A: We live Science

(Vivienne, doing the best work of Scientist: loving God’s creation.)

As I was slugging through my B.S. in Biology, and working in the pharmacology department at Merck, I had no idea that my education would find its glory days when two little scientists entered our family. Amazingly, God orchestrated my education for the sakes of an aspiring nurse and an aspiring pediatrician (no joke) who didn’t even exist when I was memorizing formulas in the Science Library at all hours of the night! (You might not have to look far to discover some way in which God prepared you to foster the natural interests in your own children? Tell me all about it! I love those stories.)

(Lia, just a tad too young for the microscope.)

Because our girls have a natural interest in Science and I have some Science experience, this is an area of study that flows fairly naturally in our homeschool. (Don’t believe me? Do families typically perform heart surgery on dolls or celebrate First Aid Birthday parties?) The girls love to read nonfiction books about science; they enjoy the Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science; and they regularly dig into fascinating experiments and wonderings that result in learning!

Even though I do decorate with prints of lettuce varieties and butterfly species, I believe that God gives all children a natural wonder and enthusiasm for His creation regardless of their parent’s expertise, interest, or choice of curriculum. All we have to do is let them inspire us and join them in the learning!

We just finished a month-long study of horses, using a lapbook unit from In the Hands of a Child, which the girls loved every minute of. (We did this because they are so into horses now; we have about 10 imaginary horses roaming around our house as I write.)

Next, we’ll be getting 17 chickens next week, so we will study… you guess it: Chickens!

We also have a garden to plant from seed, which will provide hours of experimentation, observation, hard work, and eating our specimen. (Now that we live on a farm, our lives especially revolve around an appreciation for the wind, water, soil, and animals. We are digging in!)


After that, Vivienne has begged to study the Solar System. We’ll pull Ryan’s old telescope out of the attic and maybe even have a “1-hour Sleep Out” on our porch as we look up at the star-studded sky from our farmhouse. (More on the Solar System unit later! I discovered all kinds of gems online… ‘can’t wait to share ’em.)

Come Fall, we’ll follow the “God’s World” science topics provided by Ann Ward in Learning at Home (mostly biology-related topics). We’ll lug home books from the library, follow our noses to interesting experiments, and even do some dissections. (I found a complete dissection kit – frog, crayfish, and worm included – at a yard sale! Ryan didn’t seem to think it was the “find of the century!” as I glowingly reported upon my return home.)

We do lots of experiments with candy and kitchen ingredients. Vivienne has loved a Science kit that she received as a gift a few years ago, and we still use the large plastic test-tubes and pipettes. A dear friend made a test-tube rack out of scrap wood for the girls, which we use regularly. We’ve done simple experiments from Usborne books, and the FIAR curriculum. We rotate a fascinating magnet set onto our bookshelves, allow the girls to experiment with watercolors and nontoxic paint, keep a Nature Box in the garage, and are available to answer questions – and ask our own from time to time.

I have a feeling that this joyful topical study of Science will suit us just fine through elementary school. If I find that we are skimping on Science and losing our natural curiosity, I’ve got some excellent recommendations in my back pocket:

* Our Classical-homeschooling librarian recommends Jeannie Fulbright’s Exploring Creation studies (these are related to Apologia).

* Jolanthe from Homeschool Creations seems to embrace a Classical/ Charlotte Mason approach has been loving Nancy Larson’s Science curriculum. (Yup! Nancy Larson of Saxon Math.)

* After the elementary years, though, I will look into Apologia’s Science curriculum, since it receives so many solid endorsements as a thorough and excellent Christian Science curriculum.

So, I propose this in search of a solid Science curriculum:

If our children are naturally curious (and they probably are!), and if we have time to give (and we hopefully do!), we shall…

* grow plants and animals

* read books, books, books

* watch, wonder, and wander

* measure, mix, and make a mess

* clean up, discuss, and create conclusions

* praise God from whom all blessings flow!

What are your thoughts concerning Science in the younger years?


Posted in All Posts, Early Elementary Education, Farm Life, FIAR, Learning at Home | 9 Comments

I had never heard of Mark Shasha’s first picture book before. That’s why I love Five in a Row so much: it introduces us to such beautiful stories! This story is about the author’s childhood in which he helped out at his grandmother’s popular diner during the day, and returned a moonjelly to the deep ocean by night.

The things we added to the curriculum that were super-fun:

1. Making Our Own Diner, of course!

2. Making a sensory bin: (Note to self: it’s really not necessary to add sand to an ocean-themed sensory bin ever, ever again. Your children will have just as much fun with a bin full of shells and glass beads. And you will be much, much happier.)

Posted in FIAR | 4 Comments

As if it were in our lesson plans, the snow fell peacefully just in time for Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.

1.Decorate a Tree for the Birds

We were about to haul our Christmas Tree out to the burn pile, when Ryan thought of a brilliant idea: “Let’s sit it out on the porch, fill it with birdseed, and the girls can watch the birds from the kitchen table.”

Feeding the birds correlated well with Susan Jeffers’ illustrations.

One night, after dinner, when the snow was falling and falling, we bundled the girls up and went outside to decorate the tree with our feeders. I don’t know why we thought they wouldn’t need their snow pants…

Then, the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, we enjoyed the company of chickadees and cardinals and sparrows…

2. Create an illustrated version of the poem.

This was fantastic practice in illustrating, and creating a book. We divided the poem into scenes, and planned poses that would communicate each stanza. Then we found an appropriate font and style for the book. Vivienne and I worked together every step of the way. Lia was in charge of props. She made the jingle-bell harness for the horse, and helped to dress the horse and the doll. Overall, this was a wonderful project!

BUT do not be deceived by these peaceful photos. When we brought Vivienne’s prized doll and horse out in the snow, we tried so hard to keep them dry, but the snow was GUSTING at us like a blizzard. Not to mention, Lia’s boot came off when she was knee-deep in snow, the doll and the horse landed face-down in the snow, and I lost my temper when Vivienne accidentally dumped snow on my head instead of sprinkling snow in front of the doll to create the “snowy day effect” we had talked about. When we came in, wet and grumpy, I apologized my heart out. Then, we took a deep breath, ordered the photos, and got to work putting the book together. The finished project was well worth the effort… and the forgiveness!

Whose woods these are I think I know; His house is in the village though.

He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near…

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sounds the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Posted in Early Elementary Education, FIAR | 3 Comments

FIAR: Katy and the Big Snow

Virginia Lee Burton is a genius.

She must have written books like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Little House, and Katy and the Big Snow, knowing that she’d score big with the boys. Somehow she must have know that she could capture girls, too. Somehow, Burton communicates the beauty of machines, urban development, and manual labor in such an intricate, personal way, that girls – our girls, anyway – are fascinated. We love her characters and learn so much from each book.

I was happy to borrow the kit from our library – complete with an audio recording of the book, which helps when I need to eat my lunch instead of read aloud.

Lia began the week by coloring and cutting out a picture of Katy, and adding snow, snow, snow. (Nope, no link for a great coloring page. I just traced Katy on tracing paper, then outlined her with a black Sharpie.)

We used the map on pages 6-7 to build the main sections of Geopolis with blocks.

We talked about Katy’s brave and diligent work ethic. We gently discussed the recent snow-related tragedies in New York City, due to unpreparedness and limitations.

We played in the snow!

We made crystal snowflakes with this brilliant and easy experiment:

(This is Lia talking sweetly to the snowflake, explaining that he shouldn’t worry, he would find his mommy soon.)

We used compass directions to complete a treasure hunt! (The treasure? MARSHMALLOWS, of course.)

Ryan and the girls made chocolate ice cream out of our freshly fallen snow.

  • 1 C. (chocolate) milk
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 4 -5  C. fresh, clean snow

Don’t pack the snow! Bring it in the house and set it in the freezer until you need it.

Mix together the milk, vanilla, and the sugar. Stir this mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Slowly add the snow to your mixture, stirring constantly, until it is as thick as ice cream.

We also had fun spotting all of the snowplows who were out and about after our 2-inch fall the other day. That’s one beautiful aspect of living in the hard-working country: every big boy has a plow for his truck, and he’s happy to help the community get out and about. As we drove down a nicely cleared road, the girls called out “Snowplow! Snowplow!” as the trucks headed home for breakfast or off to work for the day.

A fantastic and complimentary book: Irene the Brave!

The snow fun doesn’t stop here! Next week, we’ll be reading “Stopping by Woods” and continuing the theme…

Posted in FIAR | 7 Comments