Science Picks for Homeschooling

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We’re gearing up for the new school year this week. I started cooking frogs yesterday. I’m tired already, but hopeful that it will be a good year.

While I would consider Language Arts (reading, writing, and grammar) and Math to be some of the basics that we build our homeschools on, there are so many other disciplines to include for knowledge, fun, and enrichment, like History, Literature, and Science.

Science is everywhere, an integral part of our world as humans. Kids typically love Science.

Over the years I’ve tried a number of different programs and methods, most with mixed results. For the grammar stage (grades K-4), I’d say that the easiest and best way for me was to follow the basic method described in The Well-Trained Mind.

  • Read real books on the topic.
  • Do a narration page.
  • Draw diagrams.
  • Watch topical videos.
  • Go on field trips.

In the early years, scientific study is not exhaustive. It’s okay if kids don’t remember everything you read or talk about. It’s meant to be a means to pique a child’s interest as well as give them a working vocabulary of scientific terms.

Developing a familiarity with the language or “grammar” of science gives kids a frame of reference to work from in later scientific study.

While I loved reading books and learning about basic science systems with my kids when the oldest was still pretty young, I found science instruction to become quite challenging once their ages spanned several different levels.

We’ve found Apologia Science to be the curriculum that has fit our needs — most of the time.

The first year, we worked our way through  Exploring Creation with Astronomy. Designed for grades K-6, this offered a way of keeping a wide span of kids more or less on the same general topics. It gave us a spring board for study that I could intensify for the older ones and simplify for the littles. We had a good, though not great year of science while doing Astronomy.

I hoped that the next book in the series, Exploring Creation with Botany, would be as good. But, for whatever reason, we floundered in it last year. It didn’t help that the first few experiments in the (very expensive) experiment kit failed.

I am hesitant to invest in another year of the series, so instead we’re going to revisit Botany again this year and give it another shot.

My older boys are taking Science classes away from home this year, working through the Apologia Marine Biology and General Science curriculums this year.

This leaves me with 5th, 3rd, 1st, and pre-K to teach. The plan (at the moment) is to use Exploring Creation with Botany as a base text, but to focus the bulk of our study in real books, doing notebook pages, and giving our experiment kit another try.

A word about outsourcing:

One of the things that I discovered last year was the beauty of delegating some of the teaching responsibilities to others. I had previously been under the impression that to “really homeschool” I had to teach everything myself. When I voiced this to my husband, he vehemently disagreed:

Homeschooling doesn’t mean that you teach it all, just that you direct it.

That was so freeing! Last year we outsourced a few subjects (Latin and Science) for my 9th grader, and I’m so glad we did! It gave him confidence in holding his own in another setting as well as the feedback of others besides his parents and friends. The class offered him a different perspective as well as labs, field trips, and science instruction. This year, both my 10th and 7th graders will be taking outside Science classes.

Do YOU have a favorite way to teach science at home?

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  1. I apparently missed some posts while out of town. We first tried Botany because my then 6th grader was interested. Vocb was just too much for my 2nd grader so we put it on hold. Later my oldest just read it and did some experiments on his own. Later I did Astronomy with my 4th grader (the youngest) and it went great with the addition of a space arts/craft book. The level of this one is definitely EARLY elementary.

    Last year we did Zoology 1 (Flying Creatures) and loved that–just have to time the experiments right to where you live. We ended up having a few experiment days later in spring to do stuff we couldn’t do in winter.

    This year we are doing Swimming Creatures and so far so good. We use the journals for the elementary books.

    In the meantime my oldest has been through General Science and Physical Science with Apologia. These have been fine except for that I disagree with some of their political/ecological slant. This year for Biology he has an old copy of Apologia to use for lab assignments but are using a college text to do an Honors Biology. We bought our microscope and dissection stuff through That should come in the mail any day now!

  2. We’re planning on doing the Apologia Botany this year. It looks interesting. Hopefully, the kids’ interest will be piqued.

  3. I truly love Apologia but it was hard for my youngest. My 3 older kids did very well with all the Apologia we’ve used but my youngest struggled with it. Last year we used BJU and it worked well for him. So this year my 10th grader is doing Apologia Bio. and my 7th grader is doing BJU.

  4. I don’t know much about homeschooling, so perhaps my comment will be old news.

    I’m part of an amateur astronomy club, and pretty much everyone I’ve met there would be delighted to share their passion (and their telescope!) with interested children. I would highly recommend getting in touch with your local astronomy club to see if anyone there would like to connect with you and your kids. I’m just assuming that the same would go for members of other clubs, such as botany.

    1. Thanks for a great idea. I think you’re probably spot on! We’ve found that experience with hobby birders, so my guess is that would apply to all areas of hobby science.

  5. We love the Apologia books!! Astronomy was lots of fun and last year we also attempted Botany, but didn’t get through it. Anyway – to my question, when you say “outsource”, are you talking about co-ops, or attending individual classes at a mainstream school, or something else? I live in very rural MS, so our options are very limited… I’m just curious!?

    1. In our community/county there are several science teachers who offer group classes. Our teacher teaches classes for independent students as well as charter school kids. There’s a set fee and she handles everything. I have other friends who’ve created co-ops among their friends with similar aged children. One mom teaches science, while another mom teaches language arts.

  6. We are using the Apologia Botany this year also. I plan on buying the experiment kit because I know without it we will do NO experiments:) And that’s my boys favorite part.

  7. We, too, have found that outsourcing a few subjects creates a great homeschool experience for us. I like to say it keeps us all a little more emotional healthy! We all benefit from the break from each other just once a week. Science seems to be the one we outsource the most….their teacher is way more excited about Science than I ever could pretend to be and can offer much more elaborate labs.

  8. We started with Apologia last year and found it was the perfect fit or us.

    When I went to an Apologia retreat i bought books for the next two years and asked for some feedback from some ladies (one who has used almost all the books). That helped a lot! I was set to buy the book on the human body and she advised me to start with Zoology1 (we had done Zoology3) and work through them leaving Botany and Human Body for last. She said some are harder than others, a fact I didn’t realize. Just a few thought that helped me and might add to your experience.

    1. That is really helpful to know! No wonder Botany was so hard! Thanks for the tip!