29 March 2013

Science Thoughts

The research into science options for next year is now in full swing! Before I get into what I've researched, let me give a brief explanation about the method explained in The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM). (Note: Susan Wise Bauer [SWB] is much better at explaining this than I am, so if you're wanting to do this in your homeschool, I highly suggest reading it directly from her lips! If you're just family wanting to read my blog, this should suffice!) 

The basic premise that is recommended for 5th grade science, or logic stage biology, is to spend 3 hours per week doing biology, broken up into two days. The first day, the student should spend about an hour and a half doing experiments using the scientific method. As they do the experiment, they should fill out lab sheets and make sketches. The second day is used for reading about the topic of the experiment and writing a short summary of what they learned. I think a paragraph or two is what is expected at this point. For the experiments, SWB suggests several intermediate and advanced science kits to choose from, including a blood typing kit, a small dissection kit that contains small critters such as worms, and a carnivorous plant biodome, just to name a few.

This approach to science looks like it's right up K's alley! She loves hands-on things, and she loves writing about what she learns! The only caveat is that if my ambitious daughter manages to work her way through every single experiment kit, which is quite possible, it will cost over $400. That's a little pricey for one year of science for one student, if you ask me! Especially since a lot of the kits are consumable and would have to be repurchased for H in a couple years.

I went to TWTM forums and asked about this and was pointed to Elemental Science. Some wonderful homeschooling parents, who happen to have degrees in science, decided to make a curriculum that closely followed TWTM approach to science. (You can read about them here.) After looking through the logic stage biology sample, I think I might be sold! As always, I reserve the right to change my mind a hundred times before purchasing, but at least I have a viable option.

So, here are the options that I think I have it narrowed down to for science for next year:

Option 1: Follow TWTM on my own, allowing K's interests to determine which science kits we start with. If we go with this approach, I found some experiment books at the library that look promising to use along with the kits to save some money.

Option 2: Elemental Science's Biology for the Logic Stage. This is the option that I'm currently leaning toward, for a few reasons. First of all, it's all laid out for me. K won't get to chose her experiments, but I don't think she'll mind. She will probably happily follow the student guide, checking things off as she completes them. Not only are the experiments all laid out for you, but they provide the experiment sheets, sketches for the student to color and label, 2-day or 5-day schedules for you to follow, and unit tests. In addition, you can purchase a kit that contains a lot of the items you will need for the experiments. No more having to gather every single item for every single experiment. 

For 3rd-grade science for H, I was leaning toward Real Science 4 Kids (RS4K) Elementary Chemistry, which looks like a really solid program. RS4K is also one of the options that SWB suggests in TWTM if you don't want to pull together your own stuff. Now I'm thinking I might do Elemental Science Chemistry for the Grammar Stage instead. It will end up being quite a bit cheaper, as I can get the teacher's guide and the student guide for $17 as an ebook, compared to $67 for just the books for RS4K. ($97 for all of the items I was going to get, not including materials for the experiments.) Even if I purchase the kit from Elemental Science, I'll be at $77, so it's the cheaper option by far. She will also continue on with Apologia Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day at our homeschool co-op. 

28 March 2013

Preparing to Prepare

It's that time of year again... The forums are filling up with people posting their projected curricula, asking about the latest and greatest programs, and generally trying to gear up for the school year ahead. Never mind that for most the current year is still forging ahead! The time to start planning is now! In my corner of the world, there are already emails darting back and forth regarding used book sales and homeschool conferences. One of them has even come and gone already!

I, too, have jumped on the bandwagon and have begun preparing for the year ahead. Although we school year round and pretty much begin the next level when the previous one is finished, there are big changes ahead in our school. K is going to be in 5th grade next year, and we are really going to be upping her game a bit. Math, grammar, and literature are all going to remain the same, but she is ready to move on to a more classical approach in history and science. What does this mean? Well, I'm still figuring it all out at the moment. I originally thought she was going to be using History Odyssey, Ancients Level 2 for history and Real Science 4 Kids Middle School Chemistry for science. As it turns out, I don't want to go that route anymore.

What changed my mind, you ask? I reserved a copy of The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM or WTM), 3rd edition, at the library for the umpteenth time last week. (Honestly, I really should just purchase the darn thing!) I think my original purpose was to review the time guidelines for 3rd grade and 5th grade so that I can make sure the girls aren't just rushing through their grammar in five minutes when they should be working on it for 20 minutes. (It turns out, this is the case, so now we do more than one lesson per day, at least for the older one.) Somehow, while looking this valuable information up, I found myself reading through the author's recommendations for 5th-grade history. As it turns out, I think I would prefer to follow TWTM guidelines rather than purchase History Odyssey.

So, after posting all of my questions about history and getting rather encouraging responses, I decided to look into the science chapter. And guess what? That's right! Now I want to follow TWTM recommendations for science, too! (Honestly, you would, too, if you took a peek at them! I'll blog more about that in the upcoming days.)

So, now that I think I know where K is going for her 5th-grade history and science, I have to begin the actual planning. I'm really excited about it, though. I'm going to keep gathering advice over the next couple days from others who have followed this path and start piecing together our rough plans for next year. (I'll try to keep the blog updated as things come along!)

Wordless Wednesday

23 March 2013

IEW - First Keyword Outline and Writing Exercise

Today K had her first "lesson" in keyword outlining, IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) style. We do not have any of their curriculum at this time, but I do assist in an IEW class at our co-op and I have taught the class before. (Of note, H is going to be using their Bible Heroes unit next fall.)

The basics of the IEW approach are that you take a writing sample and go through it sentence by sentence, noting up to three key words from each one. Once you have completed your keyword outline, you put the original away and use your outline to write your own version of what you just read.  There is actually more to that as the class gets going, like dress-ups, which are things like who/which clauses, -ly adverbs, strong verbs, quality adjectives, and adverbial clauses. These are gradually added into the student's writing as they progress. For now, I just wanted to give K a couple tools for writing reports. She always wants to "write reports," but they are usually not quite reports.

Below is what she wrote, in rough-draft form. (I corrected the two spelling errors and the one incorrect form of a word.)

A horse is a creature with four legs and a mane. Horses are herbivorous animals. That means they only eat plants and no meat. Horses are mammals. That means they feed their young milk. 
Horses have three groups-ponies, heavy, and light. Ponies are small horses that are less than fifty-eight inches tall. Heavy horses are used for pulling carriages and riding for work. Light horses are used for racing and pleasure riding. Arabians are light horses used for saddle-riding. Light horses also do harness racing where the horses pull the driver in a two wheeled cart.