Finding homeschooling curriculum that involves good, hands-on science experiments that don’t require lots of expensive gear is tricky. Many claim to use common household items, but their definition of common and mine don’t mesh. This year, we tried a new curriculum from TOPS Learning Systems, that truly does use common household items. Combine that with the inexpensive cost of cost titles — between $9 and $16 — and you’ve got a curriculum tailor made for homeschool.
The TOPS website includes numerous free samples to try. After completing several of them and having not only success but fun, too, I knew we’d found our new science material for the year.
TOPS titles use a format where the student is given a sheet with a set of instructions and they follow at their own pace. For many of the experiments, the items are things the children can get for themselves with little need for an adult to track down something. This makes them ideal for “extras” when kids can chose something of interest to pursue.
TOPS Learning Systems is a non-profit organization founded by Ronald Jay Marson, a former math and science teacher whose experience in traditional classrooms and in West Africa in the Peace Corps taught him how to use simple materials to teach science. His wife, Peg Nazari Marson, is an artist. She illustrates the curricula with unique “peoplets” that demonstrate and add interest to the material. The balance of the organization includes a work-from-home mom customer service manager, and a family of organized neighbors who assemble the inexpensive kits that TOPS offers at a minimal cost for the few less common items that some of the titles use (think chemistry).
We’re nearly finished with the Animal Survival (#37) title. It’s been fun and has led to lots of discussion and interest-led research. Next, we’re on to Machines (#22), and Analysis (#10).