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Saturday, 8 August 2015

Science Curriculum - Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding

Our aim as home educating parents is to give our children a rigorous education. We want them to have a healthy fascination with the world we live in. With this in mind, we have chosen a science curriculum that is thorough, which gives our children a solid understanding of science, and which teaches them to think carefully about what they discover.

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding is a science curriculum in three volumes. The first two volumes are aimed at primary school aged children. It is made up of a series of science lessons to be followed in a logical order, which gradually build up a thorough understanding of key scientific concepts. These concepts are taught clearly, with lots of practical ways to demonstrate the science.

For example, we have looked at magnetic fields using a magnet and iron filings. We have demonstrated that air has weight using a balloon and a simple home-made balance. The children have made a sundial in the garden as they learned about the rotation of the earth and how this relates to time.





The lessons fall into 4 categories: Nature of Matter, Life Science, Physical Science and Earth and Space Science.

The idea is that you move through these areas at a broadly even pace. At the front of each book, there are 4 flow charts which show the order in which each section should be studied. This is important, as some lessons rely on knowledge learned in a number of other lessons. It looks a bit overwhelming at first, but once you start it becomes reasonably obvious which lessons need to be done together.



We like this curriculum for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is logical. Rather than looking at science as a series of disconnected ideas, there is a careful progression through the four different areas. My eldest boy loves to read, including reading factual science books. He would know a lot of science even if we never taught any formal science. However, this curriculum makes sure that he doesn't have important gaps in his knowledge, and gives a secure framework for his reading.

Secondly, it is good science. The concepts are taught simply and appropriately for children, but care is taken to explain them accurately so that you can pass them on to your children correctly. In particular, this curriculum aims to avoid passing on misconceptions which may cause confusion later on. Furthermore, proper scientific words are introduced.

The lessons are also very hands on and practical, which makes them a lot of fun to do. There are both experiments you can carry out and activities you can do to reinforce the points. My children enjoyed playing a simple game where they had to pretend to be particles and change there behaviour depending on whether I called out "Solid!" or " Liquid!" or "Gas!".

Finally, it encourages the children to think and to ask questions and to come up with logical and careful answers. There are lots of good tips for how to do discussions.

If you are considering using this curriculum, it is worth noting that is requires some preparation in advance. It is a book of lesson plans for you to use, not a book to read with your children. However, the vast majority of materials that are needed you will probably have in your home, though we have bought a small number of things for these lessons, such as a good quality magnet. It also doesn't take that long to prepare; my husband (who usually teaches this subject) reckons it takes at most half an hour for him to read through the chapter and get his resources together.

One decision we have made for our children is not to do any written work for science yet. They do a lot of writing in other subjects, and have retained well the science that we have do so far. I may introduce writing a science notebook next year as I think this would be a good skill to learn, but I haven't decided yet.

We have all enjoyed this curriculum. The children have learned about the nature of solids, liquids and gases. The have discussed how muscles work and the structure of plants. They have studied different kinds of energy. They have learned to distinguish between energy and matter, and between weight and mass. They have remembered much of what they have studied, and had a lot of fun along the way.

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