Secular Science Resources for Homeschoolers

Big History Science Reading List – Part 2

I found a few more books to add to the Big History Reading list.  Again, I don’t expect anyone to read all of them, I just want my students to read at least 2 or 3 of them.

My son received How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown a few years ago but I had never read it.  I picked it up last week and finished it in a few days.  Its a very entertaining book about the how Mike Brown and his team searched for the 10th planet and how their findings changed Pluto’s status.  There’s a lot of good science about how planets are discovered and how scientists get credit for their discoveries.

5112YFsXIJL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_While looking for an audio book, I happened upon Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance.  My boys and I listened to this a few years ago and it was excellent.   It would fit in nicely with the last few units of Big History.  There’s also a kid’s version, which might be good for the middle school students,  Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future Young Readers’ Edition.

And lastly, I bought a copy of  The Total Skywatcher’s Manual: 275+ Skills and Tricks for Exploring Stars, Planets, and Beyond, produced by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and I think it would be a great book for 51e1U35aBxL._SX394_BO1,204,203,200_homeschoolers trying to do some observational astronomy.  Its got a lot of nice activities and recommendations for objects to look for in the sky.  It also has sections on binoculars and telescopes.  This book might be better than Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe for families with younger kids.


Big History Science Reading List

Since quite a few high school students are going to use the Big History Project as their history or world geography as well as science (astronomy/earth science), I’ve put together a list of books that I think go along well with the course.  I haven’t read all of them yet,  but was able to find most of them in the local library and read the first chapter or two.  I don’t expect anyone to read them all but hope they will read 2 or 3 of them over the year. Most of them are non-fiction, but I threw in a few novels as well.  Most, if not all of these should also be available as audio books.

51BS1xe6xgL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan.   Great discussion on critical thinking and spotting ‘faking news/science’.

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall.

The Martian by Andy Weir – Excellent novel and movie about surviving on Mars.

Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson, Adolf Schaller. (If students get interested in star gazing this is a good book)

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution by David Quammen. My older son had to read this for his freshman college seminar and recommended it to me.  Its a very interesting read about Darwin’s life after the Beagle voyage and how he finally came to share his ideas on evolution.

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin.  This is also PBS series.5101H2lhtXL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond.

The Illustrated Longitude: The True Story of the Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel.

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf.  I haven’t actually gotten my hands on this yet but its waiting for me at the library.  Alexander von Humboldt was an explorer, scientist, polymath and father of modern environmentalism.  There’s a graphic novel about von Humboldt by this same auther.

In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall.  This reads almost like an adventure novel and is her own account of studying primates in Africa.

4174Q3aRZlL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgJurassic Park: A Novel by Michael Crichton.

The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite by Ann Finkbeiner.

The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese.


Science Classes 2019-2020

Big-HIstory-Overall-Timeline-E-1This year I’l be teaching the Big History Project as a science class.  I taught it a few years ago as a middle school class, with a lot of interactive notebook activities, but this year I’m teaching it for both my high school and middle school class.  The Big History Project starts at the beginning with the Big Bang (cosmology), the formation of galaxies, stars and our solar system (astronomy). Then moves on to the formation of the Earth (earth science), evolution of life (biology/paleontology), humans (archaeology), language, industrial revolution, technology, etc.  I love this class because you get to explore so many different topics and see how they fit together in Big History.

Astronomy textbook for high school class

The high school class will use an astronomy textbook (Foundations of Astronomy) in the fall, as well as the Big History Project website and Crash Course Astronomy.   In the spring, the high school students will concentrate on Earth Science while learning about paleontology, archaeology, anthropology and some other fun sciences that rarely get any attention in high school.

The middle school class will follow the Big History Project curriculum more closely but will concentrate on the science activities in class. I’m recommending they buy the DK Big History Book as a supplement to the free online curriculum because its a beautiful book and I know I get more out of reading a real book than reading online.

Big History book for middle school class

I plan on putting together a list of other books, like Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe and  The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and asking the high school students to read at least one each semester.  I think there are a few that would be good for the younger students as well.

The local astronomy group puts on free star parties for the public, so I will encourage my students to go to at least one of those this fall as well as have some private star gazing events/labs for my students. As a member of the astronomy club I can rent an extra telescope to use for labs. If you’re studying astronomy, I highly recommend that you join your local astronomy club, they are a great resource.

Classes will be starting up near the end of August and I’l try to post after each class if you want to follow along with our class.

High School Biology 2018-2019

High School Biology

High School Biology 01

High School Biology 02 – Microscopic Measurements

High School Biology 03 – Chemical Reactions

High School Biology 04 – Cells

High School Biology 05 – Cell Model

High School Biology 06 – Osmosis

High School Biology 07 – Osmosis continued & Energy

High School Biology 08 – Cytosis: A Cell Biology Board Game

High School Biology 09 – Mitosis

High School Biology 10 – Genetics

High School Biology 11 – DNA

High School Biology 12 – DNA Extraction, Transcription, Translation and Mutations

High School Biology 13 – Biotechnology & Lego Mutations

High School Biology 14 – Evolution

High School Biology 15 – Evolution of Populations

Middle School & High School Biology 16 – Fossils

High School Biology 17 – History of Life

High School Biology 18 – Ecology

High School Biology 19 – Predator & Prey

High School Biology 20 – Classification & Pond Critters

High School Biology 21 – Protists & Fungi

High School Biology 22 – Plants

High School Biology 23 – Flowers

Biology Field Trip – Wildflowers (MS Bio 23, HS Bio 24)

High School Biology 25 – Tropisms, fast plants and protists

High School Biology 26 – Invertebrates

High School Biology 27 – Arthropods

High School Biology 28 – Vertebrates

Biology Field Trip – Stream Study (MS Bio 28, HS Bio 29)

High School Biology 30 – Frog & Pig Dissection

High School Biology 31 – Bones

High School Biology 32 – Animal Behavior

One more link, the one below discusses an honors level class that I taught a few years ago before I started posting about each class, but it has an outline of topics and labs that we covered.

Homeschooling High School Biology

High School Biology 32 – Animal Behavior

Student read Holt Biology, Chapter 27 or Biology: Life on Earth, Chapter 25, both on Animal Behavior and watched the following video before class.

For the lab, I collected pillbugs (and sowbugs) from my yard, which are actually crustaceans, not bugs.  Students were to design experiments for the pillbugs and observe their behavior.  Students tested whether the pillbugs preferred dark or light, wet or dry habitat, hot or cold, etc.  The one experiment that had very clear results was the hot vs cold.  Students warmed up water in the microwave and poured it into a ziplock bag and placed it in a foil pan next to a ziplock bag full of ice water.  We placed a petri dish so half of it was on the cold bag and half was on the hot bag.  All 4 sowbugs went directly to the cold side and everytime they wandered over the border into the warm side they quickly reversed course and returned to the cold side.


The bright spot in the photo is just a reflection of the overhead lights.

Pillbugs and sowbugs are easy critters to round up for these experiments and easy to handle (they don’t bite).  The only problem we had was they kept trying to escape or hide under the experiment which is why the hot/cold experiment was done in a closed petri dish.

We ended class by watching the first half of a  video, “Bird Brains”, on Curiosity Stream, which appears to be a slightly different version of  an episode of NOVA.  It showed how some birds can solve puzzles, use tools and learn from each other.

That’s it for the high school Biology class.  Next year we’l be doing the Big History Project, basically a semester of Astronomy and then a semester of Earth Science.  I taught Big History before when the kids were younger but will be teaching both a middle school and a high school version of it next year.


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