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McHenry Science - Help me decide order!


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Hi all! I was reading through several hive comments/threads back in the deep part of winter and decided I want to use Ellen McHenry's curricula with my boys over the next couple of years. I do plan to start with Element's for this fall semester but can't decide what order to go through the rest after. My boys will be 7th, 4th & 1st (12, 9 & 7) this coming school year. I seem to recall a particuar hive mom from New Zealand that had a great comment with a good order to study the sciences but I cannot find it again! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Probably Llewyalma (sp?) I did elements with a 10 and 12 year old but although the 10 year old could do it the retention was pretty low.  I think 7 and 9 would be a bit young unless they are really in to science.

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In order of difficulty?

  • The Elements is the easiest, and in my mind, the best of Ellen McHenry's units.  Barring a few games, I did the entire program with a 2nd grader and a tag-along kindergartener.  High-input, low-output was perfect for my science geeks at those ages.  I did supplement with selected Inquiry in Action units because my children wanted to do "experiments."   While the content could be considered upper-middle or low-high school I question whether the artsy-craftsy output would appeal to a 7th grader.  At the very least, I'd plan to supplement with some hands-on science activities.  
  • Botany, Carbon Chemistry and Protozoa would be the next easiest.  Which is easier depends on your children's interests.
  • The Brain and Cells are the most difficult concept-wise.     

Topically?

  • Chemistry: The Elements, Carbon Chemistry - you could do one per semester, adding in supplemental videos, readings, and hands-on activities.  Or, you could do a semester of chemistry (1 quarter per unit) and then do a different science the second semester.
  • Life Sciences: Botany, Protozoa, The Brain, Cells (Cells and the Brain are about equal in conceptual difficulty, but IMO the games in The Brain were more enjoyable.)
  • Earth Science: Rocks - I did not use this unit 

We  did The Elements in 2nd/K, Botany in 4th/2nd, The Brain, Carbon Chemistry, and Protozoa in 5th/3rd, and Cells in 6th/4th.   The break between 2nd and 4th grades is because we did an integrated science/prehistory unit for 3rd grade, not because I thought McHenry's units were too difficult.  

Pros:  My children loved that McHenry did not talk down to the reader.  They liked the fingerprint people, the games, and most of the crafts.  Cons: McHenry strove to be neutral to appeal to a wide audience.  In this attempt, she skimmed over or entirely omitted important topics that some might consider controversial.  She also interjected her personal views at seemingly random locations. I was fine with this for elementary science, but by middle grades, I was having to supplement too much for comfort. 

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1 hour ago, Sherry in OH said:

Cons: McHenry strove to be neutral to appeal to a wide audience.  In this attempt, she skimmed over or entirely omitted important topics that some might consider controversial.  She also interjected her personal views at seemingly random locations.

The fact that her personal views reflect her young earth beliefs have made me only use the programs when I am reading along side and able to point out the statements I considered problematic. I am sensitive to this because when I purchased the initial units I did not realize what her bias was and I was caught by surprise.

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36 minutes ago, SusanC said:

The fact that her personal views reflect her young earth beliefs have made me only use the programs when I am reading along side and able to point out the statements I considered problematic. I am sensitive to this because when I purchased the initial units I did not realize what her bias was and I was caught by surprise.

Any examples of problematic statements? I’ve wondered about these, but this is precisely what worries me.

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3 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

Any examples of problematic statements? I’ve wondered about these, but this is precisely what worries me.

Carbon Chemistry, chapter 10: Proteins, page 70:

"The human body contains about 30,000 types of proteins.  Each protein is made of thousands of amino acids which must be in exactly the right order.  This fact poses a huge problem for the theory of evolution.  The probability of all of our 30,000 proteins occurring by chance is as good as zero."

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Just now, Sherry in OH said:

Carbon Chemistry, chapter 10: Proteins, page 70:

"The human body contains about 30,000 types of proteins.  Each protein is made of thousands of amino acids which must be in exactly the right order.  This fact poses a huge problem for the theory of evolution.  The probability of all of our 30,000 proteins occurring by chance is as good as zero."

Uhhhhhh. As a probabilist, I take a lot of issue with that statement. If you were selecting each protein at random, then yes, the probability would be infinitesimal. But since no one is positing that to be the process, you'd have to actually, like, measure some stuff before you can opine about this probability. 

That's inappropriate, in my opinion. So it's not just "neutral" -- it's genuinely not secular. 

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On 4/27/2021 at 1:39 PM, Not_a_Number said:

Any examples of problematic statements? I’ve wondered about these, but this is precisely what worries me.

In Cells, p. 3, "(Ironically, Schlieffen also accepted the theory of evolution - a theory that seemed to contradict his own cell theory)"

This was contrary to what we had just finished studying in our main curricula.

It is too bad because the units are fabulous supplements, but they have to be used with caution if you do not support young earth beliefs, which we do not.

Edited by SusanC
fixed quote
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12 minutes ago, SusanC said:

In Cells, p. 3, "(Ironically, Schlieffen also aceite the theory of evolution - ac theory that seemed to contradict his own cell theory)"

This was contrary to what we had just finished studying in our main curricula.

It is too bad because the units are fabulous supplements, but they have to be used with caution if you do not support young earth beliefs, which we do not.

Yeah, we're nowhere near Young Earth. Thanks for the heads up -- I didn't realize this was so blatant in them 😞 . 

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On 4/27/2021 at 4:09 PM, Sherry in OH said:

Carbon Chemistry, chapter 10: Proteins, page 70:

"The human body contains about 30,000 types of proteins.  Each protein is made of thousands of amino acids which must be in exactly the right order.  This fact poses a huge problem for the theory of evolution.  The probability of all of our 30,000 proteins occurring by chance is as good as zero."

 

On 4/27/2021 at 5:16 PM, SusanC said:

In Cells, p. 3, "(Ironically, Schlieffen also accepted the theory of evolution - a theory that seemed to contradict his own cell theory)"

This was contrary to what we had just finished studying in our main curricula.

It is too bad because the units are fabulous supplements, but they have to be used with caution if you do not support young earth beliefs, which we do not.

Oh, dear.  It honestly never occurred to me to check her bias, given the number of people I've seen recommending her things (especially since I'm pretty sure several of the recommenders are secular), but I really should have considered it given the overall makeup of the homeschool community.  I bought a couple of her units in a download bundle several years ago and was going to use them as fun supplements to our science in the next couple years.  Thanks for the heads-up, so I'll know to pre-read and edit!

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Just now, eternallytired said:

Oh, dear.  It honestly never occurred to me to check her bias, given the number of people I've seen recommending her things (especially since I'm pretty sure several of the recommenders are secular), but I really should have considered it given the overall makeup of the homeschool community.  I bought a couple of her units in a download bundle several years ago and was going to use them as fun supplements to our science in the next couple years.  Thanks for the heads-up, so I'll know to pre-read and edit!

I've seen secular people use them, but I would guess they edit those out. I guess they like them enough to work around this. 

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1 hour ago, eternallytired said:

 

Oh, dear.  It honestly never occurred to me to check her bias, given the number of people I've seen recommending her things (especially since I'm pretty sure several of the recommenders are secular), but I really should have considered it given the overall makeup of the homeschool community.  I bought a couple of her units in a download bundle several years ago and was going to use them as fun supplements to our science in the next couple years.  Thanks for the heads-up, so I'll know to pre-read and edit!

I did the same. They are great! But i was blindsided with my first dc and I'm not good at addressing those things on the fly! I didn't notice anything else, but ... Argh.
For the record, Cell Theory and  Evolution get along just fine.

 

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We are very much secular. We used her brain program and didn't see any issues in there, though I did feel like it the content level was odd - it was really high level in some ways, but really not in others and it seemed to focus on some odd things. Anyway, next one of my kids and I used her one about protists which I forget the name of. I felt really frustrated with the way that the program ignored the good stuff with science. Like, it was filled with tons of descriptions of specific single celled organisms and focused very heavily on the classification of them. The context was really lacking for the role they played in the overall ecosystem and the ways they've adapted to different environments. It also had a whole focus on learning about Greek roots (many of them have Greek roots in the names) which seemed really beside the point for a science program. The activities for the Brain were crafty, but nice metaphors and she encouraged you to do a sheep brain dissection, so that was okay. They worked well with my little science coop group too. But in the single celled organisms one, they were really just crafty with no real further learning and there were no suggestions to do any actual science stuff - we ended up doing a bunch of different stream water infusions to see if any of them cultivated different little organisms - and they DID! The hay infusion (no shocker) was the best, but the rice infusion seemed to encourage some that looked really different, so that was cool. But that was all us. She had nothing about doing anything where you'd go look for real protists.

Anyway, after that experience, it was around the time her Rocks curriculum came out. And it had on it all this stuff about how plate tectonics isn't correct. So I was like, UM... And I got wise to the fact that she was not really secular AT ALL. So then I was like, ah, no wonder this program didn't discuss the adaptations at all. Bleh. And no wonder the Brain felt a little off to me. One of the things I've noted about non-secular science is that it's super focused on just classifications of everything. Classify, classify, classify - like, with crazy levels of detail so it seems really high level. But then ignore some of the basics. Sigh.

All of that is just to say, I'm a secular person who used and at one time recommended her stuff because we did really enjoy that first program.

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2 hours ago, eternallytired said:

 

Oh, dear.  It honestly never occurred to me to check her bias, given the number of people I've seen recommending her things (especially since I'm pretty sure several of the recommenders are secular), but I really should have considered it given the overall makeup of the homeschool community.  I bought a couple of her units in a download bundle several years ago and was going to use them as fun supplements to our science in the next couple years.  Thanks for the heads-up, so I'll know to pre-read and edit!

Yes, pre-read.  At least you are forewarned.  My children really liked The Elements.  I remember being blindsighted by the anti-evolution paragraph in Carbon Chemistry.  I skimmed the unit in advance but more for where to insert supplemental materials and hands-on activities than for content.  Had I pre-read, I would have blacked out that paragraph.  I did black-out selected sentences in some of the other units we completed.   All of them seemed to be asides rather than integral parts of the chapter.   

I think secular homeschoolers recommended Ellen McHenry's units because it was difficult to find engaging science options that would work for a variety of ages. Let's Read and Find Out Science series and Magic School Bus worked great for early elementary.  After those, elementary and middle grade textbooks were boring and overly simplified.  McHenry has an appealing writing style and a knack for explaining complicated topics in terms a child can understand.  Some reviewers do mention that she neglects to mention evolution as a factor in her life sciences units and that more attention should have been given to radioactive half-lives in general, and carbon-14 in particular, in the chemistry units.  In the past, most people attributed this to McHenry wanting to appeal to the broadest possible market.  That is, until as Farrar mentioned, McHenry published her geology unit.   

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15 hours ago, Farrar said:

One of the things I've noted about non-secular science is that it's super focused on just classifications of everything. Classify, classify, classify - like, with crazy levels of detail so it seems really high level. But then ignore some of the basics. Sigh.

Huh. Honestly, this description makes it sound like it's not science at all. I mean, it's not like it's not important to learn classifications, but the hard thing to learn about science is really the scientific method -- how do we think about evaluating evidence? How do we formulate hypotheses? How do we learn to avoid confirmation bias? 

It's not that the facts aren't important, but the method is essential. And this seems like it wouldn't inculcate it at all -- rather, it would inculcate a sense that knowing science is like memorizing a dictionary... 

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15 hours ago, Sherry in OH said:

I think secular homeschoolers recommended Ellen McHenry's units because it was difficult to find engaging science options that would work for a variety of ages. Let's Read and Find Out Science series and Magic School Bus worked great for early elementary.  After those, elementary and middle grade textbooks were boring and overly simplified.

I remember having this issue when I was looking for references for DD8 last year. She wanted to learn about viruses and I wanted a book that was written with a good amount of detail and was at her level. I couldn't find anything of the sort -- either something was very oversimplified, or it was at the high school/college level. 

We've found up just going with the higher-level stuff and talking about things a lot. But we're a sciency family and I'm comfortable with low output, so we're not that picky. 

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So jumping off from here...  Are there similar resources that are truly secular (or at least do a better job with the science)?  We used one of the CPO textbooks this year, and it was fine--lots of additional resources, several labs/investigations for each chapter--but there was a lot of dry reading, and while there was some new info, a lot of it was review.  I have the old freebie download, so I hesitate to switch to something that I have to pay for, but I also don't want science to be a drag.  (This year we read MW and did labs/investigations on F each week, but we got really tired of the textbook by about halfway through the year.)  The thing I liked about the Ellen McHenry unit I did years ago (The Elements) was that it was both conversational and interactive.  We do a lot of discussion-based learning, so the writing style really worked for us.  I guess I don't even need it to be particularly hands-on, just engaging rather than dry.  Next year is going to be our Life Science year.  Any suggestions?

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1 minute ago, eternallytired said:

So jumping off from here...  Are there similar resources that are truly secular (or at least do a better job with the science)?  We used one of the CPO textbooks this year, and it was fine--lots of additional resources, several labs/investigations for each chapter--but there was a lot of dry reading, and while there was some new info, a lot of it was review.  I have the old freebie download, so I hesitate to switch to something that I have to pay for, but I also don't want science to be a drag.  (This year we read MW and did labs/investigations on F each week, but we got really tired of the textbook by about halfway through the year.)  The thing I liked about the Ellen McHenry unit I did years ago (The Elements) was that it was both conversational and interactive.  We do a lot of discussion-based learning, so the writing style really worked for us.  I guess I don't even need it to be particularly hands-on, just engaging rather than dry.  Next year is going to be our Life Science year.  Any suggestions?

Do you absolutely need a program? We just do some reading aloud and discussing for science at the moment. We'd been slowly meandering through BFSU, but that's pretty secondary. 

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1 minute ago, Not_a_Number said:

Do you absolutely need a program? We just do some reading aloud and discussing for science at the moment. We'd been slowly meandering through BFSU, but that's pretty secondary. 

I never used a program before this year, but since my oldest hit middle school, I wanted to take a quick, structured tour through the sciences before we get to high school stuff.  Maybe it's not necessary, but I feel like there ought to be some sort of structured study by that age level. 

The funny thing is, I've tested them annually just so I can see their progress and note weaknesses/strengths, and since I use ITBS because it's familiar, I always have them take the social studies and science parts just because they were included.  They've always scored above 75th percentile despite the fact that I've always just done topical or interest-led studies.  So maybe I should just ditch the textbook.  But I do still want SOMETHING to get us consistently thinking science-y thoughts that doesn't require me to do a whole lot of legwork (as in, something laid out for me, rather than me hunting around online and in the library for resources to build my own course of study).

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1 minute ago, eternallytired said:

So maybe I should just ditch the textbook. 

Honestly, that's my vote. Textbooks are just dry. 

 

1 minute ago, eternallytired said:

But I do still want SOMETHING to get us consistently thinking science-y thoughts that doesn't require me to do a whole lot of legwork (as in, something laid out for me, rather than me hunting around online and in the library for resources to build my own course of study).

Hmmm, yes, I see that. I'm very lazy with our science, so we don't really have a course of study, either. DD8 asks to read some stuff, then we read it and discuss for a while. I think we've been doing biology for more than a year now, since that has been what she's asked for 😂. She also read the Horrible Science books and we talk about stuff a lot and she constantly builds/makes things.

I can see how you might want a more serious overview than what we're doing in 3rd grade, though. I obviously don't have suggestions, unfortunately, but I'm also curious to see what other people say. 

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2 hours ago, eternallytired said:

So jumping off from here...  Are there similar resources that are truly secular (or at least do a better job with the science)?  We used one of the CPO textbooks this year, and it was fine--lots of additional resources, several labs/investigations for each chapter--but there was a lot of dry reading, and while there was some new info, a lot of it was review.  I have the old freebie download, so I hesitate to switch to something that I have to pay for, but I also don't want science to be a drag.  (This year we read MW and did labs/investigations on F each week, but we got really tired of the textbook by about halfway through the year.)  The thing I liked about the Ellen McHenry unit I did years ago (The Elements) was that it was both conversational and interactive.  We do a lot of discussion-based learning, so the writing style really worked for us.  I guess I don't even need it to be particularly hands-on, just engaging rather than dry.  Next year is going to be our Life Science year.  Any suggestions?

Not a program, but my children really liked the Max Axiom graphic novel series.  For human anatomy, the three volume Survive Inside the Human Body series is a fun supplemental read.   My oldest also liked The Manga Guide to Biochemistry.

This may sound odd, but for basic science, BSA's merit badge pamphlets are resources worth considering. There are several that relate to life sciences.  

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15 hours ago, eternallytired said:

So jumping off from here...  Are there similar resources that are truly secular (or at least do a better job with the science)?  We used one of the CPO textbooks this year, and it was fine--lots of additional resources, several labs/investigations for each chapter--but there was a lot of dry reading, and while there was some new info, a lot of it was review.  I have the old freebie download, so I hesitate to switch to something that I have to pay for, but I also don't want science to be a drag.  (This year we read MW and did labs/investigations on F each week, but we got really tired of the textbook by about halfway through the year.)  The thing I liked about the Ellen McHenry unit I did years ago (The Elements) was that it was both conversational and interactive.  We do a lot of discussion-based learning, so the writing style really worked for us.  I guess I don't even need it to be particularly hands-on, just engaging rather than dry.  Next year is going to be our Life Science year.  Any suggestions?

If you find the unicorn, let us know.

We ended up doing a year of anatomy using regular books, Van Cleave's Human Body book, and Getting Nerdy With Mel & Gerdy interactive elements.  It was honestly a really good year.  I would have done the entire lesson plan from Mel & Gerdy if he had been old enough.  https://gettingnerdywithmelandgerdy.com/
I wasn't willing to print all of Mr. Q., which would have been another option.  It was just so much color ink.  Mel & Gerdy offer 2-3 different options for each activity, so I just printed in black and white on different colored cardstock.

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We've actually had a lot of fun ferreting out McHenry's comments.  "Ah, spot the bias! Quick, is this statement fact or opinion?"  Kiddo has been marking his own snarky notes in the margins when we run across bias, like "Ellen needs an editor", lol. 

I don't use the units as a full curriculum of anything. It's more like "Selected topics in Botany/Cells/Carbon Chemistry".   As much as we like the units, I still won't touch "Rocks" with a 10 foot pole. Her course description makes a big fuss about her worldview and plate tectonics. She wasn't that pointed with her other course descriptions, so I figured that "Rocks" would be more than I could overlook. 

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