LLH’s Subject Spotlight: Science

What do you use for Homeschool Science?  There are endless options out there.  Here’s what we’re using for 4th Grade Homeschool Science.

Life, Learning, Homeschool’s Subject Spotlight: Science

We are on our third year of using Apologia Science.  We did an abbreviated run through of Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day – we started before G was finished with 1st grade.  We had zipped through BJU Science 1 because he loved science so much (and it was really easy) so I had Flying Creatures on standby for 2nd grade so we pulled it out and started.

I say “abbreviated run through” because Flying Creatures is WAY in depth (and frankly a little boring at times) and his attention span wasn’t there for it.  Learning Animal Classification was good because that helps in the future Zoology books, learning about birds was great – especially since we were doing it in the spring and we put up bird feeders in the backyard and got to observe lots of birds.  The flying reptiles section (pterosaurs) was great for a dino-loving boy.   Bats were interesting.  But the final chapters on all the flying bugs were what we just hit the highlights of.  We started it in spring of 1st grade and finished shortly before Christmas of 2nd grade.

But that was ok, because it gave us a chance to really slow down for Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day, which was a topic he was REALLY interested in.  So we took the latter half-ish of 2nd grade and all of the 3rd grade to do Swimming Creatures.  We did the ocean box, we added some extra studies/projects (especially on sharks!) and took several field trips (we love aquariums!)

My plan was to do Zoology 3: Land Creatures of the Sixth Day for 4th grade but G wanted a break in animal sciences.  He really wanted to do Astronomy.  So I said everything above to say, this year, we are using Apologia Astronomy.  I ordered the newest edition because there has been so much new information since the previous edition was printed.

So far, I, personally, have been enjoying astronomy more than zoology – just as a topic, not because one course is better than the other.

We love the format of Apologia.  We love the way the textbooks are written – easy to read and understand.  We love the notebooks that go with them.  And we love the in-depth study of one topic at a time.  (Except flying bugs, ha!)   Elementary science when I was in school was like a mad dash to throw a bunch of things at you in a year.  Parts of a plant, photosynthesis, magnetism, weather, basic chemistry, identify types of trees, birds and bugs, the end – and then start over the next year with basically the same topics without ever going very deep.

G is a deep child.  He doesn’t care for basic surface information.  That’s why Apologia works for us.

I did make one mistake when ordering our Astronomy.   I did not get the Junior Notebooking Journal.  Oops.

133432: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Junior Notebooking Journal (2nd Edition) Exploring Creation with Astronomy Junior Notebooking Journal (2nd Edition)

We are making it work, but make sure you know the difference and know which one you need.

133435: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Notebooking Journal (2nd Edition) Exploring Creation with Astronomy Notebooking Journal (2nd Edition)

Literature Fair Project on Tonight on the Titanic


So I signed BigG up for a Literature Fair at our Co-op before I realized what it was.  HA!  To be fair, I had originally read the requirements for the age group UNDER BigG.  So I was thinking, “Oh, this is a piece a cake.”  So I signed him up.  Then when I realized what was really expected I was like, “oh dear.”

But I knew this would be good for him so we dove in.  I will say, I tried to sway his choice of books to something that I thought would still be easy.  But oh no, he would have none of it.  He was (and still is) enamored with the Titanic.  We had already read Tonight on the Titanic a while ago. And actually owned it because when we reached that book in the Magic Tree House series, our library didn’t have it!  It had been checked out and not returned like 6 months prior.  So Amazon to the rescue with 2 Day Prime shipping we had it in (almost) no time.

So anyway, I wanted him to re-read the book and he was okay with that.  As much as I wanted him to pick a different book that I thought would be easier, it was actually best that he did this one because it’s what HE wanted.  I have a feeling I got more out of him because this was HIS topic.

Here’s what was expected of him for the fair project (now mind you, he’s in the 2nd grade!):

  • Book Report on book of choice
  • Visual Aid based on book
  • Pick a research topic based on book
  • Write a research report on topic with 3 sources listed on works cited page
  • A “hands on” Research project based on report

Please tell me I’m not wrong for being daunted by that list!

So, visual aid…. “Mom, I want to make the Titanic out of paper.”

Me: Well, son…. how about part of it?

“Ok.  Can I have an iceberg?”

Me: *calls my dad and asks how we might fashion an iceberg.  He gives us Styrofoam from a box of motorcycle parts he recently ordered*  Yes, we can make an iceberg out of this Styrofoam.  I think….I really hope.


I think the iceberg turned out well.  We had to cut a few pieces to shape and glue it together.  It’s very hard to glue styrofoam.  Elmer’s isn’t going to cut it and hot glue melts it.  Just so you know.  I finally had luck with tacky glue.

I broke down the writing of the book report into manageable chunks – a paragraph a day.   The guidelines had specific things it wanted in the report.  We followed those to the bare minimum. It was 5 paragraphs so it took him a school week to do it but he did it.  The last paragraph was questions about how the book made you feel.  His read:

This book was a little scary.  It made me feel sad for the people on the Titanic.  I am glad new rules were made so that it would never happen again.

Isn’t he the cutest?  Ok…

I did sway him on his research topic.  Because had I not, his report would have been 92 pages long.  He wanted to included it all.

We settled on answering these Titanic questions:

  1. Why did the Titanic hit the iceberg?
  2. What made it sink?
  3. Why weren’t more passengers rescued?
  4. Why did so many people go down with the ship?

I really tried to make 3 and 4 the same thing but he wasn’t having it.  He had an idea.

The research report was twice as long as the book report but he added every fact he wanted.  Like I said above, this was HIS topic.  I kept reminding him the more things we added to the notes the more he was going to have to write.  He said, “I know, but this is important.”  If I had made him settle for something different, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the same quality out of him.

The visual aid (aside from having the Titanic coming out of it and an iceberg in front) had the 4 questions and some bullet points (we did this on the computer) and some pictures.  We were working on this project just as this story broke about the picture they think is of the iceberg the Titanic hit.  So of course that had to be included.  And a map of the Titanic’s fateful voyage.  And people on the lifeboat.  And he wanted a picture of the Captain and a couple who’s names escape me at the moment but they went down together because she wouldn’t leave him.  The pictures are a little crooked but it’s because I let him do it – I wanted them to be able to see that he did it.  😀

Now we’re down to the last thing.  A “hands on” research project – as if the reports and the visual aids were not enough.  And to make matters worse I realized 2 nights before the fair that the visual aid and project were two separate components.

CRAP.  Pardon my French.  So I’m re-reading the forms and messaging the lady in charge just trying to clarify when G comes to me and says, “Look, I made a little Titanic out of my LEGOs.  I think I can make an iceberg too.  Want to come help me find white pieces?  Maybe I can take it with my project.”

Does this kid have any idea how awesome he is?

So off I go to help him find the write pieces to make an iceberg.  And I say, “So, do you think you can make the other two ships that were in the area that night?  They were smaller than the Titanic, remember?”

“Oh, yeah.  Here’s one I made when I was trying to make the Titanic but I didn’t like it.  It can be the Carpathia.  And I’ll make the other one.”


And thus our “hands on” research project was born!  He demonstrated (with ridiculous accuracy) where each ship was reported being when the Titanic struck the iceberg and why the closest ship didn’t respond and the farther away ship didn’t make it.

He had to meet with the judges and “present” his project.  Oh, how he shined!  I had to watch from outside the room through a crack in the door but I could see him and his facial expressions and gestures as he was talking.  Afterwards I said, “Were you able to answer all their questions?”  And he said, “They didn’t really have any questions because I told them everything.”

Oh how I love this kid!


He was over the moon about his 3rd place ribbon (and so was I!)  We had talked for a couple days leading up to this that it was okay if he didn’t get a ribbon.  That he worked hard on his project and that’s what was important.  And he learned some new things and did his best.  And that we weren’t going to be upset if he didn’t win.  I wanted to prepare him.  I hope that I didn’t scare him into thinking he wasn’t going to win but I didn’t want him to get upset.

We got his score sheet back a couple weeks later with the judges comments.  He got a 99 out of 100 – so it was close among all the participants!  Which made me even prouder.  He got a 4/5 for “visual aid neatness”.  (Those pictures glued on crooked is what cost him!  lol)  That was his only missed point.  The judges comments were “well organized, creatively presented, and very knowledgeable.”

This momma could not be more proud!


ABCs of Homeschooling through the Holidays: Z is for Zoology


Life of a Homeschool Mom has hosted a series titled the ABCs of Homeschooling through the Holidays.  I was assigned the letter Z.  Yes, Z.  What a letter!  LOL.

But really, when it came down to it, it wasn’t hard because BigG’s passion is Zoology.  So we’re connecting Christmas and Zoology.


You can read my entire article over at Life of a Homeschool Mom!  



Farm Sensory Box


Here’s a sensory box I used in my preschool classroom over the years (with kids spanning 3-5 years old).   It’s super easy to make with a small shoebox sized plastic container and a generous helping of hay.

I added some little people farm animals (and sometimes swapped these out with some wooden farm animals I had), some cotton we acquired on a trip to the Pumpkin Patch which also had a cotton field (cotton balls would work if you don’t have true cotton), a real duck feather, and a packet of bean seeds (fun to shake!)

My son is 7 and he still enjoys things like this.  With older kids or under close supervision you can actually include seeds not in the packet.  In my preschool classroom I couldn’t have any chocking hazards.  We handled real seeds but in a group circle setting and not in center free play time.

My favorite thing to do with this box is to not only get it out in the spring when we were learning about farms but to get it out around Christmas!  In the box of hay at Christmas time I would put child friendly nativity figures, small strips of cloth, and animals we commonly associate with the nativity scene.