24.9.09

Chasing The Dream: The Secular Logic Stage Science Sequence

It must be nice to be a religious homeschooler, or to feel comfortable using religion-based homeschool curricula in the field of science. There are two to three "rigorous" middle and high school sequences, designed for homeschoolers, that will give children a thorough grounding in pseudoscience.

Not so for the intrepid secular homeschooler. It's up to us to cobble together resources, attempt to appropriately increase the rigor, and decide just what should be taught when. If you are teaching a child or children who could safely accelerate in science by taking one or two high school level courses before leaving middle school, the job just got much harder.

(Ask me how I know.)

The Well-Trained Mind does lay out a suggested course of science study for the logic stages (grades five through eight). The third edition marks a considerable improvement in the rigor of their recommendations, but it's clear to me from reading the pages (make that poring over the pages and possibly wearing out the binding in that section), their recommendations will still fall short of both the breadth and depth that my students will desire.

Deep breath. Deep breath.

I thought I had found a solution. Get Eclectic Girl and Smrt Mama's Captain Science (henceforth referred to as CS) qualified for the Johns Hopkins CTY programs, and have them take their online middle school science sequence. Three courses, each estimated to take approximately three months. I could plan labs to reinforce the materials, when possible, and they'd still have a peer in each other with whom to discuss the material. This solution, like many others, was too good to be true.

You see, if they did take the middle school science sequence available online, it would free me to teach them a general science overview, utilizing Science Matters as a base text (with possible supplementary readings from various sources, including Unscientific America), and either the Elements of Science kit or the Core Science MS-1 kit for labs.

Further, we could take a leisurely stroll through the history of science, reading in Joy Hakim's Story of Science series, and doing the experiments in Milestones in Science.

I even fancied using the CTY online courses for a high school level chemistry course in the second half of seventh grade, and then deciding between the CTY course of high school physics or a "homemade" high school physics course (using Hewitt's Conceptual Physics) in the eighth grade.

The stumbling block, as you might have guessed, is cost. No, their admission to the program is not a done deal, but when the three month courses cost over $600 each, you know that something has got to give, as they say. Yes, there is financial aid for which a student can apply, but the awards are limited to one class per fiscal year, which begins July 1 of each year. Applying for financial aid does not guarantee its receipt, and even if it were available, there would still be lab kits to purchase to complement the written work.

In short, I am once more a bit flummoxed.

I feel deeply that a course in general science and a course in the history of science would both be extremely beneficial for EG and CS. I also think they would benefit from a focus on biology, astronomy, and geology/earth science during the logic stage, especially since the latter two are generally not covered in most high school science sequences. I think they could absolutely do high school level chemistry in seventh grade without the aid of the course online, and the same holds for physics.

What I don't know is how CTY compresses middle school science so nicely into a three month course. I think they can do it, but I don't know how to design that course, in lieu of paying for it.

I find myself once again wishing that I liked textbooks, and there was a rigorous secular science sequence available, one that I could feel confident would prepare my students for high school and college level science.

Science is the biggest divide between religious and secular homeschoolers, I often think. Even so-called secular curricula ignore issues of origins (the not-taking-a-stand stance), and as Susan Wise Bauer wrote, to not take a side is to take a side. Neutrality doesn't abide here. There are no curricula designed explicitly for homeschoolers that teach evolutionary theory. None.

Never fear, I'm working on a course to teach at the co-op next fall. I'm thinking I'll title it something like "Evolution: From Darwin to Gould." It won't be perfect, but it will be a perfect excuse for this secular homeschooling mom to curl up with her favorite scientific theory.

1 comments:

Smrt Mama said...

"to not take a side is to take a side. Neutrality doesn't abide here."

Or as my mother puts it, if you sit on the fence too long, you're going to get a post up your ass.

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