Science! Brianna tells me this is her favorite subject. 🙂
We’re working our way through the Young Explorer Series by Apologia. Very much based on a Charlotte Mason style of education, this curriculum does not include any tests or formal reviews. Instead, copywork, narration, and journaling are relied on to help the student learn the material—and remember it.
All the books in this series are written for 1st through 6th+ graders: you can use one science book to teach any/all of your children in this grade range (makes it super nice and saves teaching time if you have more than one child—plus the siblings get to be studying the same cool stuff together).
This series takes an immersion approach to science: instead of briefly sketching the surface while covering a broad range of subjects each year (spiral approach), one subject is made the center focus for the whole year.
Last year we studied astronomy. This year we are delving into botany. Exploring Creation with Botany is divided into 13 lessons. Each lesson introduces a new topic related to the main subject, followed by science experiments, project and activity ideas, and journaling suggestions (note: this is not all meant to be covered in a mere 13 lessons; rather each lesson is split up over multiple days—generally a couple of weeks). After each short section is studied, narration prompts are given in the textbook. The chapters are as follows:
Lesson 1: Botany
Lesson 2: Seeds
Lesson 3: Flowers
Lesson 4: Pollination
Lesson 5: Fruits
Lesson 6: Leaves
Lesson 7: Roots
Lesson 8: Stems
Lesson 9: Trees
Lesson 10: Gymnosperms
Lesson 11: Seedless Vascular Plants
Lesson 12: Nonvascular Plants
Lesson 13: Nature Journaling
Every textbook has a corresponding, spiral-bound Notebooking Journal (purchased separately). You have two choices here: the regular Notebooking Journal, or the “junior” version for beginning writers (if your kiddos are still pretty young/in the earlier grades). I bought the junior versions both last year and this year and they include Scripture copywork, coloring pages, more project ideas (and sometimes templates for the projects in the main textbook), nature journaling pages, space for making notes on experiments, reproducible material for making matchbooks and minibooks, references, labeling pages, and a suggested reading list for each chapter.
The Journal is a very convenient and attractive way to not only provide extra activities but to showcase the student’s work. However, not wanting to have to buy a separate notebook for each student (they’re around $20/each), I ended up buying My Nature Journal by Cheryl Swope, and having Brianna record her work there while keeping the Apologia journal for reference, but free of markings.
For Marcus I bought a small, hardcover, blank book set for him to draw pictures in.
A couple of the little projects we did this year included making a light hut (in which we grew basil), and learning about taxonomy by going through the shoes in my closet and classifying them into the categories of kingdom, phylum, class, and order respectively. As far as the text was concerned, since they are still pretty young I sometimes skimmed/summarized the lesson, using it as a basic outline rather than reading the entire chunk of text word for word (although in other sections we did read it line by line like any other book).
Nature walks are obviously an integral part of this study course, so we headed out with Backyard Explorer: Leaf & Tree Guide by Rona Beame. After we were well into the school year I came across another handy little reference at a bookstore, from the Fandex Family Field Guides, Trees: North American Trees Identified by Leaf, Bark & Seed. Dozens and dozens of trees are presented with photos and descriptions of their leaves, bark, seeds, flowers, and fruit.
If you are into nature journaling, you may enjoy a closed Facebook group called Charlotte Mason Nature Journaling. Here you can see and share ideas and photos with other fellow nature enthusiasts.
As we worked our way through the course we borrowed books from the library to go along with whatever we were studying. We watched documentaries—from the library and from our own creation science collection. I also found short videos related to our subject on YouTube.
For instance, when we were learning about the life cycle of ferns, we watched this animated presentation. There are a lot of high-quality videos on YouTube that correlate well with science studies. Often after we read our text the kids will beg for a video so they can actually see the principle in action or pictures/footage of the subject. YouTube is practically limitless here. I’ve even seen my kids sit through very dry scientific lectures on YouTube—and stay more or less engaged.
As another little fun “extra,” we put together a 4D plant cell anatomy model.
I’m saving a surprise for the kids for the end of the school year: I plan to take them to visit Wichita’s Botanica gardens (30 gardens covering over 17 acres) for a fun conclusion to this year’s botany study. One area—Downing Children’s Garden—is dedicated specifically to children.
Looking forward to it! 🙂