TOS Review: Science for High School

High school science…ugh…along with math it is the bane of my existence. Science and math are two of the reasons that caused me to question whether or not I COULD homeschool high school. However, my husband and I are committed to schooling our children at home until they graduate, so I am always on the lookout for materials to use for these subjects. Needless to say, I was very excited when I found out I would have a chance to review materials from Science for High School.

This curriculum was created by Bridget Ardoin, a fellow homeschooling mom with a degree in microbiology. After teaching high school, tutoring, and working with other parents, she decided to write her own curriculum just for homeschoolers! We got to check out the High School Biology at Home curriculum. I tried it with my oldest son, who is a rising sophomore.

This curriculum is very unique in that it is designed to be used with any textbook, research book, or even the internet. This makes it very flexible. When you order the curriculum, you receive both a parent and student manual. The parent manual includes instructions for how to use the curriculum, as well as a list of needed materials, answers to questions and quizzes, and instructions for labs. The parent manual is spiral bound, and well laid out.

The student manual needs to be placed in a binder. The course is divided into two semesters, and each week presents a list of questions on a topic related to biology. All pertinent topics are covered from basic cells, to the body systems, to plants and genetics. The idea is that each week, your child will use his own resources to research and answer the questions. If you have biology textbooks available, you can use that for the research, or you can check out books from the library or use the internet. Basically, I would assign the questions on a Monday, and we would discuss the answers together on Friday. My son would look at the number of questions he had to complete and determine the number of questions he would do each day.

I liked the fact that this curriculum really put my son in charge of his own learning. The fact that HE had to determine how much to do each day made him responsible for his own work. This is similar to what I think he will experience in college and in the work force. The first few weeks, he made the mistake of not “getting started” until Wednesday, which led to problems because he found he had a lot to do in a short time!! After that, we discussed how it is going to be important that he learn how to set daily goals for his subjects, because when he moves on to life beyond our home, no one is going to be around to tell him how to spend his time each day, and if he does not learn how to be responsible with his time now, he is going to be in trouble later.

My son enjoyed this type of learning because it was easy to see what he had to accomplish, and he could just “get it done”. I will admit that at first, his answers were very basic. However, when he found he wasn’t doing as well as he liked on the weekly quizzes (which are also included) he began to put more time into his work. I feel like he did not only learn a lot about biology from this curriculum, but also learned a lot about research.

The lab portion of the curriculum involves dissection and examining prepared slides. This is probably the hardest part of any homeschool high school curriculum. Finding the materials and getting them all together can be a chore. Science for High School does offer a dissecting kit and slides that you can order which will give you everything you need to complete the program, and I am seriously considering getting it (if I can find a way to put the money together). Lab kits are expensive, I know that, but unless you have another option (like a co-op or something) they are necessary. For parents that are science fans, putting together your own labs may be easy, but for those like me, who are not, a pre-made kit is very helpful!!

Personally, I loved using the Science for High School materials with my son. I think this is an incredible program that will definitely prepare your kids for science at the college level and, more importantly, for research they will use for every subject! The High School Biology program costs $79.99 for the manuals that I received. I think this is an excellent price. If you have looked at high school science programs you have seen they can be pricey. This basic package will give you all you need to help your child research the topics and do the labs. If you want to and can afford it, you can add the lab materials as well. I recommend this if you are looking for a biology program for your high school student. You can check out sample pages on the website.

To see what other members of the crew thought of this and the other programs we got to check out from Science for High School, click here:

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TOS Review: Moving Beyond the Page

“It was a dark and stormy night”. That’s the beginning to one of my favorite books of all time. I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was in the 5th grade, and I have read it many times ever since. I used it in my classroom, and in my homeschool. So I was really excited to find out that I was going to get to review this unit for Moving Beyond the Page. It was so much fun! These units are designed for ages 9-11, but even though my son is 12 they suited him perfectly.

I was looking forward to sharing the story of Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace with my 6th grade son. So when we got our stuff, we logged in and started. The literature unit is internet based. When you log in, you gain access to PDF’s with worksheets, questions, and activity pages. The How to Use Moving Beyond the Page section includes a helpful video and explains how the concepts in each unit are connected. For the Wrinkle in Time unit, we used a Space unit study that coordinated with the story very well.

I really like the way the student activities and worksheets are set up. There is a good mix of literature concepts, vocabulary, and even grammar. When you login, there is a menu at the top for all of the PDF files, making it easy for you to download and print whatever you need. My son is an independent reader, so I had him go through the lessons himself. Usually, I would preview each lesson with the parent overview option set to on. This gives you the answers to the questions and some teaching suggestions.

My son was able to read the lessons easily. They begin with an intro and some ideas to think about that apply to each chapter. He was then assigned to read the chapter, and answer some questions. You can print the questions out if you want. This was followed by some activities. In some cases, I printed out a worksheet for him to do. These were good graphic organizers that focused on story elements, characterization, vocabulary, etc. The directions for all of the activities are very clear, and I really appreciated the vocabulary work. My son struggles in this area, and the practice of breaking words down into their individual parts is an important skill for him to learn.

The lessons include a weekly spelling worksheet, and a suggestion for how to do spelling activities. The units are designed to be completed in around three weeks. I will be honest, we went a little slower. While my son is reading independently, he still does not enjoy reading, so I tend to break things down into smaller chunks for him. The unit ends with a fun final project. In this case, it was using what my son had learned to create his own science fiction story.

The Space science unit can be used completely on its own, but it makes a great tie in for A Wrinkle in Time. For the science unit, we got a hard copy. It is set up in the same way as the online literature unit. It includes a list of necessary materials, and came with the book Leap Into Space. I have to say, the bright, colorful book was great. It didn’t have too much text on one page, and is loaded with information and experiments.

Since he was already familiar with the setup for the units, it was easy for my son to dive into these lessons. The Getting Started section is written directly to the student, and gives them some basic information about what they are going to be studying. There is a reading assignment followed by questions and activities. Many of the activities were easy to complete, with stuff you already have lying around the house. We made an ellipse with some cardboard, thumbtacks, a ruler, and some string. The activities are broken into days, and some have multiple options for ways to complete the projects. These activities were a lot of fun for my hands on boy!The final project was a “space tour” that included taking a quiz, and writing a tour guide script for each planet. We had a lot of fun with this, and my son even used his legos and other toys to set up his own “tour site”.

I think either of these units would be a great addition to your homeschool, but if you really want your child to get into it, do them concurrently. If you have a child that doesn’t enjoy reading so much, but loves science, studying the Space unit with A Wrinkle in Time may help them get hooked on the story. You could also read the book aloud to your child, and just have them complete the activities on their own if you wanted to. A hard copy of the Wrinkle in Time unit costs $23.98 and includes the guide and a copy of the novel. The online version costs $19.92 and gives you online access to the guide and you still receive a copy of the book. Both the online and hard copy versions include parent overviews with notes and answers.

The Space unit costs $29.98 for the hard copy, which includes the guide and the Leap into Space book, and $25.92 for the online package. If you enjoy unit studies, I would highly suggest you check these out. They are well worth the cost!

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this and the other products from Moving Beyond the Page that we got to check out, click here:
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TOS Review: Supercharged Science

Supercharged Science is a company started by Aurora Lipper, a former engineering instructor. Her love of, and passion for, science led her to create a program designed to get kids excited about science. Her e-science program is a complete online science program for grades K-8.

When you sign up for the e-Science program, you get access to the study units. These units include lesson plans, videos, reading materials, questions , and experiments. The units are on a wide variety of topics, from chemistry, to magnetism, to electricity and electronics. There are 19 units in all, and you will get gradual access to the units with each month of your membership. There are currently about 19 units total. Some of the units take longer than others, and you are free to set your own schedule for each unit.

So, how did this work at our house? Well, we actually began with an extra project they had on the website, building a simple hovercraft. My 6th grade son has wanted to build a hovercraft ever since he found Jimmy Neutron on Netflix, so he was very excited to do this! The project was explained in detail, with an easy to follow video of how it worked. Building the hovercraft only took a few minutes, but it was fun, and my son was really excited. There are also directions for building an advanced hovercraft which he is currently working on with his dad. Here is the video of our simple hovercraft:

http://s1134.photobucket.com/user/bbrockhausen/media/review%20pics/VID_20130314_112723_zps3b619ecc.mp4.html

There are additional projects you can make for fun, like a robotic arm that looks really cool! Those projects do a really good job of getting your kids excited about science! Since we were doing a review, we were given access to all of the units in the e-Science program so we could check them out. After talking to my son, we decided to work on the unit for sound , because that is what he wanted to study. I began with reading the lesson plan, which gave me information about the goals and objectives of the unit. The lesson plans also included a list of materials for the experiments for the unit, as well as the key vocabulary, additional reading, exercises and answer key.

We began by watching the video about sound waves. I really like Aurora’s delivery style in the videos. It really feels like she is right there just talking to you and your child. My son was interested in what she had to say, and I didn’t have any problem getting him to watch the whole video. From there, my son wanted to skip to some of the experiments, so we did.

We played “telephone”:

And we made sound using bottles with different levels of water in them:

And we played this really neat game where you put a blindfold on and tried to determine which area of the room the sound was coming from. This one was interesting, because it wasn’t as easy to pick out the sound as you thought it would be!

My older son wanted to take part in some of the experiments, and his favorite was the one we did using the speaker in his car. This experiment allowed us to “see” the sound vibrations as they moved through the water in the bowl:

Once we had done some of the experiments, we went ahead and did the reading for this unit. It wasn’t difficult, about seven pages, and we broke it into sections. Finally, we did the exercises. These were simply questions about the topics we had studied. You can either answer these orally, or in writing if you are keeping a science notebook.

Currently we are working on the unit on light, and we are enjoying that as well. I will say that my oldest son makes sure he is around for almost all of the experiments that we do for Supercharged Science, and I know that they do have high school material, so, judging by his interest in what we are doing, I think that program would be worth looking at too.

At our house, we do science three days a week, for about an hour each day. Depending on which unit you choose, and how many experiments you decide to do, it could take you two-three weeks to finish a unit. If you are working with younger kids, or you want to go more in depth with the topic, you could easily stretch the units for a month. There are detailed directions for use of the program, including how to use it alongside another science program, on the website. There are also very easy directions for how to set up a scientific journal to keep track of your experiments. I will admit, this is something I usually skip, because I find it intimidating, but after watching the video with my son, we grabbed a notebook, followed the directions and got started!!

An additional benefit of e-Science is that you have access to Aurora directly, to ask her questions about what you are doing. If something didn’t work, or you are confused, or your child has asked a question you don’t have an answer to, you can simply ask! This is great for a non-science minded mom like me!! The website also has a shopping list set up for each unit, so you can look ahead and decide what materials you need (I had most of the materials for our experiments in our cabinet, and what I did not, I bought at the dollar store. The exception is some of the more technical stuff we needed for the advanced hovercraft). We are having a lot of fun with the e-Science program, and my son is already thinking about what unit he wants to do next!

A subscription to e-Science for grades K-8 is $37.00 per month. When you think about the fact that you are getting a complete science program for that lesson, it doesn’t seem like too much of an expense. If you are a person who loves science and has no problem coming up with awesome experiments and lessons on your own, than you might not be interested in this. But, if you’re a mom like me, who struggles with even the idea of science, let alone making it interesting and doing experiments, this is well worth a look! You can find out more about e-Science and view some videos that will tell you more about the program, by visiting the website here:

http://www.sciencelearningspace.com/getting-started/

To see what other members of the Crew had to say about this program, and the high school program that some Crew members got to check out click here:
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Apologia: Exploring Creation With Zoology 2

Woohoo! It is time for my first review of this crew year and I am very excited to tell you about our experience with one of the books from the Apologia science curriculum! We have used many of their products in our homeschool over the years, and this time we got to check out their Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day text and workbook.

First impressions? As usual, the book itself is a visual masterpiece. The pictures are gorgeous, the text is well organized and easy to read, and the book itself is very well put together (i.e.: it will last for many, many years!). One thing I love about Apologia is how detailed their books are. Zoology 2 contained a wealth of information on all of the creatures that live in the water! Since we live near both the river and the beach, we find we spend a lot of time in the water, and we are fortunate to have seen dolphins, manatees, sharks and all kinds of fish up close! My 6th grade son was particularly excited to spend some time studying these creatures in depth! Zoology 2 is intended for grades K-6, and they have additional resources to use with students in the early ranges (K-2) and older (3rd-6th). As always, I think it’s nice to have a curriculum you can use with multiple ages!

Now, Zoology 2 is the second Zoology book in the Young Explorers series, and it is recommended that you study Zoology 1 first. However, we have kind of bounced around with our science (having used both the Apologia Astronomy and Human Body and Anatomy in the past), so we just started here, but we did not find it to be a problem. However, after having so much fun with this book, I am seriously considering using Zoology 1 next year.

There are 13 lessons total in this book, with topics ranging from whales to crustaceans. At the beginning, there is an introduction that takes you through each part of the lesson and explains what it is, and there is a link and password for you to access additional content specific to this course on the Apologia website! (They do this with all their science books, and it is awesome!!). The lessons are well laid out, with natural breaks for narration as well as experiments. The majority of the experiments are easy to do, using materials you probably already have, but I am amazed at how well they explain the concepts in the lesson.

For example, one of the first experiments was about the pressure the ocean’s waters exert as it gets deeper. From this experiment, using only a 2-liter bottle and a ballon, I was able to “show” my son what happens to a persons lungs as they dive deep into the ocean, and explain why divers use oxygen tanks!! And it was fun (see pictures below, and yes, my boy is still wearing his pajamas 🙂 )

A closer look:

Of course, you could easily just read and narrate the text and do the experiments (especially if you have younger children), but if you are looking for more, you could also add in one of the Notebook Journals to go with the course. Jeannie Fulbright and Apologia have created AMAZING journals that have tons of activities and questions and mini-books for you to use as you complete Zoology 2. The notebook also has a weekly schedule in the front!! This makes science so easy 🙂 I just check off each box as we go! The schedule allots for two science lessons per week, that (depending on your kids) can take from 20-40 minutes (that’s my own personal estimate from working with my 6th grade boy, when I used Apologia in the past with both of my kids, it took a little longer). With this text, we used the regular Zoology 2 Notebooking Journal, which is for older kids who don’t mind writing a little!

This notebooking journal contained space to take notes while we were reading, review questions, copywork, space to record results from experiments, vocabulary crosswords, and fabulous mini books!!  We use all of the Notebooking Journals to go along with our Apologia texts, and we have never been dissatisfied with any of them!! If you have younger kids, you might want to check out the Junior Notebooking Journals. We have used these in the past when my son was younger, and he was doing science with his brother. They contain a lot of the cool stuff found in the regular journals, but with less writing. Like, you still have space to take notes, but the lines are bigger, maybe instead of a crossword there is a word search, and you still get to do the mini-books together!! These additional products lend themselves easily to using this course with children of multiple ages!

Basically, we loved everything about Exploring Creation with Zoology 2!! If you love science, you can get the notebooks, check out additional books, do all of the experiments, and have a great time! Or, if science isn’t exactly your favorite subject (like me!), Apologia makes teaching it engaging, easy and so much more fun!! The Zoology 2 text costs $39.00, and the Journals are $24.00 each. I think they are very reasonably priced for what you get. Even now, my sons will pull out the Astronomy book from our first year homeschooling and look through it. To find out more about this book and the other books available from Apologia (including samples) make sure to check out their website, here:

http://www.apologia.com/index.asp?proc=pg&pg=1

To see what other members of the Crew had to say about this, and the other Apologia books we got to review, click here:

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**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive or negative review of the product, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Bright Ideas Press: Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space

I love Bright Ideas Press! They have some great products for homeschoolers. When I found out I was going to have a chance to review one of their Christian Kids Explore science books I was really excited! I have looked at this series several times, but never got around to trying it out. For this review, we got to check out Earth & Space science!

Christian Kids Explore is a multi-grade curriculum designed to be used two days per week. This is perfect for our homeschool! It is a creation-based science curriculum, which is another reason we love it! The curriculum is written in an easy to understand, conversational tone, which makes it very child-friendly. Each lesson starts with reading, and I usually like to do this with my boys, but I like the fact that on those busy days, they can read it themselves!

In the sidebar of the lessons are simple activities you can do to help explain the concepts in the lesson (i.e. using a chair to help explain the difference between rotation and revolution). I appreciated these activities a lot, as science is not my strong point, and I need help making these concepts concrete for my boys!! The lessons also include vocabulary, and “hands-on” time where you will do an activity or experiment related to the lesson. We enjoyed the activities immensely, and they were pretty easy to complete.

The appendix to this book is incredible, with everything from pages to use with the lessons, to book suggestions for each unit, and awesome coloring pages (even my 8th grader enjoyed them!). I truly appreciate how much hand-holding there is for the parent in this book. There is even a section on how to set-up your science notebook. (And I have to say, this is the first time we actually completed these! I’ve always wanted to do them, but somehow, having it all spelled out for me made it so much easier. 🙂 ) Each unit ends with a “wrap-up” where kids will organize their papers from the unit, and take a short quiz. This was a great way to review the concepts in the unit.

We really enjoyed Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space. My kids found it interesting and engaging, and I thought it was very thorough. The best part for me is how open-and-go it was. I didn’t have to spend a ton of time prepping for science. Aside from looking ahead to see what we needed for experiments, I could just open the book and go on to the next lesson! Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space costs $34.95, which I think is a great price for this curriculum. You can also purchase a download of the printables for $7.95. We had so much fun with this, that I am seriously considering using the chemistry book next year. You can find out more about this series here:

https://www.brightideaspress.com/store/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=6_54

To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about Christian Kids Explore Science, click here:

http://homeschoolcrew.com/784905/

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this curriculum for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

AIMS Science : Earth Rocks!

AIMS education foundation is an organization devoted to creating hands-on math and science activities to make learning more enjoyable (and likely more effective) for children. I am always looking for ways to engage my boys in science! I have never been a real science enthusiast, so I appreciate curriculum that helps me along in this area. For this review, I received a copy of Earth Rocks, and earth-science activity book for grades 4-5.

In this book, students will explore rocks and minerals, soil, water, changes in the earth, as well as pollution. In each section, students make a “rubber band book” which contains info about the topic. At first, we had a little difficulty assembling these, but my son figured it out! Each lesson is laid out clearly for the teacher, and the guiding standards are printed in the lesson. (Keep in mind these books are for use by schools as well). Both the teacher lessons and the activities are in the same book, but you are permitted to make copies, and the book comes with a CD that contains PDF files of the printable pages, so I just printed out the ones my son needed for each lesson.

We enjoyed the activities in the section on rocks, particularly growing crystals. I also liked the fact that there were questions in the book you could use for discussion with your child. Some of the activities called for rocks from the rock kit, which would be an additional purchase. Is is not expensive, only $12.95, but as my son already has a large rock collection, we just used those instead.

The activities in Earth Rocks lend themselves easily to group work, which is nice if you want to have several of your children work on this together. For older students, you would definitely need to supplement with some more advanced books. My son likes non-fiction reading, so we actually just checked out books from the library on each topic we studied. Lessons also include extension activities (i.e. mapping rivers when studying erosion) and some have web links as well.

Overall, I thought this was a fun way to study earth science. The length of the lessons will vary from day to day, depending on what you are doing, but we didn’t find them to be terribly long. Usually, if I looked at a lesson and thought it would take a really long time, we split it into two days. While I didn’t feel this was a very in-depth study of the Earth, it makes a nice introduction, and you can certainly go deeper if you want by adding books from the library.

Earth rocks costs $29.95, and includes 50 activities. Depending on how many days you do science, you could easily stretch this to last a year, especially if you break some of the lessons down into smaller parts. I think the cost is reasonable for what you get, and it definitely fits my budget! You can find out more about Earth Rocks and other AIMS programs here:

http://www.aimsedu.org/

To find out what other TOS Crew members had to say about AIMS, click here:

http://homeschoolcrew.com/784916/

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this material for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Aims Educational Foundation–Earth Book

For my first review of the year, I got to use the Earth Book from AIMS Educational Foundation. AIMS supports hands-on math and science instruction as “the most effective way to develop conceptual understanding.” As a mom of two boys with short attention spans and eyes that glaze over after extending periods of “sit still and listen!” I can say I agree! 🙂

AIMS offers math and science activity books, based on specific topics (critters) and areas of science (physical science). They also offer manipulatives for math that can be used by grade level or topic as well. They have both physical books you can hold in your hands, and downloadable ebooks if you’d rather print pages off of your computer. For my review, I used the Earth Book, an activity book for science, with my oldest son (8th grade).

The book opens with a brief introduction and a list of standards that are addressed in the Earth Book (AIMS products are standards-based, you can even look up materials based on state standards if you wish). The lessons open with a page for the teacher explaining and describing the lesson, with tips on how to present it to the students. (Yes, I said students!). These books were created for classroom teachers, but are easily adapted to homeschooling. Many of us have a few students in our homeschool as it is, and I will say that I had my younger son (5th grade) sit in on some of the activities, and he did fine. I think it would be fairly easy to use this book across grade levels if I wanted to.

There is a materials list at the back of the book, which I found very helpful. There’s nothing more frustrating for this mom than having to go through multiple pages to sort out what materials I will need in the coming weeks. Many of the materials were common household items (straws, envelopes, vinegar, index cards etc.). However, some materials would require more effort to obtain (rock and mineral kits, builders sand, pea gravel etc.). Since the materials needed for each lesson are listed on the teacher page, you could easily look ahead and decide which ones you needed to get, or, if it was too difficult, just move ahead to another lesson.

Some of the activities we did related to hard water vs. soft water, the salinity of ocean water, the layers of the ocean and ocean currents. Other topics include things like earthquakes, weather, fossils, and rocks. I do want to make one important note here: AIMS lessons include information about the geologic timeline. The lesson for that particular topic does state that the earth is millions of years old. AIMS does not promote itself as a Christian company, just a company that wants to create fun science and math products for kids. Their views on this topic may conflict with yours. For me, as a Christian homeschooling parent, I would simply omit those lessons, or use them as a springboard for further research into the legitimacy of carbon-dating, conflicting evidence on the age of the earth etc. etc.

My boys enjoyed the activities that we did with this program.  I have chosen several more that we are going to complete over the rest of the year. (Currently we are working on the weather activities since it is hurricuane season here in Florida!). The thing I like most about this product is that it is so easily adaptable. We like to follow bunny-trails, and much of our science is interest based (as you can see from other posts I have written about our studies!). With the Earth Book, I felt like I could choose a topic, get some library books, and then just spend however long we wanted to reading about and doing activities on that topic.  That really is the best way for my boys to learn! The Earth Book costs $49.95 and comes with a CD with all the printables for the lessons on it, making it really easy for you to print copies for your kids.  You can learn more about AIMS here:

http://www.aimsedu.org/index.html

**Disclaimer: I was given this product free of charge in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.