Monday, September 21, 2015

Fascinating Education {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Other than a rough second grade year, Addison has always done well and enjoyed math. In high school, she realized how much her science classes used her math knowledge and learned to love science too. As a senior, many of her classes this year have a math and/or science focus so that she will be prepared for college math and science classes. (She intends to enter college as a math/engineering double major.)

She started taking physics last year and is continuing into advanced physics this year. To begin this year, she used the Fascinating Physics online course from Fascinating Education as a refresher course.

Each lesson consists of a teaching video (voice over with slides), a typed script of the lesson for later reference, and a test. The videos are approximately 30-40 minutes long. There are not any practice problems for the lessons, but the test can be taken as many times as the student wishes. Each question on the test has a further explanation if the student needs it. The complete course consists of 15 lessons, and Addison says that a lesson can easily be completed in a week.

Before I share Addison's impressions of the product, I need to add a disclaimer. As I said before, she is quite good at mathematics. She's also a stickler for details. When looking at school materials, she gets incredibly frustrated if she finds any mistakes or errors in a program.

Furthermore, she has an intense desire to study and completely understand physics so that she will be prepared to enter a college engineering program next fall. She came down one morning to see if I could help with a particular lesson. She understood the general concept and could find the algebraic formula she needed in order to solve the problem. She was annoyed, however, that the problem did not specifically state that they could ignore several unknown variables that could have affected the final answer.

One of her biggest complaints about Fascinating Physics is that it oversimplifies topics that do not need to be simplified. She told me about a lesson regarding forces, resistance, acceleration, etc. In earlier physics programs, she leaned that the normal force of a book resting on a desk is the force the desk exerts upward on the book. Fascinating Education defined normal force as the force the book exerts on the desk. From a practical standpoint, the magnitude (numerical value) of the force is the same regardless of which definition is used. The difference comes in the direction of the force vector when all of the forces affecting an object are shown in a diagram. (Yes, she looks to make sure all the diagrams for all the examples are actually correct.)

Addison is concerned that this program will not sufficiently prepare her for college level physics work, either because she has learned certain topics incorrectly or because she wasn't able to fully understand the logic or reasoning behind the physics concepts. She's the type of student who wants to know why the problem is worked a particular way, not just that it should be done that way. Based on my experiences talking about the program with her, I think that these physics materials could be sufficient for a homeschool student who is not intending to enter a science field following high school.

Fascinating Physics is available for $79 (access for one year). If you have a student that is interested in taking more than one science class in a year, Fascinating Education also offers several package deals.

Fascinating Education Review

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