homeschool science: apologia & beyond

In this house, we love science, but I’d rather do topics that my kids are interested in, so I’d rather learn how to do science in a self-directed way.

So how to do science in a self-directed way?

Discovering how things work…

  • how they function,
  • play with ingredients,
  • memorize the elements of the Periodic Table,
  • assemble boxes of physics activities,
  • and perform chemistry experiments,
  • read on plate tectonics or atomic theory,
  • we’ve done a little bit of everything over the years.
(And it’s not because dad is a doctor: his passion is history, politics, economics–though our kids know hospital codes, far more about obstetrics than most new moms, and have been in surgical ORs thanks to trips to Africa).

My second daughter is very interested in sciences and hopes to follow Dad into the medical field. Having had exposure to the operating room, pediatrics, and med/surg rounds with dad in the developing world, she has always been eager to listen to stories he brings home from emerg, or the medical clinic when he worked there, or from labour and delivery when he delivered babies.

Last year, she shared her story about falling in love with medicine published in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine found here: Mini-Medical Residency.

how to do science in a self-directed way

Each child has unique science interests.

  • Two loved the Chem C500 boxes and spent a semester completing them.
  • Two kids had a fascination with forensic sciences, exploring forensic science kits & an Usborne book.
  • I wanted to explore geology, plate tectonics, and the world of astronomy because I didn’t feel I knew enough.

Their unique interests, and mine, have expanded our science world.

Just as I learned that math studies could not be avoided in the real world, even if you try to unschool it by tossing out the math workbooks for six months (like we did), the world is also covered in science.

Science is everywhere.

Natural sciences…

  • like pond studies,
  • algae growth
  • and frog life cycles,
  • astronomy studies,
  • learning constellations
  • and moon phases,
  • chemical sciences,
  • practicing vinegar-baking soda volcanoes outside,
  • recognizing chemical elements or compounds around us,
  • biological sciences like the reproduction cycle and the brain function,
  • physical sciences, like gravitational pull,
  • and why if the textbook dropped from seventeen feet above the main floor will likely kill your toddler brother.

We have used Apologia textbooks and workbooks since my oldest was in her older elementary years. At the time, I thought it was a bit detailed. I was right.

It was too detailed for our oldest child because she wasn’t as interested in the sciences.

But that was looking through the eyes of just one of my children. My other children thoroughly enjoyed the study of marine animals or zoology and astronomy.

how to do nature science in a self-directed way

Apologia Science.

Having enjoyed biology in high school and pursued nursing sciences in university myself, I was most interested in equipping my kids with the option of a reputable and detailed science course that Apologia offers.

Understanding that my science-interested daughter is academic and studious by nature, I share with you what she says about Apologia:

“You have to care about doing the work; otherwise, it would be easy to cheat, pretending you did it or doing notebook checks yourself. I like the amount of coursework. There are practical, doable at-home labs. They are useful. The teachers are super thorough in their lab expectations. Deadlines are expected to be followed and maintained within the timeframe. You have to put in the work to get good grades. A classroom of online students is useful because there are fewer distractions, though there are still kids that ask dumb questions. The teacher can disable the chat box in the chatroom so that distractions are minimized. There is one online class a week after you’ve done all the reading. The course content is thorough, things are explained well, and things are not easy. They are challenging. There are around fifteen pages of textbook reading a week, with thirty pages for each module. A module occurs every two weeks with a regular exam every two weeks.”

Madelyn Wiedrick

Once a week, she and another gal hold a study group online too. “This is helpful to committing time to study.”

I appreciate the focused chem lab time. There were labs for each module. My oldest daughter went to two years of public high school and not a chem lab was found. I was floored.

In my opinion, the only reason you could quibble with this science curriculum is that it centers on creation sciences if that weren’t your point of reference.

Naturally, I think this is a great reason why one should study science through Apologia.

Give credit where credit is due.

This complicated, detailed world that we exist in was created, fashioned, and formed by Someone and I’ll gladly give thanks that someone human has written a curriculum around the scientific details that we presently understand about the world.

Not every child is the sit and read, organized, scheduled, and detailed kind of learner though. Different subject preferences for different kids. Different learning styles for each kid too.

Chem C500 science kit.

We’ve had three kids interested in chemistry.

This fun box of chemistry experiments has its own lab equipment.

It explains what to do and why you’re doing it.

Just assume an underlay of newspaper (iodine is involved), the kids have gloves (even if the substance isn’t toxic, they can learn to be young scientists using lab practice), and give them a sequence for completing lab reports (if they’re eager, or they’re old enough).

Or if you want to keep it basic, and understand the contents of a lab report, you can find many versions online.

Visit the ocean.

We live in the mountains, so the ocean topography is novel.

This summer, we drove to the Canadian Pacific Coast to visit post-secondary schools. Wherever you live, engage it like you’re a science tourist.

And if you’re doing the undersea study, consider the Apologia textbook “Zoology 2”. There are fun workbooks that accompany Apologia textbooks or online courses.

how to do science in a self-directed way: visit the ocean

Get an animal.

Yeah, I know, this is a big homeschool science commitment. This year we have been learning to care for our Great Pyrenees. Training her to stay in our non-fenced 3 acres, and learn to sit, stay, come, and wait is a great feat.

  • Walk her around the perimeter of our property, take her on two-hour hikes, and socialize her with other new ‘friends’.
  • Learn her breed habits, her food needs, and her food restrictions.
  • Teach her not to use the chickens as play toys.
  • Teach her to guard the homestead without attacking our friends or alienating our neighbours.
  • Help to administer treatments, and learn about vaccines and breeding.
Big commitment. Definitely veterinary science.

Big commitment. Definitely veterinary science. Resuscitating a baby chick, who became our rooster.

Identify local plants.

Determine if you can consume those local plants, press them, dry them to make soap or moisturizers, or use them as poultices.

Diagram them, label them, and make your own botany notebook.

Attend local sciencey activities.

The Vancouver Olympics had a mobile medical clinic created to move from one Olympic venue to another. This mobile clinic visited our town.

We got to watch mock intubation and have all the emergency equipment explained. Which was even pretty cool for me as my husband does this for his work.

Families could also ask to watch a CPR training class or take a first aid class.

Medical stuff is on my radar, obviously, but there are everyday activities we overlook, ones associated with our partner’s work. Just think outside the box.

A mobile clinic visited our town and taught our three kids about a mock intubation and emergency equipment.

Science boxes.

Inside the box are great science lessons to be learned too.

Like the salt-powered robot.

This year, we are sprinkling in the use of these fun boxes about every six weeks or so. Purchased at a local toy store.

Usborne Books.

If there was anything I would sell, it would be Usborne books. They are clearly laid out, with loads of information, and kids want to look at them repeatedly.

Even for those of us who are foreign to a science subject, and happen to be well over the market age range for Usborne, these resources are good beginnings.

There’s an Usborne book for pretty much every topic.

Supplement your kids’ science knowledge with clever YouTube channels.

Our kids have enjoyed the following: Crash Course Kids, Freeschool, Make Me a Genius, and Learning Junction.

Our world was fearfully and wonderfully made. We know so much, and yet we know so little. Whatever science topic you explore, let fun and awe guide you.

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.