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Science Shepherd Biology Review by Jacquelin Caffey, Debra Brinkman, and Kate KesslerIncludes:
Answer Key & Parent Companion
Scott Hardin, MD
Ohana Life Press
1405 Capitol Dr.
Pewaukee, WI 53072
Every time I tell people we are studying Biology I get asked “Are you really going to dissect a frog?” Yes, yes we will! This is my third time teaching Biology and it was evident last November that my current 9th grader was struggling with the popular program that I have used successfully with my two older daughters. After researching different programs, I was not happy with the selections and decided to just keep plugging away with what we had with modifications. Then we were offered to review Science Shepherd Biology Set and it has changed my 9th grade daughter’s sour view of science back into fun.
Science Shepherd Biology is a huge textbook written by Scott Hardin, MD. When I say huge, I mean a huge and heavy textbook filled with over 700 pages of biology knowledge. In fact, it includes everything from basic cells and their function to four sections on Human Anatomy & Physiology.
The set we received is the third printing and includes 34 Chapters with the following topics:
CHAPTER 1: Introduction
CHAPTER 2: The Composition and Chemistry of Life
CHAPTER 3: Basic Biochemistry of the Molecules of Life
CHAPTER 4: Introduction to the Cell and Cell Membrane
CHAPTER 5: The Cell Interior and Function
CHAPTER 6: Metabolism Overview and Enzymes
CHAPTER 7: Photosynthesis
CHAPTER 8: Cellular Respiration
CHAPTER 9: DNA, RNA, and Proteins
CHAPTER 10: Cell Reproduction: Mitosis
CHAPTER 11: Organism Reproduction: Binary Fission, Budding, and Meiosis
CHAPTER 12: Genes and Heredity
CHAPTER 13: Inheritance Patterns
CHAPTER 14: Genetic Variation
CHAPTER 15: Human Genetics
CHAPTER 16: DNA Technology
CHAPTER 17: Introduction to the Creation and Evolution Origins Models
CHAPTER 18: Evolution: History and Present State
CHAPTER 19: From Fossils to neo-Darwinism
CHAPTER 20: Biological Classification and Viruses
CHAPTER 21: Kingdoms Bacteria and Archaea
CHAPTER 22: Kingdom Protista
CHAPTER 23: Kingdom Fungi
CHAPTER 24: Plants: Introduction, Structure and Function
CHAPTER 25: Plants: Physiology, Reproduction, and Classification
CHAPTER 26: Kingdom Animalia I
CHAPTER 27: Kingdom Animalia II
CHAPTER 28: Kingdom Animalia III
CHAPTER 29: Kingdom Animalia IV
CHAPTER 30: Human Anatomy and Physiology I
CHAPTER 31: Human Anatomy and Physiology II
CHAPTER 32: Human Anatomy and Physiology III
CHAPTER 33: Human Anatomy and Physiology IV
CHAPTER 34: Ecology
This curriculum is meant for 9th-12th graders and includes a 36-week schedule. The major difference between the third and second printing is that Chapter 21 was completely overhauled. Terms, graphics, as well as comprehension and test questions for Chapters 26, 28, and 29 also have significant portions rewritten. I love that each Chapter is broken up into sub-sections, some chapters including up to twenty sub-sections. The Answer Key & Parent Companion is just that! With quick sub-section summaries for each chapter it helps you be the best teacher you can for your student. This is my favorite part of this curriculum and is a great tool! While I may not always have time to pre-read the sub-sections for the daily lessons, I can count on these summaries to keep me abreast of the most important information needed to help my student be successful.
So, you are probably wondering what voice this biology curriculum is written in? Dr. Hardin is a Christian and he believes that creation and evolution both start and end with the Bible. I recommend you read his eloquent explanation found here https://scienceshepherd.com/pages/faq .
Another fantastic feature of this curriculum set is the included Labs DVD. Students are encouraged to complete as many of the labs as possible at home either following the instructor on the DVD or independently referring to the DVD when help is needed. The DVD correlates with the included lab manual and shows all the labs being completed by the instructor if the student does not have the means to gather the lab supplies. The lab portion of the course includes five dissections including a freshwater clam, earthworm, grasshopper, perch, and a double-injected fetal pig. I will say that the lab kit set is quite expensive but if you live out in a remote area it is your best bet to get your labs completed if financially possible. While we have not made it to the dissections portions of the labs I am looking forward to completing them with my daughter.
The DVD includes all 19 labs within the textbook including an extra lab on how to do your lab reports and take good notes. Each lab includes high quality video and audio instruction by Dr. Hardin. The DVD works on both computers and DVD’s and includes the following labs:
Record Keeping: Notebooks & Reports
General Cell Structure in Animals
Protista: The Protozoans
Cell Structure: Plant
The Cell Interior and Function
Reproduction: Pollen Germination
Dissection: Fetal Pig
Classification of Animals
Nervous System: Reaction Time
Muscular System: Fatigue
Population Succession Study
My 9th grade daughter is audio/visual learner and this curriculum has been a breath of fresh air for her and I. We tackled this program by following the included 36-week schedule. Because this daughter struggles at times with reading comprehension, for each sub-section I had her roughly outline what she had read. She chose to use different colored gel pens for each section. Not only did it make her notebook pages colorful, but the color-coding helped her remember what she read. No longer is she struggling to get her science lessons done or are we spending hours and hours butting heads to get her science lessons done.
Science Shepherd is a thorough program and I am fully confident that my daughter is learning everything and then some with this curriculum. My daughter is a competitive gymnast who dreams of competing in college as a gymnast. With that comes passing NCAA regulations. I have no doubt that Biology Set from Science Shepherd will pass NCAA guidelines and be an approved course for my daughters required courses. I have already recommended Science Shepherd to several other homeschooling high schoolers, child athletes and non-athletes. Science Shepherd’s Biology has rejuvenated my daughters love for science again. For that I am ever grateful! I look forward to using the Chemistry set if it is done by the end of this year. It’s no surprise to me that Science Shepherd has won The Practical Homeschoolers Reader Award, check them out, I know you will be pleasantly surprised!
-Product review by Jacquelin Caffey, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February, 2018
Science Shepherd Biology
Scott Hardin, MD
1405 Capitol Drive
Pewaukee, WI 53072
"How will you teach high school science?" was one of the most frequent questions I heard when I first told people I was planning to homeschool my four and two year-olds. Personally, it wasn't something I worried about, as I always assumed there would be great choices available when we got to high school. I was right.
That two year-old is now in high school, and this year we have been tackling science with a thorough course, Science Shepherd Biology. The Old Schoolhouse reviewed the first edition four years ago, referring to it as "thorough, systematic, understandable and absolutely usable in the homeschool." The same can be said for the second edition.
The biggest change is the three chapters that deal with the creation/evolution issue. These have been completely rewritten, with far more information, and are by far the longest chapters in the text. Most of the 34 chapters are in the range of 15-20 pages. These three are 150 pages total. I didn't see the original edition, but after looking the material over myself, I made my oldest son read this portion of the book even though he has completed biology. It is that good.
Science Shepherd Biology includes a gorgeous hardbound textbook of over 700 pages. I took biology and AP Biology in high school, and I believe Science Shepherd Biology covers more topics in more depth than both of my years of high school biology. An early chapter on biochemistry explains organic reactions so simply that I commented to my son, "If I had seen this in college, I would have stayed a biology major."
That is the beauty of this program. Dr. Hardin clearly knows his subject well, and he has the gift of explaining it in understandable words and with useful diagrams. The illustrations throughout the text don't just provide a visual break, but they actually convey information. As a homeschool dad, he also knows his customer base well. He doesn't presume that the parents have a science background.
That is evident in the Answer Key & Parent Companion, which is what it sounds like: answers for the study questions and tests, plus a wonderful overview that goes chapter by chapter through the course. Also included here is a very easy-to-follow 36-week schedule for completing the course. Now that pace was a bit fast for my son, as he needs more time to read and digest all the words, but for my older son, the pacing would have been perfect. One thing I love with the schedule is that there are catch-up and study days built in.
The tests are mostly short-answer essay and there are lots of questions, but the author suggests having a student only answer the evens, odds, every third question, or whatever works for that student. If the student can answer most of those questions, he probably understands the material. He also recommends allowing students to answer the questions orally if that will work better. "The method of test taking should not be a stumbling block in your student's performance." That is what we did, and I have to say that having my son "just talk" to me about the answers to these questions definitely conveyed when he knew the material, and when he was less certain.
I loved this program while doing the first few chapters of the text, but once we got to the real science labs in chapter five, I was completely hooked. The optional Biology Lab DVD makes this comprehensive, thorough course that much better. Each lab is filmed, including the microscope labs, the dissection labs, and other miscellaneous ones.
Lab work is important, but it can be pretty intimidating too. For the homeschool mom who is intimidated by science labs, this DVD is a fantastic resource. Dr. Hardin walks through the lab, step-by-step, so your student has someone who knows what he is talking about explaining the process. You aren't left to try to figure it out from written descriptions, as he shows you.
If you can't do the lab (or really don't want to), the presentation is detailed enough that you can watch and write up lab reports from the viewing. Another great aspect is the filming is done in his kitchen, not some sterile, fancy lab setting.
For those who fully intend to complete as many labs as possible, the DVD may not quite be worth its weight in gold, but it is close. It has been thirty years since I dissected anything. Being able to pop in the DVD and watch an earthworm dissection before we have to do it ourselves is priceless. We are not to the dissections yet, but I did watch a couple on the DVD before writing this review. Wonderful.
Our microscope is good, but not great. We appreciate that we can see the detail via the DVD, especially when our attempts didn't work so well.
The Lab Manual (and DVD too) serves as a fantastic "how to" for learning to write up a lab report, and it gives the student a place to record observations. Gentle instruction in lab reports was something I needed, and my sons did too. That was plural. I made my oldest come check out a lot of the lab report teaching too.
At $85 for the three book set (text, answer key, test booklet) plus another $70 for the Lab Manual and Lab DVD, this isn't the least expensive option out there, but the only consumable item is the $20 Lab Manual and the $5 Test Booklet. My bottom line is that this is a fabulous course for a variety of students:
- For a student who just needs to get a biology course on the transcript, this is easy-to-understand, and you don't have to purchase expensive equipment.
- For a high-achieving student, this would be a solid AP Prep level course that can be done very independently. Mom would only need to grade some work. As the AP exam covers evolutionary ideas in more depth than Science Shepherd does, you would need to supplement those areas before taking the exam. This is what I would have done with my oldest son.
- For a more typical high school student with an interest in science, this can be a way to really grasp biology and to be prepared for college level work, especially if you do some of the labs. Again, a parent wouldn't have to do much besides some grading.
- For a student who struggles with traditional learning, this can be adapted for them, which will likely involve more "Mom time." My son appreciates that the explanations in the text are straightforward, and unlike some other science materials we've used, there aren't confusing definitions or obscure extra information.
- For a parent who doesn't want creation or evolution taught at all, by skipping chapters 17-19, you would have an excellent course with very little of that sort of content.
This Biology course would be ideal for students in 10th through 12th grades. Science Shepherd also has a Life Science course for junior high students. I'm seriously considering it for my 7th grader.
Science Shepherd Biology begins with this verse: Psalm 33:9: "For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm." This is a very good beginning!
Science Shepherd Biology is a thorough full-year course for your 10th-12th grade high school student. The components of this curriculum are as follows: the main 632-page soft-cover student book; Test Booklet; and the soft-cover 222-page Answer Key & Parent Companion. The spiral-bound Lab Manual and the Biology Lab DVD are extra, and will be described below.
Dr. Hardin wanted to do two things; give parents the ability to continue homeschooling in the higher grades with confidence and provide a comprehensive and complete science curriculum. He has accomplished both. The fears of many homeschooling families are that upper level science is just too hard to do at home--especially if Mom or Dad don't have upper level science credentials to begin with. Dr. Hardin has laid that fear to rest with Science Shepherd Biology.
The Biology Scope and Sequence per chapter is below.
2. The Composition and Chemistry of Life
3. Basic Biochemistry of the Molecules of Life
4. Introduction to the Cell and Cell Membrane
5. The Cell Interior and Function
6. Metabolism Overview and Enzymes
8. Cellular Respiration
9. DNA, RNA, and Proteins
10. Cell Reproductions: Mitosis
11. Organism Reproduction: Binary Fission, Budding, and Meiosis
12. Genes and Heredity
13. Inheritance Patterns
14. Genetic Variation
15. Human Genetics
16. DNA Technology
17. The Origin of Life and the Fossil Record
18. Evolution and Creation: Principles and Evidence
19. Speciation and Adaptation
20. Biological Classification and Viruses
21. Kingdom Eubacteria and Archaebacteria
22. Kingdom Protista
23. Kingdom Fungi
24. Plants: Introduction, Structure, and Function
25. Plants: Physiology, Reproduction, and Classification
26. Kingdom Animalia I
27. Kingdom Animalia II
28. Kingdom Animalia III
29. Kingdom Animalia IV
30. Human Anatomy and Physiology I: Nervous System and Special Senses
31. Human Anatomy and Physiology II: Immunologic, Endocrine, and Excretory Systems 32. Human Anatomy and Physiology III: Circulatory and Respiratory Systems
33. Human Anatomy and Physiology IV: Digestive, Musculoskeletal/Connective Tissue, and Integumentary Systems
Within each of these chapters you will find sub-section headings that give an overview of that section as well as help the student locate important information for answering the study questions found at the end of every chapter. As an example, here is Chapter 6: Metabolism Overview and Enzymes:
6.0 Chapter Preview (identifies key points to be studied in the chapter)
6.3 Catabolic and Anabolic Metabolism
6.4 Potential and Kinetic Energy
6.5 Energy Conversion
6.6 Basic Thermodynamics
6.7 First Law of Thermodynamics
6.8 Second Law of Thermodynamics
6.10 Free Energy and Reaction Types
6.11 Exergonic Reactions
6.12 Endergonic Reactions
6.13 Activation Energy
6.14 Enzymes Solve the Activation Energy Problem
6.15 Models of Enzyme Function: Lock and Key; Induced Fit
6.16 Enzyme Types
6.17 Coenzymes and Cofactors
6.18 ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate)
6.19 Enzymes are Energy Couplers
6.21 People of Science
6.22 Key Chapter Points (Identifies what to take away from the chapter.)
6.23 Definitions (All bolded words found in the chapter are defined here.)
6.24 Study Questions (In this chapter there were 17 questions.)
I was very impressed not only by the orderliness of the chapters, but the accessibility of the pertinent information for the student. In each chapter you will find many full-color photographs, diagrams, and drawings that correspond to the information given. They are conveniently labeled with the exact sub-section heading number so your student knows that the explanation for that drawing, graph, chart, or photo is explained in that sub-section. This is extremely helpful! We are just finishing up a science course that has been very frustrating to one of my children as the information was not clearly laid out for her in the text. It would be impossible for that to happen here.
There is very thorough coverage of the evolution/creation discussion that covers three chapters. His thoughtful answer to the often-asked question, "How are creation and evolution handled?" is answered here: http://www.scienceshepherd.com/faq.htm#FAQ4. I was really impressed by this answer and I encourage you to read it.
The Answer Key & Parent Companion is obvious in its first use, but as the Companion, it really is a marvelous tool for the parent. It offers "...brief summaries of every chapter's sub-sections in the textbook. The summarized information is designed to give you rapid access to the main concepts your student is studying. In addition, you will also find one or two questions with answers that you can ask your student...Many parents use the summarized material and questions in the Companion to help them stay connected to what their child is learning by asking them one or more questions every now and then." This is an optional activity, but for a program that is really student-lead, this is a great way for parents to engage in their child's subject.
The gem of this curriculum though, is the Labs DVD. Wow, what a smart idea! The DVD corresponds directly with the Lab Manual and they work hand in hand. Some students thrive and learn via the written word alone and others with audio/visual aids. Ideally, your student would be doing the labs right along with the instructor, but this is not always financially possible. This is simply a brilliant solution for a homeschool family on a budget.
The DVD will run in many computers as well as the regular DVD player. In our busy house of five children, we choose to use a computer for these kinds of things with a set of headphones. The DVD opens to a page that lists all 20 labs. The first is an introduction to lab work and gives instruction on keeping good records and creating good lab drawings. It is important though, and shouldn't be skipped. The following 19 remaining labs are all high quality, audio/visual instruction.
The lab titles include: Diffusion-Osmosis; General Cell Structure in Animals; Reproduction: Cellular; Protista: The Protozoans; Cell Structure: Plant; Leaf Structures; The Cell Interior and Function; Root Structure; Reproduction: Pollen Germination; Dissection: Clam, Earthworm, Grasshopper, Fish, Fetal Pig; Classification of Animals 1; Classification of Animals II; Nervous System: Reaction Time; Muscular System: Fatigue; and Population Succession Study.
As I said above, the Lab Manual works hand in hand with the DVD. The DVD fleshes out and "makes visual" the instruction found in the manual. In a calm, clear, and friendly voice, Dr. Hardin explains the lessons as well as demonstrates the actual lab as you would see it if you were doing it in front of you. That means you see the slides he sees, view the cell structures he sees (he also identifies specific cell structures, etc. with a moving mouse so you don't have to guess), and you visually participate in all the dissections right on screen. The video quality is clear and professionally done and the labs are easy to comprehend.
Sold alone or as a set for a better price, the three books (Science Shepherd Biology Textbook, Test Booklet, and Answer Key & Parent Companion) are $85.00. The Lab Manual is $20.00. The DVD is an optional product and is $75.00, but truly, I think it is worth its weight in gold.
Also included with the purchase of the three-book program or the purchase of the Answer Key and Parent's Companion alone, is a weekly schedule. The schedule lays out exactly what your student needs to read each day, when they should answer the chapter questions, which labs to do when, and the proper time to take the tests. This is a grab and go curriculum with literally no prep time for the parent/teacher. The schedule is currently a separate PDF file, but come the next printing, the Answer Key and Parent's Companion will contain it.
My one suggestion to the publishers would be to invest in a hardback book for the future. This would probably boost the cost of the curriculum, which might be a negative to some, but a hardback book is likely to hold-up longer in a busy homeschool. The soft-cover is sturdy, but I want this to last for five children so I will likely laminate mine.
Science Shepherd Biology is an excellent course. This curriculum is thorough, systematic, understandable and absolutely usable in the homeschool. I am excited to see what the future holds for this up and coming company. If they produce such beautiful, orderly, complete curriculum right out of the gate, I look forward to seeing what the do in the future. I highly recommend Science Shepherd Biology!