But, even if you aren't a homeschooler, please keep reading. I have gotten some really cool resources to share with you this year, that would be a great supplement to "normal" school too! :)
This review is for something called Science4Us.com.
It is an on-line science curriculum for K-2. S-girl is in 1st grade, so she is using it, but I am also having A-man (3rd grade) do it to review stuff he has hopefully already learned! They say that you could use this program up to 5th grade for this purpose. There are over 350 lessons included....so they will stay busy for a while.
Science4Us.com is from the same people that created Vocabulary SpellingCity.com (I liked that one too!)
I will start off by saying what you really want to know......the kids love, love, love this program. A-man actually asked if this was a review that we can keep. That doesn't always happen, even if they like a product we try. Sometimes they are happy to just use it for the short period of time and then just forget about it. But, this time was different....they want more!
My kids are usually pretty fond of computer school anyway, since I limit their on-line "screen" time, so any computer school means more screen time for them.
But, this one was different.
They were excited about it, every time. They would fight over who got to do their computer school first. (That part wasn't so fun for me....but, oh well....)
The program itself was really fun and easy. They have 4 "books" of science. They are Inquiry, Physical, Life, Earth/Space. See? On the right side of the page, under Log Out. Oops, I typed them in the wrong order....
(No, I do not have any children named, Katie...this is a generic screen shot!)
Now, if S-girl and A-man were part of my first born bunch of children, I would have spent much more time in the Teacher/Admin. section creating assignments for them. But, since they are children number 4 and 5, I really just let them loose in the program. They really didn't have any problems with this approach.
Science4us.com explains what they need to do, as they move along. There is also a little introductory video they can watch (that is the one in the above screen shot that says "Pinky wants you to watch this video".) It goes through the books, the modules, the activities, their notebook, etc.
A nice thing for your early readers (or just bad readers) is that they have the verbal announcement of the different options to choose....when you hover the mouse over them. You even have the option to repeat what was said....which comes in really handy around here. If, and when, a ruckus breaks out.... it is easy to have the program repeat the question or information after the noise has moved to another room!
A few other things that weres helpful, even though at first it was sort of daunting for the kids was the glossary and mini-explain (little picture of a brain) sections....under the My Tools section. The glossary is simply that....a glossary. The mini-explain section is also just what is says...a mini-explanation of different terms or things. The problem was that sometimes the kids didn't know what the words were in the first place. For example, there are explanations for Venn diagrams, tally charters, analogies. See? Sort of hard words for little people. However, the explanations and the visuals used are phenomenal and do a great job explaining the complicated terms/ideas in an age appropriate way.
I really thought the mini-explain about the importance of note taking to be really good....and, honestly, both A-man and S-girl have taken this advice to heart in other areas of studies outside of Science4us.com.
Okay, so onto a science lesson.
Like I said, I let the kids loose, so they would pick from one of the four books, then they would have the option to pick a unit, then a module. Here....look at this...
This is the Life science book, the Living Things unit and the module for Animals. This particular module has a set of 12 activity areas to work through and the 13th area is an evaluation of how well you know the module.
Here is one of the activities:
This is S-girl's cat. (A little quirk we found with the drawing labeling portions of this program is that they don't work in full screen mode, so you have to make the working screen small to get those parts to work. I also learned how skilled my kids are when using a mouse to draw pictures! )
These types of activities and drawings can be saved into the student's notebook. Here is a list of some of the things that S-girl saved into hers....
It shows the Book, Unit/Activity, the date it was added and then a thumbprint picture of it.
This program was very easy for the kids to just jump in and handle mostly on their own. There are sections in the activities where it specifically asks them to discuss or talk about things they learned....but, the kids just skipped those portions and moved on with the lesson.
There are parts of the lessons that have the kids "show what they know"....like picking a picture of something. For instance, in the animals section, they asked S-girl to pick the picture that showed one of the "needs" of an animal. It showed a picture of a panda bear eating bamboo and a cat staring sort of creepily into the camera. S-girl picked the cat (what can I say? She likes cats.) But, obviously that answer was wrong....you don't need to be creepy to live. :) So, the little cartoon teacher voice said something like, "Oops, looks like you need a reminder....let's watch again." It then automatically took her back to the part of the lesson that explained what a need was and the things an animal needs to live. Just in case you don't know, those things are food, water, air, and shelter.
Again, the kids really liked this program. A-man hopes we can afford to continue our membership. S-girl's only complaint is that the "Explain" section of activities takes too long and she gets bored.
I did let them loose to run around Science4us.com, but I could easily monitor what they were doing, how much time they spent doing it and how successful they were by logging into the Teacher/Admin page and looking over all the reports available.
There is a LOT of information available in the Teacher/Admin. section. If I intended to be more hands on, I could access a sort of cheat sheet or video cram session before teaching the class. You can really dig into a LOT of detail within the student reports too. There are even off-line activities that I could have the kids do.
Side note: I learned something from the kids in the process of quizzing/interviewing them for the review. Our school has a weak spot. Both of the kids said that they had never heard any of the space stuff before Science4us.com. So, now I know that I need to tweak things around here and include more information on space at an earlier age than I currently do it.
In case I missed any key points, or you still have questions about how Science4us.com works, take a look at this video. I don't get into all the "standards" that this program meets, but if that sort of thing is important to you, the details are all in this short clip.
So, to answer A-man's question of whether we can afford to keep this review or not....the cost of Science4Us.com is $7.95 per month/per student. (There are options available for "normal" schools too.) I think that makes this program very doable, even with our tight budget!
Take a look at what other TOS Reviewers thought about Science4Us.com.