Our human biology and genetics curriculum (homeschooling)

Continuing my series publishing my lesson plans so parents who are interested in homeschooling can see how we do it in detail. This is our 4th grade human biology and genetics curriculum.

Our daughter is gifted and interested particularly in science. We go all out in studying science each year so she feels happy and challenged. She just turned eight years old, but we typically use late middle school and high school textbooks for her. When she was younger, we did not use textbooks at all. We systematically worked our way through the children’s non-fiction section at the library, reading thousands of books together over the years. There are so many high-quality STEM resources for children now. If you’ve passed those on to your kid and then show them a regular textbook geared toward elementary-aged children, they are going to tell you it’s for babies. And they aren’t wrong. Somehow general curriculum has become more basic as our society has become technologically advanced. It’s a fascinating phenomenon.

I say this all the time, but having the ability to teach your children at their real intellectual level – as opposed to what the government thinks is average for their chronological age – is one of the best arguments for homeschooling. Our daughter specifically asked to study genetics this year. I can’t even fathom how much we’d be suppressing her intellect by putting her in a traditional school.


McDougal Littell Science, Human Biology

McDougal Littell Science, Cells and Hereditary

Margaret Matt, Human Anatomy Coloring Book

Silver and Wayne, My First Book About the Brain

Robert Griffin, The Biology Coloring Book

Other thematic non-fiction books (listed below)

Human Biology

  • Read Michael Bright, How We Became Humans: Our Incredible Evolutionary Journey
  • Read Chapter 1.1 – The Human Body is Complex; Notes
  • Activity – How Do the Systems in Your Body Interact?
  • Coloring Page – Systems of the Human Body
  • Read Chapter 1.2 – The Skeletal System Provides Support and Protection; Notes
  • Activity – Movable Joints
  • Coloring Pages – Skeletal System; Skull; Vertebral Column; Axial Skeleton; Appendicular Skeleton – Upper and Lower Extremities
  • Math in Science – Rates of Production
  • Read Chapter 1.3 – The Muscular System Makes Movement Possible; Notes
  • Coloring Pages – Muscular System; Muscles of the Face, Head, and Neck; Muscles of the Torso; Muscles of the Upper Limbs; Muscles of the Lower Limbs
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 2.1 – The Respiratory System Gets Oxygen and Removes Carbon Dioxide; Notes
  • Activity – How Does Air Move in and Out of Lungs?
  • Coloring Pages – Respiratory System; Nose, Nasal Cavities, and Pharynx; Mechanisms of Breathing and Swallowing; Larynx and Trachea; Alveoli; Breathing Mechanism
  • Read Chapter 2.2 – The Digestive System Breaks Down Food; Notes
  • Activity – How Does the Digestive System Break Down Fat?
  • Activity – How Does Saliva Affect Starch?
  • Math in Science – Internal Measurement
  • Coloring Pages – Digestive System; Mouth and Esophagus; Stomach; Small Intestine; Larger Intestine; Accessory Organs of Digestion
  • Read Chapter 2.3: The Urinary System Removes Waste Materials; Notes
  • Coloring Page – The Urinary System; Kidneys
  • Activity – How Does the Skin Get Rid of Body Waste?
  • Activity – Modeling a Kidney
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 3.1: The Circulatory System Transports Materials; Notes
  • Activity – How Fast Does Your Heart Beat?
  • Activity – Heart Rate and Exercise
  • Coloring Pages – Circulatory System; Heart; Pulmonary Circulation; Arteries; Veins
  • Read Chapter 3.2: The Immune System Defends the Body; Notes
  • Activity – How Does the Body Keep Foreign Particles Out?
  • Activity – How Do Antibodies Stop Pathogens from Spreading?
  • Coloring Pages – Lymph System
  • Read Chapter 3.3 – The Integumentary System Shields the Body; Notes
  • Activity – What Are the Functions of Skin?
  • Activity – How Does Oil Protect Your Skin?
  • Extreme Science – Artificial Skin
  • Coloring Pages – Skin; Scarring, Nails, and Coloring
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 4.1 – The Nervous System Responds and Controls; Notes
  • Activity – Can You Name the Scent?
  • Coloring Pages – Nervous System; Nerve Cell; Brain; Spinal Cord; Sensation Sites; Autonomic Nervous System
  • Discussion – What is Consciousness? What is a Coma? What is Intelligence? Historical Experiments Testing Awareness and Artificial Intelligence
  • Activity – Are You a Supertaster?
  • Coloring Pages – Cerebrum, Cerebellum, Brain Stem, and Nerve Cells
  • Coloring Pages – Making Sense, How You See, How You Hear, Keep in Touch, How You Smell and Taste
  • Coloring Pages – Left Brain / Right Brain, Corpus Callosum, Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Keeping Balance, Cranial Nerves
  • Coloring Pages – Nerves and Involuntary Faculties, Grow that Brain, Comparing Human and Animal Brains
  • Coloring Pages – Feelings, Memories, and Dreams
  • Read Chapter 4.2 – The Endocrine System Helps Regulate Body Conditions
  • Coloring Pages – Endocrine System
  • Activity – How Does Your Body Temperature Change When You Exercise?
  • Connecting Sciences – Heating and Cooling
  • Read Chapter 4.3 – The Reproductive System Allows the Production of Offspring; Notes
  • Activity – How are Egg and Sperm Cells Different?
  • Math in Science – Twins and Triplets
  • Coloring Pages – Reproductive System; Female Reproductive System
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 5.1 – The Human Body Changes Over Time; Notes
  • Activity – Are There Patterns of Growth?
  • Activity – Life Expectancy
  • Read Chapter 5.2 – Systems in the Body Function to Maintain Health; Notes
  • Activity – Food Labels
  • Read Chapter 5.3 – Science Helps People Prevent and Treat Disease; Notes
  • Activity: Cleaning Your Hands
  • Review

Dissection Week

  • Dissection of sheep’s brain
  • Dissection of sheep’s heart
  • Dissection of sheep’s kidney
  • Dissection of sheep’s eyeball

Cell Structures and Genetics

  • Read Chapter 1.1 – The Cell is the Basic Unit of Living Things; Notes
  • Activity – Does a Candle Show Signs of Life?
  • Coloring Pages – Being Alive; How Science Began; Scientific Method Today; Matter and Elements; Compounds and Mixtures; Elements in Living Things
  • Activity – Using a Microscope
  • Read Chapter 1.2 – Microscopes Allow Us to See Inside the Cell; Notes
  • Coloring Pages – Subatomic Particles; Atomic Structure; Ionic Bonds; Covalent Bonds; Water Molecules; Unusual Properties of Water; Acids and Bases
  • Coloring Pages – Cell Theory; Sizes of Things; Student Microscopes; Research Microscopes; Cell Preparation for Light Microscopes; Cell Preparation for Transmission Electron Microscopes; Interpreting Thin Sections
  • Activity – How Do Plant and Animal Cells Compare?
  • Coloring Pages – Animal Cell; Plant Cell; Prokaryotic Cells
  • Read Chapter 1.3 – Different Cells Perform Various Functions; Notes
  • Activity – How Do Roots Differ from Leaves?
  • Activity – Cell Models
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 2.1 – Chemical Reactions Take Place Inside Cells
  • Activity – How Are Different Types of Molecules Important in Your Everyday Life?
  • Activity – What Happens When You Combine Oil and Water?
  • Coloring Pages – Carbohydrates I; Carbohydrates II; Lipids; Protein; Amino Acids; Protein Structure I; Protein Structure II; Nucleotides
  • Read Chapter 2.2 – Cells Capture and Release Energy; Notes
  • Activity – How Can You Tell if Fermentation Releases Material?
  • Biosphere 2 Documentary
  • Read Chapter 2.3 – Materials Move Across the Cell’s Membranes; Notes
  • Activity – How Do Particles Move?
  • Activity – How Does Cell Size Affect Transport?
  • Activity – Diffusion
  • Coloring Pages – Membrane Properties; Osmosis; Evidence of Membrane Ultrastructure; The Fluid Mosaic Model
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 3.1 – Cell Division Occurs in All Organisms; Notes
  • Activity – How Does DNA Fit Inside the Nucleus?
  • Connecting Sciences – Chemical Dyes Show Nerve Growth
  • Read Chapter 3.2 – Cell Division is Part of the Cell Cycle; Notes
  • Activity – How Can You Model Mitosis?
  • Activity – Stages of the Cell Cycle
  • Read Chapter 3.3 – Both Sexual and Asexual Reproduction Involve Cell Division; Notes
  • Activity – Which Part of Plants Can Reproduce?
  • Math in Science – Divide and Multiply
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 4.1 – Living Things Inherit Traits in Patterns; Notes
  • Activity – Offspring Models
  • Read Chapter 4.2 – Patterns of Hereditary Can Be Predicted; Notes
  • Activity – How Can Probability Help Predict Results?
  • Activity – Do Probabilities Affect Each Other?
  • Coloring Pages – Introduction to Genetics; Mendel’s Peas; Flower Color Hybrids
  • Coloring Pages – Gene Symbols; Two-Character Cross
  • Read Chapter 4.3 – Meiosis is a Special Form of Cell Division; Notes
  • Activity – Why Does Sexual Reproduction Need a Special Form of Cell Division?
  • Activity – How Can You Model Fertilization?
  • Coloring Pages – Mitosis and Meiosis; Summary of Mitosis and Meiosis
  • Activity – Are Traits Linked?
  • Coloring Pages – Linkage in Fruit Flies; Chromosome Crossovers; Sex Linkage I; Sex Linkage II; Sex Linkage III; Blending Inheritance I; Blending Inheritance II; Codominance and Blood Types
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 5.1 – DNA and RNA Are Required to Make Proteins; Notes
  • Activity – How Does a Template Work?
  • Activity – Extract and Observe DNA
  • Coloring Pages – DNA Discovery; DNA and Transformation; DNA in Neurospora; DNA in Bacteriophage; DNA Base Pairing
  • Coloring Pages – The Double Helix; DNA Replication; Protein Synthesis – Translation; The Genetic Code
  • Coloring Pages – Charles Darwin; Artificial Selection and Natural Selection; Natural Selection We Can See; Speciation; Communities; Biochemical Cycles
  • Read Chapter 5.2 – Changes in DNA Can Produce Variation; Notes
  • Activity – What Happens to a Code If Small Changes Occur?
  • Activity – How Does a Large Number of Non-Coding Sequences Affect Mutations?
  • Math in Science – Percents and Populations
  • Read Chapter 5.4 – Modern Genetics Uses DNA Technology; Notes
  • Extreme Science – Modern Genetics Meets the Dodo and the Solitaire
  • Review

Portfolio – Science in the News

  • Keep a collection of news articles about human biology. At the end of the academic year, discuss new developments and concerns in the context of what you’ve learned.

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