Saturday, January 11, 2014

How We Tackle Middle School Math, Logic & Science

This week for the Virtual Curriculum Fair hosted at Homeschooling Hearts and Minds the topic is Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science. To be honest, this is right up my alley. This is my area of degree as well as my husband's. Amber also shows an affinity for these subjects and we work with that in our homeschool.

For Mathematics, Amber has always used Saxon Math and as far as I can tell she always will. She even used it in parochial school prior to being homeschooled. I know there is ongoing controversy over Saxon versus other math programs and I completely understand that Saxon just doesn't work for everyone. My child is one of those that fits perfectly with the Saxon method.

If you aren't at all familiar with Saxon, I'll give a super quick summary. It is a spiral math program where tests are every four or five lessons, depending on the level. To truly make Saxon work the student needs to do every lesson and every question. This is a definite issue for some people.

One of my favorite resources for Mathematics and for guidance in using Saxon is Art Reed's Saxon Homeschool Support website,   If you have any questions about Saxon, he is the place to go. Besides the free newsletters, he has teaching DVDs and books. He also offers free email and phone support even if you don't use his products.  I've never used any of his purchasable products, but I never miss a newsletter.

Logic is another topic we choose to include in our homeschool. We formally began using a logic curriculum a year ago, half way through 5th grade.  It took over a month of searching, reading blogs & forums, and going through sample curriculum before I selected products from the Critical Thinking Company.  We started with Building Thinking Skills, Level 3 Figural.  There is also a Level 3 Verbal.  Amber is a figural thinker, so that is the way we went.

Originally I thought Building Thinking Skills would be too easy for Amber since it just looked like a bunch of logic puzzles that she could zip right through and it pretty much was in the beginning.  However, the book progressively became more difficult over time and taught Amber how to think more logically. The curriculum does not hand-hold you through the questions, so it really requires you to understand the concept.  Amber completely surprised me with her crazy visual-spatial skills. I had no idea that she was so adept with visual puzzles when they are my downfall.

Amber completed Building Thinking Skills, Level 3 in two semesters and is now moving on to Critical Thinking, Book 1 which is also from the Critical Thinking Company.  This curriculum is more like the standard logic course I took in college, but directed at a younger age group.  It does teach the "or", "and", "if-then" items as well as common reasoning errors, propaganda techniques, advertising and schemes.   What I love about the setup of this series is that it is designed to utilize mostly class discussion instead of sending the student off to figure out logic on their own.  There is a main book and an answer key.  The main book is written more to the teacher.  It is definitely not something you hand your child and expect them to come back knowing logic.  Actually, I don't plan on giving Amber either book. We plan to follow the suggested discussion methods and then let her work the few independent problems.

The last portion of today's topic is Science, or more precisely the math-y sciences. In our homeschool, we do not necessarily start our science curriculum at the beginning of a new school year. It is one of the subjects we choose to continue through each summer.  This school year Amber finished biology in very late November, however we waited until January to start our new topic.   The biology curriculum will be discussed in a later post, but our current, brand new, science curriculum is Earth Science and Astronomy for the Logic Stage by Elemental Science. 

Experiment to determine the speed of light using the microwave's wavelength. Melting the chocolate bar (without the turning) creates two heat spots that represent half the wavelength.
Using a classical model (mostly) for our school fits our family perfectly, most of the time.  Unfortunately, the format described for science in books like The Well Trained Mind just does not cut it for us.  Amber wants more from her science, and honestly, I want more for her.  We've tried BJU science and it was okay, but still not what we wanted.  We are totally happy to have found Elemental Science.  It is written to utilize the classical teaching method, but applied to the sciences.

The curriculum uses several age appropriate encyclopedias and other reference books as the main reading for each week.  The student is encouraged to take notes, make an outline, or write a narrative summary on their reading.  There are experiments provided for each week of the curriculum, even if some of them are a little bit simplistic.  The curriculum also includes definitions, timeline dates, and sketches with each lesson.  All of the Logic Stage science curriculum from Elemental Science is designed to use the same format, just with different topics.  We love that we know how science will work for us each week even if we are changing topics.

The curriculum also provides a weekly sample schedule which allows for science 5 days or 2 days a week.  In the past we have mashed together the two schedules to make a 3 day science week. With this new topic, we are going to try longer sessions only 2 days per week. 

That's a short tour of our homeschool's mathematics and related subjects.   We are pleased with the success that Amber has in each subject, as well as how smoothly each curriculum fits into our educational style.

Come back next week to read how we implement history and learn more about our biology experience.

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Please visit these other great homeschool bloggers who are also participating in this year's Virtual Curriculum Fair:

Our {almost} FREE 2nd and 4th Grade Math Program by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Supercharged Science's Mathemagic  by Kristi K. @ The Potter’s Hand Academy
Math & Logic Resources by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
How We Tackle Middle School Math, Logic & Science by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
 A Peek into our Homeschool: Math & Logic by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Math and Logic: Patterns and Reasoning by Leah@As We Walk Along the Road
Discovering Science & Math w/ Apologia & Saxon  by LynnP @ Ladybug Chronicles
Make Math Fun: Your Kids Will Thank You by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker
Our Curriculum Choices 2014 ~ Mathematics by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun
My Favorite Math For Boys by Monique @ Living Life and Learning
Math--Our Four Letter Word by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun
If I Knew Then What I Know Now by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
Math and Science anyone? by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays
My 7 Favourite Math Resources by Kim @ Homestead Acres
Basic Instincts by Chelli @ The Planted Trees
Getting My Teens Ready for Algebra by Debra @Footprints in the Butter
Math We Love by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
2014 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Math & Science by Jennifer @ a glimpse of our life
Our Take on Math, the Elementary Years - Charlotte Mason-style by HillaryM @ Our Homeschool Studio</ p>
Tackling Math and Science from Multiple Angles by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness, that chocolate bar experiment is just amazing! MUST try that! Thanks!