Exploring sunlight, water, and soil

Christy Mandin of Blessed Little Thistle wrote:

We’ve finished up studying sunlight, water, and soil with Nancy Larson Science. We’ve discussed how shadows are made, why we have night and day, why water is important, how it changes state, where rain goes, how to capture it, how we use it, and what soil is made up of. We skipped the lesson on water conservation because we want to study it on Earth Day.

The lessons in the Nancy Larson Science curriculum are short and easy to execute. However, when we originally picked this level for Owen we based our selection on his reading ability which, at the beginning of the year, had a few rough spots to work on still. A few months after picking Level 1 Owen’s reading comprehension and overall reading skills really took off. So, for a while now the lessons have been falling a little flat because he can breeze through them, reading them on his own. I am happy with the curriculum content in general so I couldn’t really put my finger on how to make it exciting again. And, truthfully, sometimes I tire of coming up with “extras” for us to do. Things like moving out of state can really put a damper on my ability to think critically and creatively. I contacted Madon, the Nancy Larson Science homeschool manager, and discussed this road bump with her. She sent me a list of ideas to include with the content to beef it up and we are back on track with a plan. It’s so nice to have a company listen to your struggle and provide useful critique. The people over at Nancy Larson Science have been available from day one to help us along on our homeschool journey through science. When you invest a substantial amount of money in a curriculum you want it to work. And, if you spend enough on it, you might even want it to cook dinner and clean the house, too! But a curriculum, no matter the investment, doesn’t work perfect 100% of the time. Families, learners, and teachers are all too different. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum. So, it’s nice to have people at the company to contact when you need additional resources.

What I’m learning as we try out various curricula is that a “curriculum-in-a-box” or a “complete curriculum set” will probably never be “complete” for us. For some, opening a box and doing the lessons just as stated is a weight off the educator’s shoulders. It is just what they need and their family thrives in this type of environment. But we have not found this to be a rhythm we can settle into. There’s always a topic tucked in the lesson somewhere that we want to explore more. For some, this might add more stress. But for us, feeling limited is our stressor. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it’s nice to open the box and just do the lesson. It surely is easier that way and sometimes it works. But for the most part we like a little more freedom to explore rabbit trails. We like to dig deep. We like to linger. And when we can’t nurture an interest in a specific topic we get bored and frustrated. I’m learning it’s just our style of doing things. And that’s ok.

So, Madon provided us a lengthy list of books to check out from the library. There are several titles for every lesson in the entire curriculum set! Another thing I’ve learned about our style over the years is that we are just a literature focused family. We like to check out our maximum allowance of books at the library every week, lug them home, pore over them, and re-read them 6,000 times. Our children seem to retain more information if it comes in story form. Owen is currently obsessed with learning about black holes all because of a Star Wars book about space we picked up at Goodwill for 50 cents. You just never know where our rabbit trails will lead.

Part of my disclaimer every time I post a review of a product is that “I am not required to write a positive review of the product”, and I truly mean that. I get most of my information and resources about homeschooling from blogs, Instagram, and various forums. I check out what other people are doing, how it’s working for them, and then I do further research from there. Very rarely do I ever go to a company’s website first. I want to see the product in action and hear the real life story of how it’s being used before I even think about bringing it into our home. And, when a family is struggling to make it work I want to hear why so that I can make an informed decision. Sometimes, the very thing that makes it difficult for one family is the exact thing that will make it work for ours. And that’s why I love posting about products and techniques and tips. Because, you never know who’s on the hunt for an idea or a recommendation.

As we near the end of our “technical” school year (we aren’t taking the summer off…just breezing right on through with our studies), I’ll post a follow-up to our 2014-2015 curriculum picks and tell you what made the cut at the end of the year and what didn’t. I’ll fill you in on what we’re dropping, what we’re keeping, and some new things on the list.

Team Teaching with an Older Student

Kris Bagley involved her older son as a team teacher, helping him learn the content of Science 1 while learning some responsibility and teaching skills:


Our oldest son is advanced in his science courses. So, when I started my three other children on a new science course, I wanted to include my oldest son, Einstein, somehow in that science course. A suggestion from a friend was to have Einstein help teach the course! How wonderful for me to have a team teacher with our new science course Nancy Larson Science. That way, Einstein could know what it was like to teach a class while gaining confidence in himself, as well as, his teaching ability.


The first class went wonderful. Einstein introduced the course, Nancy Larson Science 1, to my younger children. Then, when anyone had a question about what we were doing, I had him answer them. When I was teaching, I gave my team teacher Einstein tasks like separating the picture cards. With Nancy Larson Science, the lessons are short, however, they are packed with wonderful information for the kids to learn.


As we progressed in the lesson, I noticed that Einstein started to love teaching NLS and he wanted more to do. So, after the class was over, I had him go around to each person and ask personally if they understood everything in the lesson. Some of the kids asked him questions (Elion our 4 year old mostly) but I saw how much Einstein wanted to teach!

002My overall thoughts on team teaching is that so far I love it and I will continue having Einstein help me teach our Nancy Larson Science course. I will have him help me teach other courses. I believe that teaching, even your siblings, helps you gain confidence, patients, and more while your teaching. Einstein is 12 years old and he also has autism; therefore, it is beneficial for him to have practice with his public speaking skills. So, this is a great way for him to start!

Note: (Affiliate links for Nancy Larson Science are in this post, each link helps support our homeschooling when you purchase by clicking on it. Thank you for your support)

Read more of Kris’s homeschooling ideas.