Homeschool Science for Elementary and Middle Grades
Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Science is one of the subjects that fills many homeschool parents with worry, but it doesn't have to! Homeschool science really can be fun and engaging for both the parents and the kids.
In this post, I'll share what has worked well for us over the last 9 years of homeschooling through elementary and middle school. You can use this as a jumping off point in finding your own best homeschool science groove. You've got this!
Driven by Delight and Curiosity
As a former NASA aerospace engineer, I am a bit of a science nerd. But I'm also a reformed homeschool pusher, who learned through painful experience that forcing my kids to do academics caused them to lose their joy in learning. So, how can you do homeschool science in a delight-filled, curiosity-driven way?
Aim to keep science fun and relevant. Find ways to bring science right into the middle of your lives, such as learning about plants through gardening, having star gazing nights to learn about astronomy, observing chemical processes through cooking, etc.
Focus on hands-on learning. Throw out the textbooks and long lectures. Science is best learned through exploration rather than long-winded explanations.
Bring in stories of scientists and real people. By learning about scientist's lives, you can get up-close and personal to understand why the science even mattered. And also demonstrate how much perseverance and integrity was required for these people to become truly great.
Be willing to let go and move on when the kids aren't interested. Don't get too attached to the outcome, such as whether or not the kids get really interested in a particular topic. Remember to follow their curiosity, and be willing to move on if they lose interest.
4-Year Science Cycle
In our homeschool, I like to have an overarching science theme for each year. This allows me to hone in on one area of emphasis instead of feeling overwhelmed by it all. We use a 4-year science cycle.
Year 1 - Human Body, Animal Science, Plants
Year 2 - Astronomy and Earth Science
Year 3 - Chemistry
Year 4 - Physics
Once we're done with the cycle, we start over again with Year 1, going into more depth each time. If you like leaving everything very free-form and unstructured, that's fine, too. What works best for you may be very different from what works best for us.
Previously, we had always done both history and science each semester. However, last year one big change I made to our homeschool routine was choosing to alternate between history and science each semester. This worked out so well that we're doing the same for the next school year.
Keep It Simple for the Early Elementary Years
I originally jumped into the 4-year-science cycle when my eldest was 5 years old. The first two years of the cycle went okay at that young age, but early elementary Chemistry felt like trying to force a square peg into a round hole, and I just kinda gave up on doing much for Physics back then. If I had to do it all over again, I would wait to start the 4-year cycle until my kids were about 8 years old.
For the younger years (5-7 years old), I'd focus on:
nature study, such as observing the changes of the seasons, looking at plants and insects, drawing in Nature Notebooks together, raising caterpillars, bird watching, etc.
gardening together to see the cycle of germination, plant growth, and harvest
exploring nearby ecosystems together, such as forests, rivers, ponds, beaches, deserts, mountains, etc.
visiting pet stores, museums, horse farms, and zoos to observe a variety of animals
perhaps a few fun experiments from More Mudpies to Magnets, but nothing too formal
Resources for Individual Subjects
Here are resources for getting started with some of the different subjects within homeschool science for elementary and middle school.
Human Body: 26 read-aloud books covering each system of the body, plus a life-sized paper skeleton-and-body-systems project
Animal Science: for late elementary or middle grades, we used this 7-animal dissection kit, alongside picture books and youtube videos about each animal; there are also youtube demonstrations of how to do the dissections here
Astronomy: resources for stargazing, read-aloud and individual books about astronomy and astronomers, and hands-on projects
Earth Science: read-aloud and individual books about earth science, simple projects, and field trips
Chemistry: "spine" book, experiments, and videos about chemistry
Physics: we're studying Physics this coming school year, check back in a year to see what worked well :)
I hope you find this perspective on homeschool science to be helpful in creating your own engaging and curiosity-driven science studies for your homeschool.
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