Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Science Shepherd: Introductory Science (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Since the younger boys are "only" just finishing kindergarten and third grade, science is an "extra" sort of class. In a perfect world, we would study it daily, because I do think it's as important as reading and math. However, in the real world, we seem to spend so much time on those other things that science gets pushed to the side. One good thing about being chosen to review Introductory Science from Science Shepherd is that science now got shifted from the "if we have time" list to "priority." The program's recommended ages are ages 6 through 11 (approximately first through sixth grades), making it appropriate for both boys. The program combines short videos with two levels of workbooks to create an integrated course of study. Level A is for younger students (ages 6 to 8, or up to about third grade), while Level B is for the older ones. For our review, we received the "Level B" program for Jude: twelve-month access to the program videos plus a Level B Workbook. In addition to the products received for review purposes, I purchased a Level A workbook for Damien so the boys could work together.

Review of Science Shepherd Introductory Science

The core of this creation-based program is short videos, which are mostly presented in a lecture format. Jude remarked that the presenter "looked like the people on the news in the morning" -- a single person seated at an anchor desk, with video/slides behind or next to him, presents the material. Five "lecture style" videos of three minutes or less, with a hands-on activity demonstration interspersed, comprise each week's instruction. The daily lesson plan is for the student to watch the daily video, then complete the corresponding workbook page. Jude's Level B notebook had about five questions per page, and they took him about two or three minutes to complete.

 Usually, I find programs too much for Jude, but this one was too easy! He has made incredible strides this year in catching his expressive language skills up to appropriate levels and is very close to fourth grade. When I chose Level B for him, I thought that it might be a challenge since it was for ages 9 to 11, approximately grades 4 to 6. I thought if it was too challenging, he could always look at Damien's book for a few days until I could get another Level A (the books are single-student consumable), and we'd just save the Level B for later. I wasn't overly concerned at first when it was easy for him; I just thought maybe he had made more progress this year than we initially estimated.

Damien, using Level A, never took more than one minute to (correctly) complete his page. (He was so fast I timed him!)

On a whim, one day I worked with him while Jude did another subject. I wanted Damien to have an opportunity to try answering the questions in Jude's book; by working separately, Damien was able to respond orally to the questions without his brother's input/answers. To my surprise, he answered all of them easily! Twice more we worked on our own, and he easily answered the study questions. I'm glad I opted for the upper-level book for Jude; after looking at the "easier" level, it would have been a complete waste of time. I almost wish that I had bought a second Level B for Damien!

Science Shepherd's motto is "Homeschool Science Curriculum with Simplicity, Excellence, and Biblical Perspective." There is simplicity here; in fact, I think it was almost *too* simple. With an almost-6-year-old and a third grader, short videos seemed ideal. None is longer than five minutes, and most that we viewed were under three. The videos were very low key, and the boys complained they were boring. I have to agree with them. I don't think every school program needs to be a Broadway showstopper, but we all thought these were too flat and monotonous.

Review of Science Shepherd Introductory Science - use with multiple levels at one time

Combined with the minute or two it took to fill out the workbook pages, the day's lesson took about eight minutes, from setting up the laptop to finish. The boys started to fight doing science because by the time we had everything out and organized, it was time to put it all away. We began doing a week's worth of science lessons in a single day because it only took about 30 minutes. On one hand, it was nice to crank out a week's worth of science after lunch on Tuesdays, and thirty minutes a week for science seems reasonable for Damien's age, but I don't feel it's enough for Jude.

As excited as I was about having a reason to prioritize science, I don't think this is the right program for us. I thought a split-level program would be ideal for us, but if my not-yet-first-grader can easily complete the "upper level" questions, it's not enough for my older child. Having used Science Shepherd's high school biology program (you can read Crew Reviews of that program, as well as the Introductory Level program, by clicking the banner below), I had hoped that this would be a good fit for the younger boys. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for us.

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Science Shepherd Review

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