Saturday, July 30, 2011

2011/2012 Science plans

Today, I spent a lot of time doing homeschool planning, mostly for science.  I may have done more planning today than I have ever done in my homeschool mom career.  I mean, more today than in the entire 7 or 8 years I've already been homeschooling.  I've not been much of a planner.

Science has always been tough for me; this is not unusual for homeschool moms.  I've never found a curriculum I liked, at all.  We've done a lot of reading, and experiments, and some lab sheets, but never anything really formal.  I think my kids are on grade level with science; that's what the standardized test scores show, anyway.  James does a lot of reading on his own; Eleanor comes a long a bit reluctantly.   They both loved studying the Leafcutter ants and now are enjoying a book (and Netflix documentaries, and youtube videos) on giant squid

But James is moving into high school and now we're talking about credits.  Unschooling science doesn't work for me anymore.  So, I've been researching and reading and buying, and today I planned everything out.

Our main text is Biology: A Self-Teaching Guide by Steven D. Garber.  I got the idea for this from The Well-Trained Mind, and I think most of us are going to like it.  It's a very straightforward text; there are some drawings and charts but no color illustrations or photos.  Each chapter has a list of terms to know, multiple choice questions with an answer key, and "questions to think about" with no answer key.   Most of the chapters will take two weeks:  the first week for reading, the second week for going over the terms and answering the questions.  I probably won't have the kids answer all the essay-type questions, but rather a few each time.

I also pulled out my copy of Janice VanCleave's A+ Projects in Biology.  The Home Science Tools catalog says that all the activities in this book are equivalent to a year of biology; the age range is 9-14.  We're not going to do every activity.  I looked through it and picked the ones that looked most interesting and scheduled them out through the year.  Some are keyed to the chapter of our main text; some are not.  I couldn't find an activity to fit each chapter perfectly.  I included everything needed for the experiment/activity so I won't be walking around muttering angrily at myself for forgetting to save milk jugs or buying iodine and distilled water. We'll also mess around - finally - with the soil test kit we bought last year.

While I was doing all this my eye fell on our Usborne Internet-linked Encyclopedia of Science (the link is to a newer edition than we have).  Hey!  We could use that too!  So I went through that and keyed pages to chapters in our main text.  This will most likely be helpful to Eleanor more than James.

She is not high school age yet, so this might be a little difficult for her.  Or she might make it difficult for herself; she's that kind of girl sometimes. So I'll have to see how it goes for her; she doesn't need a science credit yet.  I think the use of the Usborne Encyclopedia will really help her out.  The format is a little more engaging and perhaps more accessible for her.

When I was almost finished, I remembered that we own the book The Way We Work by David Macaulay.  I am not sure I need another resource, or can squeeze anything more in, but I may check out the chapters and see what fits where.  That might also be more accessible to my 7th grader. 

I have our plan mostly typed up and scheduled.  The hard part will be keeping up with the schedule.  I've never, ever had a schedule in our homeschool.  We've always reveled in our freedom to take days off when we want or need to, and I've never tried to finish a particular book by a particular day.  I built in some vacations (including 3 weeks off for Christmas) and we're going to try to stick to it.  I'm very good at letting distractions sidetrack me, so it will be a challenge for all of us!

I don't want to make our first high school year tedious, or boring, or schoolish.  Still, it might be time to get a little more serious around here.

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