Sunday, August 5, 2012

In pursuit of the perfect Science curriculum

I’ve been starting to think about next school year, making a list of materials that we will need, and how or where we are going to be able to get it. I will have a 4th grader and a 6th grader, and one very active pre-schooler to keep busy. Alongside continuing studies in Math, English, Latin and French, we will move forward in History to cover ca. 400AD – the Renaissance and all that it entails, including the development of the church, geographic discoveries, scientific advancements, etc. I have to admit that the Dark Ages was my least favorite time period to study during our last round (four years ago), and I’ve therefore decided to make an extra effort this academic year to spice up our studies.

We will also go all in when it comes to Science, although I have yet to create the curriculum for this upcoming year.

The idea that we have been following all along our home-schooling time suggests you divide Science into four blocks, following the history curriculum, so that you study one part of the subject every year. The first year of the cycle, which involves the study of Ancient times, offers a science focus on Life Sciences, since people during this time were discovering their own body and the living things around them. Then during the Middle Ages, scientists turned their eyes to the sky, discovering planets (Astronomy), and inwards, exploring our earth and all that it entails (Geology). The Early Modern period offer insights into more detailed studies of matter (Chemistry), and finally the Modern period, during year four of the cycle, focuses on modern science; Physics and Technology.

Last year we threw out this division however, deciding that it was too slow; our oldest student needed some physics to go along with his math, and really, since Chemistry is so much fun, why only do it every four years? Also, after you’ve studied the body and cells, you want to turn to atoms, and after your study of rocks and minerals, the periodic table actually seems interesting, but if you wait two years to go there, a lot of knowledge will have disappeared and you can no longer make the connections that would help you remember in the first place. So, we decided that the boys would learn about all four areas of science each year, in quarter sections. We created a great curriculum and had it all planned out.

it turns out however, that when you are used to such in-depth studies at a slow but thorough pace, as we have been pursuing over the past few years, shifting gears to go four times faster is difficult. We only ended up sufficiently covering Life Sciences and Astronomy & Geology, leaving most of Chemistry and Physics hanging. A fair share of this was made up for during our trip to Italy though, where we visited a lot of science museums and talked about the discoveries of the great Italian scientists during and after the Renaissance. There are still a few holes that need to be filled out though, however at this point I’m not sure exactly what or where.

So, it’s a bit of a mess, really. 

Do we try to pick up where we were and cover Chemistry and Physics only this year? This would be absolutely contrary to any plan we ever had regarding the structure of our Science curriculum. We can’t start over completely though with Life Sciences again, because what if we never get past Geology again? I’m thinking we will attempt a quarter session division again this year, but start with Chemistry and Physics, and then try to be stricter with our time. 

What does your science curriculum look like?

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