Sunday, October 19, 2014

Review of Standard Deviants Accelerate

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

It's not a great way to start a review, but I just have to say that I *LOVE* this program. I can't say it loud enough and I can't say it enough times. These courses are unbelievably informative and unbelievably entertaining. My kids don't want to stop doing science and my husband always wants to watch with us when he is home and able to do so. What am I talking about? The company name should clue one into how awesome the courses are right off the bat: Standard Deviants Accelerate. Word play? Check. Reference to social science statistics? Check. Implied forward movement in coursework? Check. How could there be any doubt about how awesome these Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses were going to be?

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

Standard Deviants Accelerate currently offers the following courses:

The courses cost $99.00 each for one student if paid annually, or you can pay $24.95 monthly. AP subjects cost $14.95 a month. The courses are recommended for ages 8+, but there is definitely room for age flexibility within each course.

I can only speak directly about English Composition, Earth Science, and Chemistry, but based on the similar structure of these courses, I would be willing to bet that the rest of the courses follow the same model. The classes are presented as a series of lectures (10-20 minutes long) by young adults (age is hard to peg, but I would say early 20-somethings). The scene changes rapidly from person to person as information is presented in small bites. Graphics are used where appropriate but are not overwhelming. The presentation style is definitely informal. This is not one of The Great Courses (for which my children are eternally grateful!). It is astonishing how much material is covered in a session.

Let me use Earth Science as an example, as it is definitely my children's favorite. My three youngest (11, and nearly 10 year-old twins) are doing this course. It says Grade 6+ and that estimate is probably a good one. My son is in 6th grade and the material is perfect for him. My twins are in 5th and have had Earth Science before and can follow the material just fine. Having said that, they are all learning many new things in this class.

When you log onto your course, you see the Table of Contents, so you know exactly what will be covered.

Each chapter begins with a series of questions designed to elicit from the student that which he already knows about the information about to be presented. Then, the chapter videos are watched. Finally, the chapter review offers a series of activities including group activities, a post-test, and critical thinking exercises. Overall, the chapters are very thoroughly done! (N.B., because I know it will be of concern to some readers, Standard Deviants presents a secular worldview that assumes an old Earth, which is definitely relevant in this course. This was one of its biggest benefits to my family, but could be a stumbling block to others considering this course. Worldview was not an issue in, for example, the Chemistry course I discuss next.).

The material in Earth Science was not especially challenging, but the same could not be said for the Chemistry course that all the kids watched, but that I chose especially for Nicholas (11). Nicky has had a fascination with Chemistry for a few months now, and I was trying to cobble together resources for him on my own. When I saw this course, and the sample used the vulgar word for passing gas that I don't allow in our house but that little boys find hilarious, I knew that the course and Nicky were a match made in Heaven. I was right. What I didn't know was how very much solid (and *hard*) chemistry Standard Deviants (I.Love.That.Name.) could pack into its course. Some of it is definitely going over Nicky's head. Some of it is threatening to go over my head. These people have found a way to present very tricky material in a way that is so easy to understand and remember, though!

For a start, the idea of visualizing electron shells as an apartment complex is one that helps me in a way that high school chemistry never could. In fact, I told Henry (the husband) that I never learned about s, p, and d orbitals in chemistry, but I now realize that I did - I had just forgotten. I don't think I'll forget now after (re)learning with Standard Deviants. Please understand, I hate intensely dislike science. However, I love Standard Deviants Chemistry. That's the opinion of a non-science person. I asked Henry (who works in the chemical industry) for his opinion, and he commented on the program's ability to take complex subject matter and render it comprehensible and memorable via the use of graphics and concepts that act almost as mnemonic devices (along with actual mnemonic devices). He is really impressed with this program.

One caveat: both science programs make use of a sock monkey who is torn in half and lying in the road. He is made to look like he is bleeding and when he speaks he gasps for air. It is, for lack of a better word, twisted. It bothers us not at all, however, it might really bother some families. Just something to watch for/consider. For me, when the company is named Standard Deviants, I rather expect little goodies like that...

A brief word about English Composition. At first, I got resistance from Therese (13) about taking the course. She saw the sample of Chemistry in which the vulgar word was used and turned her nose up at the company. She was drawn in, though, by Earth Science. She would walk through the room when I had it on the TV and would stop to watch (it's that good!). I showed her the first English Comp lesson in which a ton of information is thrown at you (all about literary genres). She was hooked. She is now well on her way with the course. She has also been informed that she will be doing the Chemistry course toward high school credit (yes, I know it's not enough in itself...I have it covered.). It just explains things too well for her not to take it. 

I guess it's obvious that we love Standard Deviants Accelerate. Because of the company's generosity, I have access to every course (*blessed*), and I plan to put the kids through as many of them as I possibly can. Do I think a course is worth the $99 price tag? Absolutely. If you're curious to see what other Crew members thought (especially if you're not quite as, um, offbeat as I am), definitely click the banner below to read all the reviews!

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