Monday, May 23, 2016

Introductory Science from Science Shepherd {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

For most of our homeschool career, our science explorations have consisted of nature study and delight-directed studies.  This has been fabulous for their learning styles, but as the boys get older, I decided it was time to do do a more streamlined approach.  When we were given the opportunity to review the Introductory Science course from Science Shepherd, I was very interested.  I felt this would be a good opportunity to make sure the boys cover all of the major areas of science and "fill in the gaps" of elementary science as my rising 4th grader prepares for more advanced science in the next few years.

Science Shepherd Review

What is Introductory Science?
Introductory Science is a complete science course, and Science Shepherd suggests it is for ages 6-11, though I believe this will vary depending on your student's maturity and prior science exposure.  The curriculum is divided into 35 weeks, and each week offers 5 daily lessons.  There are daily on-demand videos, which are only 2-5 minutes in length, with additional videos for many of the activities.

The workbooks come in two levels.  Level A is for children 6-8 years old, and the workbook has larger print, with fewer questions per lesson.  Level B is geared for 9-11 year old students and includes the same material, though sometimes the questions are worded differently.  It generally has a few extra questions, and it also has a weekly review in the format of a crossword puzzle.

As part of the review we received a one year subscription to the video lessons, as well as a Student Workbook and Answer Key for Level B.  I asked Elliott to work in this level (he's 9) and I purchased Level A for Emory (6) so the boys could work together.




This course is unabashedly Christian in content, and begins with a full two week Introduction that covers Creation and Dominion, though it does touch on the theory of Evolution as well.  Creation and being made in God's image are brought up regularly in future lessons as well.  You can view a full scope and sequence on their website, but the course also introduces science skills and tools, earth science, life science, and physical science.  As the title indicates, it gives an introduction to all major areas of science, with subtopics including meteorology, oceanography, plants, underwater creatures, land creatures, human beings, health, matter, motion, magnets and more.


What Did We Think?

The website is easy to navigate and very user friendly.  Even though it is a full year subscription with only 35 weeks of instruction, I noticed you can also buy a short extension to the video lessons, which I think will be useful for some families who rabbit trail or work through things more slowly for whatever reason.  The lessons are divided into weekly sections, so it is very easy to find where you left off.

The lessons are set up with our host speaking to us at a desk.  It reminds me of a newscaster, which I thought was a unique approach.  In the background, and occasionally full-screen, you will often see vocabulary words, full-color photographs or graphics related to the topic of discussion, and my kids particularly liked the photographs.  I will say, for an elementary program, we found him monotone, and I think his speaking style would probably be more suitable for teens.  We also had a very hard time hearing him, and even casting to the television and turning the volume all the way up, we struggled to hear it well, though I think that is a technical issue, more than with his presentation.

With a 2-5 minute video, and only an average of 5 questions per lesson, the lessons are short and to the point.  This is good for students with short attention spans, and made most science lessons very quick.  This is great for families who don't do science every day and would need to "double up" to meet their scheduling needs.  However, it doesn't give much time to go in-depth with the material, and I've found that the workbook require absolutely no effort from my 9 year old.  He blows through his workbook page in less than a minute.  They are mostly multiple choice or they are worded as "or" questions with the answer right in the question, and require no critical thinking.  My 6 year old takes a little more time, but that's because he's not quite at the reading level of the workbook, so I have to read and reword questions for him.



I like the workbook activities.  They are very simple--make a list, draw a picture, simple puzzles, etc.  Elliott likes the word searches and crossword puzzles in Student Workbook B and I find they are right on target for 2nd/3rd grade level.  He finds the matching puzzles, the kind where you match a word or phrase on the left with the matching answer on the right, to be a bit on the easy side.

Emory likes to draw and embellish (that's a Venus Fly Trap, in case you're wondering), so he particularly likes the drawing activities.



There are hands-on activities, but they aren't experiments.  (Science Shepherd doesn't refer to them as experiments either.)  They just do not require the amount of critical thinking or application of the scientific process like I had expected.  Things like pine cone bird feeders, cutting an apple to find the seeds, and leaf rubbings are fun for young students who haven't done them before, and I can see them being appealing activities for parents who aren't interested in working through extensive experiments with their children.  My boys thrive on science though, and I think they were expecting more.

There are other examples of where I saw potential with the activities, but my expectations weren't quite met.  Week 3 was titled Science Skills and Tools.  The first lesson was The Scientific Method, but we weren't given an experiment to try it out.  Instead, we were given a couple of unrelated, individual activities (ex: labeling a house and sorting paper flowers for classification) but not one cohesive experiment to show the full process.  There was a video demonstration of an experiment to determine if a hammer was harder than an egg, but it wasn't written into the curriculum, and though the boys found it funny to watch the girls hammer the egg, there's not much point in doing it after you watch the outcome in a video.  I would have loved to have seen the Scientific Method put into practice early and frequently, so that students can gain experience utilizing these skills.  So far, even the hands-on activities that have the student make something, mostly seem to encourage only observation.  I've looked ahead through most of the units, and I noticed we're often told what we're going to see and why, instead of allowing the student to hypothesize or draw conclusions based on their observations.  Instead of "See how . . .?  That's because . . . " written in the workbook, I would have loved questions like "What do you see?  Why do you think that is?" and the explanation separately in the Answer Key, should I need it.  I think this is particularly important for Workbook B and older students.  {By the way, the Answer Key is a thin paper booklet, and might come in handy for some questions, but I haven't really needed it thus far.}


Overall Thoughts

I feel like the title of the program, Introductory Science, holds true.  It touches just enough on each topic to make it an introductory curriculum for early elementary students who have had little to no science exposure.  I think it would generally be appropriate for K-2 students, though at that age I prefer discussions instead of workbooks.  However, I find it far too simple to span the full recommended age range for the average student.  It's typically just enough information for my six year old, but barely scratches the surface for my 9 year old, if that makes sense.  For us to make this work as a well-rounded science curriculum, I would have to add living books to flesh it out, and find more experiments to appease my boys.  I do think the short nature of the lessons would allow me to add to it in this way, but at this point in our homeschooling, I would prefer a program to already have everything I need.

Although I don't agree with the full age range of this program, I think it could work for parents of young students who haven't had much formal science instruction, and who want short lessons taught for them with the occasional hands-on activities that are simple and easy to implement.


Find Out More

Science Shepherd Review

The Schoolhouse Review Crew has reviewed THREE levels of science from Science Shepherd, so I suggest you check out other reviews to find out how these programs worked for everyone else!


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Science Shepherd Review

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1 comment:

  1. Mercie did not like the videos but loved the workbook!

    ReplyDelete