Monday, November 22, 2010

TOS Review: Christian Kids Explore Science

Often when people ask me about my favorite parts of homeschooling, I tell them about how I can find the curriculum that best meets my children's needs and how I can spend more time on the subjects that need more practice.

For some subjects, it's been fairly easy to find a curriculum that fits our family. Unfortunately, science has been a bit of a struggle for the past few years. The science curriculum that worked for Addison during her early elementary years was too time intensive for it to work well with Brennan. We spend a lot of our days working on reading, spelling, and composition. Sadly, science often gets pushed towards the bottom of the priority list and overlooked.

Bright Ideas Press graciously allowed me to choose which one of their products that I wished to review, and I jumped at the opportunity to try an elementary science program that I haven't seen before.

I received a copy of Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space by Stephanie Redmond ($29.95) and the corresponding Student Activity Book download ($12.95). The materials in this book are divided into 6 units that cover 24 lessons. For Earth Science, the lessons cover Creation, Rocks, Water, Weather, the Universe, and much more.

Each lesson consists of two parts -- Teaching Time and Hands-On Time. The author recommends doing each part on a different day. For the past month, twice weekly science has worked well for us. The text is clear and easy to read. The relatively short readings fit our attention span, and perhaps more importantly in our house, fit the amount of time that we have while Lauren is preoccupied with something other than Mommy. Each lesson has corresponding coloring pages and often a simple written activity. These materials can either be photocopied from the main text or printed from the Activity Book download.

I was pleasantly surprised when I read through the Hands-On activity suggestions. My science struggles with other curriculums did not end when it came to finding time to do the daily readings. I also struggled every week with the idea of gathering materials and setting up a hands-on activity. Even when the materials were fairly easy to find, many many science projects have gone undone in this house. For some reason, the activities in the Christian Kids Explore book are not nearly as intimidating.  They are actually getting done, and Brennan is really enjoying a science curriculum with hands-on activities that help him learn the materials. Just this past weekend, we explored plate tectonics with the shells of boiled eggs. I haven't shown him yet, but one of the activities further along in the book is making a dessert that models the layers of sedimentary rocks. I think that activity will be a favorite in everyone's book. The text also includes very, very simple activities that can make the science lesson both interesting and appropriate for a younger sibling's introduction to earth science.

I know that many other homeschool families devote more time to science, and they might be afraid that this curriculum will be too simple to fit their needs. For our family, I'm doing far less than the author recommends. In addition to reading from the text and completing the hands-on activities, she suggests to spend time reviewing recent lessons, reviewing flash cards that you've made with vocabulary words and lesson facts. Time should also be spent everyday doing outside reading and researching related topics of interest. There are Daily Reading Sheets to copy or print so that you can keep track of what your child learns during this time. Busy homeschool parents will appreciate the 18 pages of supplemental reading suggestions that are included. In my opinion, this curriculum can be tweaked to fit families with a big interest in science and families (like mine) that just want to make sure science isn't completely overlooked in the elementary years.

The Christian Kids Explore Science materials are perhaps the favorite science curriculum that I've used with my children. There's not too much reading for our busy days and not too much tinkering involved with the hands-on activities. I'm excited that Brennan and I get to continuing studying Earth Science this year using this book.

It might be a bit too early to be thinking about next year's curriculum choices, but I firmly believe that I'll be choosing another Christian Kids Explore product. Perhaps the hard part will be trying to decide if we'll do physics, chemistry, or biology.

You can see other reviews of homeschool materials from Bright Ideas Press on The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew blog. I know that several homeschool parents also chose to receive books from the Christian Kids Explore Science series for this review.

Disclaimer: I received the Christian Kids Explore Earth and Science book and the companion Student Activity download as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

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