over it and like it if I used it.

5 hours ago, lewelma said:

Um, screw the curriculum. Go to the library and get out books. Worked for us up to 8th grade. 

Ruth in NZ

Yeah, our small town (population about 1500) library is ... less than desirable. Most of the nonfiction books were either published about the time I was born OR brand new but fluff with just a few blurbs of actual information.

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6 hours ago, Lori D. said:

Well, we went DIY all the way up thru 8th grade and it was fantastic... BUT that's not open and go -- although, it can be somewhat open and go if you plan it out the previous summer, and while you're planning, make a week-by-week list for yourself of the books, hands-on activities, and supplies you'll need... But clearly that's not going to be an option for you in the middle of the school year. 😉 

Of your wish list -- JMO, but I don't think students below grade 7-8 NEED "output". Or if you need to "document" for state regulations -- what about printing a few photos of kids doing hands-on activities, once a month print out a worksheet related to your current topic and have the children fill that in, or once per quarter, DC research/write a short science topic?

Here are more ideas to look at, although I don't think any of these have everything you want 😉 -- but maybe one of them has *enough* of what you like and what will work for your family that you can "forgive" the parts that don't match your wish list:

Exploration Education
Nancy Larson
Sonlight Science
Ellen McHenry
Quark Chronicles
Master Books

This is actually for next year for my upcoming 3rd grader, so technically I would have time to pull it all together, I'm just not sure I have the energy or mental capacity to take that on at this stage in life. DH says I should just make my own too 🙂

As far as output goes - how do you get them to retain the info? When we read and do demonstrations they can orally narrate ok right after the lesson, but they don't remember the vocabulary very well and don't always remember the concept the next day without some sort of written work.

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1 hour ago, Momto6inIN said:

This is actually for next year for my upcoming 3rd grader, so technically I would have time to pull it all together, I'm just not sure I have the energy or mental capacity to take that on at this stage in life. DH says I should just make my own too 🙂

As far as output goes - how do you get them to retain the info? When we read and do demonstrations they can orally narrate ok right after the lesson, but they don't remember the vocabulary very well and don't always remember the concept the next day without some sort of written work.

whispering very softly... for K-8, I don't worry about whether or not they retain in science.  Exposure is the goal, not any type of long term retention or mastery. 

Sometimes they draw a diagram, sometimes they narrate a reading, sometimes they write a very basic lab report, sometimes they answer the questions in the book, sometimes they watch a video, sometimes they do TOPS and fill in the sheets that go with it, sometimes they just read a big stack of Eyewitness books. 

It's all good.

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12 hours ago, Momto6inIN said:

want: geared towards 3rd-6th, organized by topic (as in, life or earth or chemical or physical - not a little bit of each in each level), clear explanations, demonstrations that reliably work, some type of output that is guided more than just "write about something interesting you read", and a text/spine that is not an encyclopedia. I prefer Christian but could easily make secular work. I also need it fairly open and go

 

Memoria Press

https://www.memoriapress.com/articles/nature-science/

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21 minutes ago, Zoo Keeper said:

whispering very softly... for K-8, I don't worry about whether or not they retain in science.  Exposure is the goal, not any type of long term retention or mastery. 

Sometimes they draw a diagram, sometimes they narrate a reading, sometimes they write a very basic lab report, sometimes they answer the questions in the book, sometimes they watch a video, sometimes they do TOPS and fill in the sheets that go with it, sometimes they just read a big stack of Eyewitness books. 

It's all good.

I'm just quoting this so I can yell it instead of whispering it softly. 😉 

Do not worry about retention for elementary science!!!

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23 minutes ago, Zoo Keeper said:

whispering very softly... for K-8, I don't worry about whether or not they retain in science.  Exposure is the goal, not any type of long term retention or mastery. 

Sometimes they draw a diagram, sometimes they narrate a reading, sometimes they write a very basic lab report, sometimes they answer the questions in the book, sometimes they watch a video, sometimes they do TOPS and fill in the sheets that go with it, sometimes they just read a big stack of Eyewitness books. 

It's all good.

Great point!  I always thought of science during those grades as simply experience and exposure.  Also, building interest.  

We'd often just go to our local curriculum store and pick up fun 6-week type workbooks on subjects that my kids were particularly interested in:  plants, insects, the solar system, etc.  Its focus was generally on hands-on stuff:  collecting and observing insects, growing plants and keeping notes on what was happening, mapping out and drawing the planets, etc.  

One science curriculum we used that was super fun was The Scientist's Apprentice:   https://www.brightideaspress.com/shop/the-scientists-apprentice-clearance/

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1 hour ago, Zoo Keeper said:

whispering very softly... for K-8, I don't worry about whether or not they retain in science.  Exposure is the goal, not any type of long term retention or mastery. 

 

1 hour ago, Farrar said:

I'm just quoting this so I can yell it instead of whispering it softly. 😉 

Do not worry about retention for elementary science!!!

This would be very freeing! I will have to mull it over and see if I can buy into that ... it would take a definite mind shift for me!

Why is science any different from, say, grammar? Is it because it's a content area, not a skill area? Do you have the same goals for history during elementary?

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54 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

 

This would be very freeing! I will have to mull it over and see if I can buy into that ... it would take a definite mind shift for me!

Why is science any different from, say, grammar? Is it because it's a content area, not a skill area? Do you have the same goals for history during elementary?

Yes, for history in K-8, my goal is exposure, because it is content and not skills.  I *do* use history and science to teach some skills in writing, but my goal there is to teach writing, not make sure they master the history.  If they do remember the history, that's a bonus.  🙂

I spend more time in K-8 working on mastering the skills of math and writing/grammar/spelling.  It is very hard to move forward in high school math if you haven't mastered aspects of K-8 math.  

You can start from scratch in high school history and science (and even lit) and be okay.  It is easier if you have previous exposure, but not absolutely necessary.

 

Edited by Zoo Keeper
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The Good and The Beautiful units do have vocabulary words you cut out and put on a wall, or trifold board, or whatever. You could easily make them into magnets as well, or use them to make flashcards, etc. Other output is things like labeling diagrams, and lots of hands on. The marine biology one is free to download if you want to take a gander. 

Not one topic all year - but one topic at a time. I think people tend to do about 3 unit studies a year with it. We did Marine Biology and are starting Space Science after thanksgiving. 

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1 hour ago, Momto6inIN said:

As far as output goes - how do you get them to retain the info? When we read and do demonstrations they can orally narrate ok right after the lesson, but they don't remember the vocabulary very well and don't always remember the concept the next day without some sort of written work...


...This would be very freeing! I will have to mull it over and see if I can buy into that ... it would take a definite mind shift for me! Why is science any different from, say, grammar? Is it because it's a content area, not a skill area? Do you have the same goals for history during elementary?


Totally agreeing with Zookeeper, Farrar, and J-rap -- we also did no formal writing "output" until about 8th grade. (Like Zookeeper, we did use science sometimes as the subject for a *writing assignment*, and we did do some write-ups to go with the science projects that DS submitted to the county fair, but mostly our elementary/early middle school science "output" was informal discussion, kits, etc.

Also, as a general rule "writing" as output was not something that helped my DSs retain information. It certainly didn't for spelling. And especially across all subjects in grades K-8 -- probably part of that was their learning style, but also because in the grades K-5, they were struggling to get going with writing. And frankly, all the way through high school, writing itself was hated and dreaded by both DSs.

Rather, for science, they seemed to retain from a combination of repeated exposure in different ways (variety of books + videos + computer websites/educational games + field trips, etc.) PLUS hands-on and the ability to put things into practice and explore and make connections on their own.

Rather than asking, "Why is science any different from grammar?" I personally think the more pertinent question is: "How does the student before me best retain information in general?" It may be a workbook (writing/drill-based). It may be through hands-on activities (tactile/kinetic/concrete learning). It may be through books (learning through reading). It may be through videos (visual/watching & auditory/listening). Or a combination of several or all of those.


BTW: If you're willing to post what science subject(s) you want to cover next year, I'd LOVE to help jump start your planning with a detailed list of sub-topics, resources, activities, etc. 

Edited by Lori D.
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1 hour ago, Momto6inIN said:

 

Why is science any different from, say, grammar? Is it because it's a content area, not a skill area? Do you have the same goals for history during elementary?

I would say yes, it's different because it's content, not skill, and ditto history. 

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23 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

BTW: If you're willing to post what science subject(s) you want to cover next year, I'd LOVE to help jump start your planning with a detailed list of sub-topics, resources, activities, etc. 

Definitely not going to turn down that offer! 🙂

Human body, plants, animals/classification, habitats/ecology - basic life science topics

By the end of this year, she will have watched the whole Magic School Bus video set and done a few of those kits, but most of her school is very low key. She can read chapter books fluently and has a phenomenal memory. She can narrate orally for days and days 😊, but isn't a big fan of me writing it down and her copying it.

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35 minutes ago, Lori D. said:


Totally agreeing with Zookeeper, Farrar, and J-rap -- we also did no formal writing "output" until about 8th grade. (Like Zookeeper, we did use science sometimes as the subject for a *writing assignment*, and we did do some write-ups to go with the science projects that DS submitted to the county fair, but mostly our elementary/early middle school science "output" was informal discussion, kits, etc.

Also, as a general rule "writing" as output was not something that helped my DSs retain information. It certainly didn't for spelling. And especially across all subjects in grades K-8 -- probably part of that was their learning style, but also because in the grades K-5, they were struggling to get going with writing. And frankly, all the way through high school, writing itself was hated and dreaded by both DSs.

Rather, for science, they seemed to retain from a combination of repeated exposure in different ways (variety of books + videos + computer websites/educational games + field trips, etc.) PLUS hands-on and the ability to put things into practice and explore and make connections on their own.

Rather than asking, "Why is science any different from grammar?" I personally think the more pertinent question is: "How does the student before me best retain information in general?" It may be a workbook (writing/drill-based). It may be through hands-on activities (tactile/kinetic/concrete learning). It may be through books (learning through reading). It may be through videos (visual/watching & auditory/listening). Or a combination of several or all of those.


BTW: If you're willing to post what science subject(s) you want to cover next year, I'd LOVE to help jump start your planning with a detailed list of sub-topics, resources, activities, etc. 

Sorry for quoting you again, but this is getting me thinking 🙂

I always assume they need to write down something to remember it because that's how I was in college. If I showed up to class and took notes, I never had to study because the act of writing it down made me remember it. This upcoming DD has a good memory for stuff we read aloud or she reads herself, so maybe she doesn't need the writing as much. And the DD who is finishing up God's Design but not retaining much is much more of a wiggly mover who likes to fiddle with stuff, so maybe that's not good learning strategy for her either.

Hmmmm ... I thought I knew my kids pretty well,  but maybe I need to rethink some things ...

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9 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

...I always assume they need to write down something to remember it because that's how I was in college. If I showed up to class and took notes, I never had to study because the act of writing it down made me remember it. This upcoming DD has a good memory for stuff we read aloud or she reads herself, so maybe she doesn't need the writing as much. And the DD who is finishing up God's Design but not retaining much is much more of a wiggly mover who likes to fiddle with stuff, so maybe that's not good learning strategy for her either.

Hmmmm ... I thought I knew my kids pretty well,  but maybe I need to rethink some things ...


Yes, but the key word there is "college". And, note-taking for a college lecture was all about a sort of "automatic writing" to help the brain focus on the words spoken and concepts being presented. Sure, teach students  "Cornell note taking" or other study skill methods of taking notes from a lecture -- but when it's age appropriate, like late middle school or in  high school.

I personally don't think that writing is an age-appropriate style of *studying* for most elementary students. In the early elementary grades, their focus in writing is still on the physical act of writing -- so they can copy pretty well, but all their brain power is going into moving the pencil across the page and properly forming letters, either in manuscript or cursive -- not on memorizing WHAT they are writing. And for older elementary grades who are just starting to do a little bit of sentence/paragraph composition for writing -- all of their brain power is going into figuring out what to say and how to get that out of their head, down their arm, and onto the page in complete sentences and in a complete paragraph -- again, NOT on memorizing content.

For memorizing vocabulary and concepts in the elementary age, other techniques typically work much better than writing -- reviewing flashcards or learning/singing catchy educational songs/jingles. Even just regular exposure to and use of science terms and concepts will embed those things into long-term memory.

All of that is JMO! You know your children's learning styles -- and your teaching style and needs -- best. Wishing you all the BEST in finding what works for all of you, and in ENJOYING your science journeys! Warmest regards, Lori D.

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Memoria Press? i feel like it's a good solution for those who think science isn't really necessary in K-6, but they kind of want to be doing something. It's more of a nature study in my opinion, and feels pretty light. We're doing Birds right now. However, I love that the kids will hopefully walk away with some real world knowledge of topics that they will benefit from knowing about for their entire lives. Mammals, astronomy, birds, trees, etc. 

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1 hour ago, Momto6inIN said:

Definitely not going to turn down that offer! 🙂

Human body, plants, animals/classification, habitats/ecology - basic life science topics

By the end of this year, she will have watched the whole Magic School Bus video set and done a few of those kits, but most of her school is very low key. She can read chapter books fluently and has a phenomenal memory. She can narrate orally for days and days 😊, but isn't a big fan of me writing it down and her copying it.


Yea! I'll get started doing some research and pull together a list -- this may take a few days... 😉 

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I wrote up a list of science goals for K-12 a few years back, ran a thread, and got feedback.  This is what we came up with. Might give you some things to think about,

Ruth in NZ

Elementary level goals

Content: Interest driven. There are no requirements for content in elementary

Skills

1) Reading: able to read nonfiction at increased difficulty over time

2) Output: able to summarize what has been learned, verbally or in writing

3) Observation: ability to see what is actually there, not what you expect to see

4) Math: at grade level

Attitudes

1) Curiosity: "wanting to understand the world"(Regentrude). Including the desire to find answers either through books, observation, or tinkering

2) Enthusiasm towards science (or at least a positive attitude)

 

Middle School level goals

Content: Broad overview of biology, earth science, chemistry, physics (this can be systematic or interest driven). High school science is easier if it is not the first time the material has been encountered.

Skills (students who already possess these skills by 9th grade will be set to succeed in high school science):

1) Reading: Ability to read difficult text. Ability to interpret graphs, charts, and diagrams.

2) Writing: Ability to write succinct answers to "short-answer" questions including evaluate, interpret, integrate, compare and contrast, critique, etc.

3) Math: at grade level. Including the ability to identify and draw appropriate graphs for the data

4) Logical thinking and problem solving capability

5) Study skills, reading a textbook, organization skills, time management, note taking

6) Scientific Method: general understanding of how experiments are replicated and controlled, how hypotheses are are accepted or rejected (this does not need to be a detailed understanding, although it could be if you want to spend the time doing it in middle school to save some time in highschool)

Attitudes

Reinforce 1 and 2: curiosity and enthusiasm

3) Scepticism: "inquire what facts substantiate a claim" (Regentrude)

4) Acceptance of falsification: Ability to reject your hypotheses; to not have your ego tied to your ideas.

 

High School level goals

Content

1) Science curriculum, including interdisciplinary topics

2) Current events: including politics, pseudoscience, and ethical decision making (I need to think more about this one)

3) Science careers: understanding the peer review process, variety of methods to answering questions (observational, theoretical, statistical, experimental, etc)(Regentrude), double blind studies (need to think more about this one too)

Skills

Reinforce skills 1-5: reading, writing, math, logical thinking/problem solving, and study skills

6) Scientific method:

a) Forming a hypothesis and identifying if it is answerable

b) Collecting background information

c) Designing systematic methods to answer a question (including objective measurement, defining terms, and replication and controls if doing an experiment)

d) Identifying best way present data (designing tables, graphs, diagrams)

e) Identifying assumptions

f) Identifying errors, find their source, suggest future ways to prevent them

g) Interpreting data

h) Identifying future work

 

7) Ability to use equipment appropriate to field of study

😎 Ability to write lab reports

9) Statistical knowledge including probability and issues like correlation vs causation

10) Evaluation of scientific research (obviously, in only a general way)

11) Presentation skills/public speaking (not required, but an excellent add in if time)

Attitudes

Reinforce 1-4: curiosity, enthusiasm, scepticism, falsification

5) Persistence: in the face of failed experiments and the need to try new things over and over and over

6) Honesty: being completely objective while collecting data. The goal is to find the truth, not support your personal opinions (this is often harder than your realize, which is why scientists do double blind studies)

 

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29 minutes ago, lewelma said:

I wrote up a list of science goals for K-12 a few years back, ran a thread, and got feedback.  This is what we came up with. Might give you some things to think about,

Ruth in NZ

Elementary level goals

Content: Interest driven. There are no requirements for content in elementary

Skills

1) Reading: able to read nonfiction at increased difficulty over time

2) Output: able to summarize what has been learned, verbally or in writing

3) Observation: ability to see what is actually there, not what you expect to see

4) Math: at grade level

Attitudes

1) Curiosity: "wanting to understand the world"(Regentrude). Including the desire to find answers either through books, observation, or tinkering

2) Enthusiasm towards science (or at least a positive attitude)

 

Middle School level goals

Content: Broad overview of biology, earth science, chemistry, physics (this can be systematic or interest driven). High school science is easier if it is not the first time the material has been encountered.

Skills (students who already possess these skills by 9th grade will be set to succeed in high school science):

1) Reading: Ability to read difficult text. Ability to interpret graphs, charts, and diagrams.

2) Writing: Ability to write succinct answers to "short-answer" questions including evaluate, interpret, integrate, compare and contrast, critique, etc.

3) Math: at grade level. Including the ability to identify and draw appropriate graphs for the data

4) Logical thinking and problem solving capability

5) Study skills, reading a textbook, organization skills, time management, note taking

6) Scientific Method: general understanding of how experiments are replicated and controlled, how hypotheses are are accepted or rejected (this does not need to be a detailed understanding, although it could be if you want to spend the time doing it in middle school to save some time in highschool)

Attitudes

Reinforce 1 and 2: curiosity and enthusiasm

3) Scepticism: "inquire what facts substantiate a claim" (Regentrude)

4) Acceptance of falsification: Ability to reject your hypotheses; to not have your ego tied to your ideas.

 

High School level goals

Content

1) Science curriculum, including interdisciplinary topics

2) Current events: including politics, pseudoscience, and ethical decision making (I need to think more about this one)

3) Science careers: understanding the peer review process, variety of methods to answering questions (observational, theoretical, statistical, experimental, etc)(Regentrude), double blind studies (need to think more about this one too)

Skills

Reinforce skills 1-5: reading, writing, math, logical thinking/problem solving, and study skills

6) Scientific method:

a) Forming a hypothesis and identifying if it is answerable

b) Collecting background information

c) Designing systematic methods to answer a question (including objective measurement, defining terms, and replication and controls if doing an experiment)

d) Identifying best way present data (designing tables, graphs, diagrams)

e) Identifying assumptions

f) Identifying errors, find their source, suggest future ways to prevent them

g) Interpreting data

h) Identifying future work

 

7) Ability to use equipment appropriate to field of study

😎 Ability to write lab reports

9) Statistical knowledge including probability and issues like correlation vs causation

10) Evaluation of scientific research (obviously, in only a general way)

11) Presentation skills/public speaking (not required, but an excellent add in if time)

Attitudes

Reinforce 1-4: curiosity, enthusiasm, scepticism, falsification

5) Persistence: in the face of failed experiments and the need to try new things over and over and over

6) Honesty: being completely objective while collecting data. The goal is to find the truth, not support your personal opinions (this is often harder than your realize, which is why scientists do double blind studies)

 

This ... is just flat out amazing. I am going to have to look at this really carefully and see where we do/don't measure up. Thank you!

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I’m another one who doesn’t do science.  The kids did random kits, fun science workshops at school.  Watched magic school bus and other fun science shows.  Did some random things with their dad.  Oldest is now in a competitive STEAM program at our charter and is excelling.  

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9 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

The Good and The Beautiful units do have vocabulary words you cut out and put on a wall, or trifold board, or whatever. You could easily make them into magnets as well, or use them to make flashcards, etc. Other output is things like labeling diagrams, and lots of hands on. The marine biology one is free to download if you want to take a gander. 

Not one topic all year - but one topic at a time. I think people tend to do about 3 unit studies a year with it. We did Marine Biology and are starting Space Science after thanksgiving. 

Wow, when they call it beautiful they aren't kidding! The samples are gorgeous!

I spent a looooong time looking at this today. It seems a little time intensive with prepping everything though - have you found that to be the case?

Edited by Momto6inIN
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7 hours ago, Momto6inIN said:

This ... is just flat out amazing. I am going to have to look at this really carefully and see where we do/don't measure up. Thank you!

I used to write a LOT about science on this board. Here are 3 more good posts. I'm happy to answer questions.

x-post #1

This post responded to the question: "how do you teach science when all of your activities and experiments always seem to go wrong?" The OP noted, "I've heard people say you can learn from experiments that go wrong."

It really depends on your goals for these scientific activities, and your goals depend on your kids' ages and on the type of activity/demonstration/experiment that you are doing. In general for every situation, I talk to the kids about our personal problems and then relate our difficulties to what real scientists face.

1) If your goal is to teach kids how to use scientific equipment (like Bunsen burner or a microscope), then you have them keep practicing until they have the dexterity and precision to make the equipment work to expectations. Similarly, if your goal is teach them how to do a methodological process like running a transcript or doing a dissection, you need to brainstorm what went wrong and then have your student repeat the process until he can master it. It might be that your student never fully masters it, and then you explain that it can take years for a graduate student to master certain techniques, and that is part of what he/she is trying to learn. Science is about asking questions and finding answers, and often very technical procedures need to be used to find the answer. Give an example of a science that you know a lot about. For example, think about a cell biology lab, a grad student needs to learn how to use the flow hood so as to keep all the cultures clean, and needs to learn how to identify and count organisms etc. These are procedures that can take months to learn to do well. It is also a good time to talk about experimenter error and how scientists are not perfect. Scientists replicate to help reduced the importance of their own error compared to the real effect they are trying to measure.

2) If your goal is to demonstrate a known process, like making crystals or chromatography of ink, you need to be clear that you are not actually trying to do an experiment. Rather you are trying to replicate a known scientific process. You have a couple of options. 1) if you don't have time or the resources to redo the work, then you show them on youtube what should have happened and then brainstorm how your set up could have varied. Is temperature important to growing crystals? Could impurities like greasy fingers inhibit crystal growth? Do your chemicals degrade over time and is your kit old? etc. 2) if you do have time, then you can research on the internet what could have gone wrong and you then redo your demonstration. We made a home made kite once using instructions from a book, we could. not. get. it. to. fly. We tried for a month. Yes, really a month. We did lots of research as to what was wrong and tried to adjust everything we could think of. We knew that kites fly, and we were working off of instructions from a book, so it should work. In the end we did research into air currents and found that we had a wind shadow from the trees near the field that was causing turbulent air. We switched fields, and it flew.

3) If you are running a real experiment where you don't actually know the answer, then the data you get is not wrong. Science is not about getting the "right" answer. If you have replicated and controlled appropriately, then unexpected answers allow you to brainstorm what happened, and why your initial hypothesis was incorrect. This is an exciting time because you have found something new and unexpected. Celebrate and come up with a follow on experiment. However, if in hindsight you realize that you have not controlled or replicated appropriately, then you need to redo your experiment with proper controls and replications. This is also the perfect time to discuss probability and chance. Scientists replicate because they need to average out chance. My little boy once compared different fertilizers to see which cause plants to grow taller. We did not know the answer -- this was real science. We only had 3 replications in each group, so not really enough. One plant by chance germinated 5 days earlier than all others, and then grew taller than all others. This was the perfect time to talk about outliers and chance. Scientists have to deal with this kind of thing all the time. So we also talked about how if we had had 100 plants in each group, then when we took an average, 1 early sprouter would not have mattered that much.

4) If your goal is to teach persistence (and this is an important goal in science), then you try, try, try again. This is what we definitely learned with the kite. And I describe the frustrations that Thomas Edison must have faced when trying to find a filament that would work in the light bulb. I mean, really, Tungsten?

5) But in the end if your goal is to have fun and spend time with your kids, then you have a good laugh and a hug, and you put a smile on your face and don't get frustrated. Then you go find a different activity. I seriously don't mean this as a joke, science can just be fun with little kids and that is ok. Just be clear on your goals.

One last thought, science IS very frustrating. NOTHING ever goes right. Ask me how I know! So really stress to your kids that discovery is difficult and is not a linear path. Scientists have to try many different approaches and spend long hours to SOMETIMES answer their questions. If all your kids ever see is easy, tidy demonstrations, they are likely to come away with the idea that science is easy. This misperception permeates the news and government. Reporters and politicians always think science will be cheap, fast, and effective at answering incredibly complex and difficult questions. So if your kids get frustrated that something did not work, you have a very easy out -- "I am just trying to show you how difficult scientific discovery really is."

 

 
 
Edited by lewelma
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x-post #2

OP noted that she felt science activities " SHOULD work. :001_huh:..HOW do you know when your experiment didn't work?"

What are you really trying to teach with your science activities in general? And what is your specific purpose for each and every one you do? Seriously, why are you doing them? If you are just going through the motions because some activity is in some curriculum, your kids are not likely learning *anything* because the activities don't work and you have no idea how to make them work. I would be frustrated to.

I think you need to change your goals. First, never do a science activity unless you think it is worthwhile. It could be worthwhile because:

1) your kids really don't understand the concept and need to see it performed before them to internalize the idea. For example, dropping a heavy ball and a light ball and seeing them land at the same time. Kind of counter intuitive. But watching a plant grow? Um, I think your kid knows that plants grow.

2) you might want to show your kids something that they have never seen before so have no intuitive idea as to what to expect. For example, watching the baby root emerge out of a seed, you just don't see this because it is underground.

3) you might want to teach your kids to use a tool, like a microscope.

4) you might want them to test an idea of their own. To make a hypothesis, to really think about HOW they can answer their question objectively, to collect data carefully, to design effective tables and graphs, to interpret their results, to identify their hidden assumptions, and to suggest future work. (this is really the end goal, I have shown how this process works in my thread: Scientific Investigations with my 12 and 9 year old)

5) you might want them to make observations of their world. To notice what has always been there but that they never spent the time to study. For example, the position of the moon in the sky throughout the day and how it correlates to its phase.

But if you are doing what I call "wizz bang" activities. Then, just don't bother. They are like a magic show, and like a magician you need lots of practice to pull it off. I never do these activities. Things like mentos in coke. What in the world is this teaching? I don't even know what chemical reaction is occurring. How does it apply to their life? How would they use that methodology in any other science experiment? They just couldn't. It is a magic show. When my kids find wizz-bang activities in a book and want to do them, I tell them that I will get the materials but that they will have to figure out how to do it, because I am just. not. interested.

If the science activity is worth doing, then it is worth making the effort to get it right if it fails the first time. I brainstorm problems and look stuff up on the internet. You can even post here, and people can tell you what to try. But then you need to expect that most science activities that you try to do are going to take you 3 or more attempts to make them happen. And it might be over a series of weeks. And let me be clear, you do not want science activities to be all about waiting for mom to figure out what went wrong and then watching her run a beautiful demonstration. What does that teach? It teaches all the wrong lessons.

As far as I am concerned, science activities are supposed to be like writing a really difficult essay. You try one way, you try another, you brainstorm, you try more than one technique, you get others' opinions, you go back and edit some more, and you finally you finish the essay. Sometimes you get a good essay and sometimes you really don't like what you produce. But the process of writing, rewriting, and editing teach you about how to write and how to structure your thoughts. In contrast, science activities are NOT like long division, where the goal is to learn the technique and then you do it over and over again until you are fast. There is always a right answer and your goal is to get it. No No No. This is not what science is about. (Ok, I am not a language person so my similes may not be very good. :tongue_smilie: but I am trying to get you to think about science education differently.)

 

So my suggestion to you is THINK about each activity you are considering, and decide if it will help *your* student be a better scientist. And don't forget a scientist is a person who asks questions and finds a way to answer them. If your kids want a magic show, then take them to the circus, but use the time you have set aside for scientific inquiry to teach them to problem solve and to develop persistence. You need to change your attitude as the teacher. You *want* things to go wrong, so that you have the opportunity to teach what you are really supposed to be teaching in science.

 
 
Edited by lewelma
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x-post #3

I thought it might help to see an example of how I pick and choose. We are doing chemistry this year. I own some basic wizz-bang books that have a few good ideas in them including: Fizz, bubble, and flash and 150 captivating chemistry experiments using household substances. And I own 3 curriculum: The Elements, RS4K chemistry, and IGCSE Chemistry. (For general knowledge, I rely heavily on the library.)

So let me start with IGCSE Chemistry. My oldest son needs to memorize a bunch of reactions like 2Mg + O2 =>2MgO . These are processes he has never seen before. My goal is for him to have a movie in his mind of the burning of Magnesium, just like he would be able to visualize the moon's different phases if we were studying astronomy. It is just so much easier to understand explanations if you have seen the process, otherwise it is very abstract. So we go on Youtube and watch many different reactions. I have him watch them numerous times over the period of weeks and I quiz him, "can you see that reaction?" If he can't remember it, we watch it again. My goal here is VERY clear. I am not trying to teach lab technique or experimental design or accuracy; instead I am showing him something he has never seen before because it is basically hidden from the everyday person.

My older ds also needs to learn how to use real chemistry equipment. The goal is to develop technical skills. What is the function/purpose of all the different glassware? When do you use what? What safety equipment and procedures do you need to follow? Can you measure and pour accurately? Can you keep track of your results by organizing test tubes or color coding things? I have no interest in setting up a lab in my house at this stage, so I am paying for my older son to go to a homeschool chemistry lab class taught at the university over a few days. I do NOT expect him to learn experiment design there -- there would just not be time. And he is probably not going to be very frustrated by the activities because those lab classes need to run efficiently because they are renting the lab space. Thus, there is not time to really muck around. So my goals for this setting are the ones listed above. What this means is that I must make up the shortfalls here at home, specifically I need to teach 1) frustration/problem solving/ persistence and 2) experimental design.

Teaching frustration/problem solving/persistence: Last week in The Elements we hit a hands-on activity of the electrolysis of water. So, I ask myself, what will they learn IF I choose to do this lab. We can easily watch this on youtube, but is this a lab that I can easily set up in my house? The answer is yes, all I need is 2 pencils, copper wire, and batteries. So, the goals of this activity is to 1) teach them how to follow directions, 2) teach them how to problem solve when it doesn't work at first, 3) teach them persistence because these things typically don't work easily, 4) teach them observation skills, 5) teach them that water does separate into H and O, 6) lastly, teach them to do an "armchair experiment" to determine which electrode has H vs O bubbling off of it. So did I meet my goals? YES. It took *them* more than an hour to make it work; they got incredibly frustrated and had to do a LOT of problem solving. a) the battery was dead, so older son had realize that it was the battery and not the setup, and then find a little light bulb to test it, b) the wires kept popping off of the pencils, so they had to develop a way to twist them to stay on, c) ds the older was so excited and frustrated that his hands were shaking, and he could not connect anything together. He had to learn to take a break, get a glass of water, and start again. I stepped in a few times to make sure that the whole assembly was not thrown out the window, and reminded them that science is difficult etc. Overall, a very effective lab.

Teaching experimental design: My goals for this kind of activity are clear: my kids need to learn how to ask a good question, how to design an experiment (with replication and controls), how to design a table and graphs that summarize the information (this is often harder than you expect), how to interpret the data, how to find the hidden assumptions and errors, and how to write all this down in an organized fashion. I often use simple demos and create experiments out of them. Demo: vinegar dissolves Calcium out of chicken bones. Experiment: Which vinegar (red, white, cidar) dissolves calcium out of chicken bones faster? Demo: diapers absorb fluid. Experiment: Which diaper brand absorbs more fluid? Demo: making silly putty with glue, borax, and cornstarch. Experiment: What combination of these 3 ingredients makes the most pliable or bounceable silly putty? Notice that is really not too hard to make certain types of demos into experiments. I don't know the answer to the experimental questions and neither do they. But be warned, real experiments take time. I typically expect hours spread over at least 2 weeks. Also, I require a write up of the hypothesis, methods, results, discussion, and conclusions. I have found that the write up takes as long as the entire experiment. So a 1 hour experiment takes 1 hour to write up, and a 1 week experiment takes 1 week to write up. For my ds's science fair project last year, 5 weeks of experimentation took 5 weeks to write up!!!

I probably should describe how I decide an activity is not going to teach my kids anything, but I really have to go start school. :001_smile:

Hope this gives you a feel for the evaluation process I go through,

 

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55 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

Wow, when they call it beautiful they aren't kidding! The samples are gorgeous!

I spent a looooong time looking at this today. It seems a little time intensive with prepping everything though - have you found that to be the case?

Some weeks have more prep than others, but not a ton. We do science twice a week, and on the weekend I look over the next few lessons and figure out what needs to be cut out/copied/etc. I use some zippered pockets that go in a 3 ring binder so I can put any pieces or whatever in there, right with the lesson itself. 

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5 hours ago, Momto6inIN said:

Wow, @lewelma that is a lot of great advice! I read through it quickly, but I'll have to return and re-read to soak it all in.

I was a scientist in a previous life (mathematical modeler of ecological systems) and trained as a high school science teacher before that.  When my kids were primary and intermediate age, I ran the homeschool science fair in my city for kids aged 5-18, and through this experience helped a lot of homeschoolers with science and how to effectively facilitate it for their kids. I did well by my first son, and am trying my darnest to do well by my second (who is difficult to teach for many reasons).  I now tutor high school bio, chem, and physics. So over all these years, I've seen a lot both good and bad, and have a lot of opinions.  🙂 

Edited by lewelma
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I never found an elementary science I loved either, so broke down & did interest led for awhile with my boys (#s 4-5 in the family). Doesn't work great if you don't do well with on-the-fly, but while they don't know as much from a well-rounded point of view, their understanding and thinking/ troubleshooting ability is way above the first three at the same age/grade.

Ds#1 posited that baking soda/vinegar created carbon dioxide gas & it would smother a candle if the candle was put above the reaction. Here are my two boys working on it & finding that the candle has to be below the level of the reaction vessel lip to work. Why?

"Carbon dioxide is heavier than air?" Thought ds#1 out loud.

They tried various cups & bowls. Then, Dh "poured" carbon dioxide out from a cup & put out a candle. 

These are the things my two youngest kids do & retain. We don't cover all topics, but the ones they do, they get. I'm sometimes shocked by the ideas ds#1 shares outloud (stuff that scientists & engineers came up with 20-50 years ago but ds isn't an adult with the level of learning under his belt that those guys did when they hypothesized the same things).

I don't feel adequate to prepping either of them so I fall back to prepared curriculum. My latest buy, Exploration Education, is both too easy & too difficult (because I'm using the oldest level expansion & the written work isn't age appropriate for both of them). They understand the concepts but not the math/formulas, so it is a mixed bag. They get to build cool stuff, so that's a win.

But they do their other experiments, too.20191123_130953.thumb.jpg.ac169a9938ab852bba78dea4c7df8e9f.jpg

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We have enjoyed the books from Nomad press (Explore Your World series, Build it Yourself series) for topical science in the elementary grades. They are self-contained and have many projects and demonstrations, most of them doable with common household objects. 

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re: Good and Beautiful Science- I did very little prep for the Marine Biology unit, I preprinted all the pages ahead of time. Most of the activities used things we had around and I made a master list of everything I needed for the whole thing before starting, along with library books. In the end we skipped a lot of activities/experiments as I didn't find they really added to it I did the human body one a couple of years ago but I used a bunch of other resources with it so I just used bits and pieces. 

We are jumping back and forth between interest led and units, the 2 things they really want to study(mammals and reptiles/amphibians) aren't released yet. My biggest complaint is the way she designs the pages were the writing is split, I feel like I'm constant scanning up and down and it is a pain scrolling on the computer. During the marine biology unit I was busy and didn't have a lot to give so we mostly just used what was there  in the pdf but you could easily flesh it out and add more if you wanted but I felt the coverage was a good base on its own. 

DD2 does very well with interest led, the only problem is me getting to the library (and then back to return books). DD1 likes to have things preplanned.

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This thread has slowed down, but it took me a few days to put together what I’d like to add to this discussion.

There are very good reasons to teach science logically and sequentially with the expectation that knowledge will build every year.

This short video (three minutes) by Dr. Rebecca Keller of Real-Science-4-Kids explains her philosophy very well. (OP, I’m not trying to push you back to RS4K since you’ve already looked at it, but Dr. Keller does make some very good points.)

To say that science is taught like grammar may be pushing the analogy, but in my school I do teach chemistry and physics, the two fundamental sciences, as “scientific grammar” - in an entirely age-appropriate way, of course. What that looks like is that we are always trying to look for what chemical bonds are doing in an experiment, or what forces are acting on an object. Dr. Keller makes the point that every other scientific field is simply the application of chemistry and physics to a specific system, so in that sense, chemistry and physics are the “grammar” of science.

(I have a science and engineering degree, so this makes sense based on my personal experience, as well.)

This is what works for us!

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A different take on how to teach science is that it is more like math than grammar. That first the child should learn in a hands on, physical way. Then move to a conceptual on paper way. Then move to equations. 

So nature study and physical experiences for the elementary years, then concepts, then the nitty gritty. 

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I'm super late to the party. 

I don't remember what we did for Mr Q life science but I don't think that it was that complicated. It's free--you could look at it. Warning: comic sans. ETA: I see you have looked at this already.

I have heard good things about Inquiry in Action by ACS. We did the Middle School Chemistry and it was very well done. Both are free. However, you do need supplies each week. If you can get your supplies organized ahead of time, it won't be too hard to pull off.

We did CKE Earth & Space and I do remember liking that (and I am picky). 

I was not a huge fan of the Answers in Genesis God's Design for Life books but we had a heavy history year that year so it worked out. If I was to do it over, I would tie it to Nature Study somehow. 

We did a year of physics using Teaching Physics with Toys. It's great, but very, VERY, supply intensive. A lot of prep for the teacher.  You could possibly just do the experiments using the K'nex? We didn't use a core text that year--we read sections from Tiner's book, used some of Bite-sized physics, and watched Eureka, Dr. Carlson Science Theatre and Disney Imagineering videos and some of the Coursera How things Work videos.

Edited by cintinative
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3 hours ago, Quarter Note said:

This thread has slowed down, but it took me a few days to put together what I’d like to add to this discussion.

There are very good reasons to teach science logically and sequentially with the expectation that knowledge will build every year.

This short video (three minutes) by Dr. Rebecca Keller of Real-Science-4-Kids explains her philosophy very well. (OP, I’m not trying to push you back to RS4K since you’ve already looked at it, but Dr. Keller does make some very good points.)

To say that science is taught like grammar may be pushing the analogy, but in my school I do teach chemistry and physics, the two fundamental sciences, as “scientific grammar” - in an entirely age-appropriate way, of course. What that looks like is that we are always trying to look for what chemical bonds are doing in an experiment, or what forces are acting on an object. Dr. Keller makes the point that every other scientific field is simply the application of chemistry and physics to a specific system, so in that sense, chemistry and physics are the “grammar” of science.

(I have a science and engineering degree, so this makes sense based on my personal experience, as well.)

This is what works for us!

Thank you for that! I *like* science ... but it's not my strong point, so I never would have thought of that. Honestly at this point I've looked at everyrhing so many times rhey run together and I don't remember why I didn't like RS4K 🙄 Maybe I'll have to give it another look.

1 hour ago, Ktgrok said:

A different take on how to teach science is that it is more like math than grammar. That first the child should learn in a hands on, physical way. Then move to a conceptual on paper way. Then move to equations. 

So nature study and physical experiences for the elementary years, then concepts, then the nitty gritty. 

Ooh, I like that analogy! I have been looking more at The Good and the Beautiful and I downloaded the marine bio unit. Wondering how expensive it is to get them printed? I only have a black and white printer and that seems like a crime with those beautiful pictures! I'm also worried about not having enough units to finish out 3rd-6th grade if I end up liking it. I know I could just choose something else a couple years down the line if they don't keep up with putting new ones out, but the OCD freak inside me hates that thought LOL

57 minutes ago, cintinative said:

I'm super late to the party. 

I don't remember what we did for Mr Q life science but I don't think that it was that complicated. It's free--you could look at it. Warning: comic sans. ETA: I see you have looked at this already.

I have heard good things about Inquiry in Action by ACS. We did the Middle School Chemistry and it was very well done. Both are free. However, you do need supplies each week. If you can get your supplies organized ahead of time, it won't be too hard to pull off.

We did CKE Earth & Space and I do remember liking that (and I am picky). 

I was not a huge fan of the Answers in Genesis God's Design for Life books but we had a heavy history year that year so it worked out. If I was to do it over, I would tie it to Nature Study somehow. 

We did a year of physics using Teaching Physics with Toys. It's great, but very, VERY, supply intensive. A lot of prep for the teacher.  You could possibly just do the experiments using the K'nex? We didn't use a core text that year--we read sections from Tiner's book, used some of Bite-sized physics, and watched Eureka, Dr. Carlson Science Theatre and Disney Imagineering videos and some of the Coursera How things Work videos.

All but Mr Q and CKE are ones I haven't looked at or heard of yet - off to Google 🙂

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It's cheaper to buy the printed version of The Good and the Beautiful than to print them at say, Staples or Office Max. I have heard of people printing them using a website called homeschool printer or something like that? Found it! https://thehomeschoolprintingcompany.com

Or just print the pages they need to cut out/do stuff with, and read the rest off a laptop or tablet. 

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17 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

It's cheaper to buy the printed version of The Good and the Beautiful than to print them at say, Staples or Office Max. I have heard of people printing them using a website called homeschool printer or something like that? Found it! https://thehomeschoolprintingcompany.com

Or just print the pages they need to cut out/do stuff with, and read the rest off a laptop or tablet. 

 

If you have a AAA membership, you can get a discount card for Office Max that gives you 2.5 cent black and white copies. I forget how much the color ones are. 

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About halfway through last year I switched to Memoria Press.  If I hadn’t put my hands on it, I’m not sure I would have tried it. It is a completely different approach, instead of covering a bunch of different topics, it focuses on one topic at a time, usually a year. Last year we did insects and I feel like my kids really learned a lot. This year we are doing birds.
 

My 7 year old isn’t reading and barely writes, so I have him narrate back to me. My 9 year old does answer questions in the book. Both my 9 and 12 year old do extra reading.
 

When the kids want to do experiments, I pull out a Jean VanCleave book and let them pick something.  It’s totally unrelated to what we are actually doing for science, but that’s ok sometimes. My 12 year old is a voracious reader, he will read up on other science topics.

Memoria Press Science

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This is all wonderful.

We have tried all kinds of ways and curriculum for science. One that was done through to the end consistantly was BJU dlo science. Another was RS4K Elem. Chem.--just too mnay experiments and not enough info for us. 

But mostly, my kids have watched dozens of science shows, read dozens of science books, and done some random experiments over the years. 

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re: Good and Beautiful- I have it on my laptop to read from and then just print the student pages they will use. I have a big color laser jet that I refill with generic toner so it is not too bad. If it isn't pictures I just print in b&w.

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I use BFSU as a spine and the very few definitions that haven't been mastered by just discussing, reading, and playing around with concepts I add to our morning basket memory work. Daily Science is very simple output with a focus on vocabulary. 

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