Homeschool science curriculum resources - a short review
On this page, I review the science curriculum and resources I have personally used in homeschooling my children. Basically, I have used some regular textbooks as a "spine" since they are so affordable, and supplemented that with videos and activities from various sources. I have not tried every science curriculum out there; these are just resources that have worked well for our family.
For our homeschool science curriculum, I like to use regular public school textbooks as a "spine". You can buy them used at very affordable prices.
For middle school (grades 6-9), we are using Science Interactions series by Glencoe. I remember paying about $5 per book when the regular price is near $100, yet the used copies were "like new". These books are very comprehensive and long (heavy!). The prices of used copies vary, so I cannot guarantee what price you will find, but you can check current pricing below in the Amazon ads or in this link.)
Course 1 (grade 6):||
Course 2 (grade 7):
Course 3 (grade 8):
Course 4 (grade 9):
These books have lots of good illustrations, a well-written text, and a comprehensive scope, I feel. To top it off, Glencoe has a companion website with free downloadable worksheets and online quizzes that match the textbook.
These links go to the companion website. There you can access the worksheets and quizzes and also see the topics covered in each book. You cannot purchase the books there.
Course 1 — Course 2 — Course 3 — Course 4
Science Interactions series is from the late 1990s, so you may feel it is a bit old, but these books are modern and definitely good to use! Principles of basic science (as studied in middle school) haven't changed since then. However, there is one area where I notice that newer would be better, and that is in astronomy. I noticed several places in the course 3 book where I had newer information just from reading news than what was in the book.
You could of course get the newer editions of Glencoe Science from 2000s (now published by McGraw-Hill) that has three books, called the Red, Green, and Blue levels. Or, the newer-yet editions from 2007/2008 that are called Physical Science, Life Science, and Earth Science. The prices for the newer editions aren't as affordable as for the older ones, though, even when buying used copies.
Textbooks for elementary grades
I have used another series of textbooks for elementary, but they are really old (from 1980s, by Merrill) and I cannot really recommend them. I got them very cheaply from a store that sells old school books. They have served us alright but I would like to get newer and better ones.
For example, you can get McGraw Hill's elementary science book series for good prices on Amazon (as used copies).
Videos & experiments
I know I just praised the textbooks, but I have definitely found that a textbook is not enough when it comes to teaching science. It works as a basic resource and reference, but children also need to experience science principles hands-on (as I'm sure you agree). Many a time it has happened that my child did NOT get the main principle in the lesson just from reading the textbook text.
Another excellent resource I have used in addition to the textbook has been Aurora Lipper's Supercharged Science, namely her videos. In each video, she does a specific science experiment and explains the science principles in it, and then shows how YOU can do it, too.
You might say that one can find science experiments on other sites, too, and for free, but here's the difference. 1) Aurora explains the science principles in the videos. 2) The experiments are designed to be what best illustrates and teaches the science, not what impresses or wows people the most. 3) You can tell Aurora is a true teacher at heart — she loves teaching and loves science. Watching her is inspiring and motivating. It definitely beats reading a textbook.
Many children can do her experiments on their own or almost on their own, so it saves time in preparation. And, like I mentioned, she motivates kids to do and love science.
See these sample videos:
You can see some more sample videos on this page (scroll down).
Aurora sells her science products in several formats.
You can purchase a subscription to her online e-science website, which contains the experiment videos and accompanying reading materials. There are hundreds and hundreds of lessons on all science topics! I heard that if you sign up for her e-Science program using the above link, you will also get a free science activity DVD sent to you!
Then, she also sells a video-based science curriculum on DVDs. These DVDs are by topics: astronomy, chemistry, magnetism, Earth science, forces & motion, light, energy, and life science. Each lesson on the DVD includes step-by-step videos, detailed reading, exercises and quizzes.
A newer addition to our family's resources has been a subscription to ExploreLearning. They provide interactive science simulations called gizmos. The gizmos are very well done and are captivating. In fact, so much so that there is somewhat of a drawback there, because sometimes my kids just "play around" with the gizmo without really understanding what is happening. Still, I feel there is a lot of value there.
The list of available gizmos is very comprehensive, covering all major science curriculum topics from grade 3 through high school — and math also!
You can conduct experiments that would be difficult or impossible to do at home. You can easily measure variables, such as velocity, mass, volume, voltage—whatever applies to the particular activity.
You can try the gizmos out by using their free 30-day trial. Also, you can try each gizmo for 5 minutes a day for free even without signing up for a trial, so feel free to try the ones below or any of the others.
Each gizmo also comes with a printable student exploration worksheet and an online quiz to be taken after the exploration.
ExploreLearning sells to schools, parents, and home educators. However, I got my subscription at a reduced price via Homeschool Buyers Co-op.
Like I said, I feel the gizmos have a lot of value and I really like them, as do my kids! Just keep in mind that they do often require parent involvement so the children actually get the scientific principles and don't just end up "playing around" with the interactive features.
Overall, I feel that the three resources I list above (textbooks, Aurora's videos, and the gizmos) complement each other beautifully.
Review by Maria Miller
This is a list of science websites that my kids have either enjoyed a lot or sites that I'm planning for them to visit for the purpose of fun and supplemental activities.
For little ones
Online science games
A collection of simple & short online science games for about grades K-3 about living things; physical processes; and solids, liquids, and gases.
A science website for children done by the American Museum of Natural History. It is written like a children's magazine. Includes activities, games, photos, interviews, and fun readings on science topics. Exploring the exhibitions at the museum's main site is also worthwhile! If you can't actually visit a science museum, visiting their website is a good substitute.
For bigger kids
LearningScience.org is a site that my children have used to find fun science activities that they spend hours and hours on! The site lists the best interactive "learning tools" found on the web, including online simulations, interactive web lessons, and micro-worlds. These "tools" are human-reviewed for quality before added to the site, and categorized for easier use into physical science, life science, Earth & space, and so on. Most of the tools listed are web-based and free.
Exploratorium is a science museum in San Francisco. Their website has lots of online exhibits that are organized into broad topics, such as astronomy, culture, Earth, everyday science, human body, living things, and more. The exhibits are typically organized into mini-websites inside the main site, and mainly contain photos, illustrations, and text.
Science Museum — Online Science
A science museum from London, UK. Their website includes games, lots of information & photos on basic science topics, photos of interesting objects, and more.
Science Fun Online by Oregon Museum for Science and Industry (OMSI)
Online versions of some of OMSI's exhibits, filled with interactive activities. Dive into animation, technology, Earth science, engineering, nutrition, forestry, and more!