Are you looking for a homeschool science curriculum? Perhaps you haven’t incorporated much science into your homeschool yet and are looking for a straightforward, simple way to work it in. Or, like me, you have a child with an insatiable love of science, and you want to be sure that you are providing accurate, secular content and skills.
Here are the top five considerations that went into my decision when purchasing a science curriculum for my child.
Is it secular?
I’ve written previously about how important it is for science to be taught accurately and completely, which means that it must be secular.
Once religious beliefs are brought into a science curriculum, its content can no longer be considered scientific. Facts that don’t line up with beliefs may be omitted or presented as “just a theory,” while incorrect or misleading information may be included in order to “support” a religious conclusion. A child might walk away with an entirely misleading picture of what science is and how scientific thinking works!
Even if the topic isn’t evolution or the age of the universe, religious curricula will inevitably skew their presentation towards a religious narrative, while “neutral” curricula will avoid mentioning anything that could raise a red flag for a religious audience. Therefore, I wouldn’t consider any curriculum unless it was explicitly secular.
Is it accurate, thorough, and up to date?
My next consideration for homeschool science curriculum is that it should be accurate and thorough. If my child is going to take valuable time out of his day to engage with material, it should be of high quality!
As a science educator myself, I spend a lot of time gently correcting misconceptions that have crept in to my students’ thinking. Sometimes, these misconceptions have come from previous “learning” that presented inaccurate information or left out important details. When I browse Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers, I often see these same misconceptions repeated. How frustrating!
Another problem in science is outdated information. Scientific advances are occurring on a regular basis, and our science curriculum needs to keep up! I like to look for a recent publication date, as well as signs on the company’s website that curricula are regularly reviewed and updated.
How can you avoid curriculum that contains inaccuracies or outdated information?
Many curriculum companies will provide a short sample, such as an excerpt or table of contents, but it may not be possible to tell if there are inaccuracies or omissions from these brief selections. Reviews from other customers can provide some additional clues, but it can be difficult to gauge how much science knowledge reviewers have. Therefore, the author’s credentials are an important clue.
Is the author a scientist or longtime science educator?
Does the author have a degree in a relevant field or real-world experience in the subject matter? As a homeschooler, I also appreciate when the author has homeschooling experience so that I can trust that the course is written with the home environment in mind.
In the case of our current curriculum, REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry Level 1, I was able to “meet” the author on Facebook, which definitely increased my trust. The author, Blair Lee, posts regularly about books she is working on and causes that she cares about. She also answers questions. Having this sort of interaction gives me confidence that her curriculum will be current, accurate, and tailored towards homeschooling.
Is it written with my child in mind?
I appreciate curricula that are written directly to my child, so that he can either read the selections himself or we can read them together. In my opinion, this is much more effective than lessons that are directed at me, which means I have to interpret the author’s intent and then present it to him. Sometimes he doesn’t want to hear it from me, but would rather read and interpret for himself!
Look for a science curriculum that has real science experiments that build upon one another so your student get’s the big picture. It’s hard to develop a deep understanding of science by doing one-off labs or craftivities.
I would much rather be able to share the text of the lesson directly with my child so that he can get the full benefit of the author’s expertise. This was one of the reasons I was drawn to REAL Science Odyssey – the student pages. They are written in an engaging, conversational style that addresses my elementary student at an appropriate developmental level. Each section begins with a cute little poem, followed by a short passage explaining the concepts. Then on to the labs!
The labs in REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry Level 1 are written so that the adult can set up the experiment and describe it accurately to the child, using the scientific terminology and concepts. The concepts are then reinforced on the student’s lab pages. It strikes a nice balance.
Is it engaging?
Science should be the best part of your child’s day! It’s fun, exciting, and inherently engaging. So any worthwhile science curriculum should tap into that excitement and get your kid engaged. If the tone is boring or textbook-sounding, it may not be a great fit.
It’s important to know what your particular child finds engaging so that you evaluate curricula accordingly. For my son, having a conversational tone when reading was very important, as well as fun hands on labs and projects to do.
Is it part of a larger whole?
There’s no shortage of experiments and projects on Pinterest that you can pull out on a rainy afternoon. It can be tempting to collect these projects and try to cobble them together into a “curriculum.” However, it’s hard to develop a deep understanding of science by doing one-off labs or craftivities.
When looking for a science curriculum, I sought an in-depth investigation of an area of science (in our case, chemistry) that was connected to other courses that we could pursue afterwards, to get a coherent whole. It’s helpful to have a scope and sequence so that each topic connects to a larger whole. This will assist with long term memory and comprehension as well, since we tend to remember patterns and connections more than discrete facts and details.
The Bottom Line
Searching for a homeschool science curriculum can be daunting, but there are some great options out there! As a science educator, I recommend looking for curricula that are secular, accurate and thorough, written with the child in mind, engaging, and part of a larger whole. For our family, REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry Level 1 fits the bill!