Top 10 Science Curriculums

Valorie Delp
Teaching Science

Science is one of those tricky subjects for homeschoolers to teach. It can require lengthy lists of lab materials and can be intimidating to implement, especially for parents who feel like they never got science. However, having the right curriculum can make your foray into science a little easier. While there are many good science curriculums out there, these ten stand out for being easy to use, having lots of hands-on activities or being especially detailed and meaty in content.

#1 - Lyrical Science

Lyrical Earth Science (Lyrical Learning Series, Volume 1 Geology)

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head, one whose lyrics you just can't seem to forget? That's the idea behind Lyrical Science. Concepts are put to music, kids learn the music and before you know it, they are spouting off things that you never even learned in science. Currently, there is only a complete life science curriculum in three volumes and a geology course in one volume. Each volume comes with a CD, student workbook and a soft-cover textbook that also serves as the teacher's guide. You can purchase Lyrical Science at Songs for Teaching as either a hard copy or a download. Reviews suggest that setting facts to music makes for an entertaining learning adventure.

How It Works

Students start by listening and memorizing the song that goes with the week's lesson. The tunes are all very catchy and set to popular folk music tunes that your kids have probably heard before. The students read the textbook essay on the topic and complete the workbook pages. By the time they are finished with the entire curriculum they will have systematically covered every kingdom as well as topics in ecology.

Things to Note

  • The workbook is content-rich, requiring essays, matching and general analytical thinking. Meanwhile, the songs are goofy and fun. Learning the songs is essential to mastering the topics; however, the workbook could be optional.
  • The focus here is on memorizing pertinent information. This is a great tool for mastering vocabulary and difficult concepts.
  • It does not provide labs at all.

#2 - R.E.A.L. Science

R.E.A.L. Science- Life

If you've ever heard of History Odyssey, you might already be aware of R.E.A.L. Science. The acronym R.E.A.L. stands for read, explore, absorb and learn, and the curriculum is so named because it follows that method of instruction. As of the summer of 2012, Pandia Press had published level one for grades K-5 covering topics in life science, earth science and chemistry. Each course is designed to take a year. They also have one year ready for level two, which covers grades 6-8. You can purchase the curriculum through several suppliers, including Home Training Tools.

How It Works

Students start by reading a story that presents science vocabulary. The reading can be done aloud for younger students, but the idea is that students are introduced to the concepts gently and in context. After reading, students complete one to four hands-on lab activities. Then students complete a lab worksheet, where they record their hypothesis, data, and conclusion. The reading coupled with the immediate hands-on experimentation is what makes this curriculum stand out according to Cathy Duffy reviews.

Things to Note

  • Currently, there are only four years of curriculum. Although the curriculum says that level one is for K-5, this will be too hard for most kindergartners. You can address this by taking longer to finish one year or by waiting until later to start.
  • There is a heavy emphasis on applying the scientific method.
  • Not sure? No problem! Pandia Press offers a 'try before you buy' program that allows you to download the first several weeks of every course they offer.

#3 - Noeo

NOEO SCIENCE: Biology I: Seeds, Scales, Feathers And Tails!

Noeo Science combines the best literature available with worksheets, teaching helps and lab supplies to offer a complete science curriculum. As of August of 2012, they have curriculum available for grades K-9, offered in three different levels. Each level goes through biology, chemistry and physics, building on previous knowledge gained through earlier courses. Noeo has won the Cathy Duffy Top 101 Picks award.

How It Works

The curriculum is designed on a four day schedule. The lesson plans in the teacher's guide are very clearly laid out. On the first three days, you (or the students) will read the selected page numbers from the listed books. After each reading, students will narrate what they've learned. The narration assignments are varied depending on the ages of the children you're working with. On day four, students complete the Young Scientists Club Projects. The teacher's guide is easy to follow and does a good job of breaking everything down.

Things to Note

  • The curriculum works well with both Charlotte Mason and Classical models.
  • There are a lot of books to obtain. People who don't have a good library nearby are going to find the amount of books required to be prohibitive.
  • There are science lab supplies to purchase, in addition to the curriculum and extra books. However, the teacher's manual comes with a master list of supplies annotated with the lesson number in which those supplies are used for easy planning.

#4 - Apologia

xploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day

For years, Apologia has been the go-to resource for Christian science curriculum. Developed by Dr. Jay Wile, an astrophysicist, the curriculum is meaty, in-depth, and focuses on building both critical thinking skills, and scientific knowledge. Apologia offers complete curriculum for grades K through 12, including options for advanced placement courses in a variety of formats including textbook, CD and online courses. Apologia has won several awards for many of their products, including a spot on Cathy Duffy's Top Picks list.

How It Works

This is a traditional textbook approach to science. Students read the chapters, complete end-of chapter work and do labs along the way as they come up in the science book. There are tests that parents can give students at the end of each chapter. In the younger years, the curriculum has students (or parents) read the textbook, follow up with notebooking and do any labs that are pertinent to the information. The curriculum does have plenty of hands-on activities at all levels, and tends to go a lot deeper than other textbooks do on some subjects. The fact that it comes in a variety of formats at the middle and high school level, means that it caters to many students.

Things to Note

  • It is unapologetically Christian and is not compatible with alternative worldviews. Families who don't share this worldview may find implementing the curriculum difficult.
  • The labs require purchasing materials in advanced. You can make it easier by purchasing a kit that is already put together.
  • The upper level textbooks are pretty boring to look at. There are pictures where merited, but it is a lot of text.
  • A school-at-home approach works well with this curriculum.

#5 - Supercharged Science

Supercharged Science

Supercharged Science is unique among homeschool curriculums because it is entirely online, but it isn't really a class in the traditional sense. Created by a NASA rocket scientist, Supercharged Science provides videos, access to a plethora of activities and experiments as well as a reading portion that the students do to further their understanding. You can either buy a subscription to the online curriculum, or the Mastery Units. Secular Homeschooler supersite has only positive things to say about this unique curriculum.

How It Works

Students start by watching a video taught by Aurora Lipper (the rocket scientist) herself. Each video introduces one concept. Then students go on to do experiments, projects and activities (all provided through the site). The experiments themselves have instructional videos as well that help solidify what students are learning. Finally, there is a small textbook-like portion of reading to help solidify what has been learned. (This can be printed out.) Every few weeks, the instructor hosts online sessions where kids can come and ask questions. The curriculum covers K-12.

Things to Note

  • This is an especially great option for kids who do not thrive with traditional teaching methods.
  • The program is pricey. As of August 2012, the high school portion costs $57 per month and the elementary school portion costs $36 per month. However, the price is reasonable for what you receive.
  • If you don't want to do the online e-science curriculum, you can also purchase a Mastery program which covers one topic.

#6 - Learn & Do Unit Studies

Learn & Do unit studies, are ideal for those who want an in-depth science curriculum that is focused on one subject. The units are generally geared towards upper-elementary and include a plethora of worksheets, activities, and opportunities to observe. In addition, the studies offered cover subjects that aren't typically covered elsewhere. Have a farm and want to make raising goats a learning opportunity? Try Goat Adventures. Reviewers note many positives, among which is the fact that you can use this to challenge older kids, or you can scale back to work with younger kids.

How It Works

Each unit study includes a flexible lesson spreadsheet that tells you what to do and how long to spend on it, and lets you know in advance of any supplies you might have to buy. Every day you will explore required reading (books checked out from the library), do a lab and lab worksheet, and use flashcards to help kids memorize vocabulary. To say that the curriculum is comprehensive might be an understatement. One unit study could easily take a whole year, and kids learn the topics in-depth.

Things to Note

  • Parents will need to purchase supplies and find books at the library to complement the curriculum.
  • There are limited subjects available and they do not follow an order.
  • While the lesson plan is easy to follow, the curriculum does require advanced prep on the part of the parent.

#7 - T.O.P.S. Science

T.O.P.S. Science's tagline is "Science with simple things," and that is what homeschoolers love about the program. There are a few different formats, but generally, each lesson will actually be an activity. The activity comes with a worksheet that helps lead students through a set of experiments to help them deduce facts from the lesson. Interwoven in this format are vocabulary words. Each book comes with an answer key so parents can see if kids are drawing the right conclusions. The curriculum is noted especially for being easy to implement, and have an intense hands-on focus.

How It Works

Each lesson has a worksheet and students do the experiments as guided by the worksheets. There are recommended ages for each book, but one book will typically cover several grade levels. There is minimal writing, but students do have to record their data. For example, in electricity, students try to make a circuit by finding a way to light a light bulb using paperclips, batteries and tin foil as the wire.

Things to Note

  • You will have to buy supplies, but there is nothing that isn't easy to find at your local grocery store.
  • One book can take up to a semester, or longer, depending on how you structure it.
  • Lessons are inquiry-based and are simple enough that as soon as your student can read and follow directions independently, she can do the lessons alone.

#8 - Nancy Larson

Larson Science

If you love the approach that Saxon Math takes to learning mathematics, then Nancy Larson science may be what you're looking for. Larson, the author of the very popular Saxon math, wrote this science curriculum using the same founding principles. Concepts build on each other and are repeated throughout the curriculum to ensure that every student masters key concepts. Parents like its meaty content and very organized presentation.

How It Works

Each lesson is scripted for the teacher and is teacher-directed. Students interact with the teacher, read books, complete worksheets, answer questions and do hands-on activities. The structure is designed to be done daily, although there are not 180 lessons, so skipping a day here and there would be okay. Parents love the scripted format, and the challenging material. Although this is not quite a traditional textbook approach, it is close and the program is used in schools.

Things to Note

  • The program currently offers curriculum for grades K-3, and it is not designed for you to use one level with several different grades.
  • It cannot be done alone by the student, even if your student reads.
  • It complies with state and national standards and covers a broad range of topics.

#9 - G.E.M.S.

A science curriculum list would be lacking if it didn't include GEMS, even though the curriculum was developed for use in traditional classrooms. Developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science and Berkeley University, the curriculum set the standard for hands-on, inquiry-based learning. Students engage in a variety of activities, and use those activities to draw conclusions.

How It Works

These are stand-alone books on a variety of topics covering grades K-10. The labs take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, so many homeschooling families that use them do so by doing science for a week or so, and then doing just history following that. Each lab requires students to actively participate and record observations. For example, in Secret Formulas, students have to figure out the best recipe for toothpaste by designing, testing, redesigning and testing again. The curriculum emphasizes using the scientific method to answer questions.

Things to Note

  • This is designed for classroom use, so on occasion, you will have to modify the activities. However, everything is entirely doable for a family.
  • The curriculum aligns with state and national standards.
  • The parent will spend time gathering materials. The guide is laid out exceedingly well, though, with a master list to make gathering as easy as possible. Do be prepared to order a few things.

#10 - Real Science-4-Kids

Have you ever gotten your hands on a curriculum only to feel as if it doesn't teach enough 'real' science? That's exactly how Dr. Keller of Real Science-4-Kids felt when she developed this award-winning product. Real Science-4-Kids offers 10 books total, most of which take a full year to get through. (Geology is currently in development, but should be ready soon.) The curriculum is noted for being very easy for the parents, and for delving into science topics earlier and deeper than most curriculums. The curriculum is especially noted for offering "substantive science instruction."

How It Works

This curriculum has a reputation for being incredibly easy to use and is considered 'open and go.' There is a reading selection for the student, and then the student does an associated experiment. The experiments are designed to teach students to think critically and to encourage scientific thinking. The teacher's manual has a list of needed supplies, many of which you'll find at your local grocery store.

Things to Note

  • You'll have to purchase the student text, the teacher's manual and the laboratory notebook to make the program work.
  • You'll spend one whole year studying biology, chemistry, etc., which is unlike traditional school.
  • Real Science - 4 - Kids does offer online classes.
  • The program only goes through middle school, although the author claims you can use it for a high school student who has never had science.

How to Choose

When you start looking, the options can seem overwhelming. To avoid the buyer's regret that so many homeschoolers are plagued with, sit down and make a list of how your child learns best and what type of curriculum you are looking for. Then think about what you can realistically do. You may have visions of the entire family sitting around the table doing labs, but if you know it's not going to happen, don't choose the activity-based curriculum. Making the right choice may or may not inspire your budding Einstein, but it will save your sanity and ensure that your kids get the foundational science education that they need.

Top 10 Science Curriculums