Wednesday, August 1, 2018

WriteBonnieRose: Learning About Science (Homeschool Review Crew)

Finding a good Elementary Science program is something that I have always struggled with. Either it's over-simplified and almost a "throwaway" course, or it's written for a wide age range and fits none well.  Jude is finally getting close to grade-leveled middle school science, but since I need something to stress over, my concern is he's going to be under-prepared because he has limited formal science exposure. Since nature abhors a vacuum (there's a science lesson, for you!), I'm hoping to have something different to stress over by the time Damien reaches middle school.  He's been working with the Learning About Science Collection Level 3 (Cursive) from WriteBonnieRose.

WriteBonnieRose is an aggregation of curricula written by Bonnie Rose Hudson.  I've been a fan of hers for some time now.  If you're familiar with the "Build Your Own Bundle" program, she is frequently featured there, which is how I first learned of her writing and history programs. They are generally short and to the point, which is good for younger students.  (I'm not sure I'd call them a "Charlotte Mason" program, but perhaps "CM flavor" -- there is little "twaddle" added.  Let's go with "Enough material to learn, but not so much that you lose a student with ADHD mid-stream.")  The Science collections are leveled one through three; Levels One and Two are print (manuscript) based, while Level Three has both print and cursive options.  Since Damien is already proficient in cursive, we opted for that version.

We received the Complete Collection, which includes seven downloadable PDF unit studies.  (Each unit is also available for individual purchase.) Topics fell under both earth and life science, and across several sub-genres.

  • What's Going on Inside Plants? 
  • Life in the Ocean's Hidden Zones  
  • Kinds of Animals and How They Live
  • Forecasting and Understanding the Weather 
  • Exploring the Earth's Landforms 
  • Energy and Its Many Forms 
  • Discovering Rocks, Minerals, & Crystals
For our review, Damien specifically worked on the plant, ocean, and energy studies.

The studies are about fifteen to twenty pages long, and each took us about two weeks to complete.  As I looked to break them down into assignments, it was a little tricky at first, because there is no visual cue of "stop here for today." The thoughts from one page flow smoothly into the next.

I found I needed to go in and delineate where we needed to stop for the day.  Sometimes, one page was sufficient. For example, the page pictured above right was enough information for Damien for one day.  (The next page began a sub-section of vascular vs. non-vascular plants and their properties.) However, the page above left was actually page three of the section on photosynthesis. One page wasn't enough information for one day -- stopping after page one or two of the section gave him only part of the information, so he was left with an incomplete picture.

This isn't a dealbreaker for the program for me; I include this opinion because if you're a mama reading this and wanting to try it, you'll know to read the study first and figure out what you'll want to cover in a session. If you are only "doing science" once or twice a week, you don't want that many days go by with just half an idea of how photosynthesis works.  I found we were able to divide the lesson into seven sessions (including the review across two days).  He worked three or four days a week, so the entire program took two school weeks.  The same held true for the oceanography unit (nine work days), while the energy unit took three school weeks (twelve work days).   If you're planning across a school year, I would expect the entire Level Three program to take 14-18 weeks at a 4-ish days/week pace, at 2-3 days per week, closer to a full semester.

Black and white graphics accompany most of the concepts. At first, I was kind of unimpressed, and thought "He's going to hate this -- the only way to make a lesson take more than three minutes is by coloring!"  However, Damien really enjoyed this part. It wasn't necessarily the "coloring task" that he liked, but being able to look up and further explore a topic. He particularly liked this with the oceanography unit -- after all, there's only so much excitement that a leave can incite, but a Portugues man-of-war is pretty cool!

My only complaint is there isn't a "blank line" option for any of the studies.  For Damien, tracing is something that becomes more about "staying in the lines" than "writing the word neatly."  I would prefer an open space option, where he could write in the vocabulary words (they're easily identified by bold print in the text) freehand. I think this would help cement ideas better for him (plus allow him to work on his penmanship skills.)

I don't have any personal experience with the lower levels, but in looking at some of the other Crew Reviews for them, they look reasonably appropriate for Damien as well.  While some topics have some overlap (i.e., Level 1 and 3 both have zoology units), there seems to be enough diversity that if I went back to the Level 1 programs, there would be sufficient new information for Damien to do those as well.  I think a slower pace (1-2  lessons per week) might be good for a younger child, but since Damien is in third grade and beginning the "late" elementary phase, I think the three levels combined might make an appropriate full-year program for him.  I'll definitely be checking the Level One and Two reviews carefully (clicking the banner below, of course) to see if the complete Learning About Science program combines to create the science curriculum I'm looking for.

If you're interested in using these for your student, save 50% on the bundled Learning About Science, Levels 1, 2, and 3 with coupon code REVIEWCREW50 through August 15.  This brings the Complete Sets to $6 each! 

Learning About Science collections {WriteBonnieRose Reviews}

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