Category Archives: science

Nature Research – Blogging Through The Alphabet

N - Nature Research

One of the struggles we have been having is motivation to do what is needed with a good attitude. This goes for me, not just the students in our school. Frustrations have been a bit overwhelming lately so we have been working hard at changing things up a bit, creating a different example of school work and finding a different attitude towards said work. While this change has been beneficial in some ways, it has not been the magical fix I wish it were.

One of the changes we made was to have the girls begin working on research projects. They are not major research papers but are rather a short assignment of a topic. The girls and I work together to come up with a topic and the presentation of materials. This presentation could be just a paper on what was learned. But it could also be a play, a 3D showcase, a piece of artwork, a computer presentation – anything the student wants as long as they can convince me that their chosen presentation style will be able to accurately communicate the research done.

n nature research

This is a blank notebooking page from


Miss L has been working on some butterfly research. A couple of week ago, she researched the life cycle of a butterfly. Her chosen product was to illustrate and label the life cycle. It came out beautifully.

Last week, she researched butterfly museum, using the internet to take a few virtual tours of butterfly farms, museums, and research centers. The product chosen for this one was to simply write up what she learned.

These simple nature studies have helped Miss L feel a bit more motivated about the other school work she still has to do. Nature studies are interesting and can really help make a needed change in setting, motivation, and ideas. We will be continuing these types of nature studies so that research skills are gained but also the interest remains high.

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Electrical Circuits – Blogging Through the Alphabet


A while back, my dad pulled out a couple of electrical circuitry boards that he had used to teach my brothers some things about electricity when we were all younger. He gave them to us and I set them aside for another time. Well, that time came last week when we were all feeling a bit under the weather but we still wanted to accomplish something. You know that place, right?


Well, electrical circuits to the rescue. The day was saved. At least for Miss J. She was terribly excited to see these and to try them out, now that we had bought the right batteries to run them. We have to boards. Both of them are by Science Fair. One is 60 In One Electronic Project Kit. The other is 160 In One Electronic Project Kit. We started with the smaller one.

Turns out, these were WAYYYY easier to use than I had expected. The booklets that come with them explain how to hook them up, the order in which to hook the wires up, and what each setup is supposed to do. Then, it explains why it works (or it should – we did have a couple not work correctly).


We worked on a basic on/off switch. We tried out hand at traffic lights (something didn’t work there). We used a reed switch to turn on and off a light. We did two or three other small projects and then we put it away for the time being. It won’t be put away for long and it is much closer at hand now than it was before.


There is probably a good reason to work through the projects from the start of the book but we just picked a chose. It was an exploration project at the time. I imagine we will take this up a bit more regimented at some point in the not too distant future because Miss J was so interested in it.


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Lava Observation Activity – Middle School Monday

While using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy, one of our recent activities was to simulate lava and its action. This is to help understand what occurs on Venus.

Some pictures:


This simulation allowed the girls to see what happens when the liquid lava goes over the side of a mountain or along the ground, carving out valleys or canyons. It also allowed them to see how the lava cools and changes state to a solid.

This was a simple activity. It didn’t work as well as I would have liked but it did the job just fine and allowed us to use many of the words we have been learning to describe what we were observing.

This is today’s Middle School Monday post. Our middle school student participated in this, writing our her observations on a notebooking page. It was just as effective for her, even if she might have known the information ahead of time, because it allows her to actually observe what occurs and to put it into words.

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Apologia Astronomy ~ a TOS review

Stars, planets, moons, orbits, satellites, and oh, so much more! The updated Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition by Apologia Educational Ministries has provided fun, very interesting learning opportunities for our family and a greater appreciation of all that is observed in the skies, whether day or night.astronomy set

It is always fun opening a box from Apologia and this time was no different. Except this time? It was better. The girls oohed and aahed over the beautiful, hard-backed text with full color photographs, drawings, and illustrations. The book was passed around and they took turns finding something beautiful to look at. The notebooking journals, too, brought exclamations of interest and joy.

We received:



Coupling stunning images with scientific information makes this text a beautiful work of art. It is well-written in language that is sufficiently detailed without being difficult to understand. The writing style makes it work equally well as a student-directed lesson or as a read-aloud family lesson. This is highly flexible so you can tailor it to fit your family’s needs.reading text

The text contains 14 lessons and each lesson can be broken up into the number of days you need. Using the schedule in the notebooking journals, the lessons contain from four (4) to seven (7) days of assignments. We have found some of these to be a bit too long for our 2nd grader but they work just fine for our 5th and 7th graders using the program. The text is detailed enough to make it a good middle school course, especially when supplemented with additional reading assignments of your own choosing. (Miss E is checking out additional books from the library each week related to the current topic in astronomy.)

The topics covered are:notebooking journal

  1. What is Astronomy?
  2. The Sun
  3. Mercury
  4. Venus
  5. Earth
  6. The Moon
  7. Mars
  8. Space Rocks
  9. Jupiter
  10. Saturn
  11. Uranus
  12. Neptune
  13. Kuiper Belt and the Dwarf Planets
  14. Stars, Galaxies, and Space Travel

That is quite a lot of information and all of it is beautifully related to God’s design for life. The relationship is not a blatant one, in my opinion, but author Jeannie K. Fulbright does a masterful job of mentioning the relationship of God to each piece of his creation at just the right time to guide the student’s thoughts to why, how, or in what ways God’s design is perfect. An example of this is when the discussion of gravity is occurring and she directs the student to be thinking about just how perfectly the earth is situated to not be pulled into the sun, not be pushed away from the sun, and be exactly where it must be in order for life to exist.

Throughout, there are blue banners that are titled Think About This and blue boxes titled Wisdom From Above. In these, Fulbright is a bit more direct about connecting the topic at hand to the Bible and Christian faith. With a Bible verse and a thought, fact or quote, she directs the students to be thinking more deeply about the connections to God. I personally love these and the girls have really seemed to get a lot out of the connections that are pointed out.

Each lesson has a few experiments/explorations. We did several of the ones that included items we had right here at the house. We did not have to go buy anything in order to complete these. One had to do with creating a model of the solar system. Another dealt with the sun’s heat and rays so we melted chocolate. Making a sun viewer was also one that we were able to do with what we had. Each lesson has several of these types of directly related activities that strengthen the understanding of concepts within the lesson.

Something that is easy to miss but should not be is Apologia’s course website created to go along with this text. Using a password that is found in the front of the text, you can access this course website through their site. There you will find videos, articles, star charts, biographies, and so much more. (A number of the site links are broken but there is still more there than I can possibly absorb!)

The end of the text contains an appendix that has a couple of helpful resources. One is a listing by lesson of all materials needed for the experiments/explorations included in the text. There is also an answer key for the What Do You Remember? sections for each lesson.


Our schedule during this review period has been to do at least two days a week of the astronomy course. This is easy to do with the schedule that is set up in the front of the notebooking journals with check boxes next to each day’s activities. For both the teacher and self-guiding students, this is a fantastic help for “do the next thing.” It is all written out for you.daily schedule example

As you can see from the example of the schedule, there are a variety of activities for the students to do in the program: readings, activities (experiments/experiences), minibooks, coloring pages (jr. notebooking), science kit activities, puzzles/games, and writing opportunities. They are encouraged to do additional learning activities such as reading books related to the topic, watching educational videos, and taking field trips. (We reviewed Apologia’s Field Trip Journal last year and it would fit in well here.) Visit Apologia’s site for the astronomy course to download samples from the notebooking journals for more information.

The notebooking journals are a way for the students to use what they have learning in the readings and experiments/explorations from the text. The open-ended response pages allow the students to show off what touched them, what they remembered, what was interesting to them. I have found that these opportunities to share what they found important allows the girls to internalize much more of what they are experiencing. Even the minibooks, as a whole, do not have a lot of specifics to them other than the gist of the topic they are related to.

minibooks on sunIf you have a student who balks at writing, these might be a bit more difficult to use but they would work equally well with the student dictating orally and someone transcribing their words. We have done that with a couple of the pages where Miss J had so much she wanted to share that she couldn’t possibly get it all down on the page. Her mind was just moving too fast for her pencil.

The notebooking journal and the junior notebooking journal are very similar. The biggest difference between the two seems to be the lines are for writing. The junior notebooking journal has the three-part lines: solid bottom line, dotted center line, solid top line. This is great if you have a student who is struggling with penmanship or letter formation. The notebooking journal has single lines. The junior notebooking journal has coloring pages at the end of the lesson while the notebooking journal has a What Do You Remember? page. The journals have a Bible verse for copywork and contain both a print and a cursive example of the verse. The minibooks are the same for both and the activities seems to be the same. This makes it simple to use as a family course. At the same time, these are very easy to use for a self-directed student. So, adapt it to fit your family!


This was our least favorite part of this fantastic curriculum. The audio CD is an MP3 version of the text. It can only be read by a MP3 disc player, such as a computer. It is not downloadable and cannot be transferred from the disc to a portable player. The controls are simple to use and pop up on the computer screen, to be manipulated with the mouse.

This would be great for a student who struggles to read, doesn’t like to, or perhaps can’t for some reason (recovering from an illness comes to mind, here). It reads the text, just as it is in the book.

We thought this would be a great fit for our oldest who has recently enjoyed using audio CDs so she can listen, learn, and do something with her hands, such as cross-stitch. This was not a good fit for her. The reader’s voice is quite monotone. While easy to understand, it is not enjoyable and quickly became hard to follow. The lack of expression and enjoyment in the reader’s voice meant that it was difficult to maintain attention . This CD is not something I would recommend.


Apologia has recently released a kit to go along with the astronomy course. We did not receive the Astronomy 2nd Edition Science Kit as part of this review, though it would be quite an asset to this course. According to information available, there are additional experiments for the course included in the kit. I cannot speak to the contents of it but it looks like it might be pretty neat.

notebooking work


We are currently using this course with our middle school/7th grade student. The text is detailed enough to make this appropriate for this age. The notebooking journals, however, are not a good fit. In order to show understanding and comprehension of what is read and the activities, Miss E is using notebooking pages to document her work. She uses the same reading schedule as her sisters and then prints a page to write about her understanding and interest. The activities are one of the areas where this is very good for her because she is understanding enough of the cause/effect that she is actually able to do a large portion of the explanation for her sisters. This allows her to fill her big sister role and act as a mentor while having to put her understanding into words that someone else can follow is a critical thinking aspect that she is really benefiting from.


Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition brings together the fascination of space and astronomy, clearly written instruction, and stunning photography and imagery then melds it with the understanding of God’s hand in all of His universe. If you are looking an easy-to-use, easy-to-implement program, this is definitely one to look at. With the pieces able to be purchased separately, you can get exactly what fits your family’s needs and your budget.

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Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review 

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Create the Solar System (picture)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we are working  on Apologia’s 2nd edition of Exploring Creation with Astronomy for an upcoming review. We also have been using the science kits from Magic School Bus and there is one about the solar system. Using this kit, we took one of the activities for creating a solar system picture and completed it as a family.

Solar System picture

Using black paper for the background, the girls cut out a sun a placed it on the left hand side to be the “center” of the universe and have everything expand outward from that point. They then cut each planet out of colored paper, paying attention to size and color. They did a pretty good job, especially since they had to work together.

They glued them down on the background and labeled each planet with its name. We also talked about the characteristics of each planet that they already knew. We will study them more in depth in the coming weeks with the astronomy course.

After they were glued down, we talked about orbits a bit and how they must be steeper rounds close in to the sun and wide farther out from the sun. The girls then took turns drawing the orbits for the planets on the black background. And, we had out solar system pictures. It didn’t take too long and was lots of fun. It was a great review and pre-learning activity all rolled into one.

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Solar System mobile

We are working  on Apologia’s 2nd edition of Exploring Creation with Astronomy for an upcoming review. We also have been using the science kits from Magic School Bus and there is one about the solar system.

solar system mobile

Miss J is holding up the white board so that we can better see the mobile. It was disappearing into the background.


We used one of the projects from the Magic School Bus kit to create a solar system mobile. There is a foam ball for the sun and bouncy balls for the planets. I only wish they had color co-ordinated with what we expect a bit more and that the sizes were more varied. All is good, though. It gave us more fodder for discussion and evaluation.

Using the foam ball as the sun, we stuck wires through it and attached the bouncy ball planets on the ends. The girls had to adjust the wires carefully so that the planet closest to the sun was, in fact, closest to the sun but that meant the other end of that particular wire was farthest away. That meant evaluation to make sure they put the right planet on the other end of the wire. It was a good brain exercise.

After we got it up and hung it from the kitchen light, it was noted that Saturn had no rings. Using aluminum foil, some rings were fashioned and placed on Saturn so that it was more accurate.

All in all it was a fun and fairly simple way to review the placement of the planets.

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Science Shepherd ~ a TOS review

Science Shepherd Intro Science AWhile we enjoy science, we have not yet found a homeschool science program that is just “the” one for our family. Science Shepherd has definitely come pretty close with the product Miss J has been using recently – Introductory Science.

Science Shepherd Review

I had heard about Science Shepherd quite a bit from my friends on the Crew when discussions about science came up. However, I had not checked into it because what we were doing worked. It worked but wasn’t great. When we had the opportunity to review Science Shepherd and I took some time to look into it, I kind of wondered why I hadn’t paid more attention in the past. It looked great. And, we have not been disappointed!

watching a video demonstration

We have been using Introductory Science, an online video series and the physical workbook Level A. Miss J has been the student using it, though the other girls have been sneaking views of the videos while they are going on.

The use of the program is surprisingly simple. You log into the site (you have to have purchased the course and have a computer with internet access as these are not downloadable) to access the video lessons. You click through to the video you are on and the watch and listen to the video. The videos are tending to run between 2 and 4 minutes. I am sure there are some that are longer but this is the range of most of them for us so far. After watching the video, the student completes the workbook page(s). Simple as that.

creation days

Science Shepherd is creation based. I love that! It takes what the girls believe and uses it as the lens through which science is viewed. Beginning at God’s creation of the world, these videos cover everything! Ok – probably not everything but definitely a lot of science at the introductory level. Topics include:

  • Creation
  • Science Skills and tools
  • Meteorology
  • Geology
  • Oceanography
  •  other Life Sciences
  • other Earth Sciences, and
  • other Physical Sciences.

In all, there are 35 weeks worth of lessons at 5 lessons per week. With a bundle of video demonstrations as well, there is a good bit of information in this program.workbook word

It is not designed to be an in-depth study but is great for student who have not done a lot with science yet. That means it is perfect for younger students. Miss J is 7 and completing first grade; this is right up her alley! The level A workbook is good but I think she could easily have used the level B workbook.


The level A workbook is designed to follow the video lessons. After watching each lesson, there is a page or two in the workbook to complete. The pages have a question or two, sometimes three. The print is large and well spaced, making it easy for new readers to be able to read. The lines, though they are single lines, are big enough to be able to use. Handwriting lines with a dotted center line would be super helpful here for these young writers and there is plenty of space on the pages to be able to do so. There is often a puzzle or activity of some sort, as well. A crossword puzzle or a word find or drawing a picture. Once it asked for the student to create something out of clay.

Miss J's giraffe

workbook page on toolsSomething that I have really liked about this program and the workbook is its adaptability. Miss J broke her arm, of course – the one she writes with, while we were reviewing this program. In regards to completing the work for this program, it was not a big deal. The workbook is done in such a way that instead of having to write answers, she could often just circle the correct answer in the question. Also, because the spaces were so large, when she did need to write or draw and wanted to do so, there was plenty of space. It also worked well for doing a narration-style answer for the workbook with a big sister or parent doing the writing on some of the questions and activities. Easy adaptation is a bonus for me.

watching a video demonstrationOnce a week or so, there is also a video demonstration for the student to watch. There are girls on the video showing the activity. The student is then to go do the activity. There are often directions in the workbook, as well. These were fun activities that just gave a hands on approach to what the topic of the week was. An example: For creation, she created a picture for each day of creation. It is hanging on the wall next to me as I type. 🙂

Miss J’s take on the program:

I loved it! I have a whole book full of pages for me to answer and get to watch videos to find the answers.



This is truly a very enjoyable, gentle program. It is covering a lot of territory in topics and I am finding that some of that is really quite in depth, though not enough for it to be an upper elementary program in my mind. This is a very good, age appropriate program that exposes the children to a lot of the world of science through the lens of the Bible.

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