Saturday, May 29, 2010

FunSchooling Biology!

I already have a suggested living biology books reading list here for elementary to middle school age students.

We haven't read all the books listed there together yet but having read quite a lot on his own, the kiddo is very obviously ready and eager to read higher-level biology books. At the same time, he is not yet ready for too much technicality and in-depth labs.

I've been trying to pool together resources and ideas for this "in-between" stage. Something that will also appeal to this very non-sciency Mom (I have every intention of learning along LOL). We need a very fun course, with a focus on human biology and diseases of both the brain (including personality disorders) and the body, because that's where his more intense interests lie at the moment.

At the same time, he has "some" interest in plant life and animal ecology too, just nothing in-depth. His interest revolves around carnivorous and poisonous plants as well as adorable animals so we will focus only lightly on those topics for now.

It is quite likely that somewhere along the line, the kiddo and I might take diverging paths, reading or learning from different books. I'm listing all choices here for anyone who needs ideas.

The most popular reference texts for high school biology seem to be
The Way Life Works: The Science Lover's Illustrated Guide to How Life Grows, Develops, Reproduces, and Gets Along or the more textbooky version Exploring The Way Life Works: The Science of Biology
and this apparently must-have biology reference by Campbell and Reece.

The Way Life Works: The Science Lover's Illustrated Guide to How Life Grows, Develops, Reproduces, and Gets AlongI don't think he's ready to pick up the Campbell-Reece text yet and neither am I. We might eventually get to complete The Way Life Works or Exploring The way Life Works but that may not be for now either (LOL). I really like these books though due to their highly visual appeal.

This companion website to Hoagland's Exploring The Way Life Works, contains a number of links that coincide with the sections. Both Exploring The Way Life Works and The Way Life Works are organized in a similar fashion so you won't go off the mark by using these links. But a word of caution: a quick exploration showed that some links are broken.

We are not following a tried and tested skeleton for FunSchooling Biology. A lot of the book picks are going to chosen based on interest of the moment. But if you'd like a guideline on how to structure this list, you may very well use The Way Life Works as a guide. Or, here is another idea that I like from K12.

Living books that seem really fun to add:


The Way We Work by David Macaulay
What is DNA? A Biology Adventure from the Transnational College of LEX
The Cartoon Guide to Genetics by Larry Gonick (supervision suggested for younger ages
BBC Brain Story by Susan A. Greenfield
The Human Brain Book by Rita Carter
We've picked up a number of used Psychology textbooks over the past few weeks from our library's for sale sections so I would strongly suggest you keep a look out at your library too. You'll never guess what treasures you may find :)


Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif
A Field Guide to Bacteria by Betsey Dexter Dyer


Almost anything by Gerald Durrell (I really liked Catch Me A Colobus)
King Solomon's Ring: New Light on Animals' Ways by Konrad Lorenz
A Naturalist Indoors: Observing the World of Nature Inside Your Home and other books by Gale Lawrence


The Science of Life: Projects and Principles for Beginning Biologists by Frank Bottone Jr looks delectable. We haven't purchased a high-quality microscope yet so for now, we'll pick and choose experiments according to supplies we already have.

More serious learners might like Biology Inquiries: Standards-Based Labs, Assessments, and Discussion Lessons by Martin Shields. Also, don't miss Subadra's high school labs post.


AP Biology from MIT
Stanford Mini Med School (videos featuring scientists and physicians from Stanford School of Medicine)
HippoCampus AP Biology (free animated online Biology lessons)
Serendip (amazing wellspring of info for Biology with hands-on activities for HS teachers here)
Copernicus Project (videos on biological processes)
HHMI Holiday Lectures (free biomedical research DVDs shipped free too!)
HHMI Ask A Scientist (ask a question on major Biology topics)
iBioSeminars (short videos on a variety of biology topics)
Biology Junction (powerpoint slides on various topics)
Learn.Genetics (hands down one of our favorite websites on the Internet)
Cells Alive (video microscopy of cells with 3D animation)
Biological Animations (short animations of biological processes)
Interactive Animations (a student companion site to those using Boyer's Concepts in Biochemistry 3rd edition)
The Inner Life of a Cell (Flash movie on unseen molecular mechanisms of white blood cells)

Kathy Ceceri's Home Biology blog (see her sidebar for even more links to explore!).
In addition, see this link for seven universities that offer free Biology courses online (includes MIT).
Subadra and Jennifer’s amazing lists.
I also like these BioZone links: Online Textbooks and BioLinks (but have no experience with the workbooks yet).
Julie Knapp, owner of the Homeschool Diner, has a lovely list of Biology resources here. And here's a Well Trained Mind forum thread on Biology living books. (lots of thanks to Subadra for these tips!).

And we're going to try to catch as many public lectures on diseases as we can, near where we live.

For Living Science Yahoo Group members: I'll post a downloadable file of these links as soon as I am done scouting for more resources.

Acknowledgements: In preparing this list, I have borrowed a lot from conversations and discussions with other homeschoolers. I am sorry that I am unable to name everyone personally since a few were bookmarked ages ago through conversations in passing. I do want to especially thank (in alphabetical order) Becky, Jamie, Jennifer, Sarah, Subadra, and Ruth. Each home-educating mother's blog is already such a huge source of information and ideas for me. Add to that their plans for high school biology and I am in sheer, planning heaven! I'm also always grateful to members of the Living Science Yahoo Group who have selflessly shared names of resources that have worked for them.

Quick caveat: Please note that the websites listed here are authored by other parties and hence, I am not able to guarantee that links will remain active or the info, updated.


  1. Thank you for this post (and the whole blog, really) - your collection of resources is such a great fit for my family. I also have a 7 year old boy - we've been really enjoying the Mystery of the Periodic Table, and I have some of these biology books from the library right now.

    We moved out of the Bay Area (Fremont) just a few months before you moved in. We're in Utah now - I wish we were still local, we could have gone to Maker Faire together!

    Anyway, thanks for doing the work to put the blog together.

  2. Thanks Stephanie! I do wish we could have met before your move too :)


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