Friday, April 29, 2011

Long-Term Science Plan

One of the subjects I am most interested in - and most particular about teaching - is science. I want to make sure my children enjoy science, learn a lot about it, understand it, and perhaps even pursue it in college. So, what to pick as a homeschool curriculum that will meet those goals? An additional constraint is that I would really like to teach all 3 of my children together in this subject for as long as I can, mostly due to time constraints. Science, like history, is more amenable to multi-grade teaching than most other subjects.

As I wrote earlier, I have not been impressed by most of the Christian homeschool science curricula on the market, due to the negativity and accusatory attitude they seem to take toward old-earth viewpoints and evolutionary thought. Rather than repeat everything I wrote about in detail earlier, if you're interested, just see my 3 posts starting with Part 1.

So, what curriculum am I planning on using? I am very interested in the NOEO science courses. These combine the Classical and Charlotte Mason approaches to education, using lots of interesting books and hands-on experiments. They offer 3 levels of science: level 1 is for grades 1-3, level 2 is for grades 4-6, and level 3 is for grades 7-9, I believe. Those are approximate guidelines, and I don't think it would be much of a stretch to add a grade level before or after the main range. Within each level, they have 3 main topics: chemistry, physics, and biology, though level 3 only has chemistry right now. Other topics, such as geology, weather, or astronomy, are added in appropriate places.

One thing I like about these courses is the literature basis - lots of interesting-looking books for each course, dealing with subsets of the main topic. Another thing I like is that they come with experiment kits, which are scheduled in with the readings. Oh, and yes - everything is scheduled, with a 4-day week, which could be combined into a 2-day week. The publisher is a Christian company, but their courses just teach science, plain and simple. They provide secular, non-dogmatic books, and do not offer commentary, allowing the parent to address any issues they wish in the manner they wish. In fact, to me, NOEO seems similar to Sonlight, except for science instead of history/Bible/literature.

Now, I haven't bought and tried any of them yet, so I may change my mind, but right now, I'm thinking I'll use these for all of the elementary years. I am not going to start with them this coming year, since my 2 younger ones will be too young to get much out of it, and I'd rather wait to make use of all these experiments (which are a little pricey) when all 3 kids are old enough to observe them. I will start when my oldest is in 2nd grade, and the other 2 are in K and pre-K. They'll still be a little young, but we'll cycle through each science topic in future years too. We'll do the last of level 1 when my oldest is in 4th grade, but I don't think she'll be too old to get a lot out of the course. Then we'll proceed onward to levels 2 & 3.

Elemental Science
For this first year, I found another source I like called ElementalScience. The author is a Christian, according to the FAQ, but the courses are non-sectarian and focused only on science. They also offer science using a Classical approach, and using living books, with grammar stage, logic stage, and rhetoric stage courses. They don't have courses for all the stages yet, but they are planning to have 4 disciplines for each level: biology, earth science/astronomy, chemistry, and physics.

They also have a level for the "Early Years," and this level is what I'm going to use this coming year. Intro to Science is meant for preschool and kindergarten, but they have hints for using it with an older student so I think it will still be valuable for a 1st grader. I bought the eBook (only $15), and then bought the spine books: More Mudpies to Magnets and Usborne First Science Encyclopedia. Anne Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study is also required, but I downloaded it for free here. It sounds like we'll do some sort of nature walk each week, along with some readings and an experiment. Other book suggestions are given for individual weeks, which we may or may not use, depending on if they're in the library. Six topics are covered in this courses, with 6 weeks for each one: chemistry, physics, geology, meteorology, botany, and zoology. The eBook provides a schedule for either a 2-day week or a 5-day week. All in all, it sounds like it will be a good introduction, and will be interesting for all 3 kids (though my littlest may not do more than tag along). After we've used it for a while, I'll write another review.

Finally, I found one other resource which I may use in the future. Despite not really liking unit studies, I think I may like the smaller-focus unit studies from Intellego. These are downloadable pdf files with discussion and links (constantly updated) to internet sources for much of the activities and readings. I wouldn't use it as a primary curriculum, and some of their science options sound too focused for me, but there are quite a few studies which I could see adding in either alongside NOEO or as a change of pace between courses. In fact, I may take one year between levels 1 and 2 of NOEO, and do 4 Intellego science studies in a row: Solar System; Soils, Rocks, Minerals & Fossils; Whales; and Natural Disasters. These are all multi-age studies, for 8-14 year olds, taking 1-3 months each. Other studies I like are a few of the K-2nd grade studies (Rocks, Minerals and Soils; and Astronomy) and 6th-8th grade studies (Astronomy, Plate Tectonics, and Oceanography when it becomes available). Their website has lots of samples you can try out. Just FYI, they are a secular company, and seem to cover evolution quite a bit in some of the studies.

Upper Grades
As for junior high and high school, I think I will be using regular textbooks, such as from Holt, Prentice Hall, Glencoe, or McGraw-Hill. Many of these have teacher resources and websites with lots of additional multi-media material as well. Many of the homeschool science providers don't offer science for the higher grades, and the ones that do, I don't like. Many of them, I have heard, are not even accepted as high-school level courses by more rigorous universities (some of that due to a low difficulty level and some of that due to misleading or simply erroneous "facts" being taught). We'll wait and see what's available when we get that far, but I may end up teaching science from the textbooks myself, getting science lab kits of some sort. With my science background, I don't think that will be a problem, except for the amount of time required. I will, again, try to combine kids and grade levels, but that might be a bit trickier at that level due to the math requirements. There are online and correspondence-type courses available at those levels, some of which provide college credit even, but they can be expensive. If I am capable of teaching it myself, I would find it hard to justify paying someone else to do it.

But those years are far away, so we will deal with that when we get closer!

No comments:

Post a Comment