Are you looking for upper-level (middle school, grades 6-10+) homeschool science curriculum? Here are some excellent science unit studies, designed to be both fun, easy to teach, and comprehensive!
Ellen McHenry has been an artist, homeschool mom, and science leader at co-ops. She develops and sells unique curricula from her website called The Basement Workshop. Our family already has appreciated her studies, finding her products a number of years ago. Recently, Peppermint Stick Learning Company also became an affiliate to sell her product-line because we think they are have good quality for a very reasonable price!
(Full Disclosure: The links on this page are affiliate links and lead to Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop website. Please consider purchasing her unit studies through our affiliate link. Thank-you!)
Many of her unit studies are available as digital downloads (pdfs) which then can be printed on paper and placed in a binder. This makes it easy to purchase and use! (Some products are still available in physical formats as well.)
I was/am very impressed with her style of teaching, focusing each chapter on one type of sub-topic and detailing it concisely yet in an interesting manner. The content is presented in both a straightforward language and simple layout with great graphics!
The first unit study that we did of Ellen McHenry’s was about BOTANY. The lessons were simply laid out, with comprehensive explanations, nice diagrams, activity pages, and optional hands-on activities to do together as a family. I chose to actually teach this one, reading most of it aloud, since I did have a wide range of kids. We watched the short videos on her playlist for this curriculum (click here to see it, as an example). I felt that the best grade level for this study is grade 6-10. (It is quite a detailed curriculum and in my opinion, is not as good for grade 5 and lower even if the younger ones show some interest.) I also think it is best if it is led by an adult rather than used as an independent course, due mainly to the higher-level of science vocabulary; but she does explain everything quite well so upper-level students would be able to manage learning on their own as well. I liked that the course was self-paced and could be comfortably completed in 4-6 weeks.
We purchased a full paper book (for me, the mom) and if I remember correctly, the older students made notes. We did this study more so as a discussion-based unit with natural observation along with viewing most of the videos, rather than marking quizzes/activity pages. I liked that her curriculum is flexible to use in this sense. There is a variety of things to do with it so you can simply pick and choose what fits your family the best at the time.
More recently, our family went through her unit study on PROTISTS, in approximately the same manner except that this time, grades 5-12 completed about half of each chapter activity pages. Again, the unit study was enjoyed, although this one has very high-level information in it so I occasionally summarized the material, as well as skipped over the “Poseidon” snippets of extra info. (My opinion is that this level of detail would be university, second or third year science.) Unless the student has an avid interest in microscopic topics earlier, I would put this study as grades 9-12 level.
THE ELEMENTS and CARBON CHEMISTRY are TWO separate chemistry curricula and we highly recommend them both for grade 10/11 chemistry. If the student had no prior knowledge of the periodic table, then I’d recommend starting with “The Elements” first. These courses were our most senior chemistry programs used in our family until this year so I do feel they cover the content very well. The reason our family is now not using these for grade 12 is because we found another place that has a larger lab and mathematical component to homeschool science for the senior secondary level. Otherwise, if a good upper-level general chemistry is what you’re looking for, Ellen’s chemistry books are excellent!!!
Our family’s chemistry plan definitely still includes her curricula: the beginner and primary level for chemistry is within our “Peppermint Stick” science levels K, A, B, and C; then for junior/senior elementary units, we use a couple of older/out-of-print books with “odds and ends”; then for sometime within grades 9-11 our teens would use “The Elements“ and “Carbon Chemistry“; and after completing that, they can take “Experience Chemistry” as a grade 12 lab course, if interested.
Ellen McHenry also offers other unit-based science curriculum, pictured below:
Most of The Basement Workshop’s products are SCIENCE. However, there are a few non-science products and I’ll highlight two of these for you here:
I have already mentioned in a previous blog here that we have used Ellen McHenry’s WORLD GEOGRAPHY course too. (I will change the mention of it on that page to an affiliate link.) It is an interesting way to learn where various pieces of land are located and their shapes since students draw the coastlines, etc.. That course I would say is good for grades 5+. This title is pictured left as an affiliate link.
Ellen’s sister is a linguist and designed an ENGLISH HISTORY curriculum which is also very unique and interesting. I mention this one in my blog post about high school English here. I’ve also added the picture of its cover, right, with my affiliate link.
On her “Basement Workshop” website, she also offers a number of printable games and samples of her work for FREE!
(One comment she makes about PHYSICAL SCIENCE is about the series of short “Eureka” science cartoons from TVOntario in the 1980s. She offers a few physics free downloads from her website but no curriculum book at the present time. For your convenience, I’ve also linked to a playlist of these “Eureka” videos on Youtube here. I personally have not used these at this point.)