Homeschooling Science Discussion and book/curriculum recommendations

HS-Van is a great place to share information between homeschoolers...
One mom asked how to support her child's interest in science beyond the cool science books aimed at the elementary level aged kids. 
Here's some of the reponses:

The BC Science website has excellent science resources. They're intended to support the BC Science curriculum but anyone can use them. You can find movies, simulations, etc there. Just make sure that you're in the year that you want (Science 8 at minimum) and then click on the unit that you're interested in, on the left (for example, cells)

 Here are the links to the Provincial Science textbook pages. They have, available to everyone, links to other websites with extra information on the topics covered. You can also click on the "Home Version" link for each one, which has the entire textbook in pdf format, available for download section by section. You need a password to access that part of the site though. I did a quick Internet search and found a password for each one, all of which are currently working. (Feb 2011)

Usernames and Passwords:
Grade 8: Username: SD35 Password : MV35
Grade 9: Username: NS36 Password : LJ36
Grade 10: Username: HA44 Password : SC44
Another one...
As a child, my constant science book was the MacMillan Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia - a VERY big book with details of so many of the planet's animal species. I read it constantly. I now work in that field :-). I see it is available secondhand for around $60, which is worthwhile because it's a really big book.

Many kids who express a strong interest in an area of science around age 11 or so are really ready for materials that are geared towards teens.

When my son was interested in Chemistry and Physics at age 10, 11, and 12, we obtained some highschool workbooks by Globe Fearon. We got them from ABC Academics at 4th and Alma but they can be ordered online.

These books start at a 'know nothing' level and quickly progress through a grade 10 or 11 mastery of the material. They are workbook style, with information followed by questions. Very good for kids who like to have something that shows their progress and who like to spend some time working on an interest (with or without a parent). My son did a few of these books mostly for fun, and now he is in enriched Science 10 at a local highschool and nothing new has been covered over what he did at age 11!
However, we all know that science isn't just workbooks, even though workbooks might be useful for learning about chemical formulas and so on. So, I highly recommend also participating in the highly-regarded and free Canada-Wide Virtual Science Fair. It's very easy-- your child does a science fair project on any subject that interests her, and then posts it online for judging. Entrants come from schools and homes across Canada and even internationally. There are excellent prizes for each age group and it is a great reason to pursue an interest or invent something. Participating in a judged science fair also looks great in a homeschool portfolio.
There are some fascinating stories about science and scientists out there, too. So, browsing the aisles of the library or the bookstore for biographies or popular science books (such as E=MC 2) is a good idea, too!

And, in terms of resources geared at kids or kids at heart, local authors Shar Levine & Leslie Johnstone have published something like 70 books about science for kids. Many of them come with kits and almost all of them have won awards.

 I agree with what Diana says here about the high school science curriculum.
Books available in BC schools are out of date or their information so
diluted that kids think they are 'not good at science' when it's really that
the book contains incomplete information in an effort to simplify it (eg.
the new BC Science 8 book).

You can easily, at any age, learn about Ohm's law or covalent bonding, etc.
It's much more useful to learn these fundamentals than to proceed step by
step through textbooks that are filled with fluff. (In my opinion) And then,
once you have the basics, you can go to MIT's OpenCourse classes by video
(with free workshops, now) or listen to lectures by university teachers from
The Teaching Company, and learn exciting, up to date things that interest
you. From basics to university level as soon as you're interested -- that's
my philosophy. Skip the deadening stuff (which doesn't mean skipping the

And, ditto with math. There's no reason that if your child is in Gr. 6, that
that means that Gr. 6 math is the level of math your child is 'supposed' to
be doing. As an example, one of my kids did no official math and then he did
Math 10, 11 and 12 for credit in less than a year and a half. And now he is
continuing his math studies, using university textbooks and MIT and the
Teaching Company, by himself with no instruction, planning to write the AP
Calculus exam. If he were in school, he'd be taking Math 9 -- a course he
skipped entirely.

If your child wants to do something for credit, she can sign up for online
senior high school courses even while she is in elementary school or is the
age of an elementary school student. There are no prerequisites. All it
takes is a little advocacy! (And a kid who wants to do it.) Succeeding in
these courses is easier than you'd think, even by an ADD kid with bad
handwriting. We have become too accustomed to thinking of learning in terms
of grade levels.

Somebody here asked about home learners becoming scientists. I think that
for all students, one of the main obstacles to becoming a scientist is
surviving the K-12 science program. All the good stuff is at the top end
(and even that is often out of date), and along the way kids are exposed to
a lot of very de-motivating classes that substitute for science. (Some kids
are lucky and have better experiences, even with the usual textbooks.) You
can opt out entirely and apply to university as a home schooled student; or
you can skip most of the K-12 program and just take the senior secondary
courses required for a program or diploma (at any age, even 12). (Students
who enter university with school credits and a diploma shouldn't be
considered homeschooled, though -- they're on an equal footing with other
applicants, as universities see marks on a transcript.)

On the other hand, staying home and avoiding the science curriculum won't
nuture a scientist, either, once you're past the 'baking cookies is science'
stage. I was very nervous about this with both of my science-inclined home
learners, since I have no science or math background at all, and can't even
multiply fractions. But I found that my lack of knowledge didn't matter. One
was completely unschooled (not even registered) and the other went with
EBUS, but on an individualized program that allowed us to depart totally and
radically from the grade expectations -- essentially unschooled, as he
followed his interests entirely.

Every day, there are more and more free resources out there, like the
Virtual Science Fair or Khan Academy. Not to mention less formal
opportunities, like spending a day with a guy who makes replacement teeth
for a living (lots of delightful chemicals and colours involved), or
breeding your own plecostomus catfish.

Sorry if this is a bit of a rant. As a person who grew up not even knowing
what physics was and who was math phobic, but who has come to love science
because of my kids and The Teaching Company, I am a bit passionate on this
topic. Science and math are all around us but not often in a school
textbook, particularly in the younger grades. (Although a supplementary
workbook, like Pearson/Globe-Fearon's, is adequate for teaching you the meat
and potatoes quickly.) If you are lucky enough to live near a university,
you will find that they have all kinds of outreach programs going, or
lectures, often free or with scholarships. For kids and adults. Right now,
the Mini Med School is running at Children's Hospital, open to all ages.

I support what Diana said, but add -- I think that homelearners have to be
provided with good materials, resources and information, too. If you don't
talk about science or give them the opportunity to explore science and math
(in any way that works for you and your kids) then that is no better than
giving them an outdated, dull-witted textbook and some drill sheets.
Personally, I think that exploring concepts like infinity, non-Euclidean
geometry, and probability or game theory will interest more grade six
students than a textbook about how to measure area. And so, I also recommend
Michael Starbird's university enrichment book, The Heart of Mathematics, to
kids aged about 10 and up.

With apologies,
from Maureen Bayless (who has finally figured out that calculus isn't scary,
it's just the math you need to study things that change or move)

Book and Curriculum Recommendations