I homeschooled my two boys from elementary to middle school. They then did dual enrollment, online classes, homeschool, and a NAUMS school.
What are the Best Science Curricula?
I loved looking through curricula when I homeschooled. However, there was so much of it out there that it was very difficult to decide which one to use. Of the major four subjects, Science was my favorite subject to teach my kids because it was very hands on—especially in the early years. We used different curricula throughout the year, and I also used different curricula for each child depending on their learning styles. I will give an overview of my favorites.
Elementary Science Curricula
1. Apologia Exploring Creation - This company makes some fantastic science curricula. The books created for the elementary age are a lot of fun and easy to use. They are full of easy to read, colorful pages that draw you in. They are set up with reading, experiments, think about it sections and notebook activities. A separate notebook can be purchased through them as well but is not a necessity. They also have extra material you can log onto if you want to get deeper into the subject. The books include:
- Anatomy and Physiology - We used this curriculum with my youngest. He was very interested in learning the bones. It has always been a love of his. He continued to seek this type of science throughout his education. He is now in college studying Exercise Science.
- Astronomy - We used this book for both of my children together. I still remember the balloon solar system that hung from our ceiling and going out on the roof at night to look at the stars.
- Botany - This was my personal favorite. We built a light hut for one of the labs and grew plants inside. I think I learned just as much as the boys with this curriculum. I still use the light hut to this day to start growing seedlings inside before the weather is warm enough to plant outside. And I have used the same idea to make a light box for my photography.
- Chemistry & Physics - we never used this curriculum. I don’t believe it was available yet.
- Zoology 1 - Flying Creatures - In this curriculum we set up bird houses, bird feeders and a bird bath. We learned to identify and keep track of the birds in the yard and figure out what the different birds liked to eat. My husband and I are still feeding the birds and are adding a new birdhouse each year.
- Zoology 2 - Swimming Creatures - This was a great book with every swimming creature you could think of. We added to this curriculum with field trips to an aquarium school once a month.
- Zoology 3 - Land Animals - We did not have the time to do this book.
Most science labs that you do with this curriculum can be done with everyday things you have around the house. There may be a few things that you will have to go out and buy, so plan ahead. The text book is easy to read and can be done with different age groups. I would read aloud with the boys and then give them a project or journaling activity to do that corresponded with their grade level. It might be drawing something for the younger one and writing a paragraph for the older one on something they learned that day. They were easily able to get the materials and do the lab together as well.
2. Unit Studies - We used a number of unit studies throughout the year and they did work well for us. Even though the theme for the unit studies may be a science subject, they still have many activities that cover all the other subjects. They have a book list for reading, vocabulary lists, math problems to solve about the subject matter and the history of the subject. Art and music may be included as well. We also found unit studies to be very helpful for history because of the variety of books (fiction and nonfiction) that are recommended to read.
- Ocean Thematic Unit by Mary Ellen Sterling - This was a great unit study that we used when we spent a couple weeks on the beach for vacation. It includes a lesson plan, activities for many subjects and a list of books to read. You can choose any of the books on the list depending on the age of your child. It just so happened the week before we were on the beach there had been a bad hurricane so many things were washed up on the beach when we arrived. We were able to dissect a large crab that had washed up. We also got an up close view of a tortoise that was about 2 feet in diameter. Then we discovered a large boney thing that we could not figure out what it was and we brought it home with us. A few months later my husband and son went to an aquarium and they sent me a picture of the same bone. It was a vertebrae of a whale. It was really nice to put that all together. One of the books on the list was The Cay by Theodore Taylor. The book was a little old for my son because it is written with the main character having a strong accent. I read the book and I got the audio book for my son. We both loved it. It is one of those books that vividly sticks with you even after 10 years. We also used Thematic Units for other subjects.
- Bugs Thematic Unit by Jennifer Prior- This was the base we used for a unit study. We did this study along with another family. We took turns each week teaching the subject and added on research and projects from the internet and field trips to locate the different bugs at the local park. Since we were teaching four boys at the time, it was quite a hit with them.
3. Abeka science - grade appropriate. These books cover all the bases in science giving your child a good overall feel of all the different aspects. They are very well written and very fact based. Abeka is a full curriculum company that includes every subject. They sell the text books, teacher books, answer books, test booklets and test keys. They also have a dvd program if you need it, that will teach your child as if they are in a classroom. It is an excellent curriculum especially for the beginning years of reading and phonics. It is also the very first curriculum I used for homeschooling. We used it for every subject our first year. Their website is www.abeka.com.
Other projects we did in the Elementary years for science include:
- underwater robot
- electric circuits
- wind energy
- physics with lego race cars
Some of these were done on our own, some with other families and others were through field trips.
Elementary Science Books Summary
|Curriculum||Books Available||Ease of Teaching||Expense|
Student Text Book, Journal, CD's, Science Kit for Astronomy only (not a necessity)
$$ - Student text is all that is really necessary
Thematic Unit Studies
Workbook (Library books can be used for the reading material)
Student Text Book, Teacher Book, Test Booklet, Test Key, Answer Book
Middle School Science Curricula
I had a harder time finding a science curriculum for this age group. This is where I felt I needed to move into a more serious curriculum with tests. I tried a few different things.
1. Abeka - I used this curriculum for one year in middle school but was looking for a more hands on science program. Again, it is very good, detailed and organized but not what I was looking for.
2. Apologia - They have a good General Science and Physical Science book. Once you get to these grades I found this curriculum to be more advanced and harder to teach. The difference between Apologia and other curricula is that Apologia does not have teacher books. There is no guidance on how to teach the subject. You basically have to read it along with your child and understand it fully - which is a lot of work when you have more subjects and age groups to teach - or you have to have your child teach themselves. We did do the General Science book for one of my children but I struggled with teaching it. If you are a Science teacher or this subject just comes easily to you then you will probably love these books. They are very thorough and a great prep for high school sciences. They sell the text book, solutions and test manuals, notebook and cd.
3. Rainbow Science from Beginnings Publishing House - I discovered this curriculum at a Homeschool Convention. I don’t know anyone else who has used it but I loved it. This was definitely one of the most expensive curricula that I have purchased. It comes with a text book, a teacher book, a lab book and all the materials you need for experiments. The materials include durable equipment (reusable) and renewable supplies (consumables). If you are going to use this over and over again for your children then you will need to repurchase consumables as needed. They even sell dissection kits. I felt this was a tough but fun and easy to teach curriculum for middle school and it covers chemistry, biology and physics. Go directly to their website to order this curriculum. I haven't seen it sold in its entirety anywhere else.
Middle School Science Book Summary
|Curriculum||Books Available||Ease of Teaching||Expense|
Student Text Book, Teacher Book, Test Booklet, Test Key, Answer Book
Student Text Book, CD, Lab Materials
Student Text Book, Teacher Book, Lab Book, Lab Materials - durable & renewable
High School Science Curricula
This is where I decided that I couldn’t teach science myself. Although science is one of my favorite subjects, at this point in time I didn't have the time to do it all myself. So we did the following:
- Online science classes
- Lab Intensives
- University Model classes
1. Online classes:
- Landry Academy - Athletic Training/Anatomy & Physiology - My son was interested in athletic training, so we added this to his curriculum to see if he really would like to study it. He had an online class once a week and did his homework throughout the week. I just had to monitor that all his class work was being done and handed in on time. The Academy even had weekly teacher hours that you could sign into if you had any questions throughout the week. The teachers were also always available through email. Landry Academy is a very well organized online school and it has a lot of classes to offer.
- Brigham Young University - Biology - This school offers teacher led classes and independent study. My son did the independent study. They provide the book and you do much of the work on your own. There are quizzes and labs online. They walk you through the labs and you use mostly household materials to do them. This was a good study and you can take a proctored test at a local college at the end of your studies for your final exam. However, I felt I needed to clarify a lot of the work for him. I made up additional worksheets along the way to help him absorb the material better. We felt the need for more intense labs so we added an online two day lab intensive through Landry Academy.
2. Lab Intensive:
The Landry Academy Biology lab intensive was about two hours away but well worth it. It was two full eight hour days. They did a frog, worm and cat dissection and DNA and blood labs just to name a few. The Anatomy and Physiology labs were also included with this Biology lab intensive which proved to be an advantage when my son took Anatomy and Physiology the following year.
3. University Model school:
All the other sciences my children took in High School were at a University Model school. This type of school is set up like a college in the sense that my kids went to school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and did their school work on their own on Tuesday and Thursday. We had the option of taking any number of classes from just one to a full curriculum for the year. (This type of school is not available everywhere but taking a science class in a college for dual enrollment is and sometimes these classes are free.) The science classes they took and curricula used were as follows:
- Marine Biology - Apologia
- Chemistry - Apologia
- Anatomy and Physiology - Life Pac
- Physics - Apologia
Since I did not have to teach the above sciences through Apologia, I liked it very much. This is again a very strong, advanced curriculum. My kids thought it was good as well and very challenging. The Life Pac curriculum was very workbook intensive and it was hard not to learn all the detail if you did all the work. It was also very challenging. It seems that Life Pac would be easier for a high schooler to teach themselves than Apologia. My kids say that it was the teachers that made the class so interesting on all of the above.
High School Classes - An Overview
|Type of Class||Expense||Amount of Work Needed by Parent|
Brigham Young University (independent study program)
University Model School
© 2017 Carolyn LaCroix