Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Health Games

When my daughter was in about the fourth grade she completed her science curriculum for the year early.  Because we homeschool year round we could have continued with the next year’s science curriculum but my daughter is fanatical about science and would study science to the exclusion of anything else given the chance.

We decided that holding out the next year’s science curriculum as a “carrot” to give her incentive to finish her other courses for fourth grade would work well.  At the same time, having no science to go to seemed like disincentive.  To her it seemed like not having some science was like punishing her for finishing her favorite subject by telling her she couldn’t do any more of it.

I have to admit, I could kind of see her point. 

So what we did was do a mini unit on health.  We found a great source for heath games that covered health, staying in shape, allergies, and dental health.  My daughter loves to play online games of any sort, and by offering the games as part of her health course work, we had a win-win situation.  She got what she considered science, she got to play games, and she learned information that she needed to know anyway! 

I love win-win education situations, don’t you?


Monday, November 3, 2014

Science Vocabulary

Do you include vocabulary study and review in your science curriculum?

In the elementary grades my daughter was a very reluctant writer, but was great with science and other language arts.  Because she didn’t like to write it was very difficult to get her to take notes or to do repetitive writing work like writing spelling words, or writing vocabulary word definitions.  She also hated (and still does hate) what she terms mindless repetition. 

There are two subjects that really benefit from repetition however, math and vocabulary/spelling words.  Not surprisingly, these are my daughter’s least favorite subjects. It has always been a challenge to get her to review anything. 

One of the ways we get around her aversion to repetition, and still get the necessary review time is to let her play online games.  Isn’t it more fun to study vocabulary using word games such as hangman and find a word puzzles than to write the word five times? 

We found a site that allowed us to make our own puzzles with word lists of our choosing.  This means that we can build the games from social studies word lists, science word lists, and even math words. 

Anytime I can use technology like online games to help me and my daughter have a more agreeable and educational day, you can bet I will take advantage of it!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Science Tools

From the time you start homeschooling science you may find that you need tools that might be taken for granted in the text books.  Test tubes, microscopes, telescopes and chemicals are often called on to conduct a lab or experiment that could stop you cold.  This doesn’t have to happen though.  While science labs have developed a list of specialized science tools that work well, you can find substitutions pretty easily in the home. 

A set of small jars that you have cleaned and designated for school, work well as collection vessels for samples, insects, snails or whatever science-y thing your student is studying.   A set of zip top plastic bags could be used for geology samples.  Food coloring can substitute for the dyes used to color cell samples and common household chemicals (baking soda, vinegar, salt, peroxide, and ethanol) can be used in some chemistry experiments. 

At some point you may find that your student would benefit from a ‘real’ microscope or telescope, until that time there are excellent photos available on line or in books to show the actual appearance of the very small or very large.  A good set of binoculars is more commonly found in the home and can bring the moon or a new bird into much closer focus.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

High School Biology Course

Do you remember your high school biology course? Things have really changed. Ninth and tenth graders are covering subjects like cell biology, genetics, and DNA mapping that we didn’t even see until college.  Getting ready to homeschool high school biology will probably require lots of preparation and leveraging extra resources.

There are many web sites a valuable that not only provide up to date information but also include lectures by experts.  Even YouTube has demonstrations of biology topics and you can find all sorts of virtual laboratory experiments to teach everything from anatomy of worms to cellular biology.

Biology is still the most fun when you can actively engage with living things.  It is the perfect subject for field studies and hands on learning.  The classic wildflower collection becomes high tech with digital cameras.  Insect collections and identification are a lot less messy and more fun with digital pictures.  If you have a microscope at home you can do comparative studies of everything from pond water to types of pollen.  Is your student an artist?  Engage their artistic interests with sketches of leaves, mushrooms, flowers, or birds.  High school biology doesn’t have to be daunting – your homeschool student can learn everything they need for their future endeavors while still having fun with the beauty of nature.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Eclectic Homeschooling

Are you a classical homeschooler?  A religious homeschooler?  Charlotte Mason?

Well I guess I would categorize us as accidental homeschoolers, because we never planned on homeschooling, but came upon it “accidently”.  I would also say that we are practicing eclectic homeschooling.

Eclectic homeschoolers pull their curriculum from various sources.  We use a core curriculum from one place, but don’t hesitate to pull curriculum from other sources if what we are using doesn’t seem to be working well.  In fact, our entire core curriculum is online, and this includes our science courses. 

I’ve found that we are using more textbooks as my daughter gets older.  I’ve also found that we have to seek out other sources for elective courses such as music and art. 

It is sometimes a bit more difficult to have to look around for course material but the internet is a great source of information and there is a great deal of free-ware courses offered by several major universities. 

If you are just starting out as a homeschooler you might like to have a boxed curriculum that includes everything, but one of the best parts about homeschooling is knowing that you can use what you need to make your child’s curriculum tailor-made for their needs and interests.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Middle School Science

Middle school can be the time to set the course for future scientists.  If you think your homeschool student has a special interest or aptitude in science middle school is the perfect time to expose him to all the fascinating areas of science.  Middle school science generally covers the high points of many disciplines including biology, chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy, and energy. 

Getting engaged in this first serious exploration of science is often a bit nerve wracking for homeschool teachers but there are resources available to you.  Most states have some sort of science museum – these often have hands on experiments for kids.  Many local universities or colleges have weekend programs for kids covering various sciences.  If you don’t live near one of these facilities you can access videos or documentaries that expose your student to science programs.

Building engagement in the sciences at this age means keeping it interesting.  Be sure you make opportunities to take your science class outside to study nature or to the local creek to talk about geology or hydroelectric power.  Making science interesting now could lead to a lifetime of learning and exploring the sciences.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Early Elementary Homeschool Science Curriculum

I’ve read that the United States is falling behind when it comes to science, math, and technology training and education.  And I think back to when my daughter was still attending public school.  There was almost no science education at all for kindergarten and first grade.  I can’t help but think that it is completely possible that the lack of simple science early could mean that students are not getting the opportunity to become engaged in science before it becomes intimidating in the later elementary grades.
I’m not faulting the public school system.  I understand that there are limited resources and for grades K-2 it might be deemed more important to put those resources towards reading, writing, and arithmetic.
I pulled my daughter from public school half way through the 1st grade.  One of the first things we did was look for an early elementary homeschool sciencecurriculum.  I do believe that part of the reason my daughter loves science now, almost eight years into our homeschooling journey, is because we “poured” science at her as fast as she could learn it.  She learned to love science before it got hard, scary, or intimidating. 
She wants to be an astrophysicist and a veterinarian.  I feel it is pretty safe to say that science will be part of her future!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

High School Science Vocabulary

If you have a high school student who is taking any of the high school sciences right now consider checking out this awesome high school science vocabulary list.

This “at-a-glance” high school science vocabulary list is divided by science course, for example Earth Science, Astronomy, Physics, and Ecology each have dedicated categories.  Within each category are subheadings such as under Physics is Matter, Mechanics, and Newton’s Laws. 

Students who use vocabulary lists are better prepared to understand the concepts.  In addition to helping the student in high school, the lists are a great review for college entrance exams such as the ACT and the SAT exams. 

Check out this great list, and then consider letting the student practice some of the word games as an alternate means of studying the concepts.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Animal Games

My child loves animals.  From the time she could talk she announced that she wanted to be a veterinarian.  We also have a considerable number of pets to attest to the idea that she loves animals.  Without suitable parental brakes we would have a lot more!

Because she loves animals so much anytime I can use an animal to help with a teachable moment I take advantage of it!  Fortunately her passion works really well when applied to pet chores J!

In the past I have had her play animal games to reinforce different vocabulary words.  For example, when we were learning about amphibians some of the vocabulary words were gills, larva, antennae, pond, and jump.  Games help in learning those words.  One of the games we played put those words in a find a word puzzle.  Find a word puzzles reinforce word recognition and the ability to spell the word without having to write the word a number of times.  Since my student has always been a reluctant writer playing the games got her the necessary practice without having to fight the writing battle!