Homeschool Science Curriculum: 16 Most Popular Options

When choosing a homeschool science curriculum, it's important to understand that ways of teaching science have changed dramatically in recent years based on new research. Read what our curriculum experts think.

Emily Veno
• 
May 18, 2023

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Falling in Love with Science

We have a lot of interesting conversations about the best way to learn science in my house. My fiancé is a scientist who was raised by two scientists. I’m an educator who never knew anyone with a PhD, let alone a scientist, when I was growing up.

To my fiancé, science is the most natural lens for understanding the world. To me, science was a tangled mess of concepts I struggled to connect to explain anything concrete. I once asked him what he thought about how educators typically teach science to students, and what he said stuck with me.

He said most science courses don’t give learners the opportunity to feel what is most exciting about scientific work. Instead of rigidly following the steps of the “scientific method,” he said, real scientists follow their curiosity in an exploratory way, using their knowledge of the fundamental concepts to guide a much more crooked path of investigation.

This presents educators with a tricky problem: how do we make sure learners gain the fundamental knowledge they need to understand scientific problems, while helping them fall in love with science through messy discovery?

At Prisma, we’ve built our middle school science curriculum to blend both. In our interdisciplinary themes, learners build an understanding of foundational concepts through missions and explorations at their level. Then, they engage in project-based learning to conduct investigative experiments, design solutions inspired by a scientific problem, or represent their understanding of science in a creative way.

As a homeschooling parent, you have the unique opportunity to inspire a lifelong love of science in your middle school learners, plus prepare them for rigorous high school level content. However, with seemingly infinite homeschool science curriculums available, finding the best one that caters to different grade levels, includes engaging hands-on activities, and aligns with your worldview can feel like an overwhelming task.

This comprehensive guide is here to assist you as you make your science curriculum choices, providing in-depth considerations and recommendations for the best science programs available.

The Best Homeschool Science Curriculum: Key Factors

When selecting a homeschool science curriculum, ask yourself:

  1. What’s your comfort level teaching science? If you have a background in science or love the subject, you might be able to blend together different science resources, picking and choosing elements from different curriculum options, rather than using something off the shelf. If science isn’t your strong suit, a comprehensive curriculum with a detailed teacher’s guide, lesson plans, worksheets, or online classes might be more suitable.
  2. Secular or religious worldview? Due to controversy around topics like evolution, the age of the Earth, and climate change, aligning materials to your worldview is a more important consideration in science than other subjects. While there are several Christian-oriented programs like Apologia Science available, Prisma is a secular virtual school, so this guide will focus on secular resources we are more familiar with. If a Christian worldview is essential to you, Apologia Science provides an excellent curriculum that integrates scientific knowledge with Christian beliefs.
  3. Online, offscreen, or a mix? Do you prefer online classes, paper-based materials, or a mix of both? Although we recommend any science curriculum incorporate hands-on science experiments and activities, your family might prefer the rest of the content to be handled through paper workbooks or online, interactive apps.
  4. What standards need to be covered? Review the homeschool requirements in your state or country. Some regions have specific science topics that you need to cover during the middle school and high school years. These usually encompass at least life science, physical science, and earth science broadly, but some states go down to the specific concepts you must teach.
  5. What’s your budget? There is a massive range of science curriculums available, from free resources online to comprehensive but pricey online science courses. Don’t forget to consider the costs involved in hands-on science or acquiring science tools, too. Some families choose to spend most of their budget buying materials or kits for hands-on science labs to spice up free resources or low-cost workbooks.

What's Prisma?

  • Prisma is an accredited, project-based, online program for kids in grades 4-12.
  • We exist to ignite a lifelong love of learning and prepare kids to thrive in the future.
  • Our middle school, high school, and parent-coach programs provide personalized curriculum, 1:1 support from educators, and cohorts where kids build community.

Key Elements of an Effective Science Curriculum

An effective middle school science curriculum should provide a mix of foundational knowledge, demonstrations, and experimentation.

Foundational knowledge

Essential middle school science topics include:

  1. Life Science (Major taxonomies/classifications, Structure & function, Unicellular vs. multicellular organisms, Adaptation, Life processes, Photosynthesis, Fossils, Ecosystems)
  2. Physical Science (Forms and properties of matter, The atom, Physical & chemical changes, Energy, Electrical circuits, Properties & behavior of light and sound, Types of Forces, Newton’s Laws)
  3. Earth Science (The features, natural history, and processes of the Earth; Climate; the Solar System; Gravity; the wider universe)

Demonstrations

Scientific concepts are best understood through watching them happen. Make sure any homeschool science curriculum you choose contains ample opportunities for learners to visually see examples of scientific forces and processes. Demonstrations can take the form of videos, animations, or be done live by an instructor, parent, or the learner themselves.

Hands-On Experimentation (With Data!)

Any effective curriculum should incorporate multiple and varied science labs. These labs should cover the basic science topics but also involve learners in the scientific process. At the middle school level, it is essential that science experiments include observing results and conducting data analysis. This is important for success in high school level science, plus, it’s a great way to bring math into the process!

New Approaches to Teaching Science

When choosing a curriculum, it's important to understand that ways of teaching science have changed dramatically in recent years based on new research. Traditional science methods you might remember from school often focus on rote memorization of facts.

However, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) focus on a multidimensional approach to science education. This approach emphasizes both understanding the fundamental principles and encourages the application of these principles. These standards incorporate much more engineering than traditional science curriculum. NGSS-aligned curriculum is a good idea if you want your middle school learner to be prepared for STEM careers or a transition to mainstream high school.

Inquiry-driven science curriculums encourage learners to ask questions and seek answers, fostering a love for learning and developing critical thinking skills.

Project-based curriculums, such as the interdisciplinary themes at Prisma, involve learners in long-term projects that integrate different science concepts.

Problem-based curriculums engage learners by having them solve real-world problems using scientific knowledge and reasoning.

Recommended Full Curriculum Options

  1. Quantum Camp is an online science program offering inquiry-driven science courses for middle schoolers and high schoolers. They follow the NGSS approach, covering a range of science topics, from general science to more specialized subjects. Their goal is to make learners feel like they are discovering famous scientific concepts just like the scientists who made the discoveries, by gradually revealing information in a mysterious way.
  2. Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding (BFSU) is a comprehensive curriculum that provides a holistic approach to science education. It blends together life science, physical science, and earth science, creating a cohesive learning experience for middle school and high school students. BFSU incorporates hands-on activities and lessons that build upon each other, ensuring that learners develop a solid foundation in scientific concepts and skills.
  3. R.E.A.L Science Odyssey (RSO) offers an engaging, hands-on approach to science, with plenty of experiments and activities. This curriculum is suitable for different grade levels, covering various science topics from elementary science to high school science. RSO ensures that learners are actively involved in the learning process, making science fun and memorable.
  4. Elemental Science provides a curriculum that integrates with a Charlotte Mason or classical education approach. It combines hands-on experiments, living science books, and notebooking to offer a balanced learning experience. Elemental Science covers a range of science topics suitable for learners at different grade levels.
  5. Elevate Science is a comprehensive curriculum aligned with NGSS. It covers a range of science topics from general science to more specialized subjects like life science and earth science. Elevate Science offers a mix of online and offline activities, including interactive lessons, virtual labs, and hands-on experiments, ensuring an engaging learning experience for middle school and high school students.
  6. Exploration Education offers a project-based physical science curriculum that covers a range of topics, from mechanics to electricity and magnetism. With a focus on hands-on experiments and real-world applications, Exploration Education encourages learners to develop a deep understanding of scientific concepts and principles.
  7. Science Fusion is a comprehensive, NGSS-aligned curriculum that offers a mix of online and offline activities. It includes interactive lessons, virtual labs, and hands-on experiments, ensuring an engaging and well-rounded science education. Science Fusion covers various topics, making it suitable for learners at different grade levels.

Our Favorite Science Resources at Prisma

Prisma’s science program has been built from the ground up by our team of curriculum designers. Over the years, we’ve experimented with integrating tons of science resources into our middle school themes. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Interactive online programs like BrainPop, Generation Genius, IXL, and Khan Academy offer interactive lessons including quizzes and videos that cover a range of science topics. These resources can help reinforce concepts taught in your chosen curriculum and provide additional learning opportunities, or serve as a one-stop shop.
  2. Outschool offers live online classes in a wide range of subjects, including science. Their classes cater to different grade levels and cover various science topics, making them a valuable resource for homeschooling families.
  3. CrashCourse Kids and TedEd offer tons of high-quality animated videos that explain scientific concepts in an engaging way, while still being vetted for accuracy and quality of information.
  4. Some of our favorite websites with engaging articles, interactives, and demonstrations to supplement lesson plans include NASA, PHET Simulations, and National Geographic.
  5. Prisma learners entered the Youth Design Biomimicry Challenge as part of our Wild Inventions theme. You could consider aligning your homeschool science curriculum to this or another national competition!
  6. MEL Science offers subscription boxes that deliver science experiments to your doorstep, making hands-on science easy and fun. These boxes come with detailed instructions and all the necessary materials, allowing learners to conduct experiments safely and effectively.
  7. PBL Works offers resources for project-based learning, including lesson plans, teaching guides, and free learning opportunities. These resources can help you incorporate project-based learning into your homeschool science curriculum.
  8. Of course, Amazon remains a popular resource for ordering textbooks, workbooks, at-home experiment kits, and more.
  9. The Spore game can be a fun way to learn about evolution and life science. The game allows players to create and evolve their own species, providing an engaging and interactive way to explore scientific concepts.

The best homeschool science curriculum for middle school and high school learners is the one your family likes the best. By taking the time to research and (ha!) experiment, you can create a science program that not only meets your educational goals, but also inspires a love of science in your children.

With the right curriculum and resources, you can empower your learners to develop a solid foundation in science that will serve them well throughout their educational journey and beyond. Happy homeschooling!

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