This post is a all about how we keep up with all the science experiments we need to keep up with for school and a bit of a review of the Sonlight science products as far as we have gone… so up to and including grade 6.
A while ago I wrote a series on Se7en do Science Observations and I have meant to go back and write about how we do our science experiments firstly for school and secondly for fun. Technically they are the same thing! But non-homeschoolers might not know how much fun school science is. I for one would never have believed it until I actually did it! I have learnt so much from actually doing science with my kids its really quite alarming!!! The father person will be bombarded as he walks in the door, at the end of the day, with whatever experiments we did and not just from the kids!!!
I often have mom’s bemoan the fact that they can’t keep up with their school science experiments and the guilt that they feel over it! I just think: When I was in pre-school we didn’t do science experiments. We might have planted beans and we played with water and pouring but we never officially did science. For my little guys I see science as a fun thing to do of an afternoon like crafts or baking or whatever.
As for science once a week with a million bits and pieces that you have round the house: You know craft a remote controlled steam engine from a rubber band, half a peg, some tin foil, se7en toothpicks and a drawing pin… I could go on. Yes they are all household items that most of us have lying around but not in one place, unless its the junk drawer. Actually its the happy place where all these bits will ultimately end up. But I know that the three hour hunt for all these little bits and pieces, for each kid, each week is quite enough for me to say: “Not today thank-you!”
So we do our science experiments all in one week at the end of each term. We call it Science Week and we science away. Nine weeks of experiments popped into a week sounds daunting… but really it is only about nine experiments. Sometimes there are two or three experiments on a double page spread in their science book in a week… and so its a total of about 15 quick experiments for the week. This is really doable because we aren’t spending our science time looking for all the elastic bands, tin foil and then discovering we don’t have a paper serviette in the house.
So this is how we do Science Week: Se7en Tips on how to do a science week:
- Building Up: During our school term as we do the necessary reading about the experiments when they are scheduled and we keep the experiments pending till Science Week. As we read about the experiment we put it on a list along with the necessary equipment. you know the pencil sharpened at both ends, the piece of corrugated cardboard, a couple of sponges.
- Day One: On the first day we just hunt down all the bits and pieces that are on our list and put them in one spot good to go. If there is anything we need to buy then this is the day we do it – food coloring and a red cabbage for instance are things I don’t always have on hand!
- Experiment Review: Also on the first day I sit with everybody and make a plan of attack… How many experiments do we need to do? Then divide them up into the number of days we have available. We group the same sort of experiments together: all the planting on one day, all the batteries on another… It’s fun to have a plan and great to have a “to do list” we can cross things off as we go along.
- Getting Going: Each day I sit and work through each kids science experiments, one on one, and we just work through our list from day to day…
- Science Notebooks: I make sure we write up our science experiments as we go along you never want a back log of these and it takes two seconds to write a note or two about an experiment or draw a picture. If you let this bit go then you won’t ever get back to it! The motivation is lets do this quickly before we start the next experiment.
- Other Stuff: We don’t just do school stuff. I will try and do a gardening project of note or go on scientific outings. We do any pending projects from all our fun science resources (which is the next science post coming along!). Things like the microscope come out and sit on the counter so that people can explore goodies they find, I find if this is out all the time it gets ignored but if it is out for a week at a time then it gets a lot of use! Things like pressed flowers are rediscovered, appliances dismantled and all sorts of scientific discoveries that have been “waiting in the wings” get attended to.
- Day Five: This is the last day and I would love to say we pack all the bits and pieces back where they belong but actually they stay balanced on top of the tumble-dryer for the next nine weeks of term when they get cleared off for the next Science Week.
So what do we use for school science? I thought I would pop a list of the se7en most useful science resources we use from our school curriculum.
Now I have mentioned before that we unashamedly love Sonlight. I love that everything comes in a box – the books we need, an equipment kit for each grade – packed with all those things that you can’t always find lying round the house: corks, coffee filters and so on. I just love that I have to look no further – frankly if I had to browse all the available homeschool resources looking for fun science goodies I would be wasting so much time that we wouldn’t have time for actual experiments!
So our school science comes in a box from Sonlight and here are se7en resources we use:
If you click on the photographs they will link you directly to the products at Sonlight.
- Supply Kits:
The great thing about these supply kits is that they are equipped with all the bits and pieces you may not have lying around the house… ping pong balls and bendy straws for instance. this is the best part of science for my kids they love poking around in their kits… when an experiments calls for household bits and pieces I just pop those bits into the relevant grade box and forget about them until I do the same course with the next kid down the line a year or two later.
Otherwise I have found science kits that one can buy from toy stores and such like – are just flimsy and disappointing. You cannot do good science if your equipment is flimsy and wants to break even before you look at it. Science equipment needs to be robust, it is going to be handled and fiddled with – and no matter how carful you are if your equipment is flimsy you are going to get disheartened and discouraged really quickly. These supply kits are robust and are starting on their journey for the fourth time round – I say they have stood the test of time!
- Experiment Books
The first three school grades use these books for experiments and they are just great… enough to read on a page that isn’t all experiment, yet spattered with two or three experiments per spread, that you really want to try! I would say 99% of the experiments actually work!!! You can’t imagine the joy I had the first time we made a working train signal – I was thrilled when it worked and no science was never this much fun at school!
- TOPS Science
As they get older our kids have moved on TOPS science. From grade 3 Sonlight starts including these books into their curriculum. Frankly if you haven’t met Tops Science you haven’t lived – scientifically speaking that is! Visit their website where they have a whole lot of free experiments to play with! I find I have to read some of the experiments through once or twice to get them. But left to their own devices the hoods can manage the step by step procedures really well. These books are great for teaching the scientific method and the leading questions encourage the young scientists (and the mother person, who is learning right alongside!) to think things through. Also each experiment page is set out in such a way that at the end they have managed to write up their experiment in a really complete way: objective, procedure, observation, results and conclusion. The experiments are fun and produce great results. Unless of course your radish seeds arrive infested with weevils! Some of the experiments are a bit tricky or require more attention than you might have if you are busying yourself around the place, for that you have dvd’s (mentioned below) to help.
- Science DVD’s
These are part of the joy of science week, once my kids have done their experiments they get to watch the science dvd’s. The Sonlight DVD’s cover every experiment for the relevant grade – plus the very funny mistakes they have made! It sounds dull and dry – a DVD of science experiments but they are really fun and engaging – my kids will ask to watch their science DVD over and over again! Some experiments I just can’t face! But never fear they are all on the dvd. Some experiments that are awkward or some that don’t work… well they hold nothing back! And give little tweaks to the experiments to make them work. Or suggestions like keep those bean sprouts warm – who would have thought!!!
- Science Music Cd’s
These are fabulous for learning scientific vocabulary using song. As usual anything you can sing goes into the brain a lot quicker and stays their a lot longer once you have learnt it! I put these on in the car and our two year old can quite happily sing you any number of songs about “The Scientific Method” and “Animal Classification”! Follow the links on the images to get an excerpt from each of the cd’s.
- Other Supplies
- Microscope Kit And Supplies
This is a general science kit with all sorts of goodies that you need for the first couple of years of science… things like a thermometer and masking tape (actually I should just buy a roll of that every week).
We love this little hand held microscope viewer it is perfect for everyday microscopy and it’s portable – brilliant!
We haven’t got the Sonlight Microscope the thought of shipping it across the world overwhelms me! Also I don’t know if I would be comfortable letting my kids have free range on something so spectacular, I may get a bit precious! We have a kid friendly one that is fantastic we got it with our science magazines and I will tell you about it the next science post.
We do use the microscope supply kits, which have everything you could possibly need to do all scientific experiments you might think of. Also they are compatible with whatever microscope you use. Slides and droppers and just everything imaginable – brilliant! And who knows where I would find these things locally.
That’s it! Our next science post will be other science resources for fun experiments from books to links and podcasts from around the web.
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.