Homeschool

Choosing Science Homeschool Curriculum

This is my eighth year homeschooling and we needed to change our science curriculum. Neither my three kids or I were excited about using our old approach to science. Researching curriculum is both exhilarating and exhausting. There are so many factors to consider when selecting a new program such as cost, learning styles, and teaching style. 

Before I even started looking at a new curriculum I wrote out what I’ve used in the past and things I wanted to consider for this year of homeschool. 

All of this preparation doesn’t guarantee I will love the curriculum I choose. I reserve the right to chuck the curriculum later in the year if none of us are enjoying the material. 

Previous Science Curriculums 

Apologia – Exploring Creation with Botany  

We spent one year barreling through Botany using the junior notebook as guides. 

Apologia – Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics 

For two years we tried to make our way through Chemistry and Physics. I bought a box containing all the materials I needed to complete the experiments. Towards the end of the book, the kids were tired of me reading the textbook and we only did the experiments. We never finished the book! 

MakeCrate Electronics 

Purchased through the Homeschool-Buyer’s Club. The kit is fantastic and the kids enjoyed working through the projects. My year subscription is almost up and I wish I had done more of these projects. 

Programmed games in Scratch 

I bought three books from Costco walking my students through developing Scratch games. One kid completed all the projects. The other two built a few games. 

Curiosity Stream 

A documentary subscription service. I still use this app. I always write down in planner under “Science” any documentaries my kids watch. 

SciShow Kids and YouTube

In the younger years, all we did was watch SciShow Kids. As they got older I used the videos as a supplement to what we were already learning. Sadly, Jessi doesn’t make anymore shows.

Elementary Science classes at our co-op. 

My kids have taken geology, astronomy, engineering, and botany all through other parents teaching at our homeschool co-op. 

Things to consider for this school year 

Do I want science to be topic-based or do I want to cover a large variety of topics? 

Do I want a religiously neutral science curriculum?

Should I do a separate curriculum for each child or can I combine them?

I have a 3rd, 5th, and 7th grader. 

The 7th grader has some learning challenges and finds it difficult to read large chunks of small text. I would prefer a large-print type and hands-on experiments. Also, an audio or video option would be nice for the 7th grader. The 7th grader needs to be ready for Biology, Chemistry, and Physics in two years. 

The 5th grader is good at science and may enjoy the 7th-grade curriculum. I also plan on supplementing the 5th grader who loves science with Khan Academy videos. 

The 3rd grader enjoys science and is happy to do anything. 

Curriculum Options 

1. Apologia General Science 3rd Edition 

Grade level: Recommended for 7th grade

How to use it: Read the text, complete workbook, do a few experiments. 

Notes: Now comes with video and mp3 cd audio. Small text size. Very religious. Has a clear path through middle school and high school (Biology, Chemistry, Physics courses). Made to be completed in 33 weeks at 4 days a week. 

2. Pandia Press – REAL Science Odyssey – Biology Level Two

Grade level: appropriate for 5th – 9th grade

How to use it: Read the text and do the experiments. 

Notes: No High school level provided by the publisher. Uses a microscope and we have one. Experiment supplies can be obtained through Amazon. I love how the text is organized. Easy to read. Easy to add extra student pages. 

3. Mystery Science 

Grade level: Kindergarten – 5th grade

How to use it: Watch the videos, discussion time, and complete printed worksheets. 

Notes: I love it and we would all be happy doing this one. I’m afraid it wouldn’t cover everything my 7th grader needs to know. I would use this for elementary, but it may not work for middle school.  

4. Supercharged Science 

Grade Level: Unclear.

How to Use it: Watch a video and follow the experiment step-by-step. 

Notes: Someone recommended this one to me. The website has recently been redone to be more clear. There is a monthly video subscription for $37 a month. The full Science Mastery curriculum including materials is $600 to $1900. I love the idea of my kids being to watch a video and being able to follow along step by step. 

5. Real Science 4 Kids – Building Blocks Book 6

Grade Level: Depends on the book level. 

How to use it: Read the textbook. Answer “Think About it” questions. Do a formal experiment using a scientific method. 

Notes: The text is large and easy to read. The material is organized clearly. There are 22 experiments and I would need to purchase experiment supplies through Home Science Tools. There is not a solid high school curriculum provided by the publisher.

Other Curriculums I Considered

Novare Science 

The Rainbow 

Monarch Online 

The Science Curriculum I Chose

For my seventh and fifth-grader, I chose to do Real Science 4 Kids – Building Blocks Book 6. Then I chose to do Book 2 with my third grader. Both Book 6 and Book 2 cover the same topics, but the lower level will make the science much easier for my third grader. He will still get to do science like his older siblings, but it will make sense to him. I will be able to continue to work through books each year if we like the curriculum.

I’m glad the textbook only needs one school day to read the entire chapter. Then we can focus on the experiment for the rest of the time. Book 6 is a good middle school level with challenging content. It will also introduce the scientific method and will prepare my kids for a higher level science.

I’ll have to post later in the school year how this one works out for us!

Which science curriculum did you choose? Is science something that is easily dropped from your school day?

Photo by Manuel Barroso Parejo

Homeschool

How to Homeschool Preschool

I get a lot of questions about how to homeschool Preschool. I love those! It’s usually young first-time mamas who are so excited for every new adventure in parenting. They are also terrified that their child will be “behind” if they don’t know how to read before Kindergarten. I remember those years! They were my favorite years of homeschooling and my first kid got the absolute best of me. Then I went and had 3 more kiddos and a lot changed. 

I relaxed and realized that there was plenty of time to learn everything. I learned how just like potty training, if the kid wasn’t ready to learn to read, then it was just going to be a frustrating experience for both of us. I had to be taught to value play, reading aloud, being outdoors, and social interaction as the MOST IMPORTANT things in early childhood education. 

Here are my top 5 list of subjects to teach your kids in preschool. 

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Reading

Amanda’s July Reading Recap

In July I read two popular books, one middle grade, and two YA Science-Fiction books. I was most excited about Recursion, because I love Dark Matter. Many of my friends enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing so I picked it up. It’s fun to read a popular book even if it’s not a genre you normally choose. I hope this list helps you choose your books in the future.

Recursion 

Author: Blake Crouch

Published: June 11th 2019 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)

Pages: 329

4 Stars
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Faith, Homeschool

Planting Seeds of Grace

In 1963 a Harvard Professor named Robert Rosenthal conducted a study in an elementary school near San Francisco, CA. The children in the school were given an IQ Test and the results were kept secret. The teachers were only told that certain students, about 20% of each class, were considered to be “intellectual bloomers.” These students, the teachers were told, had extreme potential to do big things someday. The teachers went about their school year armed with this knowledge and at the end of the year the students were retested. As predicted, the students that had been identified as “intellectual bloomers” (especially those in 1st and 2nd grade) had a remarkable increase in IQ rate compared to their peers. 

As you may have guessed, the problem was how the “intellectual bloomers” had been chosen at random. There was nothing special about them. This enforced Rosenthal’s hypothesis that what the teachers believed would affect how they communicated with the children and the children would learn more than their peers who were considered unexceptional. Ouch. 

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Homeschool, Potpourri

Curiosity Lounge is changing to Graceful Homeschool

When I homeschool I like to take a break every six weeks and evaluate how things are going. During this break, I can make adjustments and change how we use our curriculum. I recently took a break from Curiosity Lounge while we moved and I reevaluated how this new blog is going. 

I love the idea of being curious about topics and other people but I found the website name to be too vague. Curiosity Lounge doesn’t specify who we are as writers and who you are as a community. I needed a name to accurately reflect our focus and the topics we want to write about in the future. 

The name Graceful Homeschool is inspired by the only magnet on my refrigerator. Last year a friend gave me a magnet that says, “Choose Grace.” At first I thought it was too sentimental, but over time this magnet has reminded me to calm me down and to have grace for myself and other people.

We need vats of grace in our daily lives and we especially need grace in our homeschools.

This blog is still in its earliest days and I didn’t feel like it was too late to make this tiny pivot. Thank you so much for having grace for me as I make sure this corner of the internet helps you along in your homeschool, find books you love, and inspire you when doubts and frustration arrive.

I’d love to know in the comments if you have any questions about homeschooling or books. I know there are a lot of resources available to homeschooling families, but we’d love to help answer any questions you have about this exciting and scary journey of educating our kids.

What would like to know more about in the world of homeschool?

Faith, Homeschool, Parenting

Be Thou My Vision

I will never forget that day. We were sitting at a very routine eye doctor appointment, not suspecting that anything was wrong. When my very bright and precocious 9-year-old says, “I know the top letter is an E because it’s always an E. But I can’t see it.” It was as if time stopped. Wait, what? He’s kidding, surely…. “No, mom. I really can’t see it.” 

Thoughts came flooding in. The boy who always had a book with him had recently stopped reading in the car. He said he just didn’t feel like it. And then there was the baseball game last week where he begged to play catcher, FOR BOTH TEAMS. He spent the whole game in mask and pads squatting behind the batter. I guess it feels better to be wearing all those protective measures when you can’t see the ball coming at you. 

I felt like a terrible parent. How did I not know my poor boy was struggling to see? 

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Reading

June Reading Roundup

My June reads included non-fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and a mystery. I didn’t love everything I read and I’m already changing up genres for July’s books. I hope this helps you pick up something new or save you time on books that aren’t right for you.

To Stop a Warlord: My Story of Justice, Grace, and the Fight for Peace

Author: Shannon Sedgwick Davis

Published: April 2nd 2019 by Spiegel & Grau

Pages: 352

Rating: 5 Stars
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Homeschool, Potpourri

The Parallel of a Project and Parenting: Ten Steps to Sending My Son to College

Last year on my birthday, my oldest two boys bought me a DIY Wooden Sign project at The Board and Brush studio. My oldest was out of state doing an internship, so my second oldest came with me to help me make the project. We were having a great time and the project was coming together when about halfway through, the thought hit me that this project was an almost perfect parallel to parenting. 

The feeling was so powerful it almost took my breath away. I stood for a moment and stared at this 18-year-old young man who I clearly remembered as a scrawny little infant and the tears welled up. He knows this look in my eyes well and came over to give me a hug. We were both anticipating the upcoming goodbye as he was heading out of state to college in a few weeks. I pulled it together and we finished a beautiful project that hangs proudly over my fireplace. The entire time I was making mental notes and taking it all in and silently praising God for this precious gift. 

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I'm Curious About...

I’m Curious About Internet Security

“I’m curious about…” is a series exploring subjects we want to learn more about. Curiosity can lead us to learn more about different kinds of cheeses, find a new favorite author, or seek to understand another culture from your own. We can begin to find answers to our questions even when we don’t feel qualified.


In this edition, I’m curious about Internet Security.

How did you become interested in this topic?

I am a part of the Oregon Trail Generation and I grew up with the internet. I’ve always been curious about computers and how they talk to each other. In the late 1990s, movies like Sandra Bullock’s The Net, Antitrust, and Enemy of the State made me wonder which storylines are plausible in real life. In high school, I gained a basic knowledge of computers in an AP Computer Science class and then I took a  college-level Information Systems class.

In the mid-2000s, armed with my very basic computer knowledge I started reading Bruce Schneier’s blog, Schneier on Security, and Slashdot to get the latest security news. I didn’t understand all the technical lingo, but I could understand why someone or a corporation would want private information.

Now I’m still interested, because data leaks are often in the news. Two years ago Target stores had 40 million credit card numbers stolen, because of a vulnerability in their air conditioning system! Last year the detailed private information of  50 million Facebook users were exposed because of a few software bugs. The crazy scenarios from the movies have become real and it is fascinating.

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Homeschool

Give Me a Break!

I’ve been homeschooling for 16 years and I have noticed a couple of funny things about homeschoolers.

1.   There are no true sick days. 

When I was a kid in public school, there were days that I was truly sick and others when I was just “sick of it.” My mom was kind and wise and she occasionally let me stay home from school. On those “sick of it” days, we would go to Swensen’s for a ginormous ice cream sundae and maybe cruise the mall. I’d be all better about halfway through the sundae. On the truly sick days, I would binge watch PBS, Gilligan’s Island, and Dick Van Dyke. Guess what? Those days off didn’t make me fall irrevocably behind, fail to graduate or become a lazy adult. I’m actually pretty okay, and I have great memories because of those days.

Let’s consider our homeschoolers. Raise your hand if you have ever said, “I know you’re not feeling great, but you can read two chapters of your book today, right?” Or “It’s just a mild sore throat, have a Tylenol and we’ll start math in 30 minutes.” We wring our hands and worry if we let them bounce between the tablet and TV all day. We think it somehow reflects poorly on us, like we are failing them in some way. We feel this because of all the articles we read about technology being bad for our kids. Spoiler alert! There’s a lot of good in the technology available today.

2.   Monday Holidays, Spring Break, and Summer give us anxiety.

How many times have you been asked, “Are you taking Labor Day/MLK Day/Spring/Summer break off?” Only other homeschoolers ask these questions. The rest of the world assumes we are taking those breaks. Why wouldn’t we? We tend to see taking breaks as weak, lazy or backsliding. We feel guilty for resting! Need I remind you that God Himself considered rest so important that he dedicated an entire day every week to it? 

Every homeschool family will have their own rhythm and routine and that’s great. Some of you want to school through the summer for all kinds of reasons, go for it!

If you do school through the summer or holidays then promise me two things:  

Don’t look down on those taking breaks. Encouraging your kids to always be curious, and in that way, value learning all year round is awesome. Requiring a certain amount of bookwork or something you see as “actual learning” before you allow the kids to have “free time” could be crushing their desire to learn and be curious. Think outside the box and try to see the value of learning in your child playing with Legos or even a video game.

Don’t fear “getting behind” so much that you push math on your sick kids. Let them have the occasional day where they build a “nest.” That’s what my kids do when they don’t feel well. They drag a big blanket, a few pillows and some stuffed animals in front of the TV and settle in for a day of watching TV, drinking water and napping on and off.

Planned Breaks

This year my family instituted scheduled weeklong breaks every 6 weeks (or less). Some of them corresponded to holidays or vacations, others were just a week off at home. Basically, we never did more than 6 – 8 weeks of school without taking a week off. We could use that week to do some make up work if we felt we needed it, or we would just take the whole week off.

I used those weeks to plan the next block of schooling, which gave me the freedom to expand what was working and remove what wasn’t. It was such a blessing! We were much less stressed, and we still finished more than 75% of the math book by the end of May! Did you know you don’t have to finish the whole book? 

A typical school year should last between 32-36 weeks, depending on the age of your students. What you do with the remaining 16-20 weeks per year can make or break your homeschool. Give those kids and yourself a break! 

How do you handle sick days? Do you take regularly scheduled breaks throughout the school year?

Photos by Daiga Ellaby