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TOPS LEARNING SYSTEMS: Science with Simple Things!

by Peg Marson

TOPS is a little cottage industry with a big public face. For 25 successful years, Ron and Peg Marson have developed innovative science and math labs, each designed to give kids concrete, hands-on experience, and each designed to work! TOPS activities run on cheap, everyday materials, many of which are already in your desk, cupboard, or workshop. Popular in schools for their simplicity and economy, TOPS lessons are perfect in the homeschool environment for the same reasons.

Treat your family to inventive hands-on science and math with TOPS Learning Systems. Their informative website at offers 48 sample activities absolutely free -- one for every book they have published. Click on titles, listed by Grade Level, for plenty of informative detail. Their index suggests flexible target ages for the materials, pointing out that homeschoolers can often work outside the suggested age ranges. While you are visiting, don't miss the handy Homeschool Tips page for useful feedback from actual users. And TOPS offers an unexpected service you can email for technical help if you need a little coaching while teaching TOPS. Ron and Peg make a point of answering inquiries quickly.

TOPS offers science-shy families a gentle introduction to a range of topics. Carefully detailed Activity Pages guide younger students to success, one illustrated step at a time. Consider the possibilities: Your third through eighth graders can build switches and circuits, and blow a fuse to pop a balloon in Electricity #32. They can have active and artistic fun discovering how wild creatures fit their environments in Animal Survival #37. They can learn about plant habits firsthand in the Green Thumbs books, #38 and #39. They can fold pages to build creative balances, then do great math and science in Perfect Balance #31. And so much more!

For the youngest among us, the TOPS folks have created two unique learning systems based on pouring, measuring, and manipulating lentils. Lentil Science, available for both Primary #71 and Intermediate #72 levels, gives a year's worth of discovery, guided play, and invention. Or, for a focus on math, the Get a Grip Workstation #73 provides a complete program in a "job" box large enough for children to work in. Get a Grip disarms and charms students with ordinary pill vials, baby food jars, lentils, and 132 self-paced puzzles that lead young sleuths into an irresistible adventure learning science process skills, math operations, number sense, fractions and decimals, and simple algebraic language independently. This revolutionary program has received astonished and happy reviews from both parents and homeschool magazines.

For students working at middle and high school levels, TOPS Task Cards present open-ended challenges that require them to plan, hypothesize, experiment, record data, and draw conclusions like real scientists. Sixth graders and older can investigate rocks and minerals, chemical analysis, metrics and measurement, astronomy, oxidation, machines, and many other topics all creative, all tested for years in real teaching situations. Kids love improvising with simple stuff (they CAN try this at home) and catch on right away: science is within their reach!

Sensible organization and charming cartoon illustrations add instant appeal -- kids of all sorts warm to TOPS' trademark "peoplets." As an added economy, most TOPS programs permit the purchaser to photocopy lessons for every student he or she teaches. Softbound books are printed in calm and orderly black and white. Clear and comprehensive teaching notes and thoughtful background material eases "science jitters" even for parents not trained in the sciences.

TOPS Learning Systems' lovingly and cleverly crafted activities are designed to teach children how to think, inquire, improvise, and discover answers for themselves: exactly the skills students will need for college, and for life. TOPS promises to awaken your children's curiosity about the physical world and ignite a passion to become their own best teachers. R.

The Homeschoolers cartoon
This cartoon was created for us by TOPS illustrator Peg Nazari Marson


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