This year we made a slight deviation from the usual recommendations in The Well-Trained Mind. We’ve followed the science sequence laid out for the last 4 years and I thought it was time for a little change. TJ will begin the upper-level science sequence in 7th grade so I thought that two years of interest-led science would be a nice break from the routine. If you’re intrigued by the idea, here are my interest led science tips.
Interest-led = independence
Lest you think I’m straying too far – we are still following the basic instructions laid out in The Well-Trained Mind. TJ still has some specific guidelines to follow. I’m just giving her the opportunity to select her own topics. I believe that the middle grades are a great time to let students start ‘owning’ their own education and allowing them choices for study will give them that ownership. Some interest led science tips:
Interest-led science guidelines:
During our science week, TJ spends 1 hour each day working on the topic of her choice. These are the only things that I require each week –
- 2 experiments, observations, or demonstrations
- experiment page for each experiment
- research from at least 2 sources
- 1-2 short papers or outlines from science text
While I provide the basic structure, she chooses the topics. If it is broad enough she’ll focus on that topic for the whole term.
I’m requiring more output and thought now as well. Instead of just an observation and simple experiment, she is learning to form a hypothesis and track her results. She’s learning to research and write simple reports from her reading. It requires more thought and effort on her part than previous years.
Click the image below to download your free printable:
Resources for interest-led science
If you want to create time for interest-led studies, there are some resources you’ll want to have handy. Here are the things I like to keep on-hand (read more about our favorite science resources):
- science encyclopedias
- experiment books and supplies
- notebooking journals and supplies
We don’t have a large home so our schooling space is limited. I try to keep books and supplies that provide a broad overview or include many topics. Then, when TJ chooses her topics, we order piles of books from the library that provide more detailed information and experiments.
If you’ve thought about including some interest-led studies in your homeschool, give it a try! Provide a basic framework for your child, start building your science library, and let them explore.
Before we started our first term we pulled out the pile of science books we had and TJ choose her topic – rocks and minerals. I ordered more books from the library and pulled out some things from our science stash and we were ready to go!
Resources for interest-led homeschooling
Between the collection of books and resources we’ve collected over the years and our fabulous public library we found an abundance of resources perfect for homeschooling science lessons.
Here are some of my favorite resources for studying rocks & minerals.
- Janice VanCleave’s Rocks & Minerals – great resource for science projects & experiments
- Rocks & Minerals: A Gem of a Book – fun book about rocks & minerals
- Rocks & Minerals – a DK Eyewitness book (great photographs)
- “Make Five” – a game about the chemical formula for different minerals
- Cut-and-assemble mineral crystal shapes – fun project idea
- Rocks & Minerals unit study printables
Resources for studying rocks
Experiments & Ideas
- Rock & Mineral studies – some great looking projects & experiments
- Science Notebooking – we love adding notebooking to our science projects
You certainly don’t need a pile of books and resources – just a few handy things and a library card will do (but it’s always fun to include a few fun extras!).
Interest Led Learning: Nature Study
Each term TJ chooses a new science focus and for one term, she wanted to focus on learning about plants. So we pulled out all the resources we had on our shelves, found some things online, and ordered a pile of library books.
Each day she had to read for 30 minutes from a book of her choice. Twice a week she found a section from her reading that she could outline (working on those writing skills!). She also found some projects and notebooking ideas that she wanted to work on. So she alternated between outlining, notebooking, and projects each week.
It worked very well (and makes me wish that I had loosened the reins earlier). It’s so nice just letting her loose for an hour each day (and getting a little break from teaching!) – she has done amazingly well and it’s so nice to see her blossoming independence.
Favorite interest led learning resources
We focused on plant life for one term and used just a few resources for our interest led learning sessions. Some of our favorite resources:
- The Handbook of Nature Study (this is a must-have resource for nature study)
- A good quality sketch book and colored pencils
- Field Guides (Birds & Trees)
- Nature Study with Charlotte Mason (some good tips and advice)
- Considering God’s Creation (we don’t use the full program, but it has some fun activities and printable pages that make great notebooking pages)
And a few fun extras:
- Tree Leaf Bingo
- Nature Journal Pages
- Botany Scavenger Hunt
- Flower Flip
- Leaf Cross Section
- Guided Nature Walks
I am very satisfied with our new science routine – it gives TJ some independence (and gives me a bit of a break!) and she is more engaged in learning when it’s a topic that she’s interested in knowing more about.
Interest led science – human body
The last time we learned about the human body TJ was in first grade and we used an Usborne experiment book and the Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia to learn all about the body systems (here are the lesson plans I made). It was lots of fun with many hands-on projects.
This time around, things were a little more different. I expect more reading, research, and writing at this stage, and using interest led science topics are the perfect opportunity to practice those skills. Give kids a topic that they are interested in and they will want to read and write about it!
Resources for studying the human body
This list contains some of our favorite books and resources for learning about the human body. You’ll find fun experiments, hands-on project ideas, and great books for middle grade students to learn all about the body. Of course, you’ll also want to have a good science encyclopedia for research assignments.
- The Human Body (and look for other books by Seymour Simon – they are fabulous)
- Human Body: A Book with Guts
- Biology for Every Kid
- The Human Body for Every Kid
- The Body Book (great for hands-on projects)
- Easy Make-and-Learn: The Human Body
- Visual Dictionary of the Human Body
- Professor Noggin’s Human Body
and a few fun finds (free!)
Exploration with interest led learning
TJ enjoyed learning more about the human body with these resources. I required daily reading and weekly writing assignments, but other than that, she was free to choose the books, experiments, and projects that interested her.
Do you let your kids choose their topics for science or history? I’d like to know your tips & advice!