Day 3 of iHN’s Winter Hopscotch is all about science. Today I’m sharing our strategies and resources for homeschooling middle & high school science. Science is my favorite. If you’ve been a reader for awhile, then you may know that my background is science. My BS is in biological sciences and I have a MS degree in Curriculum & Instruction Secondary Education. I am certified to teach biology to 7th-12th graders. I taught science for five years prior to starting a family. My husband is a chemical engineer with a graduate degree also in chemical engineering. This means several important things relevant to today’s post:
We are science people. We do science everyday.
We talk about science at every turn.
People with masters degrees focused on writing science curriculum & science instruction for secondary aged kids don’t buy science curriculum. It’s a rule. They might revoke my degree.
When our kids ask a science question, we drop what we’re doing and help them investigate an answer. It’s how we have fun.
We are great at doing science all the time. We aren’t great at following a science curriculum.
I think it’s important to be real with you all on this point because it affects how we approach science in our middle and high school homeschool. I’d like to encourage you to try something similar…be inquistive! Help your students to explore the scientific world.
Strategies for Homeschooling Middle & High School Science
One of the best ways to do science is to go and investigate. Learn with your students the process for conducting scientific investigations and then go out and explore the world! Below are some of the ways we do this in our homeschool:
Unit Studies- Through middle school we do a lot of science through our unit studies. Either we are studying a book and doing the science that goes with it or the unit study is based around the science. For example, we enjoyed a unit on catapults after watching Punkin’ Chunkin’ one Thanksgiving.
Units can be built around a child’s interest- many of you know our daughter is very talented with a sewing machine. There’s a lot of physical science to be taught about sewing machines, so I wrote a unit study on just that.
Science as Investigation- I actually speak on this topic quite a bit. The thing to remember is not to get bogged down in the process. You don’t have to have fancy equipment to do science. So many people want to make sure all their ducks are in a row and it paralyzes them when it comes to doing experiments. Don’t be afraid to look things up with your kids and try things out. We once did a huge experiment on popcorn- which variety popped the biggest. We talked with the kids about how to do a fair test and we walked them through setting up the experiment. Then we popped a lot of corn and measured the volume by calculating the amount of space the popped volume took up in a cylinder!
Project Based Homeschooling- We are prime candidates for homeschooling science with student driven projects. It’s comes naturally to mentor our kids into finding their own way on something they are interested in. This year our 8th grader is studying biology through the life of snakes- she has one she caught and has been taking care of since June.
Our Favorite Resources for Homeschooling Middle & High School Science
In lieu of recommending curriculum for science, I’m going to give you a list of our favorite resources. These are things we pull from or have the kids reference and enjoy during their studies.
Janice VanCleave Books- These books are an excellent source for science experiments and longer term science investigations. Easy to understand and follow and Ms. VanCleave does a great job of explaining the results.
Beyond Five in a Row- Excellent literature unit studies which have robust science studies in them including more than a few books about famous scientists.
Field Guides- A thorough guide for mammals, flowers, trees, reptiles, amphibians and other major animal and plants groups are a valuable tool for nature studies and biology.
The Handbook of Nature Study- A lovely text sharing a lot of science for the natural world. A popular book for homeschoolers, if you’ve never read it I encourage you to do so. Mrs. Comstock has a dry sense of humor that is not obvious from the appearance of the book.
Glassware- We buy ours from Home Science Tools (and locally at our backyard university’s supply rooms). I used to use our kitchenware, but I much prefer the designated scienceware.
cK-12 Open Source Textbook- It’s what we use for high school biology & chemistry. They have a text, workbooks, and some subjects have lab workbooks too.
Science Biographies- We study the lives of scientists which gives you a whole picture of a time, place, and event. This is a very Charlotte Mason approach and it yields big results. MoonShot and Skunkworks are among the books our 6th grader has read in his quest to learn more about flight and rocketry.
Giveaway for Polymer Science Unit from Elmer’s Glue
Since I’m all into doing investigations, I’m happy to offer you a bonus opportunity today. Elmer’s is giving away one box set pictured below. You’ll get a signed copy of Too Much Glue along with a unit on adhesives to go with the book and some glues for the activity. Leave a comment and tell me your favorite topic in science to enter!
This week the iHN is hosting a Hopscotch on “How I Teach”. Here at Blog, She Wrote I’m sharing methods for teaching middle and high school students in all the major subject areas. We’ll be discussing strategy and curriculum. Today our topic is language arts.
Strategies for Teaching Middle School & High School Homeschool Language Arts
My philosophy on teaching writing and language skills from a young age is one of a coaching role. My job is to meet my writers where they are, give them the tools they need and how to use them and to help them to meet their goals. What is the goal? To be an effective written communicator. That’s what it’s all about.
Play with Words- enjoy exercises and fun ways to engage with words to increase vocabulary. Click the link to see five great ideas I wrote for Bright Ideas Press.
Collage Words- More details on reflecting on a word and exploring its meanings.
Conferences- I meet with my kids regularly to go over their written work and to see what can be improved. I take a look at the first draft and usually ask the student to go back and self edit, naming the thing they are notorious for forgetting- whether that be correct capitalization or wild commas. If the piece of writing is hard to decipher because of poor organization/grammar/spelling, I have them read it to me. When they read it aloud they realize that without grammar conventions/organization, the reader will not experience the piece the way the author intended. This goes a LONG way to encouraging kids to edit their work.
Writer’s Workshop- I’ve been hosting a workshop that includes my kids along with about five other homeschoolers in our home since September. I’ll be posting more detail on this soon, but having kids write for an audience is one of the best investments I’ve made in time this year. If you’d like a little more information now, click the link above on Resources for Coaching Writing.
Our Favorite Middle School & High School Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum
Cover Story- This is a middle school writing program written by Daniel Schwabauer, the creator of One Year Adventure Novel. My 6th and 8th graders are working on building the pieces to their own magazine issue based on a theme they chose. There are video lessons which are well done along with resources for the parents. The younger siblings of OYAN students approve!
WriteShop- WriteShop Junior & WriteShop I and II. I love WriteShop for its ability to break down the writing process into pre-writing, drafts/editing, and final, published copy. We use this between the informal early elementary years and the time we begin creative writing and expository writing programs. I also use units from WS 1&2 to help with organizations of essays at any time during the teen years.
One Year Adventure Novel - Write a novel in one school year. That is the aim of OYAN and it is adored by us all. The lessons are thorough and draw the students in. My two favorite things (besides the novel) are: 1) How the curriculum provides excellent talking points about literature with our teens. 2) The community Mr. Schwabauer has created for teens to interact with each other. My 10th grader loves the OYAN forums where he can be himself and be in community with other kids who love books and stories as much as he does. There are also regular webinars with extra instruction.
Other Worlds- The follow up to the One Year Adventure Novel. This one is focused on writing fantasy and science fiction. My 10th grader is working on his fantasy novel. I enjoy the lessons on the history of science fiction and fantasy and how they are different from adventure.
Literary Lessons from The Lord of the Rings- Spend time immersed in the three books that make up The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Wonderful vocabulary studies, chapter discussions, essays, and unit studies based on this fantasy tale.
Excellence in Literature- Classic literature is taught in four week modules with honors options. I have all five volumes so we can skip around. They are meant to be use 8th-12th grade. This program has been a great model of student led reading and writing on the classics and has been very successful so far.
Slow and steady wins the race. We try to keep moving forward and see our kids make progress in their writing skills. We add in what’s necessary as they gain skills so they can be stretched to the next level. Our kids are immersed in reading and writing in many forms from a young age and we love to watch them gain confidence as they get older. Coming soon news from our Writer’s Workshop!
The iHomeschool Network is hosting a Hopscotch series this week on “How I Teach”. Join other iHN bloggers to see how they teach Language Arts. You’ll find information on working with special needs all the way to gifted kids and everything in between.
5 Compelling Reasons to Use a Kindle Fire in Your Homeschool
The Fire has an HD video capability which gives a great picture for things like You Tube
I’m excited for the possibility of also viewing what’s on our satellite dish on the Kindle Fire. With Dish Anywhere we can do this- so our recorded school related shows we could see on the go if we needed to fill time.
You can download all your favorite stories and mp3 files onto the Fire
Listen to Audible books.
Did you know that Whispersync is available for the Fire? If you own the Kindle book and the Aubible file, you can play the audio and follow the highlighted text as you go with the Kindle. This has a lot of possibilities for students with reading disabilities.
Even better if you decide to listen only, the next time you open your Fire you can choose to start where the audio left off or where you stopped reading. Pretty clever.
If you’d like to play in the world of tablets, the Kindle Fire is a very cost effective way to do so.
There are different models of the Fire from a basic 8G wifi with no camera or mic all the way up to a 3G plus camera and mic and the works. There is a Kindle Fire to fit your needs and your budget.
The Kindle Fire is primarily a Kindle after all, so the reading screen is lovely.
Best yet, it reads PDF files nicely as well. In fact, it’s the best Kindle for viewing PDF ebooks if you have any of those.
In addition, the Fire lets you easily view books which are graphic heavy.
Our cK-12 textbooks look great on the Kindle Fire and make it easy for my high schooler to read and interact with the text (like following embedded video links) all while at a table to do written work at the same time. Win.
The Silk web browser is very functional- fast and easy to use.
We can access homeschooling blogs and tutorials and use them right at our work surface which is a lot less cumbersome than even a laptop.
There are some popular games/apps for the Kindle Fire, but don’t expect the same selection as iTunes or Google Play.
Follow news articles or links from email and other sources.
All in all, I love my new Kindle Fire. It’s been a great addition to our homeschool for all these reasons and more. I’ve only had it for about a month, but it’s already proven to be useful on many occasions. In fact, I’d love to have more of them for our students. From reading books in the public domain to using online texts and doing research, tablets are very handy homeschool tools.
Win a Kindle Fire for Your Homeschool
Fortuigence is giving away a Kindle Fire HD and you still have time to enter. The giveaway ends Friday, December 20, 2013. Sign up for the newsletter and be entered into a drawing for a Kindle Fire for you homeschool.