Friday, March 29, 2013

Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry

This year I decided to try the Real Science 4 Kids curriculum. There are not a lot of secular science curriculums aimed at homeschoolers, and I had heard good reviews on this one. My sons are now in grades 6 and 7 so I figured the Middle School, grades 5-8, version would be perfect for us.  We decided to start with Chemistry.
 I am lucky that our charter school purchases our curriculum and educational supplies, so I don't have to worry as much about cost. I decided to go ahead and also order the hands on kit (which has supplies for all three topics: Chemistry, Biology, and Physics). We got the Level 1 kit from Home Science Tools

Level 1 Kit for Real Science 4 Kids

We just finished with the Chemistry unit and so far it this curriculum working for us. The text is very simple, but goes into good detail at the same time. The hands on experiment with every chapter is great. The textbook, laboratory workbook, and teacher's manual are all nicely laid out and easy to follow.

Here's a little summary of our experience.

Chapter 1: Matter

This chapter introduces atoms and the periodic table. I supplemented here with Teacher Book Bag's Periodic Table of Elements Card Kit.  Printed, laminated, and cut out the kids could handle all of the elements of the periodic table, sort them into types, match symbols with names, and even re-create the periodic table on the pocket chart (at least a good chunk of it before running out of room!)

Another supplement were the free downloads from Sunflower Schoolhouse 

There is a big selection of interactive on-line periodic tables for the kids to explore as well:

Chapter 2: Molecules

This chapter was lots of fun because we got to make molecules out of marshmallows!

Start with some carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen.

Building molecules

Even little sister joined in the fun!

Chapter 3: Chemical Reactions

Who doesn't love a good chemical reaction experiment? Several different chemical reactions are discussed: combination reaction, decomposition reaction, displacement reaction, exchange reaction, and spontaneous.

Chapter 4: Acids, Bases, and pH

The experiment for this chapter was to make an acid-base indicator. The kids really had fun with this one, cutting up and boiling the cabbage and making the pH paper.
Making the pH paper with the purple cabbage water

testing acids and bases with the homemade pH strips 

 Chapter 5: Acid-Base Neutralization

In this experiment we got to use our cabbage water again to plot an acid-base titration. It was exciting to watch the solution turn from an acid into a base.

Chapter 6: Mixtures

We learned about two types of mixtures: heterogeneous and homogeneous. In the experiment we got to see first hand how soap helps dissolve oil in water.

Chapter 7: Separating Mixtures

This was one of my favorite experiments; using paper chromatography to separate individual colors in various inks.

Chapter 8: Energy Molecules

The kids read about a lot of the same things I recently learned in a college level nutrition class about nutrients, carbohydrates, monosaccharides, disaccharides, polysaccharides, starch, cellulose, amylose and amylopectin.

For the experiment we used tincture of iodine (in the kit we purchased) to test a variety of foods for starch content.

I created vocabulary flash cards for Chapters 8, 9, & 10. I printed them on card stock (they are already formatted to print on business cards, Avery 5371, if you don't want to have to cut them up yourself). I would put the words in the kids' workboxes with the definitions in the pocket chart and they would go match the words with the definition (or the other way around). Together we would check the pocket chart to see if they got them correct. Click here to link to a free pdf file of the vocabulary cards: Chemistry Vocabulary

page 1 of the vocabulary cards

Chapter 9: Polymers

After reading about polymers the experiment was to observe a change in properties as two polymers are added together. The kids were very excited to discover the fun, gooey glue that you get when you mix together white glue and laundry starch!

Little sister had lots of fun playing with the goo after the experiment was over!

Chapter 10: Biological Polymers: Proteins and DNA

The final chapter is on DNA and in addition to the experiment in the text, we are going to extend the unit for a couple of weeks with some supplemental hands-on kits:

A DNA model from the Science Wiz kit.
Have you used Real Science 4 Kids? What did you think of the curriculum?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Filling the workboxes with educational fun!

We are lucky to be part of a homeschool Charter School here in California, Connecting Waters Charter School, where we are given an allowance for curriculum and educational supplies. I realized that it was getting close to the end of the school year and we still had a lot of money in our account. I decided that one thing I wanted to spend money on was more hands on educational activities and games. We use the Workboxes system and I like to have fun things for the kids to put into the boxes. I shared some of the things I was doing a couple of years ago in my post (F)unschooling: Boxing up some learning fun! It mixes things up a bit when there are a variety of activities presented. I also believe that there is a lot of learning that happens when playing games. I know that I learned a lot of world geography as a kid by the hours spend playing Risk with my brother and sisters.

A lot of the activities I put in the boxes are pretty simple and inexpensive. When I saw this craft kit on clearance I knew it was the perfect thing to put into one of Scootch's boxes:

Now I had the chance to not worry so much about prices, I could shop on the school's dime. Here are some of the things I ordered:

Scrabble with math! I think I will love it and my husband will hate it. Hopefully the kids and I will have fun playing it.
This solitaire game is a lot harder than it looks! A fun combination of geometry, spacial awareness and logic.

Professor Noggin's History and Geography Card Games

These are card games but the can also be used alone like flash cards and self quizzes.

It is very common for a child with a high IQ to have a hard time memorizing basic facts, like multiplication facts. My little guy who is a wiz at algebra, way before his years, still needs practice with his multiplication facts. He took one look at this game and told me it looked stupid. He then proceeded to open the box, and play a game against himself, completely engrossed and got annoyed when anyone would interrupt him.
This looked like a fun game to put into a workbox. It is all in a very neat little hard case, making it easy to store, put in a workbox, or take on a trip. These kind of solitaire games are perfect for workboxes!

We have a set of Banangrams, but I start to run out of ideas of things to do with that little set of letter tiles. We have gone through most of Banangrams for Kids!, and this book will give me some new challenges for me to give the kids in their workboxes.

We already have 10 Days in the USA, so now we are going to try 10 Days in Europe. You have to travel from one place to another on a map, and you really learn the locations of all of the states or countries.
The kids are having lots of fun with the gyroscopes we got!

My younger son just started playing guitar with his dad so I got him a guitar along with an instructional book and DVD.

 We love the modeling beeswax but it is a bit pricey. This was the perfect chance to stock up on some.
 I'm not sure what I'm going to use the Wikki Stix for, but I'm sure I'll come up with something!

Some magnetic tangrams to round things out.

I'm already starting to plan for things I will buy in Fall 2014 when my little one starts Kindergarten. I'm definitely going to be ordering some of the things listed here.

Our first boxes arrived to day so I'm going to have lots of fun filling workboxes tonight!


Here are some of the fun things we have used our funding for this year:

Some essentials, we always need "refills"

Popcicle sticks and other wooden pieces so we can keep building things like this cool bridge:

More pattern blocks were requested

Amazing Bridges architecture kit

A History of US book set

For my little zoologist:

Bullfrog tadpoles (with plenty of food and extra aquariums)

Thinking Putty

Some Cobblestone magazine subscriptions are always a must.

We've also ordered lots and lots of books! Some of the series the boys like (and some of what we ordered)

What educational supplies would you buy if you had funding?