June 9, 2011

Hands-On Science Review

Well, it's that time of year again.  Summer!  I love summer break.  We still will do some light school in the morning, but mostly during the summer the kids attend camps, play with friends, swim at the pool, play at home, and read.  It's nice to take a break from the usual routine.  This also gives me time to regroup, think about what I liked about our past year of homeschool, think about what needs to change, and look for new curriculum.

Many months ago, I started following a blog called Homeschool Science on my google reader account, wanting to get ideas for science with my children.  They have a new book out called "Hands-On Science" and I was fortunate enough to receive a copy for free to look through and review on my blog.  So, here goes.

Hands-On Science by Elizabeth Brough
for grades K-6
Castle Heights Press, Inc.

Topics covered in the book:
Weather, Climate, and Water

What I liked about the book:

There is a lot of material in the book.  There are 32 different sets of experiments, and many of those sets have more than one experiment listed, some for "Further Exploration" or to challenge advanced students. She says each set is supposed to take a week, but of course points out that it's always best to just move at your own pace.  
In the "How to use this curriculum" section there is a list of materials to have on hand for the experiments. I find that very helpful, so I can be saving up those empty plastic bottles and the like.
Each section also has a list of books recommended for the subject.  I love books.
Each section is meant to build on the one before it, so concepts first introduced are expanded upon in later experiments.  After each experiment, there is another one given that is "more challenging" for older or advanced students.  Because of this, the book can be used easily by someone who homeschools more than one grade using the same book.
The process for each experiment is clearly described, and the author provides questions to help facilitate discussion with the student and lead them to understanding.

What could be better in the book:

Really, these are just picky things, but being a busy mom of 4 kids, I like to have materials that lessen the work load for me as much as possible.  It would be helpful if the charts the students needed to fill in during the experiments were on full sheets of paper in the back of the book, ready to be copied easily, rather than in the middle of a page surrounded by words.  Not really a big deal, but then I wouldn't have to try and make the chart on my own.  In fact, it would be great if there were a separate student book that not only had charts, but also journaling space to write down observations and draw pictures.

I readily admit that science is not my strongest subject, which is why it unfortunately does not get a lot of attention during our school days. Maybe this next issue won't apply to many other homeschoolers, but as I was reading through the book, I found that several times I didn't know what was supposed to happen at the end of the experiment.  It wasn't clear to me what the result should be, and so then I wouldn't know if we had done it right or if we needed to try again.  I would've appreciated a little note at the end of each experiment in parentheses for the science-challenged, saying something like "if you did it right, this should have happened".  The author also didn't answer the questions she asked right away, but said in her introduction that if you read on, the questions asked would be answered in the following discussion. Well, I admit that sometimes I still wasn't sure. Since I tell my kids I know everything and I'm always right, this is a bit of a problem for me.

Overall, I'm excited to use this curriculum with my kids.  I really like how the areas of study are interconnected. Plus, it's far more sciency than anything I've been doing with them so far. (yeah, I know, not a word)  It will help give them a deeper understanding of what's going on in the world around them, and introduce them to a whole lot more science vocabulary than they've previously been exposed to.  The topics introduced are ones that are very interesting to the age group and can be easily expanded upon if the kiddos want to learn more.

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