Teaching Science on a Budget

I Thessalonians 5:21 says, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” As we homeschool our children, we must train them to seek knowledge and learn how to recognize and solve problems, test, research, and come to well-founded conclusions.This is our role as their guide and instructor.

However, teaching science can seem like a daunting task. In fact, one aspect of homeschooling that can be challenging for parents is its cost. Choosing to homeschool can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Thanks to the internet, libraries, and discount stores, you can teach science to younger students for less than $50 for the entire year, which also includes supplies for experiments.

Here are a few ideas you can try.

Science Curriculum

You can buy science books for $5 or less from stores like the Dollar Tree and Five Below. The materials are usually aligned with the current state standards and have been pre-tested by teachers and students for their effectiveness.

Cheap Science Curriculum

From Five Below

Here are some examples I use.

Dollar Store (by Teaching Tree)

Science Experiments & Inventions: This book provides standards-based worksheets, and enough ideas to last the entire year. In addition, most of the experiment supplies can also be purchased while you are at the Dollar Store.

Dollar Tree Workbooks

Writing Prompt Dollar Tree Science Cards

Dollar Tree Finds

Also, don’t hesitate to check out your local library for books on specific science topics after you check online to see what skills are recommended for each grade level. Another cheap way to obtain science curriculum is through your local thrift store. This last option is not guaranteed to have what you need in stock, but you can often find something you can utilize. I have found new science kits, science flashcards, gently used microscopes, and more.

Thrift Store Finds

Cheap Science Kit

Use Internet Videos to Reinforce New Concepts

Use internet videos to reinforce new concepts. You will need Wi-Fi; however, many public spaces like libraries, some parks, museums, some train stations, restaurants, etc., offer free Wi-Fi. Also, did you know that YouTube has a free app just for kids on Android and IOS devices? Using Youtube Kids helps streamline the content so it is more child-friendly and safe. In the search field add the topic that you are teaching and the closest relevant video will appear.

Use free educational websites for related printable worksheets. There are a lot of free options available too. One of the first places that you can check out for free resources is your local library. Many areas often pay for expensive subscription services that your budget may not allow. Many libraries also have special STEM workshops and classes available for children.

Free printable worksheets: If you are keeping a portfolio of your child’s work, you may want to add worksheets to your curriculum to help reiterate the lessons you are teaching.

  • IXL.com – This is the site I use the most often to print check grade level standards and print worksheets.
  • Jumpstart.com – The site has worksheets categorized by grade level, but the page also lists the topics, which is useful.
  • Super Teacher Worksheets – Not all of the printable pages are free on this site, but usually several in each category are free, and the subscription for individuals is inexpensive. However, if you like a lot of printable worksheets, I recommend that you get a workbook like SPECTRUM, because the workbook is a lot cheaper than printer ink.
  • About.com – The worksheets are categorized by subject.
  • Pinterest will also give you some great ideas.

Reader Question – Do you have a favorite place to find cheap curriculum to help you homeschool effectively? If so, please tell us about it in the comment section.

Teaching Kids Entomology While Hiking

white-caterpillar

Hickory tussock caterpillar

Homeschooling offers families the chance to go outdoors in nature and learn together. Although we are called “homeschoolers,” we are not required to stay in our homes and teach our children from books all day. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to make the world our classroom. As parents and educators we have the responsibility to teach our kids about the world we live in, how to protect it, admire it, and grow with it. One fun way to give kids a hands-on science lesson is to go hiking with them. One of the lessons that kids can learn about while hiking is entomology.

bug-on-flowers

Dog fennel plant

Entomology

The study of insects is called entomology. In our vast world there are millions of insects worldwide. Bugs can have a bad reputation, but are the most plentiful animals on earth. Thus, hiking can be a great way to teach children about bugs and their global contribution. While hiking, have your children answer these questions: Who, What, Where, and When? (This is a also wonderful chance for parent/teachers to ask students to jot down their answers in a science journal.)

moths

Two white moths

 

  • Who – While hiking look for bugs. Students should snap a photo or draw a picture of the bugs they find. Kids should observe the bugs with their eyes and not their hands. Allow students a few minutes (about three to five) to watch the bug and follow it briefly, if possible, to see what it does.
  • What – Try to identify the bug on your own. If you cannot, visit insectidentification.org; there is a bug finder at the bottom. You can also try to identify adult bugs with information from BugGuide.net, a site managed by Iowa State University Department of Entomology. Also check out Bug Info from the Smithsonian Institution to learn more cool facts about entomology.
  • Where – Encourage your child to record where the bug was found. A description of the bug that includes color and size is helpful. What state or country or region of the country the bug was found? Answer whether the insect can fly, or identify how it moves from place to place.
  • When – Also, jot down the time of day the bug was found, the weather, and if it was found alone or with other similar bugs. Does the bug live in a colony? Older students can look up the bug and find out if it is used for special purposes by scientists and researchers. Also, find out if the insect is native to the region it was found in.
Cunningham Falls State Park

Cunningham Falls State Park

Compare and Contrast

Discuss whether you have seen the same bug in the past and if so, what similarities are present. Also, write down the differences.

Giving our children hands-on learning experiences is one of my favorite reasons to homeschool. Many children may not like bugs, but by learning more about them, their habitat, and how they live and survive, will help us learn to appreciate the role they play in our huge world.

*images by David Cavins*

5 Tips to Get Your Kids to Love Science

Five Tips to Get Your Kids to Love Science

Schools around the country are trying to get students more interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related fields. The goal for educators is to encourage a love of science in students and hopefully motivate students to pursue a STEM career, which can in turn lessen unemployment and improve the nation’s economy. According to SciencePioneers.org, “If the United States is to maintain its global leadership and competitive position, then we just have to motivate our most promising students into the STEM fields. Science has been identified as a national priority, but science teachers can’t do it all on their own. Parents have to become more interested and knowledgeable.”(1)

Science is also a way that God reveals himself to us.

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind,” Job 12:7-10.

Thus, we need to encourage our children to have a well-rounded educational foundation by promoting science in our homes. We can start by instilling a love for science while our children are very young.

Five ways homeschool families can build a love for science in their children:

Walking through science – Walking in nature you can teach your kids about different types of plants, animals, erosion, cloud formations, weather patterns, insects, rocks, etc. You can also help your child start a garden, nature collection (rock, leaf, insect), or ant farm. The key is to let your child’s personal interest guide him or her into learning more about God’s creations (science).

Parents of preschool-aged children can encourage their students to play “eye spy” and point out things they may see in nature. Older students can play a scavenger hunt game or use nature walks as a time to take pictures of what they see in nature. Every day will be different; you just have to look for opportunities to point out the science in the world around them.

Learning science by journaling – A form of science can be found in almost everything we do. To help students began to recognize the presence of science, allow them to create a nature journal. Journals can be used to create hypothesis, document research, analyze observations, and brainstorm educated guesses about what will happen in the future as seasons change.

Younger children and visual learners can document what they see by drawing or sketching. Rubbing leaves, identifying patterns, comparing color variations, recording sounds, etc. Kids can also create their own experiments and document the results.

Science experiments – Don’t be intimidated by science experiments. There are many experiments that can be done using regular household items. Just remember, if you are trying something new, consider testing it in advance before you introduce it to your child. There are many books, websites, and YouTube videos with great ideas for experiments.

Science curriculum – The SDA Homeschool Blog’s science curriculum recommendations can be found here.

Science in the kitchen – Cooking with your homeschool student is a fun bonus. Although we may not realize it, baking and cooking are both science, and we experience chemical reactions in our food everyday. Cooking with your children will help guide the dialog around what is taking place within the food and why the outcome occurs.

Here are a few fun cooking science books that we enjoy:

Science with technology – technology has given us extra resources that we can use in our homeschool classrooms, such as DVDs, apps, board games, YouTube videos, and computer games.

Consider looking for videos that will help reinforce a concept you are teaching. Many libraries have DVDs that are free to check out. For example, Schlessinger Science Library is a series of DVDs we enjoy, and it even has questions to go along with the DVDs.

Whenever you want to get your child to practice a new concept, make it fun. Using technology is great practice. Here are a few science-friendly apps that you can incorporate into your teaching:

  • The Human Body by Tinybop (Just like we teach our kids the names of their body parts when they are little, we can continue to teach them their entire anatomy and physiology. This app makes it easy to identify and name different parts of a person’s body.)
  • Kid Weather (Perfect for the early pre-k years: A kindergarten student and his meteorologist dad to help kids learn how to dress for the daily weather created this app.)
  • Like That Garden (This app helps users identify local plants. Take a picture of the plant, and the app with tell you its name.)

Science can be found in all subjects. Taking time to document our changing world helps students realize that nature and science are all around us. Science is a changing environment that can be observed, studied, and manipulated. God has given us a vast world, and we can learn so much about Him and His magnificence when we take time to study it. I love how Romans 1:20 states, “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.” So, homeschool parents, what are some of your favorite ways to teach science in your home?

~~~

(1) Why STEM Education Is Important For Everyone. (n.d.). SciencePioneers.orgRetrieved September 4, 2016 from http://www.sciencepioneers.org/parents/why-stem-is-important-to-everyone.