Secular Science Resources for Homeschoolers



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.


Homeschool Perks – Extended Field Trips

fieldtripI haven’t posted in a while because we were on a field trip….to Scotland!  One of the biggest perks of homeschooling is being able to travel any time of the year, and for us that usually means fall.  Its a lot easier to use frequent flier miles in the fall and there are a lot fewer tourists to compete with.  This year we spent almost a week on the island of Orkney off the northern coast of Scotland and then a few days in Edinburgh before heading home.

Orkney is a very remote location but the island, well actually it is a group of islands, is covered with sites of historical importance.  Four of the sites, Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar, Maeshowe and the Stones of Stenness are lumped together as a UNESCO World Heritage site called the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.    Orkney is also home to the Ness of Brodgar, but the site is only uncovered for a short while in the summer months while they’re excavating.  The Ring of Brodgar (photo above and below) is a ring of standing stones that predates Stonehenge and unlike Stonehenge, you can walk right up to the stones. Those are my two boys standing to the right in the picture below.

ring of brogan
Ring of Brodgar

Maeshowe is a chambered cairn/tomb built about 5000 years ago.   Unfortunately they don’t allow photography once you are inside, but here’s a picture of our approach.  The fun thing about Maeshowe is that Vikings broke into it during the 12th century to wait out a storm and carved runes, graffiti,  into the walls, things like, “Tholfir Kolbeinsson carved these runes high up”.

skara brae
Skara Brae

Skara Brae is a prehistoric village built about 5000 years ago (before Stonehenge) that was uncovered during a storm in 1850. What’s remarkable about Skara Brae is that the houses were very complete and give a great view of what life was like 5000 years ago.  Furniture and carved objects were found in amazing condition. The shelves in the center of the picture is believed to be a dresser where people stored items and the box on the left was for sleeping. There’s a picture book for kids about this site called, “Skara Brae: The Story of a Prehistoric Village”.

dwarfie stane
Walking up to the Dwarfie Stane, Hoy.

We spent a day on the island of Hoy with our guide, Kinlay Francis of Orkney Uncovered (who I highly recommend), who gave us a tour of the Dwarfie Stane (another neolithic site) and some World War I and II sites.  As you can see in the photo, we did experience some great Scottish weather on this trip, but being from drought ridden California we actually enjoyed the rain.

Sundews on island of Hoy

My oldest son was really into carnivorous plants when he was younger and I had read that some were native to the island of Hoy, so while walking through the bog in the rain to the Dwarfie Stane we were searching for tiny sundews.  I was very surprised that we actually found some and we got to teach our guide some botany.

We also stopped by the Brough of Birsay, which you can only access during low tide, Broch of Guerness, the Stromness Museum and the beautiful coast at Yesnaby.  Orkney is small island, but there is plenty to see and do.

Hands on geology.
Hands on geology.

After 6 days in Orkney we flew down to Edinburgh, spent a few hours in the castle.  This was our 3rd trip to the castle so we had already seen it before, but if you go, plan on spending at least one full day if not two exploring the castle. The photo of castle was taken from the window of the Apartment by Castle where we stay. Its physically impossible to stay any closer to the castle and it is a great little apartment.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

We only had two full days in Edinburgh and spent most of it in museums.  The Surgeon’s Hall Museum had just reopened and its a fascinating museum about the history of medicine and anatomy with lots of body parts and tumors in jars.  Fortunately for you, no photography is allowed inside that museum.  We also spent a few hours at the National Museum of Scotland, which happened to have a special exhibit on Victorian Photography. The National Museum of Scotland has a bit of everything, natural history, geology, cultural history and of course Scottish history, definitely worth a few hours of your time, if not a whole day.  The boys noticed on their own that a lot of the items in the museum actually came from sites we had visited in Orkney.  We also stopped in at the Camera Obscura, a museum of optical illusions and walked down the Royal Mile to the Palace at Holyroodhouse.

Palace at Holyrood
Palace at Holyrood

We were only gone 11 days (2 of which were spent on planes…ugh) but we managed to cram in a lot of history. I think we all learn a lot more actually visiting historical places then just reading about them.  Besides all the museums and historical sites we also managed to see the aurora borealis two nights in a row while on Orkney.  A very successful field trip.

Aurora on Orkney, taken by Jake Siders
Aurora on Orkney, taken by Jake Siders

First day of school?

San Diego ZooOfficially our school year started almost two weeks ago (according to the charter school), but the 10th grader was away at camp and unless we have our weekly science classes we really don’t feel like school has started yet.  Local schools started today and while the ‘regular’ kids had to go sit inside, mine were running around the San Diego Zoo with their dad…. I think that’s a much better way to start the school week.  The day before they were exploring the Midway Aircraft Carrier.

campingLast year we were camping, hiking, watching bats and enjoying amazing views of the Milky Way on the first day of school.  We had hoped to do that again this year, but the drought and hence the fire danger is so bad here in California, it just wasn’t worth the risk, hence the short trip to San Diego instead.

Tomorrow science class begins so I suppose I should go prepare for ‘school’.

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