Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Topical, Hands-On Science Written for Homeschoolers by a Homeschooler {A Review and Freebie Link}

Hands-on, accessible science.  That is the kind of science I have found in Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers by Funtastic Unit Studies, and it's exactly the type of science I like to dive into with my children.

No dry, difficult, mandatory-to-study, yet hardly-engaging science books and curriculum are welcome in our home.  We'd rather immerse ourselves in interest-led studies and hands-on explorations.  Thus, when I heard I might have the opportunity to review
Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers, I was delighted

20 Science Units for Ages 4-13

Funtastic Unit Studies Review

For our review, we received a 201 page, soft-cover book that contains 20 science units written by Susan Kilride, a homeschooling mom with a degree in biology, for parents and teachers who may not have a background in science, but who wish to engage their children in enjoyable science activities that will capture interest and open eyes to just how fun the world of science can be.
Without question, science is everywhere.  The kids were able to connect part of the fishing workshop they went to during a camping overnight to the lateral lines information in the Fish part of the Animal unit we did from the book!

The first 10 units, written to taught to children that are 4-7 years old are:
  • Our Senses
  • The Human Body
  • Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life
  • Animals
  • Insects and Their Kin
  • Fun with Magnets
  • Stars and Planets
  • Health
  • Beginning Plants
  • Animal Ecology

The next 10 units, written to be taught to children 8-13 years old are:

  • Insects
  • Microscopes and Invisible Creatures
  • Atoms and Molecules
  • Matter
  • Chemistry Fun
  • Weather
  • Force and Motion
  • Simple Machines
  • Light and Color
  • Plants II

Each unit varies in length and number of activities, but follows the same basic pattern. 

The first page of each until contains a full-page list of materials needed for the entire unit.  Most of these materials are things you might have around the house or could easily obtain any discount, drug, grocery, hardware or pet store.  One unit though, Microscopes and Invisible Creatures, requires the use of a microscope for some of the activities.  A few other units contain some unconventional "supplies", too, albeit not too difficult to find, such as tadpoles.

An optional activity that typically requires a pet store or pond visit to secure materials is raising tadpoles.  We were lucky enough to headstart a bunch of tadpoles rescued from a family member's backyard pool before the pool shock went into it.  The concise directions and tips in the Animal unit study we did actually gave clearer instructions on doing so than some of the library books we took out as supplements.
Following the materials list, each unit is broken into logical parts that contain easy-to-grasp background information and activity instructions, along with some helpful diagrams and images.
Some of the units written for 4-7 year olds include informal reviews and all of the ones written for 8-13 year olds include brief multiple choice tests.

The author states in the Note to Reader at the beginning of the book that while the book is written by a homeschooler for other homeschoolers, most of the units have been tested in the classroom.  Therefore, the book can make a worthwhile resource for co-ops and elementary classroom teachers as well.

The author also recommends that, since some units build upon prior ones, the units should taught in order.  However, as a fellow homeschooler she is aware that many homeschoolers (like me!) go our own way, so, she simply advises that if we take the units out of order (which is perfectly okay to do!), that we do not go our own way with safety precautions.  The units are written for parents and teachers to do with children, not for children to do on their own, and some activities, such as using a stove or having littles round materials that could become choking hazards, should only be done with adult supervision.

So Far, So Pleased

For the purposes of my family's review of
Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers, we were asked to read through the book and complete at least one unit.  As soon as it came by post, that's exactly what I commenced doing.

Spying a snake in the grass is always cool. Doing so right after doing Part 2: Reptiles of the Funtastic Animal unit is even cooler!

In paging through the book, the first thing that I noticed is how well-laid out it is.  Clear, organized text lends itself to making hands-on science easy to bring from page to reality.   Information is easy to understand.  Oodles of activities are explained with step-by-step directions.  Diagrams and graphics exemplify and clarify things.  Topics vary widely across different fields of science making them easy to connect with real-life experiences and community events. Thus, science accessible for even non-sciencey parents and teachers to teach to youngsters.

The second thing I noticed while browsing the book is that the illustrations, though, quite helpful, were not on par with the quality of the actual written text.  Sometimes pixelated or fuzzy, sometimes just surprisingly rudimentary, the images might lack appeal for some readers.  However, despite their lack of graphic appeal, the quantity and content of the illustrations in the book seemed to be in just the right balance with the text in order to bring clarity to users.
One of the better black and white images in the book was a close up of snake scales alongside an activity that suggested doing a crayon rubbing of a bike tire as a part of making your own paper snakes.  It could not hold a candle, however, to spying a real snake skin when we went for a nature walk after studying mammals and reptiles, though!  I just love when real life and lessons dovetail on one another!

The third thing I noted when reading through the book was the author's sensitivity to food allergies.  Some of the activities included in the book involve food.  As a teacher and parent, I know connecting food to facts can make learning more appealing to children and I am all for that.  However, as a mom who deals with food sensitivities and restrictive dietary preferences, I am also well aware of the need to skip certain activities (such as making ice cream as suggested in one unit, which won't fly with our casein-free diet here).  Thus, I was happy to see that the author reminded readers to consider food allergies and also provides plenty of activities so that if food-based ones need to be skipped, there are still other learning experiences to enjoy!

Finally, I appreciated how some of the units build slightly on one another in content and complexity and how the final ten have review quizzes for those that like that sort of thing, yet how each unit can stand alone so that those who wish to pick and choose topics based on their own children's interests can do so.  I always prefer resources that can be dipped into as time and interests allow rather than demanding a one-size-fits-all, rigid approach.  I find

Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers is just such a resource.  Actually, it is the best of two approaches: while offering flexibility to families that crave it, like mine, the book also is designed to be used from cover to cover in order for those that prefer a more consecutive approach.

Animals and More


 When I read the unit titles to my son Jack, he decided we should focus on animals, so that is what we did.  Following the five parts of the Animals unit study, we learned some new things (and revisited concepts we already had studies) about Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Birds and Fish. In doing so, we did not do every activity listed in these parts (of which there were 19), but rather chose 1-3 from each part of the study.

On a hot, hot day, the kids enjoyed learning about mammal body regulation as directed in the book by making fans, wetting one arm each, and, then testing how evaporating water cools the skin

As library programs, community happenings, books, and life brought other topics to the fore for the kids and me, I connected the Animals unit to them and also browsed other units for enrichment activities.
A community program about birds and their beaks tied in well with the Bird part of our Animal study!

Flexible for Home, Co-op, or Classroom Use

So far, we have only used the book at home, but ideas from it made their way into group settings, too.  Here, Jack is raising his hand to share information on Animals at a creature feature show we attended.

I am delighted to have
Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers on my resource shelf now and look forward to dipping into it again and again, following my children's interests, expanding concepts touched on elsewhere, and, perhaps, leading some group studies.  As someone who has taught in regular classrooms as well as in both formal and informal homeschool co-ops, I find that the information and ideas contained in this book are rich and flexible enough for such settings as well as simply for family use.  I'd recommend taking a peak and deciding if it might suit you and yours!

Learn More

Inquiry-based learning is so vital!  After I chatted with the kids about mammals as described in the Animal unit, the children fetched their magnifying glasses so they could look at their skin close up, inspecting their hair, etc.

  • If you like to try before you buy, please try two science units out yourself with free pdf units from the book.

Funtastic Unit Studies Review

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