Can You Teach Science Without Textbooks?

Science

As I tackle this question I would like to first point out that two of my grown children are “scientists.”  My daughter has a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in the sciences (her Master’s degree is in Forensic Drug Chemistry) and my middle son is a Computer Engineering major.

And over the course of my 23 years of homeschooling I believe I used science textbooks for a total of 3 years.

Like many homeschoolers starting out I thought that I needed to use textbooks for every subject, including science.  So when I began homeschooling my daughter in first grade, I used a science textbook.

To quote Babs from the movie Chicken Run, who has a near-death encounter and sees her life flash before her eyes: “it was really boring.”

Besides the fact that this science text was boring, I found that there was no cohesiveness to it.  For instance, there would be a chapter on trees, then a chapter on the planets, then a chapter on reptiles, then a chapter on flowers…and so on.

There was no connection between the topics, and this seemed to me a very impractical way to teach science since it was unlikely that my daughter would remember much due to the lack of connections.

And I would point out that the text I was using was from one of the top curriculum publishers used by private Christian schools (and homeschoolers).

So if I haven’t used science textbooks, what have I used that has, clearly, been effective enough to already have produced two scientists out of my four kids?

Over the last 23 years I’ve used a variety of resources to teach my kids science.  Here are some examples:

4-H CurriculumFor several years I used curriculum available from the 4-H county extension office.  At the time these workbooks were free.  We didn’t have to go to any meetings or be involved in a 4-H club, though my daughter did end up getting involved with our local 4-H chapter as she got older.

Now you can get 4-H workbooks online, and in my opinion these workbooks are very affordable.  There are several other benefits to using these workbooks.  For instance, you can use them with more than one grade level, and they focus on one subject so your child gets an in-depth education on whatever topic you are studying.  You could even use these workbooks in conjunction with other resources to develop a solid unit study program that you and your child can enjoy.

Science DVD’s – There’s a reason that public television nature programs are so popular.  It’s a part of our make-up, I think, for us to be curious about the natural world.  And when that is combined with good cinematography it makes these programs hard to resist.

I’ve used many nature DVD’s (or, not so long ago, VHS tapes) as part of our science curriculum.  They can be a wonderful supplement or even serve as the core of your science program.

I’ve no doubt you can find many good nature videos through your public library.  Or you may wish to purchase a video course, as I did this year for my sixth grader.  We’re using “Biology 101: Biology According to the Days of Creation” for our science curriculum and we’re enjoying it immensely.  I will point out that this is a decidedly Christian program with a creationist perspective, which for my family works just fine.  I’ve learned quite a bit myself from watching this series.  Though this is considered a high school level program, from the research I’ve done it seems that families have been able to use this with children of a considerable age range.  An added feature is that it comes with a 114-page guidebook, should you want to delve even deeper into the subject matter.

As with the 4-H courses, DVD’s can serve as a supplement to your science curriculum or as the core – it’s up to you!

Unit StudiesOf all the different ways that I’ve taught science, I’d have to say unit studies were the mainstay for us.  As I discuss in my post on this teaching method, I love how unit studies allow you to teach a variety of subjects at once, to a variety of ages.

When we’ve used unit studies as our science “curriculum” I’ve also been able to introduce vocabulary, history, literature and other subjects as well.  When I was teaching two or three kids at a time it was a great way for us to be able to interact with these subjects together.  It made for some wonderful, lasting memories.

If you’ve never tried unit studies, I highly recommend you give it a go.  There are a variety of prepared unit studies that you can purchase online and/or you can use the suggestions I’ve offered above.  Also consider the possibility of getting together with a few families and doing a unit study co-op.

Finally, as you can see from this brief overview, there are many ways to teach science without textbooks.  I’ve just touched on a few.  Not to be too cliché, but maybe it’s time to “think outside the box” when it comes to teaching science.  I think you’ll be glad you did!

Welcome (Back) To Homeschooling911!

Notice anything different? Well, I hope so!  Homeschooling911 has a new logo! Several months ago I started thinking that the Homeschooling911 logo should more accurately reflect the name of the site. Some may wonder why I chose Homeschooling911 as the name for my site to begin with.  I go into more detail about this in…

Help and Hope for Your Holidays

This isn’t going to be a long post.  I know you’re probably busy making travel plans or getting ready to host the whole family for Thanksgiving dinner. But before you get too busy I wanted to let you know about a few posts that I wrote, over the last couple of years or so, that…

Homeschooling ABC’s: V, W, X, Y and Z

Hello Readers!  Today’s blog post is the last installment of my Homeschooling ABC’s series.  Like the others before it, it contains some serious thoughts, and a bit of whimsy.  I hope you enjoy it.  V is for Virtue: I know the idea of being virtuous is old-fashioned and outdated.  But I also know that when…

Homeschooling ABC’s: S, T, and U

Well, we’re nearing the end of this Homeschooling ABC’s series.  I hope it’s been an encouraging journey for you!  Please let me know what you think in the comments and, if you’re not already subscribed to my e-mail newsletter, don’t forget to sign up so that you don’t miss any of my blog posts as…

Homeschooling Stresses Me Out!

Does homeschooling ever stress you out? What a silly question, right?  Who am I kidding?  If you’re a homeschooler, then at least some of the time homeschooling stresses you out. I’ve pointed out many times on this blog that I consider myself a “relaxed homeschooler.”  And I am, in the sense that I don’t obsess…

Homeschooling ABC’s: P, Q, and R

Have you thought lately about why you’re homeschooling?  Do you struggle with finding the time to “do it all” as a homeschooler?  Could you use some rest and relaxation?  If so, this post will help you to better focus and feel more encouraged whether you’re a new homeschooler or a veteran of many years.  Take…

Homeschooling ABC’s: M, N, and O

I hope you enjoyed last month’s post on “Stealth Homeschooling.”  This month I’m getting back to my “Homeschooling ABC’s” series.  It’s full of practical advice and homeschooling encouragement, so I hope you’ll read it and let me know what you think! M is for Multi-Level Teaching – While it’s not always the case, it’s not…

How You Can Help Protect Parental Rights

With the 4th of July on our minds, and all it represents, I thought it would be a good time to post about the critical Parental Rights Amendment.  I’ve written about the amendment before, but until it passes the PRA has to be re-introduced to Congress every year.  So this information bears repeating. The information…

Stealth Homeschooling a.k.a Fun Summer Learning

Hello readers!  As you know, I’ve spent the last several blog posts sharing my version of the “Homeschooling ABC’s.”  We were at the half-way point with my last post, Homeschooling ABC’s: J, K, and L, and I thought that would be a good place to take a little break in order to share this post…