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The Rainbow Science Review by Heidi ShawDr. Durell C. Dobbins
Beginnings Publishing House
328 Shady Lane
Alvaton, KY 42122
"This is a really, really good, strong program. Academically and spiritually, it excels in every way." -- The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine
Wow! There are not many words needed to describe this curriculum. The ones that come immediately to mind are awesome, fantastic, and amazing. I have heard a lot of talk about Rainbow Science and after reviewing many elementary (grammar stage) science programs, I was very eager to get a look at a program aimed at junior high (logic stage).
I received the whole first year package to review and I was extremely impressed. These folks have included absolutely everything you will ever need to do this program. Every piece of equipment and every chemical are included. Even the "funny looking goggles" as Dr. Dobbins describes them. This sort of conversational tone is present through the whole program and it makes reading it a treat. It is very similar to sitting in a class with a great teacher and being highly entertained as well as educated.
The text consists of three parts: a Student Manual that has all the lessons the kids will be reading, a lab manual that contains the lab sheets and questions for completing the labs, and the Teacher's Helper - a very well done manual that doesn't just tell you the answers, it tells you what the kids should have picked up from their reading and what to ask to make sure the learning happened. The Teacher's Manual and the Student Manual contain all that you will need for both years of The Rainbow. It is a two-year curriculum. Year one contains Physics (red) and Chemistry (yellow). Year two contains Biology (blue) and Applications (all colors). The colors are cool, because they help you see how it is all tied together. The edges of the Student Book are banded in the appropriate color that symbolizes the scientific discipline above. The order in which the disciplines are introduced differs from most science courses in that Physics is taught first. I like Dr. Dobbins' reasoning about this as it makes perfect sense. Physics is the most fundamental science. It provides the logical basis for Chemistry. Chemistry is the logical basis for Biology. Approaching the order in this manner makes for the most logical continuity.
This program is a treat for all the senses. It would be absolutely perfect for the highly visual child. The Student text is bright and the color photographs and drawings are an integral part of the lesson. The lessons are well written and engaging to the mind and intellect of students. Aimed at grades seven through nine, Dr. Dobbins has done an excellent job of drawing the students in and informing them of the facts with no excess "fluff," a fact my son will appreciate immensely.
Dr. Durell Dobbins is a home schooling father of five with a long list of scientific degrees to his credit. He holds a PhD. in Microbial Ecology, for starters. Durell has been a Christian for 30 years and has taught kids about Christian perspectives of modern theories, as well as having taught Bible classes since he was 16-years-old. I tell you this so you will understand the background with which he comes to his science. His personal list of criteria for a science curriculum to teach his own children with spurred him on to write The Rainbow. I for one am very glad he did.
Let's take a closer look at the nuts and bolts of the program.
The program is based on three science classes per week. For the first two classes, the student reads his lesson and answers the questions, either in a written format or through discussion. The third class of the week is lab day. During this class, the student will follow the lab manual and learn to apply some of the principles about which he has just been learning. So, the way you time your classes doesn't really matter, but to get maximum benefit, the two "reading days" need to come first, and then lab day after them.
I love the Teacher's Helper. This book is more than a Teacher's Manual, because it allows the parents to keep in touch with the student's lessons, without having to first read it themselves! The benefits of this are twofold. First, it ensures little or no prep time for the teacher. That is a HUGE plus in my household. Second, it keeps you abreast of what is being learned while allowing the student to retain complete independence and responsibility for his own learning. This is a major thing, especially for boys around the age of 12 to 14 who are trying to find their own way and can sometimes be resistant to "being taught." All of the notes you will need are in the Teacher's Helper, for both the reading lessons and the lab sessions. I like that fact that as part of the lab commentary, it tells you what the point was. Sometimes, before science labs, that is the first question I would hear from my kid's lips.
The Student text, as I mentioned before, is bright and colorful. The photos and diagrams are all part of the lesson. Step-by-step, clearly and concisely, the students are led to understanding of the topic at hand. The concepts, vocabulary, and processes are all thoroughly covered without any extra "busy work."
The text is written to the student and presented in such a way that I actually heard my nephew comment, "Cool!" I have never heard that in response to a science text before The Rainbow. There are no useless or unnecessary questions in this text. It moves along smoothly, and makes each point concisely. As a busy mom of busy children, I appreciate that. The lab manual is coil bound and as the kids complete each lab, they are creating for themselves a very neat record of their scientific discoveries. Lab day is the day for which kids LIVE. The experiments are neat, the dialog is interesting, and they get to use all kinds of really neat stuff. You could purchase the lab manual, Student text, and Teacher's Helper without the lab supplies, but I highly encourage you not to do that. The price seems a little steep on first examination, but I am now convinced that these supplies help make the course SO enjoyable. A lot of them are reusable, and for second children you need only buy another lab manual. They can work together through all of the labs. You could literally take this set anywhere in the world and be prepared for a whole year of fun, interesting science.
The program is done in 32 weeks. So there is flexibility for extra reading or holiday time.
Of the science curriculums I have seen, this has got to be the best combination of real science grounding and high interest for the student. The ability of the junior high age bracket is respected while their intellect is challenged; yet through his wonderful touches of humor, Dr. Dobbins helps retain the sense of childhood fun and wonder that should be paramount for this age bracket.
Make no mistake, however, this is a vigorous curriculum. It sets a high standard for the students, but it assumes they are up for the challenge and quite capable without the need for too much adult guidance. You could do the program right alongside the kids if you wanted to, but it has been my experience that the kids are happiest being the ones in control. I love the thought-provoking questions and the unapologetic firm foundation in Scripture.
Critical thinking, hands-on labs, and no fuss no prep planning all adds up to a winning curriculum. Don't be put off by the price. Take the time to really assess your needs and what is provided to you with this package - you will be so glad you did!
I highly encourage you to check out the website, www.beginningspublishing.com. You can see pictures and lists of all the supplies and equipment that comes with the program. Some of it is reusable and some you need to replenish. The Dobbins have thoughtfully put these items in separate kits so you need only buy what you use up each year.
One thing you may notice on reading the text is a certain careful cautiousness where assessments need to be made on matters not directly referred to in Scripture. Dr. Dobbins has assumed this position because he believes that where the truth is presently unavailable, one should listen instead of preach. This position saves a lot of posturing and backpedaling in areas that are so new, they may yet be proven false. Dr. Dobbins says that this position has for many scientists in the past convinced " those who will listen of the surety of the creator." No need to restate yourself if you stay strong from the beginning. I love this quote on one of the handouts I received with my package. "Don't give up that which has remained steadfast over thousands of years (scripture) for something that is believed to be true for the past hundred years....If this is True Science, it's because it yields to the scriptures in every respect." (Quote from Dr. Dobbins' paper called Parent Fortification.)
This is a really, really good, strong program. Academically and spiritually, it excels in every way.