Secular Science Resources for Homeschoolers



Round 2 – High School Physics 01

UnknownThis is my 2nd time teaching a high school physics class for homeschoolers, many of the labs will be the same but I will continue to post after each class this year, even if its just to point to a previous post.  We’re using “How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life” by Louis A. Bloomfield, which is an algebra based physics text.  The majority of the students are freshmen.

Before class I recommended students watch the following videos (and observe the eclipse that occurred the day before class).

The Map of Physics which gives a nice overview of Physics.

A clever way to estimate enormous numbers by Michael Mitchell – which describes Fermi estimates.

And a Crash Course Chemistry video on Unit Conversion & Significant Figures.

I gave the students a handout on lab notebooks and lab reports and had them label the first page of their lab notebook as Table of Contents.  Lab notebooks are the student’s proof of doing real scientific labs which is especially important for homeschool students.

The lab today was pretty much the same thing I did last time, estimating the length of a hallway, measuring it with their feet (not a ruler, but their actual feet) and then with a meter stick.  Last time I had them use hand spans but this was a longer distance so I had them use their feet, heal to toe.  We talked about the sources of error, out lying points (1 measurement was off by almost exactly a meter so they probably mis-counted), calculated the average of everyone’s measurements and made a histogram of the feet measurements.  You can check out a more detailed description on the original post on metric units and measurements.

I also had them do some worksheets in class on scientific notation and significant figures.  Next week we’l look at speed, velocity and acceleration, Chapter 1.1 in How Things Work.


Physics 2017-2018

I’ve decided to teach physics again this fall.  For high school physics I’m going to use UnknownLouis Bloomfield’s How Thing Work: The Physics of Everyday Life, the 5th edition.   This book is algebra based, no calculus.  I used an earlier version of this book many years ago for a college course for non-science majors and I thought it was a nice change from the usual textbook.  Its been updated with more pictures and color.  The labs we’l do in class will be very similar, if not the same, as the last time I taught highschool physics.    I am looking to buy a few sensors from Vernier that work directly with iPads.  They have a thermometer that will send data directly to their app on your iPad which would have been nice to have last year for chemistry.  They also have a force & acceleration sensor which we could make good use of in physics class.  They’re supposed to be out in a few weeks and the prices look reasonable, with some as low as $50.


The last time I taught physics (two years ago) we used Light and Matter by Benjamin Crowell and I just saw he has a Conceptual Physics textbook on his website so will recommend that to my students as another text to look at.  Crowell has both of these available on his website as pdfs that you can download for free.

lab notebook

I also recommend the students get the Cartoon Guide to Physics by Larry Gonick and a nice lab notebook.

I’l also be teaching a physics class for younger kids (11-13 years old) using Science Fusion Module I (Motion, Forces & Energy) and Module J (Sound & Light).  You can buy these books from Amazon for $15 or less or buy them as part of a homeschool package on the Homeschool Buyers’ Co-op for roughly $37 each and you’l get the book and online access to digital resources, including an inactive book, labs, etc.  I used these books back in 2013 so I already have all the materials downloaded which will make my life easier.  These books are soft covered books and the students are meant to write in them as they go through them.  Not quite a workbook, but enough to hopefully keep kids engaged and the online access is worth it if you’re kid prefers learning on a computer or might have trouble reading it themselves.


These classes will start near the end of August and I will post about the labs and activities we do after each class.

Homeschooling High School Biology

biology textI did a homeschool biology class the year before I started this blog, but I do have a list of the labs we covered so I thought I would share it for those of you looking to do biology at home.  The textbook we used was Biology: Life on Earth with Physiology (9th edition) (LoE) by Gerald & Teresa Audesirk and Bruce E. Byers.  I used an older edition because it was soooo much cheaper and it was only a couple of  years old.  I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot of biology – my degree is in physics abiology inquiriesnd I hadn’t taken biology since high school!

I did get access to the instructors guide for Biology: Life on Earth and it was pretty good.  You’l see below that I used a lot of the discussion activities and labs from it, they’re all marked with LoE .  I also used some activities from Biology Inquiries: Standards-based labs, Assessements and Discussion Lessons by Martin Shields  (BI) and the book, How to Disssect: Exploring with Probe and Scalpel – Special Projects for Advanced Study by William Berman – I believe that book came with the dissection specimens, but I’m not sure.  I have a youtube playlist with all the videos I showed for this class and probably some I didn’t share with my class.  They are probably in reverse order, if they’re in any order at all, so you’l need to start at the end of the playlist. Some of the photos below are from the middle school biology class that I was teaching at the same time, but that class pretty much followed Real Science Odyssey Biology level 2.

Chapter 1, Life:  Viruses, Alive or Not – lecture activity from LoE instructor guide, basically students are asked whether viruses are alive or not.  This is a topic that is still up to debate.  Students can use their books or the internet try to answer the question.  Discuss.     Is Yeast Alive? (lab I found online).

Chapter 2, Chemistry: Exercise in Chemical Bonding, another lecture activity from LoE instructor guide. Students look up an element that has the atomic number equal to their birth month – born in August, then atomic number 8, Oxygen then fill in a diagram showing the number of protons, neutrons and electrons (in shells) for their atom.  We discussed how atoms want a full outer shell and they see if they can ‘bond’ with anyone else’s atom to make them both ‘happy’.

Chapter 3, Carbon: History of Carbon discussion from Biology Inquiries (BI) and we built molecules with Zometools ( I bought a huge set of these – basically includes all the small sets, from Homeschool Buyers Co-op a few years ago).  I would recommend buying Snatoms now that they have come out.

Chapter 4, Cell Structure: We looked at cheek and onion cells in the microscope and watched the first episode of The Cell by BBC.  Its a great documentary if you can find it.  Here it is on Youtube but its kind of dark.

Chapter 5, Cell Membrane: We did two labs, we looked at red onion cells under the microscope (BI) while putting salt water on the slide – you can watch it shrink! And we did osmosis with eggs which is Lab 5.6 in the LoE instructors guide.  I’ve actually posted about these two experiments before because they were really cool.

Chapter 6, Energy Flow:  Endergonic & Exergonic Reactions, Lab 6.2 from LoE and Lactaid Action Lab 6.3.  The lactaid lab was interesting, we used glucose test strips to test for the presence of glucose in water, milk, sucrose solution, glucose solution, lactose free milk and almond milk.  Then we added lactaid enyzme to each solution and tested it again.  We were surprised to see glucose in lactose free milk before putting in the enzyme and found out that lactose free milk already has the enzyme added to it.

Chapter 7, Photosynthesis: Rate of Photosynthesis leaf disk lab from AP Biology, you can search the web and find lots of variations of this lab.  I believe there were some videos on youtube as well.

Chapter 8, Cell Respiration: modeling respiration with zometools, made glucose and oxygen molecules then took them apart to see how many water and carbon dioxide molecules they could make.  Each group researched a mitochondrial disorder and shared what they found with the class.

Chapter 9, Cell Reproduction: Looked at prepared slides of mitosis and used Pop beads to make stop motion movies of mitosis.  I’ve posted about the pop beads before – they were great for this activity.  We spent a second class on this so students could  make stop motion movies for meiosis as well.

Chapter 10, Genetics:  Did a punnett square activity (BI) where each student chose their ‘pet’ and then bred it with another ‘pet’ in the class and determined the characteristics of the 4 offspring.

Chapter 11& 12 , DNA: Watched NOVA on DNA: Secret of Photo 51,   set up fast plant 72 hour genetics experiment, discussed here and we did a DNA replication activity that I found on the web called Modern Genetics for All Students.  It looks like it might have changed since I downloaded it. Students put together a string of bases (printed out on cardstock) then found the matching pairs, split them up and replicated it so they had two complete strands of DNA.

Chapter 13, Biotech: DNA extraction – some kids did their own spit, some did strawberries.  We also tallied up the fast plant data and looked at the results.

Chapter 14 & 15, Evolution: Gene drift and gene flow exercises with pop beads representing allele. I can’t find the exact source for the lab we did but if you search for gene drift or gene flow and beans you’l find labs using beads or beans. I just used the pop beads since I had them.  Here’s one handout that might be what we used.

Chapter 16, The Origin of Species:  The Lost World activity from BI. Students were given a skull and asked to design an animal. They had to look at the eyes, teeth, etc to figure out what they could about the animal.  They sketched it, took measurements and then drew the rest of the animal as they imagined it.  I happened to have some actual skulls for this activity but you could use photos.

Chapter 17, The History of Life: students made a timeline of life on earth – there’s an activity for this in LoE instructor guide where you print a bunch of cards and students put the events in order then place them on a timeline.  We watched BBC Origins of Us.

Chapter 18, Systematics:  Classifying Oak Leaves (BI), students visually compared three oak leaves and decided if they were separate species.  They made various measurements to support their conclusions.  They were then given three sets of DNA data to compare and used that to decide on the relationships between the oak leaves.

Chapter 19, Prokaryotes, Bacteria & Archae:  Looking at bacteria in yogurt under the microscope and made a virus papercraft.

Chapter 20, Protists: pond water identification with microscope.

Chapter 21, Plants: Walked around the neighborhood finding different types of plants, vascular vs nonvasculat, moss, cycads, angiosperms and gymnosperms.

Chapter 22, Fungi: Found mold, mushrooms and lichens around the yard and looked at them under the microscope.  Lichens are very cool under a microscope, with some you can see the algae inside them.

IMG_6982Chapter 23, Invertabrates: dissected earthworm, sea star and clam – different lab groups did different specimens.  2nd class dissected crayfish and grasshopper and we looked at triops with a microscope.  We also looked at the compound eye of the grasshopper (photo to the right) and wing of a dragonfly with the miscroscope.

Chapter 24, Vertebrates: dissected perch, dog fish shark (which was amazing) and a turtle.

Chapter 43, Plant Anatomy: plant dissection and field trip with local ranger

Chapter 44, Plant Reproduction: pollen tube formation under the microscope, flower and IMG_7562bud dissection.  Students planted African Violet leaves  to grow new plants.  They also took home  cups with corn and bean seeds pressed against the side of plastic cups with a damp paper towel so they could watch them sprout.  I highly recommend looking at as many types of pollen as you can find with a microscope.

Chapter 45, Plant Responses: demonstation of gravitropism – put bean plants on their side in dark boxes and on a window sill, both stems bent as the plant tried to grow upward.  We also had seeds in different positions and showed that the roots always grown down.

Chapter 25, Animal Behavior: Students performed behavior experiments with isopods – see if they preferred dark or light environments,  wet or dry, etc.

Chapter 26, Population Growth & Regulation:  Effects of age at 1st reproduction on population growth (discussion activity from LoE), and we did the Fox and Rabbit game.  You can find many variations of the fox and rabbit game on the web.  I printed out some clipart rabbits and foxes to use.

Chapter 27, Community:  we watched a bunch of videos on keystone and indicator species, each student researched an invasive species and share what they found with the class.

Chapter 28, Ecosystem: Watched videos on food chains, trophic cascade and the effects of wolves on Yellowstone.  We did an activity on the nitrogen cycle and food webs.

Chapter 30, Biodiversity: Watched video on using insects as a food source, Crash Course Ecology #12.  Students had the choice of researching new science inventions and plans for fixing the climate, solving energy or population issues or doing a food chain art project (one of the  middle school student’s project is below).IMG_8563.jpg

Chapter 32 Circulation:  Dissected fetal pigs.

Chapter 36 Defense against Disease: Played You Make Me Sick board game and watched videos on the  immune system. (I couldn’t find the files for the actual game pieces, looks like the website has changed, but the link above has some of the information about the game).

We spent a class or two studying for the Biology SAT, taking practice tests and going over the answers.   For the dissections I watched youtube videos of biology teachers doing it and I have a friend who’s a nurse who helped out.  She really knew what she was doing and was able to do thing like inflate the lungs of the animals with a ‘snot sucker’ and that was really amazing to watch the lungs inflate.

Homeschool Brag

My younger son, Jake, 13, plays piano and cello and started composing music on his iPad  this past year.  Earlier this month he did a movie making camp for young kids and made the music for the entire short film.  I was pretty impressed by the film considering it was 4 kids, 2 of which were 8 years old and they only had 4 days to write and shoot it.   Jake had to stay up most of Thursday night to finish the music.  Enjoy.

Here’s a link to Jake’s movie reviews – he created this website all on his own last year after doing a bravewrite movie club and adds to it a couple times a month.



Homeschool Planning

planner-pinterestEvery year I search and search for the perfect homeschool planner….and I’m still looking.  I use Circus ponies notebook for most of my record keeping and some forms I got from for most of my planning.  But I just took a look at the new set of free planner forms from 5J’s website and it looks really good.  It has over 200 forms, many are just variations of a particular form, but there are a lot of good looking forms there. I like that they’re not over frilly and no bible quotes so they are secular!    Check it out if you, like most homeschool parents, are still looking for the perfect forms, odds are good you’l find at least a few useful forms.


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