Science Woes and Computing Wows

Busy, busy, busy weekend for Jon and I, desperately trying to catch up with work. Busy, busy, busy weekend for Emily who spent hours upon hours doing something complicated which involved Sims 3, numerous downloads and the occasional threat to throw the computer out of the window.

This morning was riding for Emily. She’s come on fantastically well and is now very competent at trot, including without either stirrups or reigns. Unfortunately, every horse she’s had so far has been extremely stubborn, by the riding school’s own admission, so it’s hard enough to keep them in trot let alone work up to canter. She’s getting there though, and loving it 🙂

This afternoon, Emily had her regular Monday afternoon programming/computing session with my Dad. They’ve started a new project, coding a program to simulate this ancient maths based card trick. (Binary and base 3 explanations) Gramps has just told me the coding involves “bitwise logical and“, which means very little to me, but apparently Emily understands it and the binary maths involved too, which is very impressive! They’re coding it in Ruby and the program will use the binary logic to generate the cards from scratch each time and to figure out which number you, the operator, have chosen; Gramps also tells me that it simulates comparison behaviour when testing a single bit in a computer register. At least, I think that’s what he said. Out of my depth? Me?  They have fun together on Mondays and Emily’s certainly wow-ing us with what she can grasp in programming and general IT savvy.

I spent the afternoon editing, planning a Renaissance scheme of work for history and fretting over science. Again. We have and have had, over the years, science books and resources coming out of our ears and Emily’s done a LOT of science – but right now I can’t seem to find anything to suit her learning style which isn’t way beyond her. She *loathes*, with a passion, any activity she deems pointless….which is quite a lot, these days, as preteen stroppiness kicks in with a vengeance….. And she has a point in decrying the pointlessness. Lots of the questions in the textbooks we have just seem to be busy work and lots of the activities I find on websites these days are all very cute and fun but not very engaging for an 11 year old who hates cute and is likely to hate it even more, the older she gets.

Emily likes a straightforward read-it-understand-it-answer-intelligent-questions-about-it-to-see-if-you-really-have-understood-it-move-on approach textbooks and work. I have yet to find a KS3 or GCSE science text which fits the bill and isn’t just full of questions where the answers are obvious from the text – more reading comprehension than actual understanding of the subject matter. Some A level books do fit the bill and Gramps’ old Open University texts certainly do….. but of course, in chemistry and physics, at least, you have to have understood the lower level stuff first, which we can’t find an engaging way of doing, so she understandably struggles to access some of the higher level texts.

Chemistry, of course, presents its own set of problems for home educators, as beyond the age of 11-12 ish, you very quickly run out of meaningful things which can be done with bits from the kitchen or a bought chemistry kit. I have this amazing book:

about setting up a home lab, but as I’ve mentioned previously, it’s so tricky to get the glassware and chemicals in single/small quantities. I’ve just discovered that the author does do a complete first year chemistry kit including all the equipment and supplies….at well over £100. Okkkkaaay.

As far as physics goes, Emily was doing some with Gramps, but she doesn’t really like physics very much and it was usurped in her affections by programming and all things IT. Beyond the basics, I think we can live without an in-depth physics education, but I really would like her to do chemistry and biology properly. Years ago, we worked right through the Real Science 4 Kids level one books and found them excellent. I see they now have a level two chemistry (but not biology)….but again, very expensive.

Sometimes I think we’d be better off just working through a decent science encyclopedia and with me setting Emily questions/mini essays on each topic as we go. That would work, but is very time intensive for me and time is something I don’t have a lot of these days. I’d also like Emily to have a good grasp of the history of science. We do have the BBC Story of Science book, but missed the series. I see the DVD isn’t too expensive, so we might go for that.

I just want a decent science textbook that doesn’t talk down to kids, credits them with a bit of intelligence and offers meaningful activities and challenging questions. Like we had at school, several eons ago. If one exists, can someone please tell me?


About nikkielysian

Writer, astrologer, home educating Mum.
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5 Responses to Science Woes and Computing Wows

  1. Alison says:

    The Galore Park SYRWTL Science is okay – some of it is, as you say, reading comprehension, but there are also questions that you have to think about – one recent one that comes to mind was after a chapter on life processes, adaptation and survival (which is the first chapter in the book in fact, but Gwenny did the Chemistry and Physics sections first before coming back to Biology 🙂 ), there were questions asking how a swallow and a venus fly trap had adapted. The answers weren’t in the chapter, so prompted some thought and research. If you like the English books, then the Science is in that same straightforward vein.

    Gwenny’s hoping to finish it by the end of the year (we already have book 2 from a friend lined up ready 🙂 ) so you would be welcome to borrow it then if you wanted to have a look – probably won’t need it here again for a while!

    I’ve also been looking at TOPS lately, as Gwenny wants to do “more practical chemistry”, and I like the look of their books.

    • nikkielysian says:

      Thanks, Alison, for your very kind offer to lend SYRWTL science one; we do actually have it – somewhere! I’d forgotten all about that one; we did some of the human biology sections a while ago and then got sidetracked onto a different approach. I’ll have a hunt for it and take another look; I do remember it being considerably less faffy than some others we’ve looked at. I’d never heard of TOPS, so I’ll have a look at that too.

  2. HHaricot says:

    i have the lab book, and have managed to scavenge quite a bit from ebay much more cheaply, tho still… his money might be a good deal! a suprising number of chemicals area available in small quantities on ebay. there prob is money to be made in supplying home educators!

  3. HHaricot says:

    oh, and will look forward to hearing a TOPS review before going ahead!

  4. Pingback: Guess the Number | Home Ed Grows Up

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