Young children are often naturally very keen on science: they love to see how plants grow, are fascinated by the behaviour of pets and want to know what happens to the dinner they’ve just eaten (there’s your biology sorted). They ask interesting questions about everyday things: how does the light come on? how does the water get into the tap? (physics!). They especially love anything which involves mixing, fizzing, whizzing, popping and banging (so that’s chemistry covered without leaving the kitchen).
If you look at the schedule here and think, “That looks scary – how am I going to fit it all in?”, remember two things: first, you are under no obligation whatsoever to study any of it if you don’t want to, and second, when you really look closely, a lot of the material in the early years at least is pretty ordinary, everyday stuff which you have probably already discussed with your child – it’s up to you how structured you want to make it. For example, look at Life processes (biology) for ages 7-8: if you have ever grown a plant or looked after an animal (even a worm), you will have already explained to your child what is needed to keep both alive. Look at materials (chemistry): have you ever talked with your child about how different things look and feel different, how some are alive and some are not? Have you ever baked with your child and let him watch the cake ingredients magically change as you apply heat? Has he seen butter melt and then harden again, or water freeze or turn to steam? What about forces (physics): has he played with magnets, or torches? Has he listened to music? Has he ever asked you about the stars or the sun or the moon? If you talk to your child a lot, and interact with him on a daily basis, the chances are that you have already covered the 7-8 curriculum without even trying, and (quite honestly) a few books from the local library will see you safely through to age 10.
Here are a few recommendations if you want some texts to guide you. We have enjoyed using the Kingfisher Young Discovers series. They are available second hand for pennies if you look for the 1994 rather than the 2004 edition (there’s no difference in the text as far as I can see, only in the presentation). The series covers four areas in materials and forces: Batteries, bulbs and wires; Crashing and flashing; Flying and Floating; Making and Breaking. There are also three books covering life sciences which are useful: Animals in Action; Plant Life; Minibeasts in close up. The fourth biology book, ‘Inside the Body’ is not really suitable for this age group as it goes into a bit too much detail about reproduction (it’s not enormously detailed but just gives too much information for me for a seven year old). There are also four books on environmental science (recycling, pollution, energy, nature at risk) but I haven’t used those.
These books are very basic but each section has something hands on to do, and they can be used as a basic guide to what to cover: you can always expand on any area in which your child takes a particular interest. They are labelled as KS 1-2 but are really only suitable for up to 8 or 9 at the most.
For ages 9-11, one problem at this age for Catholic parents is that we often want to delay teaching our children about human reproduction until, say, 12 or 13, and even then to set it firmly within a moral context. Any biology book you pick up aimed at a child of 9/10 over is likely to take the approach, ‘It’s just another facet of biology, and after all we are just clever animals’ and teach it as such. Most Catholic parents feel differently, and do not want their children to learn about such an immensely important subject from a biology book. Obviously if you choose to follow an American Catholic/Christian course you can avoid this problem. Alternatively, if you want to stick with UK based texts, you could simply focus on other areas of biology, such as plant, animal or marine biology for which specific books are available, such as the Young Oxford Library of Science Plants and animals, or Schofield and Sims Understanding Science: animals and plants. If you like the usual CGP approach (noisy, busy, colourful, ‘fun’) you might try KS2 Science : plants and animals in their habitats.
Weekly nature walks and journaling in notebook. Research plants, insects, birds, animals, rivers, trees, flowers, habitats.
When children are ready start Apologia Press botany course and supplement with nature walks and journal keeping. Then progress on to other courses
David Macaulay series The Way Things Work Ship/City/Pyramid etc.
Exploring Nature With Children L Seddon ebook
Young Explorers Series Jeannie Fulbright
Khan Academy Science
Use unit studies to incorporate and integrate subjects regularly. It is ok to take a break from the set courses to enjoy immersion in a topic that we find interesting. Unit studies should incorporate independent research, outings to relevant museums or activities, discussion, sharing of ideas, critical thinking and logic, passing on new found knowledge to others in varying formats (retelling, plays, artwork, project books, lap books, computer designed newsletters).
A local famous person