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The subject of science without a textbook came up on an email loop I once subscribed too (  I wrote in and explained how we did things and had an overwhelming response, with many of the ladies asking if they could pass the information on, add it to their website or publish it in their homeschool group's newsletter.  With such a positive response I thought perhaps that wasn't a bad idea and decided to go over it one more time and then post it here.  Enjoy!

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"Anyone do science without a textbook???"

We do! This is a great approach, especially for elementary aged students. We do nature collections. We also do a lot of experiment based science. I like the kits that contain all the equipment, instructions, and explanations. We also utilize documentaries.

We do things on a 4 year cycle:

1) Physical Science (plants, animals, simple machines, etc.)

2) Semester 1 - Earth Science
   Semester 2 - Astronomy

3) Chemistry

4) Physics (sound, light, magnetism, electricity, etc.)

All categories will get covered 3 times in a 12 yr. schooling "career."

With all labs they (once old enough) fill out a paper with 4 basic questions afterward (mine are 9 and under).

-What we used:
-What we did:
-What happened:
-What we learned:

I got the framework for this from The Well Trained Mind (by Susan Wise Bauer & Jessie I don't use the same experiment kits/books that they suggested. (That was WAY too expensive!)

So.. for year 1, the nature collections are great. Also for year one, we've read books on animal classification and then did poster boards where we cut out animals from different magazines that were given to us (yard sales might also be good sources!) and we dumped them all out on the table and began with separating them by "vertebrate" and "invertebrate" and then continued to narrow them
down until we had groups like: mammals, monotremes, marsupials, amphibians, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, cephalopods, etc.

Other things we've done for Physical Science:


-the book "Your Insides" is great for beginning anatomy!

-Trace your child on butcher paper and have them draw the
organ systems on their silhouette, one system per silhouette
(respiratory, circulatory, nervous, digestive,.. ).

-Get a gingerbread man cookie cutter and make up a bunch
of sugar cookies. Then.. get the small tubes of colored icing.. or those new aerosol cans of icing that come with all the tips (but those are more expensive) and have them try to do cartoon quality "systems" on the little men! Great fun!

-Anatomy coloring books

-3D models of organs/organ systems (can be found at

-Explore with a microscope and slides. The magnifiers with a display screen might be better for younger children. (both also available at

-Leaf Collections with bark 'prints' (put a piece of paper on the bark of the tree and roll a crayon on its side)

-Wildflower collections, and insect collections (dried wildflowers can later be made into Christmas gifts! Make book marks and laminate or placemats.. or just mount on acid free paper and frame).

- Zoo! .. more zoo.. become 'members' and attend classes.

- Crocodile Hunter, Croc Files, and other documentary animal shows. (These 2 are very kid-friendly due to Mr. & Mrs. Irwin’s enthusiasm).

- Sea monkeys, ant farms, worm farms, root view 'farms, etc.

- Gardening, or growing plants from seed indoors

- When studying stems.. put water in a cup, add dark food coloring, and have your child place a celery stalk/stem in the cup. Come back and check it in a day or two and they can see the colored water sucked up into the stem.

- When studying roots.. wet a paper towel, put a dry bean in and keep it wet for a week or two and they will be able to see the bean sprout and growth start.

- Watch your pet have kittens/pups/chicks.. etc.

- Incubate eggs! These are Large cells that need no microscope! Investigate them! Print worksheets off the internet about egg development corresponding with the incubation period of the eggs, like at Enchanted Learning.

- Do a 4H animal project!.. or gardening!

- learn about life cycles (egg/tadpole/frog, caterpillar/butterfly, etc.)

- Do leaf Prints! Makes good quilting projects or even homemade wrapping paper.

Earth Science/Geology:

-Volcano!.. make one after studying historic eruptions like Pompeii. You can even find books on Natural disasters in the early readers.

- Earth Quakes.. study what causes them and do appropriate experiments (Reader's digest has a book FULL of experiments.. but watch out for all the "Millions" and "Billions" of years ago comments.)

-Weather.. chart observations, .. watch the weather on T.V...learn the cloud types and try to find them!.. etc.

- Make a weather station.. rain gauge, weather vane, etc... Observe and chart.

-Study the types of precipitation

-Study the seasons and what causes them... earth's rotation and how it affects the seasons. (this overlaps into astronomy)

-Tornado in a bottle

-Rock collections & soil sampling

-Study the names of the layers of the earth down to the core.


-flashcards of famous astronomers


-make use of spyglasses, binoculars, and telescopes

-visit a planetarium or a children's science museum that has an astronomy section (be prepared to combat evolution again).

-make constellations on a light bright! (Read “Follow the Drinking Gourd and incorporate a History lesson!)

-explore the earth's rotation & the phases of the moon with a ball or 2 and a flashlight in a dark room!

Chemistry and Physics

-Experiment, experiment, experiment

-For Chem: make slime and silly putty.. grow a crystal rock garden, make rock candy or bubble gum, etc.

-for Physics, play with magnets, make a circuit (join the Electric or Electronic Club in 4H), build a lamp,.. etc. .. learn about sound waves.....

Here are some websites with experiment instructions:

TryScience- 10 categories of types of scientific experiments.

ZoomSci - ""

Joey Green's

Mummify a Chicken

The Physics Department:

Play a piano and see the sound waves!

Here's a site that was recommended to me, but I haven’t had the chance to explore it yet: Science Museums Science Fair Project Ideas

You can always do a search at Yahooligans! - Science & Nature

NASA's Thursday's Classroom, weekly lessons.

OH! and my favorite place for Hands-on science stuff!
Pitsco Lego Dacta! Any boy's dream come true.. and some girl's... (like me!) From the "science of speed" (cars to build and race!), to solar energy.. to levitation cars.. to electronics kits.... to hot air balloons.. kites.. inventors kits.. legos- simple machines, and lots more!

There is also a science curriculum out there called Lyrical

Life Science that has put science lessons to music to the tune of fun camp songs (like “Camp Down Races,” and “Old Susannah”). It does come with worksheets and quizzes but it could also be used just without the book if they learn well without it. This is available at Rainbow Resource

Microbiology Links:

Cell Structure and Processes- interactive

Cells and Organelles

I Can Do That: Bacteria, Plant, & Animal Cells

C-E-L-L-O Hands on lesson plan for animal and plant cells at                           Suggestion..  step #5 lists as follows:
" Have students place similar amounts of gelatin in each plastic bag. Next, have them add fruits to represent different parts of the cell: use grapes for chloroplasts, mandarin oranges for mitochondria, plums for nuclei. Add smaller materials to represent other parts of the cell: pepper for ribosome, plastic bubble wrap for vacuoles, yarn for endoplasm reticulum, and pencil shavings for chromosomes."
If you want the entire experiment to be edible.. here are some suggested changes...

ribosomes - those tiny cake decoration balls (nonpareil decors) or Nerds candies

vacuoles- for animal cell: circular fruit bites or fruit gushers.. for a plant cell you may want to find something larger.. perhaps a dried apricot, or something even bigger.

endoplasm reticulum- pull & peel twizzlers

Chromosomes- carrot shredded into a curls

lysosomes- different colored fruit bites or skittles

golgi apparatus- make out of a fruit roll up or fruit by the foot.


I’m always open to new ideas/resources so if you have any let me know and I’ll check it out and possibly add it on to my list!