We often think of physics as a high school science subject. But, physics is a great subject for children to learn during the elementary school years. And homeschooling provides the flexibility to add this subject at whatever age you want!
Physics is the study of matter, forces, velocity, friction, simple machines, energy, aerodynamics, magnetism, electricity, and more! It ranges from sub atomic particles to the universe around us and the world in between!
Homeschool physics is a great way to answer so many of the questions your children ask on a regular basis. And, it is a great way to teach your children how to answer those questions through experimentation.
The easiest way to study physics is first to pick a good, hands on curriculum. Then, pull in some living books and more hands on activities! Read on for the specifics on how to do this.
We chose the R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Physics Curriculum for our homeschool physics. We had used their Chemistry Curriculum the year before and the boys had loved it. I knew it would lay everything out for us, explain things in terms I would understand, and include lots of hands on activities.
It is a secular curriculum that emphasizes scientific inquiry and theory using measurable evidence. It is designed for small groups and teaches science in incremental steps with lots of emphasis on concepts and related vocabulary.
The Physics Curriculum is geared toward 3rd-6th grade with a target grade of 4th grade. We started it mid-year of the boys’ 2nd and 5th grade years and finished it up in about 12 months.
Units included: What is Physics?, What Matters, Newton’s Laws, Friction, Work: Plane and Simple Machines, The Invisible World of Air, Sound and Waves, Magnetism, Electricity, and New Worlds to Explore.
Lay out of the units: Each unit contains reading passages and labs.
Each reading passage is approximately two pages long and contains a simple, but deep enough explanation of a topic. Black and white drawings and diagrams are included.
Each reading is followed by typically one lab, although some have two or more labs. For example, after reading about air pressure, there were several short labs to demonstrate the topic through hands on activities.
Each lab tells you the materials you need. These are usually household materials or low cost items you can purchase at Target or on Amazon. I include some of the bigger purchases we made, below.
The book gives you an actual script to read to your children to walk them through the procedures. I love curriculum with scripts! Answers and potential discussions are given at the end.
The children have their own lab sheets to fill in. They include fill-in the blank sentences with choices, open ended questions and drawings. Children are encouraged to think about why something happened and how to design different experiments.
We usually read the passage and completed a lab for each of our science lessons. If there were additional labs for a given reading passage, we completed those labs on separate days.
Useful tip: I pulled each of the lab sheets out and photocopied them to use with both of my children. We then hole-punched them and stored the sheets in their Case-Its. You may want to buy the ebook to make printing multiple copies easier. It is also cheaper! If I had done this, I would have also printed the reading passages for them to look at while I read them aloud. I might have also made 3-ring notebooks specific to physics rather than storing in their Case-Its.
Useful tip: You will need space for hands on activities and sometimes a sink. So, this is not a curriculum you can pack up for the day and do while at coffee shops or in doctor’s waiting rooms, etc. So make sure to schedule a 30ish minute slot at home to complete each lesson.
Living Books for Homeschool Physics
While the above curriculum provides you with a full year of physics by itself, we enjoyed pulling in some biographies of famous physicists throughout the school year. We did these as read alouds. Sometimes, we read them before a physics lesson and other times we read them on days off from physics lessons. Either way, it was easy to make the connection between the books and what we were learning during physics.
Here are some of the books we chose along with some others that would be great.
During our unit on mass, matter, and density, we learned about Albert Einstein. Not only did we learn science, but we also learned about how he fled to America in the 1930s during rise of the Nazis.
We read about this English scientist from the 1600s during our unit on Newton’s Laws. We learned a bit about the plague, too, from this book!
Somehow, we missed reading about Tesla during out unit on electricity, but it would have been a great person to include!
This is another great book related to the invention of electricity that we had read in a prior year. Comparing Edison and Tesla’s different forms of electricity would be a great learning activity! Our Niagara Falls and Great Lakes FREE Unit Study has more resources for learning about this!
This book would be great to save for the last unit of the R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Physics curriculum, New Worlds to Explore, but we actually read it earlier in the year. Not only did we learn about the big questions Hawking asked, but also about ALS. His resilience during this progressive disease was inspiring!
Other Hands On Materials
Many of the materials for the labs are household items, but we did purchase the following to complete some of them. The clay was for some models, the spring scale was used during the simple machine unit. The magnet kit provided a little more than we needed, but it was a nice kit that the boys enjoyed playing with outside of the lessons.
During the electricity unit, you build some simple circuits. These supplies here from Amazon worked well for us to complete them. You will also need some wire cutters if you don’t already own some.
Another fun activity that we have loved for years is Snap Circuits! They are great way to expand on physics lessons about electricity, but were definitely not necessary for the curriculum above. This one is a very basic, but inexpensive set:
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