Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Problem with Homeschool Science Resources

Way back in November, I got a comment about finding hard-to-locate chemicals from Ruth in NC, whose own blog is Traveling Jews, suggesting that I try a company called Home Science Tools. I checked out their website, and was pretty impressed. In fact, we got a microscope from them for the holidays.

But I couldn't bring myself to add them to the sidebar list of suppliers, because of books like the one shown here -- biology curriculum from places like Bob Jones and "God's Design" that teach creation "along with evolution." (If you think this issue just affects homeschoolers, though, see my related blog posts here and here.)

Interestingly, parents whose children have used these texts say their kids score very well on standardized science entry exams for college. (I wonder whether that's a comment on what the tests include...)

I realize that so far, despite the number of resources I've turned up, our chemistry studies this year have stayed on a pretty superficial level. There are lots of homeschoolers who are going through much more rigorous courses than I am. So, what programs do your kids use? How have they worked out?


Anonymous said...

Even though I have no children of my own, I have been a big advocate with homeschooling. As our technologies continue to grow and become a wonderful aspect for all, I have been wondering if Home school is enough. What needs to be done is have both home school and other means of education come together as one.

There is more to life then academics, but academics are becoming very important as the 21st Century comes into play day by day. What a highly suggest that parents do everything to allow both home school and public/private education work together in harmony. If this is not done as such, it will not work. Parents needs to be a giant part in their children's lives.

School cannot be parents! Churches or other organizations cannot replace the parents. Both a full and complete education and proper parenthood is need. With our wonderful and marvelous technologies, it cannot replace the human being. It takes human beings to continue to impose the human endeavor. That is where parents must do all they can for their children.

As both parents and the educational system comes together for the benefit of the future of all children, then can we all prosper in that human endeavor.

Brandon Bowers

Ruth in NC said...

Thanks for the mention.

I am sad to see that you are unhappy with your chemistry program - I was about to try to copy it next year for my daughter.

I taught my now 17yo son with fairly conventional biology and chemistry texts, supplemented by labs that I taught to him and a few of his friends. He learned a lot but hated it.

Earlier we looked at Apologia and he enjoyed reading the texts but we both knew that the preaching would get on our nerves eventually. And, frankly, I can't purchase a biology text with a creationist view or even one that just skips evolution. I do buy from businesses with a creationist views but do so because they have what I want.

I have taken a non-textbook approach with my daughter, who has studied most science through a biology portal and via living books, ala Charlotte Mason. I would like to intensify her exposure to chemistry next year so I was planning to try to follow your lead.

I don't know how DH and I, both science trained, managed to raise 3 kids with so little interest in science. Therefore, my focus has been less on rigor and more on piquing their interest. And I have been more successful doing that when I avoid texts.

And I am not convinced that they need so much rigor before college. Better to go to college with curiosity and then learn the rest, or learn it at home because you want to. And we do take advantage of the community college for lab science.

Good luck. Ruth in NC

Kathy Ceceri said...

Ruth, I don't know that I'd say I'm unhappy. My kids have enjoyed the demonstrations we've done -- not enough to take them over themselves, though, for the most part. They definitely could not pass a test in chemistry at this point. Since I have at least one tech-minded kid, I'm thinking I may have to get him a review book and have him learn the math and such afterwards.

So in some ways I feel this is working, but -- not having taken any science in college -- I'm worried that I'm leaving them underprepared.

Ruskin said...

I love your blog. It is so inspiring. Thank you, thank you again. I just wanted to agree with what you have said about being unable to find good chemistry resources for home educated children. I love science and it is a top priority for our home education but I have ordered so many half-baked books hoping for a good thorough but inspiring introduction to the wonders of chemistry for my children. Three of my grandparents were chemists and my father is too. I grew up with a fascination about how the world was made and I so want to give my children what my father gave me.
I haven't given up hope and we have begun a small course in chemistry called 'The Elements' by Ellen McHenry. At least it is engaging and a good start.
Like you I wish the home school option didn't appear to be Apologia or nothing for an in depth study of science at home. Dreaming of chemical childhoods for my children...
PS I have a link to your blog on mine. I hope you don't mind, it is too good not to share.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lorna! Denmark looks like fun. I will keep adding resources as I find them -- there's really plenty out there, it's just a matter of how much you're able to do at home, I think.

Anonymous said...

I just found this blog & I really like it, so thanks!

About your comment that you're worried you'll be leaving your kids unprepared for science in college if you don't do a more rigorous curriculum now:
my feeling is that as long as your kids can read well, write well, know how the scientific method works and why it's important, and know how to find information and evaluate it's usefulness all before college, they'll be fine.

In my own case, my (public) high school science education was awful, I didn't pay attention or do my homework pretty much ever, and I flunked high school chemistry. But I still CLEP'd out of college biology using nothing but a prep book, and then took college microbiology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, microbiology, anatomy & physiology 1 & 2, and pharmocology, all without any particular difficulty.

So my own experince is that college level science doesn't really assume much concrete knowledge about any particular topic, just the ability to learn effectively.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, that's reassuring to hear!

Anonymous said...

Your blog has many fun experiments, thank you for the time you put in. I can understand your view on Apologia, we feel the same way about science texts that teach evolution as a proven fact.

Unknown said...

I found this by navigating the waters in search of secular chemistry/science especially laboratory sets. I will probably find a text from e-bay or that is used in public high school to eliminate the creationism from quantifiable science. I came across a promising looking lab set called: Chem C3000. Key it in on or raibowresoures and it should show up priced around 180-200 dollars. It is a ray of hope! Another idea I had was to use Chem C3000 for the laboratory portion of chem, and use a distance course for the theory portion.
For biology I have the same idea and found Quality Labs LLC. offers a biology lab manual and complete laboratory set up for under 200.00 I believe. Rainbowresources may carry this set, and they usually have better prices than the manufacturer can offer.
Good luck on your journey, and I hope I have helped someone.


Anonymous said...

Anne-Marie, don't count on public school textbooks eliminating creationism!

Just look at this NY Times article is from June 4, 2008:

"[A] battle looms in Texas over science textbooks that teach evolution ... Starting this summer, the state education board will ... decide whether the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution should be taught ... [C]ritics say it is ... a way for students to hear religious objections under the heading of scientific discourse."

Ruth said...

So, I was wondering what you all think of thinkwell chemistry...

Kathy Ceceri said...

Ruth, this blog is dormant; I suggest finding a message board like those at Well Trained Mind or YahooGroup like hshs for advice.

That said, I should update this blog to include the information that, despite my initial fears that my science courses were leaving my kids unprepared for college, my oldest just received a nice scholarship to attend the engineering school of his choice...

Unknown said...

I have put together homeschool science manuals that encourages the students to research and discover scientific principles, with each week of research having a lab (I provide the necessary chemicals if desired). Although I am a Christian, I have tried to keep the manuals' questions "science only", and prod the students to think! The manuals have good reviews in secular sites as well as This Old Schoolhouse. Check out Science for High School if interested.
I hope this offers some hope!
Bridget Ardoin