Introductory Science Course (Crew Review)

Shepherd Science Review
Science is one of those topics that kids by which seem to be fascinated, but I really have little interest in teaching.  I look for ways my children can explore the subject on their own, and the Introductory Science course from Science Shepherd has been a fun way for them to learn fairly independently.

About Introductory Science

Science Shepherd was started by Scott Hardin, MD who is also a homeschool dad.  He began creating materials to fill a need he saw for higher level science designed specifically for homeschool students.  After a Life Science course for middle school, and a Biology course for high school, he created the Introductory Science course to give younger students a basic foundation in earth science, life science, and physical science (see Scope and Sequence).

IntroductoryScienceIntroductory Science is a complete 1-year science course providing 35 weeks of instruction 5 days a week.  Each day’s lesson consists of a video streamed from the Science Shepherd website (12-month access is provided with purchase of the course, with extensions available if needed), followed by a page in the workbook.  We received the Level A workbook for ages 6-8, but there is also a Level B workbook for ages 9-11 that includes everything in the Level A book plus additional material.

The daily videos are fairly short, just 2-5 minutes long.  Starting in Week 2, there is also a video of an activity performed by two girls, Anna and Emma.  These experiments or activities are very simple and can easily be replicated at home if you choose.

The material is distinctly Christian, with the first two weeks spent establishing a foundational understanding of creation, dominion, and the truth of the Bible as the Word of God.

Theology is mixed in easily, with specific Bible verses given to back it up.  For example, as Dr. Hardin goes through the days of Creation, he addresses questions like, “How was there light before the sun?” by referring to Revelation 21:23 and 22:5, which talk about how God himself is a source of light.  In the discussion on the Ice Age that followed the Flood, he highlights verses in Job that discuss the freezing conditions.

After the introductory weeks, one week is spent on science skills and tools (including the scientific method) before moving on to various scientific disciplines.  Topics covered in the rest of the course include the following:

  • meteorology
  • geology
  • oceanography
  • plants
  • astronomy
  • underwater creatures
  • flying creatures
  • land creatures
  • human beings
  • health
  • ecology and natural resources
  • matter
  • energy
  • motion
  • magnets

The softcover, spiral bound Level A workbook contains 321 pages and requires quite a bit of reading, so some students in the 6-8 year old range might need assistance completing the written work.  For those who are already reading well, however, the pages are very reader-friendly.  They are printed in a large font, and each page is very simply designed, with no more than 4 questions on a page.  Most lessons have a single page for that day, though occasionally there may be two pages.  Some questions are multiple choice, others are open-ended.  (An Answer Key booklet is available.) Some of the pages contain matching puzzles, word searches, or instructions for creating a list or drawing pictures of certain things.  There are also instructions for each of the activities presented in the videos.


Our Experience

20160519_103449xI decided to get the Level A workbook for Elijah, since Ian is right on the border between Level A and Level B.  They both watched the videos together, but I think Elijah definitely got more out of the course by spending time in the workbook after each video lesson.  Because Elijah is a strong reader, he was able to complete most of the workbook pages independently.  Occasionally he had trouble, but it was usually just because he wasn’t reading the questions carefully enough.  When I made him read them out loud, he could almost always figure them out, and if he had trouble, I’d send him back to the computer to watch the video again.  After a second viewing the answers were always very clear.  I wish I had gone ahead and purchased the Level B book for Ian as well, because I think he could have handled the extra material and would have gotten more out of the lessons by completing workbook pages than by just watching the videos.

Ian was most drawn to the activities and experiments.  I have to confess, this is the part of science curricula I usually ignore, so I liked having the videos to watch and would have been happy to leave it at that.  However, because most of the activities were fairly simple, I did let Ian try a few of them at home.

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My thoughts on Introductory Science

What I liked
  • Biblically based, with specific Scriptures tied in to many lessons. (Elijah commented on how he knew some of the answers in his workbook because of his Bible lessons on Creation)
  • Simple to use (kids could work mostly independently)
  • Workbooks are good value and well-designed to reinforce the lessons
  • Wide scope of material provides a great introduction to various parts of science
  • Daily lessons can be completed in about 15-20 minutes (video and workbook).  (My boys often did multiple lessons in a day because they were interested in learning more.)
  • Activities are easy to re-create at home, or you can just watch the videos.
Things that could use improvement
  • While I appreciate the biblical worldview, I was a little uncomfortable with the way all other views were lumped together and dismissed under the term “evolution.”  For example, Dr. Hardin explains that some scientists “believe that everything–all the planets, the sun, the stars, all plants and animals–came from nothing.  The idea that all living things came from nothing and took a really long time to look like they do now is called evolution.”  I know he’s trying to put things in simple terms for young children, but I felt this was an inaccurate definition of evolution, and I want to be more specific with my children so they know they can trust what I (or Christian scientists) tell them.
  • The videos weren’t very exciting, just Dr. Hardin sitting behind a desk with his hands folded talking in a calm, fairly monotone voice, plus occasional still images and words. Live action video examples were few and far between, and more would have greatly enhanced this part of the course.  (However, this is just my opinion; neither of my boys seemed to have any problem with the videos.)
  • 12-month access to the videos is great if you only have one student or if multiple students are using the course the same year.  However, as a mom of many, I prefer to save my curriculum budget for things that can reused later with my younger children.  An option for lifetime access, downloadable videos, or a DVD would make me more willing to purchase a course like this.

The boys seemed to enjoy Introductory Science, and they learned new things each week, even when going through topics we’ve already covered as a family.  Elijah really enjoyed the structure of the course and prided himself on filling in his workbook pages.  I’m not going to require him to finish all 35 weeks, but I plan to remind him of it occasionally and hope he’ll choose to go through more of the material on his own, either this summer or over the course of the next school year.

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