Teaching Elementary Science
In grammar stage science, you can use a preset curriculum, explore science on your own, or use any combination of the two. I have a post on DIY science here. This post is about pre-written curriculum option for the grammar stage. First I will review several elementary school options I have used, and then I will provide a list of other options to peruse on your own time. Some of these are being reviewed by other Sandbox to Socrates members! Use what feels right for your family. Also note that most curriculum options have free samples to download on their respective sites.
I am a secular homeschooler. I prefer to add my religion into curriculum myself, not have it written into the teacher’s manual. As such, I am most familiar with the secular options. For the grammar stage, none of the following options reviewed (BFSU, RSO, Ellen McHenry, TOPS) mention commonly controversial topics for religious teachers, like the origin of life or dinosaurs. Some of the items linked afterwards might.
Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding
BFSU: Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (K-2nd) and Elementary Science Education (3rd-5th), by Bernard Nebel. Each volume is meant to span the full three years. This science program is extremely rigorous and thorough while teaching in a way that children intuitively grasp. It uses observation and guided Socratic questioning to lead children to discover scientific principles for themselves. Each entire curriculum is a single thick book, beginning with several chapters to the teacher on effective teaching, a flow chart, and lesson plans. All four science topics (Nature of Matter, Life Science, Physical Science, Earth and Space Science) are taught in whatever order you fancy. The flowchart shows which lessons, if any, are prerequisites for other lessons. For example, the lessons on Inertia and Friction must be completed before teaching Rate of Fall, Weightlessness in Space, and Distinction between Mass and Weight.
Each lesson contains an Overview; Time Required per lesson part; Objectives; Required Background; Materials; Teachable Moments; Methods and Procedures; Questions/Discussion/Activities to Review, Reinforce, Expand, and Assess Learning; To Parents and Others Providing Support; National Science Education Standards; and Books for Correlated Reading.
This program, while fantastic for science-minded kids, is often overwhelming for parents. I would recommend the following sequence:
Make sure you have taught any prerequisite lessons before beginning your lesson.
Check out the Books for Correlated Reading from your library, along with any other books on the topic.
Make sure you have all the Materials (most are truly household objects, like wooden pencils, balloons, marbles, vacuum cleaner, sugar, etc).
It will take a few days to read through the library books with your child. In that time, skim over the methods and procedures. Key words are written in capital letters in the text. Familiarize yourself with what you will be doing and discussing.
Then gather your materials and dive in! Many lessons have multiple “parts,” and each part can easily be its own day, or even multiple days.
If your students needs more reinforcement or wants to do more with the topic, browse the Questions/Discussion/Activities section. Volume 2, Elementary Science Education, recommends the student keeps a notebook to record what they learn.
R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey
RSO: R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey, by Pandia Press, offers biology, chemistry, and earth/space science at Level One. This level is appropriate for 1st to 5th grade. Each subject is a one-year program. RSO teaches to the student in a conversational manner, followed by activities and experiments that reinforce learning. Cute illustrations accompany the stories and activities. The scientific method is emphasized, and many of the activities expressly follow those steps. Students will learn to gather and record data, fill out diagrams, and conduct experiments.
RSO is a single manual per subject, either hard copy or printable e-book. Everything is black and white, so printing is easier. The activity sheets can be printed for each student as many times as needed. The book’s layout is intuitive and easy to understand. Material lists at the beginning of the book let parents be prepared for any lesson or the entire year. The lessons flow one after another easily, and the activities are fun. Children with many different knowledge levels and learning styles enjoy RSO.
Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop
Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop: Ellen McHenry has written some of the most child-friendly science programs I have ever seen. Conversational prose is written directly to the student and makes the topics easy to understand without talking down at all. Multiple activities and games accompany most chapters, as well as salient Internet links. She also has free downloads such as a photosynthesis relay game that demonstrate her style. The Brain, the Elements, Carbon Chemistry, Cells, and Botany are all available in digital download, hard copy, and hard copy with CD.
TOPS: Deceptively simple and cheap materials are used to explore many scientific principles in depth. Lessons are available for grammar stage physics and life sciences (others at higher grades). The program expects rigor and understanding for the age range. For instance, the 3rd-8th “Radishes” program teaches the students to grow radish seeds. Sounds boring. However, the plants are carefully checked and recorded daily for four weeks. Twenty activity sheets plus many additional ideas, questions, and labs are used with them to teach about plotting graphs, predictions, photosynthesis, growth rates, greenhouses, tropisms, toxic stress, and more.
List of Other Popular Options:
Singapore My Pals are Here (MPH): Textbook, Teacher’s Guide, and Activity Book.
Nancy Larson: Provides all materials, very interactive/hands-on. Expensive.
Apologia Elementary Science: Religious. Textbook and notebooking journal.
Otter’s Homeschool Science: Free lesson plans online! Anatomy/human body study, rigorous and fun. If I had more days in the week I would use this, too.
Real Science 4 Kids: Student text, teacher’s manual, laboratory workbook.
Alpha Omega Lifepacs: Workbooks and lab supplies. Religious.
Bob Jones: Religious. Student text, activities manual, teacher’s manual, tests.
Mr. Q’s: Online downloadable and printable e-books. Life Science is free!
More science is out there! If I missed any that you love, tell me about them in the comments!
Faith–Faith is a highly distractable mother of four. She believes in doing what is best for each child and has experimented with various combinations of public, charter, and home schools. Her oldest child is diagnosed with Asperger’s with ADHD-Combined and anxiety, and she suspects her third child struggles with it, also. Faith is an unabashed feminist and “crunchy” mom, strongly LDS with a passion for knitting, avoiding cooking, and Harry Potter.