Thursday, March 15, 2018

NatureGlo's eScience (Homeschool Review Crew)

NatureGlo's eScience is a STEAM curriculum program presented by NatureGlo. The program is comprised of both live and self-paced courses, making it accessible to students with both fixed and variable schedules.  For our review, we received a subscription to the self-paced version of the  MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle, which consists of four 6-week courses:

  • Math Connections with the Real World
  • MathArt in Ancient Cultures
  • MathArt in the Arts and Sciences
  • Math Art: Patterns in Nature 
Note: As of 3/2018, only the first two programs listed are available in their entirety.  Two lessons for each of the second two are available, with others being uploaded on a weekly basis.

We began with MathArt in Ancient Cultures.  The program is suggested for ages 10 and up, so I thought this might be an opportunity for Matthew.  He has completed nearly all of his core high school requirements, and his transcript is heavily tilted toward math and science -- he just seems to enjoy their black-and-white aspect.  He does have an art credit already, but he struggled with it.  The art history program he took focused more on the actual history of art and where the pieces fit into history, and less about the works themselves and how they were examples of that era (i.e., the use of color, line. shading, etc.)  I thought a cross-curricular, unit-study approach program might be a way to add art instruction in a way that played to his interests and strengths.  Because Matthew is almost in 12th grade, he works mostly independently.  I gave him the login credentials and told him "Go to town!"

He got himself organized downloading the first study guide and began working his way through the first lesson on Babylonian Mathematics. I liked the organization of the webpage - the current activities were in the body of the page, with an easily navigated task list in the margin.  As you completed a task, the list struck itself.  This made it easy for me to keep track of where he was in a course with just a glance.

 Following the directions, he began to read the slideshow and fill out the interactive guide.  It's well laid out and makes the information easy to locate.  (Perhaps too easy for a high-school student, but I can appreciate that this is meant for early middle-schoolers who may be just beginning to learn to take notes.)

The next step was to watch the NatureGlo videos.  If this had been something I had gotten for Matthew to do, I would probably have just let him loose. Since it was a review, we sat down to watch the video together.

What we were watching were the same activities he had already done, just this time with the NatureGlo and other children reading aloud.  It was jarring at first, because NatureGlo is inviting kids to take turns, and asking them questions.  I think I was expecting a self-placed class to be presented as a pre-recorded lecture series, rather than just a recording of a live class.

 Also, the sound was a bit "off." At first, I thought it was our connection causing the distorted sound.  After listening a few more minutes, I realized the reason.  NatureGlo is a full-time RVer, and conducts classes from her home on the road. I think this, unfortunately, limits the quality of the recordings.  We have done many online/streaming programs, but they have had professionally recorded lectures, including sound mixing, which is what I was expecting.  These sound like what I overhear when Celia is talking to her violin teacher during her lessons (they take place via Skype). It appears only the built-in microphone and camera from her computer are being used as recording devices.  Between the sound and the interactions, I felt like we were always just a little "behind" -- kind of like watching live TV on a tape delay.  It was rather disconcerting!

As a mama with lots of homeschoolers, I always like it when we can share products across students. I also like when publishers offer bundled prices!  I rarely comment on the actual prices, because as a small business owner, I understand there are so many hidden "behind the scenes" costs. I also know that quality high school-level classes can be expensive. We are not rich by any means, but since we are unexpected homeschoolers we are also coming from the mindset of "high school tuition that we budgeted for is far more than we're paying to homeschool." I also am willing to pay for something that my kid loves and really learns from -- I genuinely believe education in something a child is passionate about is an investment.  (Please remind me of this when Celia's violin tuition comes due!) However,  when I review, I do try to look at programs from the perspective of "How would I feel if I had paid for this?" and not just automatically love it because I don't have any financial investment. The bundle cost for the four-class group is over $500 (an individual program is priced at $149), and I just don't feel as if the recording quality or content justifies the cost.  (And that's even ignoring any costs for recommended or added projects.) It is also only a one-year subscription, and because my kids are far enough apart in age that they can't double up, that means paying that again as each child is ready.   I can't imagine paying that times four! II have to say that if this weren't a program we had received in exchange for a review, I would have been quite upset and even a bit angry.

From a content perspective, I think this is more appropriate for younger students - maybe the 5th-to-8th grade set. It is too little content for a reasonable high school credit. (A high schooler certainly isn't too old for the information, but it would be a recreational course, not something to count for a transcript.)   First, the first two lessons of each unit are basically the same. He could skip the first PowerPoint-based task and glean the information from the disappointingly short 10-minute video. I was expecting the video part to be 30-45 minutes (given the live classes meet weekly) with the other activities as "homework" during the "week" between classes. However, there's not enough content in the rest.  Doing the program "as is," he could complete the entire lesson in under two hours.  My general rule is there needs to be at least 80-100 hours worth of work, between lectures and independent work. I had expected to throw in an extra project or book here and there with each of the four programs, to round them out, but found I was looking for "more" to bulk up each "week." It also slowed us down in working through the program.  My initial plan for Matthew to work on the 6-week course, and possibly add on one reading/project selection at the end as a "final project," where I would have had the 6 weeks to acquire the extra books/materials for that final part. Instead, we have taken almost four weeks for our first lesson,  and I've been scrambling to gather materials (quickly but without obscene shipping fees!) so we're not constantly looping back to "completed" topics.  Again, it's an added expense to make an already pricey product work for us -- I just can't in good conscience not say, "Be prepared for the added costs."

Thinking that maybe it was just the course we had chosen that was short (given there's only so much information known about the ancient cultures), I began looking through Math Connections in the Real World, which includes topics like the Fibonacci Sequence and it's use in not just "art" but in architecture and engineering.  Again, the lessons are short and not as deep as our needs.  They are a good introduction to the topic, but not enough for an older student.

Overall, I don't think this is a bad program, and what content it does contain is good. For example, the further reading for the Babylons includes an article published in The Mathematical Association of America, as well as a second article with a detailed explanation of how the Babylonians used the sexagesimal system.  Matthew really lit up when working with a third printout, manipulating numbers himself and seeing how both base six and base ten arrived at the same answers but from very different paths. I'm not quite sure I understood it all, but he clearly did.

Overall, NatureGlo's eScience just didn't do what we needed it to do, which was fill an educational gap for a high school student.  To find out how it worked for other Crew families, click the banner below. 

MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle {NatureGlo's eScience Reviews}

Want to keep up with all of our adventures?
Subscribe below to get Adventures with Jude delivered to your inbox.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

©2012- 2017 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover