Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review of Science Shepherd's Biology

Science Shepherd Review

Wow. Everything I've seen from Science Shepherd is amazing, but Science Shepherd Biology is just Wow. There are some Biology texts that wow you with their glossy pages and their pretty pictures, but Science Shepherd Biology wows you with its *text*. One anecdote tells the whole story. Therese (14) was/is my reviewer for this curriculum. Her boyfriend (18) was over while she was doing Biology. He did a double take at her book and said, "*That's* Biology?! That wasn't in my Biology book." He was referring to all of the chemistry at the beginning of this book, presumably, but the point is well-taken. Too many Biology programs begin with cells, etc. and skip right over the chemistry associated with life itself, figuring, I guess, that students will pick that up in (obviously) Chemistry. It really makes more sense, though, to introduce it at the beginning of Biology. Does it make for a harder course? Yes, but does it make for a far more complete one? Also yes.

Science Shepherd Review

I've gotten ahead of myself. I received the following from Science Shepherd:
  • 750 page textbook
  • DVD with all 19 labs explained
  • 48 page test booklet with 15 tests
  • 241 page parent manual and answer key
  • Spiral bound lab manual
Because the parent manual has a day-by-day schedule, you really can jump right in the second you get this curriculum. Because it is a high school level course (really for 10th graders), you really can show the schedule to your student and let them be the master of their own destiny and do the course themselves! (There is even a built-in "catch up day" most weeks, which works great for most homeschooled teens I know who have a ton of extracurricular activities that take a lot of time!).

As you can see from the Scope and Sequence of this course, it really covers a lot of material. In fact, it goes beyond many regular Bio courses and veers into Bio 2 or Anatomy and Physiology territory. My husband, whose degree is in Biology and who TA'd it all through college, was exceptionally impressed with this curriculum and all it covered. I have shown him many Biology curricula over the past few years, and this is the one that has impressed him the most. 

Now, this is a Biology course, so you will need certain lab supplies, like a microscope. Science Shepherd tells you exactly what you need here, and suggests where you can buy your supplies. Because Therese has dabbled in Biology before, we already have a top of the line microscope and all necessary supplies for labs (with the exception of dissectible specimens. We'll get those on an as-needed basis.). As with all things homeschool, shop around for the best prices, but don't skimp on lab equipment! Biology is a lab science, and you'll want to make sure you get the most out of the labs, which, thanks to the DVD, are presented for you Powerpoint-style (as a sort of intro to the lab and an explanation of key points). It's the best way to mimic a school environment where a teacher explains the upcoming lab. In some things, mimicking a school environment is desirable, and this is one of them.

The textbook is no-frills and feels quite dense, but it is written at the level it says it is. I wouldn't give it to a middle schooler, though! There is a lot of writing on each page, so keep that in mind if you have the kind of kid who reacts negatively to that. (You're not going to find a high school Biology curriculum worth its salt that doesn't, though!)

The Parent Manual has the schedule and answers to everything to which you would need answers. That's not so important for my husband, who actually knows all this stuff, but it's HUGELY important to me -- who, well, doesn't!

How We Used It

Therese (14) had started Biology at the beginning of the school year with an online program, but two things happened. First, she got sick (Mycoplasma infection). For months. She lost the entire fall semester. Then she discovered that she really doesn't like online video instruction. She infinitely prefers traditional textbook learning. I actually expected her to protest this curriculum, but she was really excited to see it. She agreed that in order to receive full credit for Biology she needed to start over. It made her feel better that this was technically a 10th grade course since she is a rising 10th grader (with some leftover 9th grade work that she is working to complete). 

Therese reads the chapter while taking notes by hand. She also answers the study questions by hand.

For the end-of-chapter study questions, though, she types out the answers on the computer with the idea that she will end up with a complete study guide at the end of the course that she can refer back to in the future. It also makes an excellent study guide for the tests.

There is no doubt that this material is challenging, but I love that. Because of her illness, Therese will only end up with three years of high school lab science, so I want to make sure that we make all of them count. We are off to a great start with Science Shepherd's Biology. In fact, I have been so impressed with it that I am pretty sure that I will be ordering their Middle School Life Science curriculum for my three younger kids (will be 2 6th graders and an 8th grader) in the fall. It is my devout hope that there is a high school Chemistry curriculum in the works!

Science Shepherd also had the Crew reviewing their Introductory Science curriculum, which looks like a lot of fun, so while I know you'll read other reviews anyway, definitely click that banner if you have kids ages 6-11!

Science Shepherd Review
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