Sunday, September 16, 2007

Seeing my book reviews on LibraryThing

If you are browsing the catalogue, you may or may not see my reviews depending on the display style--and you certainly won't see them if you select my suggested view. Some of the reviews are just hyperlinks back to here; the problem is, links display but are not active when viewing the catalogue.

Here's what to do, even if you have no clue what I'm talking about: When at AtHomeScience at LibraryThing, click on the profile tab. The fourth item in my profile is "books reviewed." Click on that see all the reviews with their active hyperlinks.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Living Science Series: Let's-Read-and-Find-Out

Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series

Looking over the CM Living Science library, you will find a large number of Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science books. This excellent series provides an extensive and interesting introduction to science for young kids.

Dr. Franklyn M. Branley, Astronomer Emeritus and author of many of the titles, started the series in 1960. While some have gone out of print (they’re great vintage books to find at a used book sale) the series still has over 80 titles covering a broad range of physical and natural sciences. Level 1 is written for the preschool and kindergarten ages while level 2 is for early elementary ages (1st through 3rd grades.)

In general, the level 2 books start out slowly; then, as you read on, you realize that this seemingly ordinary picture book starts to present some really great science concepts. Many of them include activities right in the text (rather than at the end) demonstrating these concepts. While they are not literature, they are well written for their intended audience. The level 1 books are much simpler, serving to expose younger readers to science. These are good ones to borrow from the library.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Review: Noeo Science Curriculum

Noeo Science

Minimal cost: $29 dollars; Cost for complete program: up to $175

Please see note for Catholics at the bottom!*

This excellent program is a great Charlotte-Mason-style science curriculum. The program does not use a textbook, but rather a collection of wonderful living science books along with the Young Scientist Club experiment kits. Lessons are short and include oral, written, or drawn narrations. It is very flexible and can be done inexpensively since most of the books are readily available through the library.

The company currently has 6 programs available: Biology I & II, Chemistry I & II, and Physics I & II for kids ages 6 to 12. (Level III is currently in the works.) You spend an entire year learning different aspects of one subject rather than a smattering of all subjects (or details of a narrow subject as in the Apologia series.) The Teacher’s Guide contains lesson plans divided into 4 (short!) lessons per week for 36 weeks, which includes the readings and the experiments.

My only criticism of the program is regarding their third-party experiment kits by the Young Scientist Club. The kits do have interesting experiments that fit well into the overall program, making them a great choice for busy or science-shy parents. They are, however, quite expensive for what you get for $10.99 per kit! The kits do not contain everything needed, and most of what is supplied is easy to obtain anyway. The experiments are great, though they, too, are commonly found in most children’s experiment books (like the Janice VanCleave or Williamson’s Kids Can! series.) If you are even mildly comfortable with adapting science, pick up one of these books instead and insert experiments that correspond with the topics being covered in the readings. You could also buy them the first year you use a program and then just buy the materials to reuse them for subsequent children.

Physics I and Chemistry I each use one Ein-O kit. These inexpensive kits are a great addition to these programs.

Each program has excellent book choices that include at least one biography. At the end of each one, your child will have been given a good exposure to Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. You can buy just the Instructor’s Guide for $29 with shipping, or you can buy the complete set of books and kits at a discount from the web site.

With living books, short lessons, narrations, and integrated experiments, no program better fits a Charlotte Mason style science education. Our family highly recommends it.

*Note to Catholic parents regarding Starry Messenger by Peter Sis (Level I Physics.) This is a 1997 Caldecott Honor book about the life of Galileo Galilei. I could tell by the first page with the line, "They just followed tradition," that this book would be problematic. The theory that the sun revolved around the earth was originally from the ancient Greeks. Another page reads, "He knew that people had suffered terrible torture and punishment for not following tradition." The picture depicts a man standing alone surrounded by disturbing images. He was never tortured; he did spend the last 9 of his 74 years under house arrest, as the book states. Why mention torture and include this horrible image? The book then presents Galileo's pardon in 1997 as if the Church had just then accept his works and not as the tremendous symbol is really is.

For Catholic children this wording can too easily be mistaken for Sacred Tradition, which is one way the Holy Spirit continues to form our understanding of God. It is because of the lessons learned from Galileo that the Catholic Church has the most well-informed discussion of science and faith today, especially concerning Evolution and technologies. This book, IMHO, is a poor choice for young Catholics.

I will refer to the Noeo Science web site for reading ideas, but I will no longer buy their material until they replace this choice.