Saturday, February 20, 2016

Considering elementary science options

My 7-year-old son loves science. He wants to be an engineer at NASA, and his favorite types of science are astronomy, meteorology, physics, and engineering. He's such a science nut that he likes to ask people, "What's your favorite type of science?!" as a conversation starter. Haha!

Right now, I have been pretty low-key with our science studies. Library books on various topics, book purchases, documentaries and online videos, reading stuff on the NASA website -- stuff like that.
If you have Amazon Instant, I recommend Popular Mechanics for Kids seasons 1-4, which is available for free right now. It's a crowd-pleaser for my 7yo and 5yo. I learned some things too, when I paid attention.

We don't do much in the way of hands-on demos or experiments, though I have attempted it on random occasions.

I like Charlotte Mason methodologies, which at this age would have science solely as nature study. Lots of time outdoors observing, nature notebooks to sketch observations and add notations, living books on the topic.

This is to help the child familiarize himself with what he can sense in the world around him and get a deeper understanding of how the world works. Why read about the life cycle of a plant in a dry textbook when you can observe it first-hand? Why read dry facts about types of birds when you can observe them in their natural environment, color/sketch, learn about them from an engaging book? It should hone their observation skills and help them make connections.

I love CM's nature study in principle and I intend to do it. Possibly use SCM's bird study this year, or maybe next?

It's just, my young scientist would like much more. Part of the privilege in a custom home education is that I can provide that for him.

But how?

Some of the elementary science curriculum I have seen on the market just...ugh. Either too much busy work, too textbooky, talking down to the child, lame experiments or demos, complicated pieces ... all of this can contribute to science just plain not getting done.

Not cool.

I'm evaluating a few curricula that I hope will help save me time vs. doing something myself, have a sense of order, teach science, use living books, use interesting experiments and demos, be fun and worth our time. I don't have my choice finalized.

For the time period coming up, I am going to focus on my son's interests. My next child is 5 and isn't all that interested in science at the moment. She can participate in the read-alouds and experiments, but I think as she gets older I will choose our science more with her interests in mind. We'll see.

Here is what I'm considering so far. More options may come on the scene.

  • Noeo Science Physics I. Leaning strongly toward the Physics option coming up because of my son's preferences, but I think the chem looks interesting, too. Uses books, hands-on experiments (and includes a kit I can get). Uses Young Scientist Club kits, which I've heard are iffy in execution, so we'll see. Noeo also has a biology option but my son doesn't have a strong interest (we will get to bio eventually, but I think for now nature study ought to be enough).
  • Elemental Science Classic: Either the Earth Science & Astronomy for grammar stage, or their Physics for grammar stage. Leaning more toward Earth Sci for this offering, as their physics looks a little more advanced and the sequence might make more sense to do earth & space. I suspect my son already understands a lot of these concepts, but maybe we can go in more depth here. Uses some living books (I think?) and hands-on experiments. I can buy a supply kit. The author references the WTM methodology, and it seems that if I want to do the WTM way, this curriculum would help me achieve that with less work on my part.
  • Earth Science & Astronomy as suggested by The Well-Trained Mind. I would need to outline a plan here and make sure it gets done. Eep. From the book (3rd ed.): "...pick and choose your topics; don't expect to cover everything in these books. Follow the student's interest. Your aim is simply to introduce the study of earth sience and astronomy (and to enjoy it)." (p. 167). I guess grab some of the recommended books (many are Usborne encyclopedias, some are more specific and from other publishers. Map out a plan, read and narrate, choose an experiment? Seems too broad and DIY for what I can handle. Might not get done.
  • History of Science by Beautiful Feet. Takes a biography approach and some hands-on experiments, and a timeline for these people. I suspect it is more literature-based than hands-on. We've read 1.5 of the books used in the program, and they were excellent. I might not do the guide as-is, but I can see using the books in some form. Maybe combining it with another program?
I don't know! What do you do for science?

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