Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How I Choose Science Curriculum

If you had asked me how I chose curriculum when I first began homeschooling, for any subject, my answer would have been, "We just do what it says to do with this program..." A year or so into homeschooling my answer would have been different. It would have gone something like, "We mainly just do nature study, the children are so young and there's so much natural science to learn all around us. We follow their curiosity." And that was much my viewpoint until sometime early last year when I discovered a free online version of Apologia's General Science course. I signed ECJ up for it and was amazed at what he was learning!

So, being the person that I am, I began looking further into Apologia's science courses. I wanted to find out if they were going to only work for him for a year, or through his junior and high school years, or if we'd also be able to use the courses for the girls through elementary years. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were courses for every "grade" level. You didn't have to start with a specific subject either, you could start pretty much wherever you wished to. 

I kept investigating. Apologia wouldn't be the best fit for everyone, and it certainly wasn't the least expensive product on the market, but I do believe it will work well for our family.

And here's why:

There are 9 books available in their Jr. and Sr. High curriculum levels. Even if you start junior high in 6th grade, as many do, you will most likely not go through nine separate courses for science. This gives you a good amount of choice each year in what you will choose to do at those levels. ECJ having done the Exploring Creation with General Science course (though a free online version I had found) will move on to Exploring Creation with Physical Science in the fall. This time we'll be purchasing books and most likely we'll either do it when they are on sale or we'll purchase used. We'll move along later in his school career with chemistry, biology, and physics and then possibly do one or two of the last three as advanced courses as well. We're not sure if we'll be purchasing him the student notebook to go with this, however I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most likely we will.

There are 7 books available in their Elementary Science curriculum, which again leaves room to pick and choose a bit. For next fall we'll be going with Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day , which is one of three of their zoology texts. We'll be purchasing only one text book but two separate student notebooks. Apologia has both a "regular" note booking journal and a "junior" note booking journal so that you can begin these lessons with early grade levels as well as higher. This means that for at least the next to years both girls will be able to work from the same text and simply have different journals to work through. I believe we'll stick with the zoology trio for the next three years, though YCJ may move on to the General Science course before she completes all three books. Once Peanut finishes all three zoology texts we'll have a few decisions to make.

Since ECJ is mainly independent in his lessons at this point, enjoys Apologia texts, and "gets it" now that he's learning through this curriculum it's a no brainer for me to continue him along this path. All three campers enjoy science and I wanted to use something for the girls where we could continue to study science together for the next couple of years until YCJ reached that semi-independent stage as well. Apologia supplies me with that ability built into their curriculum. 

We'll be continuing with our nature studies as well, which fits in with the girls zoology studies and (partially) into ECJ's physical science studies. It brings science from an abstract thought to a solid fact when you can hear and see the birds you're learning about, touch and feel the woolly caterpillar crawling on your fingers, and smell the fresh air as a spring breeze blows past you. I doubt we will ever abandon our nature studies. Our nature walks are part of our homeschool, we bond through them, we learn through them, and we enjoy them.

Science in the early years can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. This summer we'll be building a small weather station for the children to work with. Rain gages, wind gages, thermometers, and a few more things. We'll be doing a summer long project on the weather. We'll be taking at least one visit to the zoo so that we can see how they react to the warmer weather, and of course to see the animals. We'll be discussing weather patterns, storms, types of clouds, etc etc etc. The list can go on and on. With ECJ being a bit older than the other two he'll be getting more in depth when it comes to how he needs to present his findings and he'll be helping YCJ come up with a way to present her's (either poster board or lap book "type" of thing). Peanut and I will be keeping a special weather journal that I'll be making up for her. 

I could save money by going with A Beka science, or some other less expensive science curriculum. I could only do regular nature studies and follow interest with the girls while I keep ECJ working along the Apologia path. However, a strong science foundation (with a lot of nature and fun mixed in) is just what the doctor ordered for us.

This brings our science curriculum costs to: $83.71 (at current used prices)
And our total cost for curriculum so far to: $319.15 (at current prices used to calculate these costs).

This takes us almost $20 over budget with History, Health, PE, Art, Music, Latin, and Religion yet to go. I'll be addressing these subjects in the next four weeks. History will be next week. Having a $300 budget for our homeschooling needs can be a little tricky, however we realized early on that this year would be more expensive and we'd need to space some things out (to make it easier to absorb the cost) and that I'd need to bring in some extra money pretty soon. After this series is finished I will have a post the following Wednesday (so 5 weeks from now) on just how I intend to do this!

Linking this up to Squishable Baby, Homeschool Link Up 30

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