Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding Review

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With its integrative approach, flexible structure, inquiry-based learning, rigorous science instruction and frequently illuminating hands-on demonstrations and activities, Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding can be a very thorough and effective standards-aligned K-8 science curriculum that can encourage key critical thinking skills while sparking an enduring love of science in students. 

What We Like

Extremely affordable
Highly compact science curriculum
Very thorough and deep science learning
Encourages critical thinking, inquiry in students
Engaging discussions in each lesson
Very flexible for a homeschool curriculum
Lots of teaching tips, guidance and suggestions
Lots of hands-on learning opportunities
Tons of online support and communities

But watch out for

Parent intensive lessons
Not very open and go
Lesson scheduling can take time to work out

What is Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU)?

Created by Dr. Bernard J Nebel and first published in 2007, Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (or BFSU for short) is a homeschool science curriculum for elementary and middle school students.

Throughout its three volumes, the program covers four main subjects of science and does so using a combination of inquiry-based instruction, back and forth discussions, notebooking and, of course, hands-on demonstrations, experiments and activities.

What Ages or Grades is BFSU Intended For?

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding is aimed at grades K-8.

It divides its series into three volumes, each aimed at a different range of grades:

  • Volume 1: K-2
  • Volume 2: 3-5
  • Volume 3: 6-8

To teach elementary and middle school science comprehensively, each BFSU book is comprised of four science subjects, or “threads:”

  1. The Nature of Matter
  2. Life Science
  3. Physical Science
  4. Earth and Space Science

This is unlike some other homeschool science curricula for this age range, which tend to keep things separate by offering distinct textbooks and materials for each subject. 

While the series follows the same broad subjects, as the program progresses the lessons and topics it touches on build upon one another, becoming more complex in the concepts they introduce.

In fact, the program tends to dive into science a little more thoroughly than other programs and can touch on topics that aren’t usually a part of science education at this level. 

For example with The Nature of Matter, students may start off in Vol. 1 learning the basics of solids, liquids and gasses, but by the end of Vol. 3 are learning about nuclear chemistry, radioactivity and nuclear energy.

screenshot of lessons in building foundations of scientific understanding volume 3

This more advanced level of science learning allows the program to meet or exceed (in many cases) standards for science education, including Next Generation Science Standards and California state standards, among others, for the grades it aims at. 

On the other hand, as a result of being a bit more of an advanced curriculum, and as a result of its books and lessons building upon one another, it can be a little hard for parents switching into the program from another homeschool science program to know where to start. 

Unfortunately, there is no real placement test for this program.

Instead, BFSU recommends that parents check the table of contents for the previous books online before switching programs to make sure students are up to speed. 

This can be a bit tricky for some parents (such as new homeschoolers), however, as it requires a little more knowledge and assessment of where a student is currently at in terms of their science learning. 

With that said, we do feel that Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding can be a very open and useful curriculum for homeschooling families. 

As we will discuss in more detail below, the program’s lesson plans are pretty open and give parents a lot of flexibility with regards to their teaching, such as by offering lots of teaching tips, discussion and activity options and ideas, and sections for deepening and extending learning.

As a result, it is easy to use in order to teach students of different ages and grades, and it is fairly easy to adapt to individual students learning outside its suggested age range, such as precocious science learners and those who are a bit behind. 

What’s Required To Teach Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding?

BFSU is an extremely compact science curriculum. 

Unlike some other homeschool science programs we’ve seen, Building Foundations doesn’t make use of separate student workbooks or test books. 

Instead the core of the program is made up of a single book, from which both parents and students work.

As a result, there isn’t a lot of material that parents will have to buy, organize and keep track of with BFSU, which is somewhat refreshing.

BFSU Texts

As we’ve mentioned there are three volumes in the BFSU series. 

The texts used are rather big and thick black and white softcovers.

Much like a teacher’s manual, the books are written to the parent and contain things like BFSU’s method and philosophy, information on how to use the program (in volume 1), lesson flow chart, lesson objectives, science teaching material, various teaching tips, instructions for activities and experiments, questions for discussions and review, suggested readings and more. 

They are also text-heavy and contain no illustrations or artwork to speak of, which can make them seem a little dry and even intimidating to go through at first glance. 

picture of bfsu pages showing text heavy nature

Despite first appearances, however, the BFSU books are very easy to read and, by and large, the lesson plans and information they contain are well-organized and written in a clear and very understandable way, something that less science-inclined homeschooling parents will certainly appreciate.  

By and large, the books contain all the information a parent needs to teach a lesson.

They contain full and clear explanations of scientific concepts, as well as step by step guidance for parent-student discussions and, perhaps critically, for hands-on learning activities and their integration into a lesson. 

At times, however, the books may suggest that parents make use of outside materials or resources, such as books, illustrations, pictures, videos and more, to help students better understand the material.

This, of course, means that parents will have to go out and find these resources themselves, and in the case of internet resources, the books don’t actually provide a specific URL.

Instead, the texts tell parents to simply google something, which can leave them on their own to find a good resource from the myriad of resulting pages themselves, as can be seen in the example below. 

screenshot of bfsu lack of internet urls in resources

One thing homeschooling parents should note about BSFU and its texts is that they are not all that scripted. 

The books do provide ample guidance concerning what parents should do, what information they should present and, of course, provide a lot of background information on the science itself. 

They also provide parents with all the pertinent questions to ask in order to guide the discussion a little more smoothly and spark deeper student thought. 

In this way, they can pretty much carry a parent sequentially through a fairly thorough science lesson and touch on fairly complex topics without issue.

They don’t, however, always provide parents with an exact dialogue to follow.

As a result, many parents will have to spend time reading through each lesson and preparing a personal script and plan that will best suit their child, including finding and organizing any pictures, videos, readings or other resources and/or activities from the recommendations that they feel will enhance learning.

How much of an issue this is really depends on the homeschool, their schedule and their personal philosophy. 

More experienced homeschooling parents, even those who may not be all that strong in science themselves, may prefer this lack of scripting as it can feel a lot less constraining. 

BFSU can allow them to personalize and tailor the learning to their child’s needs, and allows parents a great deal of flexibility to use their natural teaching style to engage their student.

Busier homeschools and newer/less experienced homeschooling parents, however, may find the need for greater lesson preparation a little much, preferring a lesson that they can simply open and read through.

BFSU Approach To Teaching Science

Science Threads

As we’ve mentioned, BFSU has structured its program around four main subjects, or “threads” in science – The Nature of Matter, Life Science, Physical Science and Earth and Space Science, which it labels threads A-D.

Rather than being based around a distinct subject (having a book for physical science as can be found in programs such as REAL Science Odyssey, for example), each volume contains a number of lessons in each thread. 

As the program progresses, it revisits previously learned materials and goes deeper into each subject.

BFSU’s overall structure is somewhat like a spiral curriculum, although the topics don’t necessarily repeat over time but are different and usually more complex, as might be expected of a science program.

For example, Volume 1’s lessons in The Nature of Matter (Thread A) teaches students about solids, liquids and gasses, magnets and state changes, whereas in Volume 3 they learn about atoms, bonds, chemical reactions, nuclear energy and so on.

It’s also important to note that these threads aren’t tacked one at a time. 

Instead, although it ultimately is left up to the parent to decide, suggest lesson progression plans tend to involve moving across and down the individual threads.

For example, the program might suggest that a parent do three lessons in The Nature of Matter, followed by a lesson in Earth and Space Science, a lesson in Life Science, a lesson in Physical Science and then back to a lesson in the Nature of Matter. 

In this way, Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding tends to offer a more integrative, whole view of science. 

By teaching lessons across several subjects, science can seem less siloed and students can get a better idea of how topics can interrelate and fit together. 

On the downside, this approach does make lesson planning more challenging for parents.

BFSU does offer some flow charts in each volume to help parents figure out an effective lesson schedule, but these can be a little confusing for parents to follow at times and they will have to spend a little more time figuring things out and forging their own learning pathway. 

picture of lesson flowchart in BFSU

As it can be a bit time consuming for parents, a number of resources have popped up in recent years to help parents out, offering more intuitive lesson progressions that parents can follow. 

To their credit, BFSU has made some of these available for free on its forums and online communities. 

Inquiry-based Approach

BFSU takes an inquiry-based approach to teaching science.

In other words, it actively involves students in the learning process by frequently posing open-ended questions during instruction and connecting the concepts it introduces to real life objects and experiences that students can more readily understand.

In Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding lessons, parents take on the role of a guide rather than a lecturer, steering discussions and student thought onto the correct path.

screenshot of inquiry based approach used in bsfu

At the same time, as they learn, students are encouraged to question, debate and reason their way through the material, engaging their natural curiosity rather than fighting against it. 

The overall idea of this approach is to encourage structured, logical thinking and systematic questioning by gently guiding students on how to think and consider information, rather than just spoon feeding them the information.

This inquiry-based approach can have a number of advantages. 

By making students and their thought-process central to the learning, students end up being more engaged and interactive during learning, which in turn can lead to better retention of information compared to rote memorization.

Moreover, the guided questions and opportunities to reflect on the information they are presented with also encourages students to hone their critical thinking skills, which will serve them well in future STEM learning and life in general.

Parents should, however, be aware that this type of inquiry based approach can take more time and effort on the part of parents. 

With no word-for-word script to follow, parents will have to plan out how they want to introduce concepts naturally, pose questions and guide student thinking in a way that works for them.  

Dialogue-based Learning

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding lessons eschew the usual workbooks, quizzes and exercises in favor of a back and forth dialogue led by parents. 

These dialogues are somewhat similar to a Socratic method of instruction in that parents will introduce and idea or concept, either verbally or through a physical demonstration, and then pose specific questions in order to stimulate debate and reflection. 

screenshot example of inquiry based learning and discussions in bfsu lessons

Aside from fitting in nicely with the aforementioned inquiry-based approach to learning, this more open, back and forth dialogue style can make lessons a lot more dynamic and allows students to offer their own ideas and interpretations more frequently.

In fact, it helps BFSU stand out even among other inquiry-based science programs where lessons might involve students following a particular series of steps to answer a larger question, such as with Science Fusion, or follow designated pathways towards solving a particular problem, such as with Elevate Science, or even building a project, such as with Exploration Education

That said, dialogue-based learning does have some challenges that parents need to be aware of. 

Parents do need to be careful, for example, that dialogues, debates and discussions don’t get too far off track, especially when students are particularly creative or unconventional thinkers. 

While BSFU does offer a lot of tips to handle potential student responses, it can’t cover every eventuality and some student responses can take a parent by surprise, which can require some quick thinking to recover from.

Dialogue-based learning also assumes student interest in a Q&A format.

Some students actually prefer top-down rote learning to discussion and debate, and sometimes trying to engage such students in this style can be a bit like pulling teeth.

Notebooking and Journals

In addition to its dialogue-based lessons, throughout BFSU, students are encouraged to document their observations, data, ideas and results in a notebook.

At times during lessons, generally towards the end, the books offer fairly detailed suggestions to parents as to what students should record in these books. 

screenshot of notebooking suggestions in bfsu lessons

Given that the three volumes of the program cover kindergarten through grade 8, student notebooking activities do become more sophisticated as the program progresses.

Students starting off in volume 1 creating fairly simple mini-booklets with basic information, drawings and so on, and eventually progressing into full composition books where they record things like experiment outcomes, vocabulary, sketches, notes and so on.

Ultimately, these notebooks can serve as a kind of reference book for students to use later, helping organize their thoughts and obvservations a bit more, while providing a good alternative to frequent quizzing and testing when it comes to assessing student retention and understanding.

They also give students a sense of personalization and ownership over their learning compared to the usual assortment of exercise books and preformatted science journals that most programs offer, which is always nice.

Hands-On Activities, Demonstrations And Experiments

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding includes a number of hands-on activities, demonstrations and exercises that give students an opportunity to physically interact with the scientific concepts they learn about.

As with many other quality homeschool science programs, the program bases these activities on commonly available household items, such as magnets, string, flashlights, batteries, wire, straws, pencils and so on. 

Each lesson plan helpfully includes a pretty detailed materials section that lays out what’s required for that particular lesson, and with the exception of a few items (plumb bobs, field guides for local flora and fauna, a triple beam balance or scale, fossil kits) most families should have a good number of these lying around the house so there is no real need for an expensive science kit.

That said, as with other household goods-based curricula, it does mean that many families will have to do some shopping at their local store or online before starting.

One thing we found interesting with BFSU compared to other science curricula is that these experiments and demonstrations tend to be more tightly integrated into the lessons, rather than being kept as a seperate or district component of teaching.

That is, they are often used to pique a student’s curiosity and interest, initiate a discussion or demonstrate a point that the lesson is making, with students recording observations and thoughts in their notebook afterwards, rather than simply teaching a student the material and then setting up an experiment afterwards.

We feel this approach makes BFSU lessons a little more interactive, exciting and multisensory compared to a lecture style, with demonstrations happening in real time and as students go along,

We feel it can also better help students come to terms with abstract concepts, as the learning material and hands-on/physical demonstrations are a little closer together.

Again, it does, however, mean that parents will have do a little bit more prep before a lesson, i.e. gathering and assembling things, as there won’t be a natural break between teaching and demonstration.

How It Works

Each volume in BFSU is intended to cover about 3 years worth of science study  (K-2, 3-5, 6-8). 

As we’ve mentioned, the volumes are made up of four threads (A, B, C and D), with a number of lessons each, with the intention that parents and students shift between them. 

The idea being that the concepts learned in one thread’s lesson (e.g. what is energy) can help students concepts in another (e.g. how plants and animals store and make use of energy), or, as the title of the series implies, to build a solid foundation of science learning for each of the subjects.

Parents can either follow the program’s suggested lesson flowcharts found at the front of the book or come up with their own pace and schedule of learning based on their students needs, preferences, homeschool philosophy, the materials available on hand and so on.

The lessons themselves are written to and led by the parent and, as discussed, are written as a guided discussion or dialogue between parent and student.

Rather than providing a textbook-style lecture or script for parents to follow, the lessons largely contain a mixture of science facts and prompts for teaching. 

They may, for example, detail ways of demonstrating a concept using a hands-on activity, offer tips for piquing student interests, offer pointed and guided questions to ask, prompt parents to allow students to reflect or challenge an idea, offer ways of responding to student answers and more.

Each lesson follows a fairly similar format and is broken into several parts.  

As with other lesson plans, the first few sections mainly concern themselves with the basic outline and administration of a lesson. 

They contain things like a summary of the lesson’s teaching and goals, an estimate of the time required for the lesson, expected learning outcomes, and a materials list for the lesson’s hands-on demonstration or experiment.

Interestingly, they also contain a section that outlines the required science background and knowledge that a student is expected to have in order to effectively learn the lesson’s material. 

Not only does this give parents an opportunity to review previously learned concepts, but given the flexible and somewhat unusual lesson flow of BFSU and given how lessons tend to build upon (and refer back to) previously learned materials, it can be quite useful for parents who following their own schedule or who have switched in from another program.

The teaching component for a lesson is split into three sections – a Teachable Moment, Methods and Procedures and Questions/Discussion/Activities to Review, Reinforce, Expand, and Assess Learning.

The Teachable Moment section in BFSU is something of a lesson hook, a common feature in inquiry-based teaching where parents draw a student in and pique their interest in what they are studying.

The specific hook can differ between lessons and the age/maturity of the child, but can involve things like activities, physical demonstrations, or even going outside to see a concept in action.

The Methods and Procedures section is generally where the main teaching and discussion occurs in a lesson and is really the core of learning.

This section is usually the longest, diving into a concept and its different aspects in a fair amount of depth, and can be divided into several sections that can be spread over a number of days depending on parent preference.  

It is at this point that parents begin to really get into and guide discussions, introducing hands-on demonstrations, asking questions, introducing science facts and even conducting activities and games as suggested and directed by the text. 

screenshot of game in bfsu lesson

The Questions/Discussion/Activities section, as the rather long title may indicate, offers a variety of possible suggestions to do, ask or talk about that can help review or test a students understanding of the material.

Again, these vary depending on the lesson, but may involve things like:

  • Notebooking activities
  • Creating posters
  • Creating diagrams or models
  • Watching topical videos and other related outside resources
  • Additional ideas for focused discussion
  • Games
  • Show and tells
  • Activities to do outside the home (in stores, malls, parks etc)
  • And much more

Following this section, parents are also given to enhance learning in some way.

There is a section called To Parents and Others Providing Support, which offers a number of different activity ideas and tips to help students better understand the material of the lesson.

screenshot of enrichment activities offered by bfsu in its lessons

There may also be Connections To Other Topics, which helps reinforce how one aspect of science interrelates with another and helps broaden students’ appreciation for the various subjects they are learning, as well as a Standards section in some lessons, which can help parents ensure their learning meets state standards. 

screenshot of topical connections offered by bfsu in its lessons

Finally, there is usually a section for continued reading, which offers parents a list of readings that they can assign their student (or read to them) in order to take the learning a little deeper. 

screenshot showing examples of readings offered by building foundations for scientific understanding lessons

This can also introduce a sort of literature-based learning connection, which many classical and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers may enjoy.

Parents should note, however, that they will have to source the books on their own, either from the library or online, as the BSFU books do not contain any excerpts or readers.

Parents should also note that there is a fairly substantial online community built around BFSU, including an official website/forum, various private facebook groups and much more, all of which freely offer various tips, resources and help with planning and executing lessons with this series. 

This extra level of community support is not particularly common with other science curricula out there and can be very helpful for parents running into trouble or uncertainty with this program.

BFSU Lessons: Our Thoughts

Overall, we found that BFSU can be a very thorough, flexible and capable homeschool science curriculum.

Its lessons are highly structured, very consistent and do a good job at guiding parents through an inquiry-based learning process, offering lots of detailed tips, suggestions, science knowledge and activity ideas.

As a result, as long as they are willing to read through the lessons ahead of time, parents don’t really need to have a recent or even strong background in science to spark interesting discussions or have engaging science experiences with their students. 

At the same time, BFSU does offer a great deal of flexibility to parents. 

While it provides suggestions and tips for teaching, as well as a suggested lesson flow, it really leaves the specifics of teaching a student and the execution of lessons to the parent.

Parents, for example, can create their own script for learning, pick their own lesson flow, choose which resources and activities to include, which readings to add and much more.

The program is also very thorough and fairly advanced compared to many other science programs we’ve looked at, diving into the scientific concepts fairly deeply, connecting them to real life situations and experiences, and directly teaching students all the appropriate vocabulary they’ll need at a fairly professional level. 

The threads in each volume, meanwhile, often exceed the standards for their grade range, frequently touching on topics that most science programs would consider too advanced for a student, such as Vol. 1 discussing magnetic fields, crystallization, inertia and friction with K-2 students. 

Yet, due to the careful use of Socratic discussion and the frequent use of hands-on learning, games and activities, videos and references to the environment around the student, we never felt that these rather abstract concepts were too hard for even younger students to grasp.

Additionally, the program’s focus on critical thinking was something we particularly enjoyed. 

Throughout the lessons, students are encouraged to critically analyze what they see, question and debate what they’re being asked or told and offer their own interpretations and ideas on the world around them, all key skills when it comes to honing the scientific mind and a way of learning that we feel really encourages deeper understanding and integration of scientific facts and methodologies compared to rote memorization. 

Finally, we feel that the notebooking activities and Questions/Discussion/Activities section of the program can be a great way to help parents introduce a more formal assessment and review component in a far more low-pressure manner compared to the typical quizzes and tests, something that can be very helpful to science-shy students and those with test-anxiety. 

On the downside, the amount of flexibility built into Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding does mean that parents will need to do a lot more prep work compared to many other programs. 

While parents are free to put their own spin on things in terms of their and can choose to teach and set up each lesson to fit their needs and preferences, they will actually have to spend the time going through each lesson and the program to do so. 

And this also goes for parents who aren’t really into customizing their own teaching program.

Most parents, regardless of their homeschooling style, will have to sit down and prepare their own script, set their methods of teaching, pick activities, gather materials and, of course, read the lessons carefully to figure out what they are getting at and to pick up on any nuances. 

As a result, it may not be the best curriculum for those facing a time crunch or who have many students to teach as it is certainly not an “open and go” science curriculum.

In a similar vein, although its texts are quite thick, they don’t contain all the resources that parents will need if they want to enrich the main teaching. 

The books are text-heavy and contain no reading excerpts, ready links/URLS or illustrations, even when they are referenced in a lesson and so parents will have to go out and source these themselves, whether it involves a Google search, an online purchase or a trip to the bookstore or library. 

Is BSFU A Secular Science Curriculum?

Yes, BSFU is a secular science curriculum.

It makes no religious references and teaches things like the fossil record, heredity and evolution and so on. 

As a result it can be a great option for secular homeschools and, due to the great degree of flexibility in lesson scheduling and structure it offers, even neutral and faith-based homeschools can make effective use of it if they are willing to adjust things a little bit to fit their beliefs. 

Pros and Cons


Highly affordable science program

BFSU is a very budget friendly homeschool science curriculum. 

Each book in the series provides about three years worth of science instruction and costs well under $40 or so (at time of writing), which is far less than most of its rivals. 

A very compact curriculum

BFSU is a highly compact curriculum, with the bulk of teaching coming from a single textbook.

Unlike other programs there are no separate student texts, workbooks or textbooks, meaning the program is very easy for parents to organize, store and maintain. 

Very thorough and rigorous science learning

BFSU is a very comprehensive and thorough science program. 

It meets and usually exceeds NGSS standards for K-8 science instruction, touches on topics usually considered advanced for its grade ranges, and it places a stronger focus on getting students to understand science rather than just memorize it.

Encourages critical thinking and inquiry

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding teaches using an inquiry-based approach where students are constantly asked to think through, question, link concepts to real life situations and debate the information they are presented with.

In this way, students are encouraged to hone their critical thinking and analysis skills far more than they might in a traditional science lecture format. 

Engaging discussion based approach

Rather than simply having a parent read from a textbook, BFSU has parents and students engage in a guided back and forth discussion, which makes lessons far more dynamic and can make learning far more personal and engaging for students.

Exceptionally flexible as a curriculum

Although BFSU does a good job at guiding parents through lessons, it also allows them a great deal of freedom in deciding how they would like to teach their students, what resources to add to enrich, review or expand learning and even the particular progression of lessons and topics.

In this way, parents can really personalize the program around their students’ needs and their homeschool philosophy. 

Lots of teaching tips and suggestions

While flexible and fairly open, BFSU doesn’t leave parents on their own.

Instead, each lesson is filled with a lot of critical scientific information, as well as numerous tips and advice for presenting information effectively, introducing hands-on learning, prompting students, responding to questions, troubleshooting and much more.

Lots of hands-on activity

In addition to its discussions, BFSU also integrates a lot of tactile and kinesthetic learning, with each lesson integrating hands-on demonstrations and experiments, which are designed to spark student curiosity and demonstrate concepts in real time.

In addition, lessons also offer ideas for games, activities and even real world explorations of scientific concepts that parents can add to lessons.

Lots of online support

Should parents get confused or need extra help teaching the program, BFSU also has developed a fairly extensive following online, with numerous forums, social media groups and more dedicated to helping homeschooling parents teach the program effectively to their students. 


Lessons are pretty parent intensive

BFSU is not a self-study program and parents will have to spend a considerable amount of time with students during lessons, in addition to gathering materials and the usual administrative work teaching science requires. 

Can require a lot of prep work

BFSU is not an open and go program and parents will likely have to spend a fair amount of time before lessons figuring out how they would like to phrase things, what materials they need to gather, what activities they would like to introduce and so on, which can be a little demanding for some.

Lesson structure can be a bit confusing for some

BFSU is not a curriculum that can be read front to back. 

Instead lessons in different threads interrelate and build upon one another, meaning that parents will be expected to shift between lessons in different subject areas pretty frequently. 

This can make figuring out a lesson schedule a little confusing. 

Who is Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding Ideal For?

Those looking for a very thorough approach to teaching K-8 science

BFSU is a very thorough science curriculum that not only meets and exceeds standards for K-8 science education, but tends to introduce topics normally considered advanced for students in this age range and gets students thinking critically about what they are learning, helping them build a strong base for future STEM learning.

Those looking for a secular homeschool science curriculum

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding is a secular homeschool curriculum that makes no religious references, adheres to NGSS standards for science education (among others) and teaches concepts such as the fossil record, evolution and more. 

Those looking for a science program that lets them configure learning to their needs

BFSU is a very flexible homeschool curriculum, as well, and allows parents the freedom to create their own teaching script, choose different lesson pathways, pick activities and enrichment resources and more. 

As a result, it can be a far more personalizable homeschool curriculum than most others on the market. 

Those looking for a science program that is a little more integrative 

With each book touching on life science, earth and space science, physical science and the nature of matter, and with lessons from one discipline often being used as a base of understanding in another,  BFSU shows students how scientific disciplines can interrelate and how they don’t necessarily have to be seen or studied in isolation. 

As a result, students can be said to get a more realistic view of science as a discipline and study.

Those looking for a science program that encourages student engagement and critical thinking

Each lesson in BFSU uses Socratic-style prompts and demonstrations in order to encourage students to discuss, debate, analyze and generally wrestle with the information that they are presented with.

Not only does this keep students more engaged throughout lessons, and not only can it make the learning much more personally relevant, but it also helps students learn to question the world around them more systematically and logically. 

Homeschools on a very strict budget

Finally, BFSU is quite affordable as a homeschool curriculum. 

With three years’ learning costing less than $40, and with most of the outside resources available online or at a local library, it can easily fit into even tighter homeschool budgets. 

Who is it Not Ideal For?

Parents who don’t have a lot of time to teach

BFSU is a very parent intensive program and requires parents to be present and engaged throughout. 

During its lessons, parents are expected to introduce concepts, demonstrate ideas, discuss topics with their students, guide debate and bring in outside resources as necessary.

As a result, it may not be the best choice for really busy parents.

Those looking for a strictly faith-based science program

BFSU is a secular homeschool curriculum that doesn’t contain references to God or religion and teaches topics that might be controversial to some homeschools, such as the fossil record, the geologic age of the earth and topics in evolution. 

As a result, it may not be the most ideal for those seeking a more faith-based or creationist science curriculum. 

Those looking for an open and go science curriculum

Finally, BFSU is not a curriculum parents will be able to pick up and start reading from and does require a fair amount of lesson planning on the part of parents.

Its lessons are more helpful and detailed guidance than direct script, and parents will have to spend time gathering materials and outside resources, planning out how they will specifically present the material, deciding what activities to introduce and more. 


Note: Prices correct as of writing, all prices in USD.

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding is a very compact homeschool curriculum in that it doesn’t require a lot of workbooks, journals, student books or other materials. 

In effect, the program really only requires that parents buy the main texts, which cost around $29-$35 for printed copies, depending on the volume in question.

As always, parents should check for the latest prices, as well as any discounts or offers that may be available. 




Is It Worth The Price?

Overall, we feel that for the right families BSFU can be a very useful and highly cost effective science curriculum. 

While fairly inexpensive to purchase, the program offers parents and students an extremely thorough and rigorous education in life science, physical science, earth science and more, meeting and often far exceeding science standards for the grades it aims at. 

At the same time, Dr. Nebel ensures that the materials are very understandable and relevant to students by using a combination of engaging back and forth dialogues, leading questions, hands-on demonstrations/activities and references to common, everyday things that students will already be familiar with.

The inquiry-based approach and encouragement of student-centered discussions and debates that are tightly woven into each lesson serve to hone students’ critical thinking skills and get them far more engaged and active with their learning compared to many other programs we’ve seen, which in turn can not only help with retention of information but can help spark a love of science. 

Further, although perhaps not very open and go, BFSU is quite well structured, providing parents with a good deal of scientific information as well as step-by-step guidance, tips, troubleshooting ideas and activities. 

All this can make the books very usable and lessons very effective, even when led by those with rustier science backgrounds.

Finally, BFSU is extremely flexible and offers homeschooling parents a myriad of ways to configure its lessons, activities and structure to fit their particular needs or philosophies. 

Bottom Line

With its integrative approach, flexible structure, inquiry-based learning, rigorous science instruction and frequently illuminating hands-on demonstrations and activities, Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding can be a very thorough and effective standards-aligned K-8 science curriculum that can encourage key critical thinking skills while sparking an enduring love of science in students. 

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About the Author

David Belenky is a freelance writer, former science and math tutor and a tech enthusiast. When he’s not writing about educational tech, he likes to chill out with his family and dog at home.