When Cell Theory turns Philosophical

Biology is a big subject this year. Big, as in expensive. Big, as in time consuming. Big, as in conceptually challenging.

But biology was my absolute favorite in high school. I was blessed with 2 years of an intense and rigorous high school biology course. It was so awesome, that, in comparison, the college courses I took in the same subject a few years later just felt like a genearl overview. And my classes in high school were so interesting that I remember a lot of the information even today.

As in literally, today.

Today’s lesson was on photosynthesis and cell respiration. I was reviewing last night to make sure I had all the supplies we needed, and my husband says, “Whoa! What is all that stuff? You sure have to study a lot yourself in order to teach it.”

“No, I actually already know it.”

Thanks, Mrs. Henry. You were an outstanding teacher!

(And I think I am a closet bio nerd. Seriously. Who still remembers stuff like that from 20 years ago!)

So this morning my 5th grader says to me, ” Oh no! Not a biology day!”

And I’m like, What!!

(I think I’m getting a little off subject.)


Our school year started, naturally, with cell theory. All living things are made up of cells. 5 or 6 weeks later my 5th grader (in level 2) is just finishing up his cell theory unit, whereas the younger kids (in level one) are knee deep in “The Human Body” and would have done a lab on respiration today had it not just been one of those days.


Judge me if you want. Something had to give. And this time it was science.

As for the younger kids, some of the fun things we’ve done regarding cell theory include looking at a really, really large cell (a chicken yolk and blastodisc), and making a model of a plant cell out of jello and fruit, with grape chloroplasts and a strawberry nucleus.


(Pineapple jello was probably never meant to be eaten alone. Not my favorite, just saying.)

I like our Level 1 bio book because I feel like it teaches REAL information and REAL science instead of rehashing the life cycle of a butterfly and the 5 senses over and over again. That’s all nice and stuff, but kids are capable of digging into the meat of things, at least more than we give them credit for, and I feel I’ve found a science curriculum that explains things at a child’s level, but doesn’t dumb it down for them.

Because kids aren’t dumb. They are just kids.

But (and this is where it gets fun) for my 5th grader who is in level 2, we have really had a blast. (Well, I have been having a lot of fun.) Every week we have a regular lab and also a microscope lab. He has already covered prokaryotes, eukaryotes, cell structure, organelles and organelle functions, cell specialization, some basic biochemistry and nutrition on a molecular level, cell membranes, and active and passive transport.

And of course today, the biochemistry of photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

And he’s 10.

He is not a genius. I am not a genius. But we can understand this stuff because we have found great resources and have no fear of fancy schmancy sounding words like endo and exocytosis, rough endoplasmic reticulum, deoxyribonucleic acid, mitochondria, and funny looking equations like 6CO2 + 6H2O + energy –> C6H12O6 + 6O2   and the reverse (which I am happy to explain if you don’t already know what that is). Nobody is here to tell us this is hard or confusing or that this is a class we should try to avoid. (Actually, I think that one would be chemistry or physics. Except we’ve taken both those courses in the last two years already – at least, we’ve done level 1 – watch out level 2! We are well on our way!)

I love homeschooling, because, among so many other things, we can avoid the detrimental outside voices that say “This is hard,” or “You can’t do it,” or “This is boring and who cares anyway.” We can just learn for learning’s sake and know and experience. And if it is hard, so what? We can take it at our own pace. It isn’t hard because someone told us so. It is hard because we are human, with various strengths and weaknesses. But we know and believe we can overcome our weaknesses with the right attitude, hard work, and oftentimes (if not ALL times) a lot of Grace.

So my 5th grader has already looked at onion cells, his own cheek cells, cell nuclei, chloroplasts, stomata, and such through his microscope. He is working on writing out the lab reports – which really IS hard for him because he hates writing. He has learned about food preservation (death to those prokaryotes!!) and made his own model of animal cell. Today we went slowly through all the biochemistry until he felt comfortable with it. (As in, why in the world does the cell have to take energy and go through all these chemical reactions just to come out with the exact same products in the end? Hint: the products aren’t all entirely exactly the same.) But now he knows.


And even though I really, truly, honestly do know that cell theory probably wont play much of a role in his adult life – in the sense that he may never, EVER, need to repeat the chemical process for photosyntheses ever again – it is enriching to know it.

He will be rich with knowledge.

I’m sure he could learn to do a job, do it well, and stick with that for his entire life and society would run smoothly, his life wouldn’t be any less successful than anyone else’s, he could provide for a family, and feel like he had done his part.

But I’m not going for the “cog in the system” program. And I don’t think, really, truly, honestly, most parents want that for their children.

My aim is to educate and to enrich.


(I think I’ve gone a little off subject again… which has prompted a change in the blog post title.)

Anyway, I am so thrilled to have found a great resource for biology.

It is a real challenge teaching two different levels of science at the same time. Especially when one level is so much more. More information. More in depth. More time consuming. (More expensive!) And a lot more stress on my end of the deal. But I feel like the results are worth it. I hope the results are worth it. I guess hope and faith are what keep me going on all this homeschooling business anyway.

Who said faith and science don’t go together? 😉 That is one thing I never understood.

Hopefully your science adventures are so much more this year also.

In a good way, of course.