Handcarts list- science box

We live in pioneer country; this list is the result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on science and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

All levels-

  • A globe- seeing the earth as it appears as a whole, and learning to locate places on it, is an interesting and vital ability.
  • An atlas- closer study of the various places on the globe requires a copy of maps that are larger than a globe would allow.  Look for an atlas that has different maps containing geographical and political information.
  • A book of outline maps, both blank and labeled, for labeling and review.
  • Nature notebook, field guides, and pencils or watercolors (one per student)- Scientific study requires the ability to observe, focus, and think about the world around us.  A nature notebook can facilitate that skill and give you and your children a place to record thoughts, pictures, and any other information related to your science study.  Use the field guides as you go out into the world around you to record the common and Latin names of those things you sketch.  We use our nature notebooks as our science notebooks; we do not have a separate one for textbook/formal study.

Discovery level-

  • DK Publishing has multiple series of books which young children love.  Eyewitness Books, Why….?, and Look Inside are just a few.
  • Science picture books- some of our favorites include H. A. Rey’s books on the constellations, books published by Golden Book on various life science topics (Nature Around the Year, Wonders of Nature, etc.), Gail Gibbons has a series of books on a variety of science fields of study.  Ask your librarian, book store clerk, or other homeschool moms what they love.  There are so many great reads for young children in this genre!
  • Janice Van Cleave has a great series of experiment books for young children that are simple to follow, well thought out, and fun to do.
  • File folder games by CarsonDellosa- fun and effective ways to reinforce vocabulary and concepts.

Late discovery and analysis level-

  • Reader’s Digest How……..Works series- this is not a textbook series.  Each book covers a different discipline of science and is filled with pictures, basic definitions and diagrams, and experiments that reinforce the concept being studied.   These books do not contain enough detailed information to constitute a high school level text, but are an interesting and inviting introduction to the various branches of science.
  • Kids Learn America by Gordon and Snow- We used this book to teach the states and capitols.  There is a USA map to color, as well as regional maps, trivia about each state, and a little something to help you remember the capitol.
  • DK Science Encyclopedia- Written primarily in two-page spreads, this book covers most of the scientific disciplines, i.e. chemistry, physics, biology, earth science, etc.  Each spread provides information on a specific area within those disciplines.  Students gain basic information, and can learn to take notes, outline, as well as creating a framework for science study.  When used in conjunction with the Reader’s Digest series, it allows for comprehensive, in-depth study for the middle/upper grades.
  • Exploring Our World published by the National Geographic Society- This book is an encyclopedic list of geographical terms and photos, maps, and cross-referencing makes geographical studies easy and interesting.  A great reference book!

Application level-

  • High School texts by Apologia, RonJon Publishing, or another homeschool supplier can be effective and clear for high school-level study with a creationist worldview.  (I have read some reviews expressing concerns about misinformation in the science used.  If your children are headed for a traditional university, look for a text written by a more secular company.)  Use in conjunction with hands-on kits for all branches of science. (Timberdoodle is my favorite supplier for anything hands-on.)  To spend less money, or if you are looking for a scientific approach closer to the mainstream, look for second-hand books in you town or on the net.  I used the DK Science Encyclopedia/Reader’s Digest Series and was happy with the result, but I know some parents feel more comfortable with a text for high school.
  • If you choose to send your children to the local high school for science, ask their teenage friends who take classes there.  Which courses are interesting?  Is there time in the lab?  Are the teachers interesting and involved?  I have found my kids’ friends to be honest-to-a-fault and much more helpful than most parents.

Science study

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.

                                                                                    Albert Einstein

The study of science can be one of the most fascinating parts of your school year.  Teacher and students alike learn discipline, reasoning, observation, and love for God as we study the world around us.

Most science text-books are dry, void of reference to a Creator, and limiting to the student.  Rather than depending on them, get your hands dirty.  Dissect, draw, experiment, and experience what our world has to offer. Do not get between the child and discovery. There are wonderful DVDs available that cover a wide range of subjects.  Watch with your children in order to aid discussion. Using a sketch book for science recording allows for sketches, thoughts, graphs, charts,  tables, and experiments to be contained in one book.  Study each discipline separately.  Human anatomy, botany, astronomy, chemistry, etc. are easiest to understand when studied systematically.  Study the lives of famous scientists. Learn what led up to their discoveries, and the thought-processes they used.  Encourage your students to experiment and invent. You can find science kits, books, stories, and experiment ideas at the library, second-hand stores, on the internet and at the mall.  Give kits as gifts for special events, or request them from grandparents.  If you are going to make the investment, spend money on well-made equipment. Do not buy the cheapest microscope or telescope, for example.  They may not serve you very well. Do your homework before you purchase!

If you study history on a four-year rotation, you can integrate science as a part of those studies.  The rotation may then look something like this: Ancient world- Life Science, Medieval and Renaissance- Earth Science and Astronomy, Early Modern- Chemistry, Late Modern- Physics.  Perhaps summers could be used for computer science, electronics, or anything else on which you want to spend extra time.   (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery Level

Memorize facts, figures, tables, vocabulary, etc.

Read biographies, literary science, etc.

Spend time in the kitchen experiencing the wonders of food interaction.  Learn safety and how to improvise.

Keep a nature notebook.

Learn about the world by experiencing it.  Go for nature walks.  Ask questions.  Try new things.  Hands-on activities are a great way to learn, and are often easier to remember.

Organize collections and learn to label and classify.  Try using Latin classification for the serious scholar.

Orderliness and focus are important skills for any scientist.  Encourage these at every opportunity.

Analysis level

Study and outline science texts.

Read and write reports. (Include data from experiments performed or observations from the world around them.)

Biography reading will enhance their study of both history and science.

Put science history dates on a time line; watch for the effects of scientific discovery on history in general.

Perform experiments, go on nature walks, ask questions, etc.

Keep a nature notebook.

Application level

Read biographies of great scientists as you study what was happening in the world around them.  Look at the ways science, history, and literature play off each other and affect the world as a whole.

Take Honors level classes at the local high school or enroll in college courses.

Perform experiments, dissect, investigate.

Learn and utilize the laws and principles of scientific study.

Record experiences in their nature notebook.

Some of my favorite books for science study

How __________ Works  published by Reader’s Digest

Eyewitness Books published by DK Publishing

Time/Life Discoveries  series

Reader’s Digest Pathfinder’s series

Wild Days by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe

Usborne science books

The DK Science Encyclopedia

Field guides published by Golden or the National Audubon Society

There are great books in the non-fiction section of the library to take home and explore.


Garden science with the boys

Botany is not often regarded as an exciting area of scientific study for early discovery learners.  I would invite you to rethink that idea.  This week we began our botany unit with my oldest grandsons, ages 7 and 5.  Before we had finished the first day’s work, the three-year-old was right in the middle of it!  What were we doing?  Looking at seeds.The boys learned the difference between a monocot seed, and a dicot.  (A monocot has a single cotyledon; a dicot has two.)  We dissected seeds, talked about how they grow, and what to expect from each.

What did we learn?

  • Botany has some odd sounding terms, especially when coming from a three-year-old.
  • Bean seeds can be difficult to split unless you soak them first.
  • Cilantro seeds divide in half beautifully with very little encouragement at all.
  • We had more types of garden seeds that are dicot.
  • Most importantly, we learned that looking at things differently helps you see what you had initially missed.  Isn’t that the basis for all academic study?

Currently, there is a wet paper towel with six different types of seeds resting on my kitchen window sill.  We will check on their progress daily to see which type sprouts most quickly.  That will lead to a discussion of germination dates and, eventually, harvest estimates.

I realize they will not remember half the vocabulary we used (but they do have more words to pull from if they so choose), but I do expect that they will spend the next six months trying to split seeds and observing more closely how plants grow.  And that is exactly what I am hoping to see.

Today’s plan?  Roots!  Carrots anyone?