I think this curriculum should be called Real Science-4-Kids (and Their Non-Science Parents)! We have a problem at our house. You see my nine-year-old son, Josiah, is a science fanatic. He knows more about science already from our limited schoolwork and his extensive reading than I will ever know in my whole lifetime. So how am I supposed to teach him anything? I need curriculum that makes things simple enough to teach my younger children, but allows greater depth to also teach Josiah.
We stumbled on this curriculum at a homeschool convention and e-mailed Gena, begging to review it! I loved the premise that it is not only trying to teach children facts from science, but more importantly, trying to teach kids how to think critically and scientifically, applying what they know to real-life situations. Now that is something I can do! We try to use critical thinking in every topic and throughout our normal day. Most importantly, the materials utilize an Intelligent Design perspective so there are no evolutionary assumptions to wade through.
There are three subjects available: chemistry, biology, and physics. Each subject has two levels, although the Level II materials are not released yet. The two levels will overlap so you could teach multiple grade levels at the same time. Level I materials are geared for grades three through five, and Level II for grades six through eight, but both could be used a little sooner or later as appropriate for your kids. Each subject includes a Student's Manual, Lab Manual, and a Teacher's Manual. The Teacher's Manual has the student's manual on one side of the page and additional, more in-depth information on the other side. The chemistry subject is available in book format ($59.95 for the set), and the other subjects are available on a disc or in PDF format ($34.95 for the CD-ROM disc or the PDF download) with all of the materials included in Adobe Acrobat format. The copyright allows you to use the materials for home use for all of your kids. Each level can be completed in a year, or made more in-depth for a longer study. If you have any questions about the curriculum, you can either e-mail Dr. Keller or use the science forum on the website.
So, what did we like about the Real Science-4-Kids curriculum (www.arn.org for more information and sample chapters, or call 1-888-259-7102)? First, the materials are written by Dr. Rebecca Keller, a homeschool mom who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and is active in research. In other words, the materials are written by someone who knows what she is talking about, but also understands most of us don't know science or don't feel confident teaching science. While Dr. Keller uses correct scientific vocabulary throughout, the materials are clear and easy to understand. There are wonderful color illustrations throughout the text that bring the concepts to life. One of my few complaints is that the Teacher's Manual has black and white pictures instead of color - no fair! The experiments are easy to understand and straightforward, using mostly only household items. I love idiot-proof experiments! The Laboratory Manual takes the student through the scientific method to form hypotheses, collect the data, and form conclusions based on the data. The materials do a good job of helping kids understand why things happen, not just watching an interesting experiment while learning nothing. If our kids can gain a solid foundation in chemistry, biology, and physics, and can think scientifically, they will be better able to not only understand science at high school and college levels, but to also defend their beliefs in every subject. I think these materials are an excellent way to begin this process! The materials are easy to use and yet comprehensive enough to give your children an excellent foundation in science that will last a lifetime.
-- Product Review by: Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, Staff Writer, TOS Magazine
Here's another Real Science review!
Biology Level 1 CD-ROM Version
Chemistry Level 1 Text Version
By Dr. Rebecca Keller
Access Research Network
This is grammar stage science with a difference. The difference is that your children will be learning real science, and enjoying themselves in the process. Nothing is watered down, the vocabulary is accurate, and the content is rich and comprehensive.
In order to really enjoy a discipline, we need to spend time with it. In areas like science where skills and content tend to merge together, this is especially true. You want to have your children really comfortable with their knowledge. All children love to know stuff. They take incredible pride in their comprehension of big words and will usually be glad to perform for grandparents and friends alike whenever they can.
Real Science delivers in a real way. Dr. Keller has given us the opportunity to provide our children with a great body of knowledge -: one that is usually not provided for until much later in their educational journey.
ARN Research Network has produced an intensive study of two disciplines: Biology and Chemistry. I reviewed Chemistry in the text format and Biology on a CD-ROM, which I printed off on my computer. It could also be read and worked on right off the PC desktop.
The introduction states that this program is aimed at grades two through five. It certainly treats the students with a great deal of respect in that the concepts that are introduced are more in line with what I have previously seen only in fifth and sixth or higher level texts. I must admit I was skeptical, at first, to think that a second grader could do any of the work suggested in this program. Imagine my delight then, to see my eight-year-old devour the information in the first chapter of Chemistry. Maybe it's true that we sometimes underestimate what our kids are capable of. I was sold on this program after just two sessions.
Each lesson in both Chemistry and Biology is comprised of two parts. Reading (and discussion) first, then experimentation (and recording). Most of the 10 lessons in Chemistry suggest 30 minutes of reading and anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes for the lab work. I would make sure to write down the vocabulary as you encounter it, as it is a major part of the program. Making vocabulary cards from recipe cards is a great idea and can be used for review throughout the whole course. At my son's level, keen as he was, I found the reading took much longer. We both wanted to make sure he understood the terminology and the concepts, so I broke the reading into two sessions. The text is absolutely beautiful - in writing and in imagery. The pages are high quality glossy paper and the illustrations are big, bold, and labeled perfectly. I like the fact that the author has highlighted all the important vocabulary so it is easily identifiable. Each chapter is broken down into sub topics, so we would read one or two points, note the new vocabulary, and talk about the concepts. I believe at this level it is important not to expect anything from your child. After all, at this age, they have no real body of knowledge from which to draw. That's what this program does. It builds up in them a core of knowledge that they will then be able to draw from and add to as they grow. At this age, I don't ask my son what he thinks should or may happen. I tell him what to watch for and why. This method works very well for us and this program flows wonderfully along with us. It took us about a week to do each lesson and I can see finishing each book within a 15 week framework very easily.
My son loved the labs even though I didn't think they were always necessary. They have their own lab notebook and they are taught right off the bat how to enter data properly. The lab sheets are partially filled out and this provides a great framework from which to learn. The kids learn right away what the proper scientific method of experimentation is and why it is done in this way. Everything you do in the labs is real science, hence the name. Just as if they were in a junior high lab class, the students are taught to observe closely and to note everything they see. This is where the excellent Teacher's Manual comes into play. As you go through the lab, you can use the manual to explain what is happening. It provides clear, concise explanations, as well as a reprint of the student's page so you see exactly what they see in their books (without the color pictures).
Dr. Keller has produced a quality curriculum full of solid information. Enjoy watching your kids minds turn on excitedly when presented with this information. We are thoroughly enjoying it.
Chemistry includes 10 chapters: Matter; Molecules; Chemical Reactions; Acids, Bases and Ph; Acid-Base neutralization; Mixtures; Separating Mixtures; Energy Molecules; Polymers and Biological Polymers (DNA & Proteins). Dr. Keller doesn't water down the terminology of any of these concepts, but she does write the lessons in understandable, logical English. The Periodic Table and elements are all covered in chapter one. The student text is non-consumable as is the Teachers Manual. The lab notebook is consumable, but you can buy more from the website.
Biology also includes 10 chapters. Beginning with Living Creatures and carrying on through cells, classification, and photosynthesis, this course is packed with information. There is no reference to evolution or creation. The text really sticks to what has been discovered and proven true scientifically. I highly appreciate the fact that there is no conjecture or supposition of fact. Real science is just what it claims to be - real science written for real kids. And parents too, I might add. I learned a thing or two in the early lessons.
I was glad to compare the two versions. If you order the CD-ROM, and wish to print out the whole thing, you will need a lot of paper and ink. I used a friend's laser printer, but it could only do black and white, which is a shame as the color diagrams are stunning. The alternative is to just print out the lab manual and have your child do the reading from the computer. I am a bit old fashioned as I like to sit with my kids while we are reading, but if you have an eager beaver or an older child that loves the computer, I can see where this would be a great option for you. You can compare the versions, and the prices - which are very reasonable - on the website, www.arn.org.
The Research Access Network also publishes other products. They have an interesting website that is worth a look. I highly recommend Real Science, especially if you have an eager child who is excited about being challenged. And don't forget, you set the pace and the tone. You can always adapt to meet your child's needs.