Study of Birds – Kid Ornithologists!

This year we have had an overarching study of birds going on in conjunction with our other homeschooling subjects. My two youngest have really enjoyed learning about birds and tracking which birds they have seen over the course of the year. We enjoy studying this way – it’s really great for unschoolers or even roadschooling. The learning is flexible and totally based on exploration and discovery! Science is really an amazing course of study. Whether you are conducting scientific experiments, playing a vocabulary game, or just plain observing… it can really be a lot of fun for children.

We started by learning about birds in general using the Apologia “Flying Creatures” text.

Zoology 1

We then created our own bird journals.

Photo

Then we put out a bird feeder with several kinds of bird food.

Then we began to keep track of what birds visited our yard.

Review of Science4Us

online science curriculumThis week has already been absolutely crazy. Sometimes life just happens. In that case, how do you carry on? Does homeschooling get done? Well, sometimes at our house homeschooling gets a lick and a promise. If you don’t know what that means, it’s simple… we give it what attention we can and a promise to get back to it later. That’s exactly what happened this week. However, it also gave me a chance to really let my little ones explore a new science program that we’ve recently added to our curriculum. So, I’m going to let this post be a Review of the Science4Us curriculum.

The Science4Us curriculum was designed specifically to foster an interest and excitement in science learning for children in Kindergarten through third grade. Since most schools and even home schools have limited resources to spend on engaging students in science learning, this online curriculum can pique their interest and give them the foundations in science that they need.

The creators of Science4Us have this to say, “The major new development effort over the last three years has been STEM education. After some research, we decided that our contribution was to provide a curriculum to get students off to a good start in science. It strikes us as an ongoing disaster that two thirds of American students are already behind grade level in science by 4th grade and that they are not identifying themselves as interested or gifted in science.After decades of public consensus that a national priority is to make early science education into an investigative experience but with this goal remaining consistently out of reach, we decided to take a big initiative to try to make it happen. We launched development of Science4Us in 2010 with the goal of creating a 5E-based science curriculum which could realistically be implemented in all schools across the country without prohibitive costs or requirements for out-of-class teacher training.

After three years, countless trials, millions of dollars, Science4Us, a K-2nd digitally-delivered science curriculum, was introduced at NSTA in San Antonio in April 2013. Science4Us is based on NGSS, the Next Generation Science Standards, developed by Achieve for the National Research Council.”

It really sounds like the Science4Us initiative started with a sincere desire to improve science education across America. Since this curriculum is relatively new, there aren’t alot of homeschoolers out there that have written reviews. It is with this in mind that I hope to give you our opinion of how this program stacks up in the homeschool arena.

In our homeschool we have a First grader and a Third grader. I am letting the third grader participate as well just to see what she thinks of the curriculum.

Science4Us reaches Kindergarten through Second grade. Each grade covers Physical Science, Inquiry, Life Science, and Earth Science including properties of matter. Each of these topics seemed to be covered specifically with grade appropriate lessons. The program itself is easy to navigate, it is bright and colorful, and very attractive to younger children. My seven year old was able to log in herself and begin lessons with minimal help from me.

The lessons were interesting, and had clear application to the science concept that was being taught. As a Christian, my only issue was the history of the earth section. However, it is easy to skip the lessons that you don’t want to do. I appreciated the mix of things to do online as well as offline activities. I think this is one of the best science for elementary school curriculums that I have seen in a long time.

To sum up, here are the pros:

1) Science4Us was developed by qualified and experienced teachers and curriculum designers. It is obvious by how the various aspects flow with ease.

2) The curriculum itself is easy to follow, easy to understand, and enjoying. The children like logging in and working through the fun and interesting science lessons.

3) The lessons are not long and drawn out, but are pretty concise with a song, video, or story that the kids can watch to reinforce the concept that is being taught.

4) It is simple to track your student’s progress. With one click you can view what they have been doing, when, and what their score is at the moment. Great for an easy homeschool science option.

Teaching Kindergarten Science

States of MatterFor most children, kindergarten is the introduction to school. It’s their first experience with what is expected and how they are required to function for most of the their school experience. It’s kindergarten that teaches the fundamentals… and that’s no different when it comes to learning about science at this fantastic age.

Before you jump in to learning and experiencing science, there is one huge thing that you must remember. The kindergartener learns by play! You can’t expect them to just sit there and read a book and learn everything they need to know. A kindergartener learns through experience via playing. So, as we teach this amazing child science we must remember this first and foremost. Science can be HUGELY fun, if they are allowed to experience the excitement of discovery first hand.

1) Make science fun, and to do this you need a good backbone. What in the world? Sure,  I am talking about your science backbone… your textbook. A really great text/or foundational science program can make a huge difference! We love using Apologia Science, and have recently started using the new Science4Us online program. Both offer very unique kindergarten homeschool science perspectives geared toward getting the young child very interested in science.

2) Use exciting ways to teach the facts. Don’t just assign your kiddos a page to read. Oh, I know not every homeschool parent is a science lover… but we’ve got to at least find a way to get across the facts in an exciting manner. If you have no clue how to teach a particular topic – relinquish it to the experts. You can show a science video for class one day – or watch a cool you tube science how-to, or even watch it yourself and then find a fun way to teach it to your kids.

3) Take that extra time to get prepared. I know… that takes some determination and planning but it will be well worth it in the end. Whenever I have taken the time to teach my kids science in an extraordinary way – they usually remember everything!!! I also love to use interesting and colorful printables for recording the science that we learn. Here’s a free science printable about the scientific method. You can use it to fill out inquiry about particular science projects/experiments that you are working on. Make your science experiments fun and amazing and you’ll have your kids begging for science every day!

How to Homeschool Elementary Science

homeschool scienceFirst of all, science is not simply a “subject” out of textbook. Life learning is the key to a successful science study. Sure, I love using interesting science texts but science learning is not all about the book.

1) Use life, specifically nature to study the world around you. My children take every opportunity to do this even if it “interrupts” what they were doing. For example, a battle against a rather large spider was waged in our schoolroom the other day.  My children, being the victors, proceeded to dissect their spoils. They discovered how hairy the specimen was, and how the legs connected to the body. All very interesting, and all pure science!

2) Remember that your children are just that – children. As I’ve mentioned before in many of my posts about learning… children learn through play. Their play is learning, and their learning (to be most advantageous should be) play! Encourage scientific pursuits while the children are playing… ie… the spider dissection.

3) Let learning flow naturally from their inquisitive minds. Scientific method stems from “questioning.” How natural is it for our children to question the world around them? Don’t we often tire of hearing the word “Why?” Sure, but that is natural scientific investigation that your kiddos are hardwired to do… all we have to do is fan that flame!

4)I suggest investing in many “guide books.” These can be anything and everything from guide books to books that show how things work. Here are a few that we have: Look inside the Human Body, The Kingfisher I Wonder Why Encyclopedia, Birds of Georgia, The Usbourne Science Encyclopedia, and Stephen Biesty’s Inicredible Cross Sections. All of these are super books which encourage that natural investigator in your child.

5) Use a text book or online science program as your guideline if you feel like you need it. Really most of  science in elementary could be done without one. However, many people want to be sure they cover all the topics that prepare children for a more formal science study in Middle School.

Time to Prepare!

homeschool scienceI love the diversity of homeschooling families. Each one is different and unique in how they manage their schooling, what curriculum they use, and how they schedule their school year. It seems even after 8 years of college, I am still constantly learning from fellow homeschooling moms! Talk about continuing education!

Planning for a new school year is one of those areas that I have learned so much from my fellow homeschoolers. I homeschool elementary as well as high school and there is always something new and amazing out there that I miss. So, I usually try to spend my free time in the summer researching and developing our homeschool plan for the next school term.

This year, there are a few things in particular that I really want to focus on. I have two in elementary school, two in junior high school, and one in high school. So, I’ve got my work cut out for me! I’m going to list our general plans, and if you have some amazing homeschool curriculum that you would like to share – please do!  I would love to find something new that works great!

For my elementary students, I am focusing on writing and science. I have been able to find some great writing books that really helped us get going. I posted about them here. I am also trying to find a good solid science curriculum. I found a new homeschool science curriculum that is online. We plan to explore that this year and see if we like it.

For my Junior high students, of course, we are focusing on writing. I am going to start them both on Time4Writing this fall to give them some personal feedback on their writing progress.

For my high schooler, we are going to be working on getting some college credit through CLEP testing. So, many of our courses will line up with those tests. She is an avid writer and photographer, so I plan on fostering those strengths this year through some great online courses.

Making Homeschool Astronomy Easy!

I just love studying space… you know… the final frontier! The place where no man has gone before… It’s so beautiful, quiet, and peaceful looking. I find the stars and planets and galaxies so amazing! Like how, in the world can you explain a black hole? So, it follows then that one of my favorite subjects to teach is astronomy. The cool thing is that now that we have so many awesome resources at our fingertips, we can pull to gether a homeschool course in this subject for FREE!

Here is just a sampling of the treasures that I found in the internet universe. (no pun intended 😉

I like to start with a study of the earth, and Google earth is awesome for that!  A good understanding of our earth and its relationship to the other planets is a great jumping off point. Viewing the amazing galaxies and star clusters and other space phenomena is what makes astronomy so interesting.  Over at worldwide telescope you’ll find everything you need to view these amazing things!
This isn’t the end of the cool stuff, because at Galaxsee you can form your own Galaxy, and if you prefer studying from a text book here’s a free astronomy hypertext, NASA’s free offering is an Astronomy 101 class that you can browse, and to put icing on the cake here are some really great astronomical images and animations that will keep you wow-ed! You can study the spelling of your planets with free spelling flashcards or teacher resources, and I have also just recently discovered a super duper app for the ipad called skyview! This you have to try! You take your ipad outside and look up at the sky and it overlays a map of the constellations and planets. You can highlight the different items you view and it will give you information about them. That’s even better than a planetarium!
Well, I hope you have a blast with these super fun resources… don’t forget to comment and let me know what you found interesting!

The Gender Gap in Education

I have mixed feelings about this issue myself, but after looking at a prominent educational online news page today I almost laughed outloud. One article at the top of the page discussed how to promote gender equity in math and science, another article near the bottom of the page elaborated on how to become aware of learning preferences and differences between boys and girls in these subjects. Are there differences or not? And if there are natural differences then why are we trying to negate them?  So, what are they saying here?

Are there differences or not? An easy way to answer this question would be to ask a mother that has both a boy and girl.  I guess I could qualify for that one… in my opinion there are distinct difference between how a boy and a girl think and learn. Yet, those differences do not devaluate either’s ability to learn or achieve in certain educational fields. A boy just simply “goes at it” differently than a girl. It is not the wrong way, just a different way. Girls read better than boys, and boys do better in math in science… are both just ridiculous statements.  I am female, a very girly female – and have always had strong abilities in math and science. The myth that boys do better than girls in math and science is just that… a myth.

Every child should be given every opportunity to explore their natural strengths. What do you think?