Today I get to bring you a review of a newer science curriculum for middle schoolers, Novare’s Earth Science: God’s World Our Home. Science is one of those curriculums where there are tons of hands on activities that can be added to increase the fun of learning. Because of that, I tend to lean toward curriculums that have a lot of hands on activities already planned for me. Then, without fail, part way through the year we are overwhelmed by how many activities we have planned. Not only the activities but the amount of mess that is made, and the amount of time that is used to prep and clean up from those activities. Don’t get me wrong, kids need those kind of hands on activities, but all the time? This is where I feel Novare Science & Math can come in.
Novare offers middle schoolers a text book based program with lots of media options to add to the learning, along with a few hands-on experiments through out the program. I feel this gives this age group of kids the visual, and hands-on learning they need yet in an amount that keeps us homeschool moms sane.
If you have not seen this curriculum before I am guessing you are thinking something like, Wow that sounds great but I don’t know anything about Novare or what they believe. I was thinking the same thing when I heard about the possibility of reviewing this curriculum. So let me get into more of who Novare is and what they offer.
Novare is a Science based curriculum company that has a Christian faith component. I could not find any specifics on denomination at all. What I did find is a short statement they made on their website that basically states that they believe in Jesus and Science. That they want to foster a love for learning and teaching in such a way as to have students gain mastery and retain that knowledge. I know that seems very vague so here is the link to Novare’s Core Beliefs webpage that I was just talking about so you can see for yourself. Below is a video from Novare talking more about how they integrate faith into their curriculum.
One thing I always ask when I look at a new science curriculum is what is their stance on the age of the earth. Personally I believe in a younger earth however more important to me is that a curriculum point to God as the creator of all things. This curriculum does NOT hold to a young earth belief but they do point to God. Rather than try and explain, here are 2 pictures covering 2 pages from the Earth Science text that explains more of how they feel and what will be presented to your kids.
So after looking at what they believe and if it will align with what I want my kids to learn I look at how I would need to teach the program.
What I LOVE about this curriculum is that the flow is very consistent. Kids pretty much will know what is needed to be done on any given day. For my ADHD kids having consistency is HUGE. Any changes in schedule or routine set them off for a melt down, and ultimately not much learning that day. For them, this curriculum really fits the bill.
A typical day would look something like this…
- Check out the Earth Science picture of the day (a website with a new photo each day), and think about it. Did you learn anything or question something? I had my kiddo print out the picture and write on the bottom of the page his thoughts on the image. That way I knew for sure he was actually doing this, and gave me more documentation of what he is doing in school.
- Read today’s section of the text. – Goes in order, 1.1 one day, then the next is 1.2.
- Watch/look at the suggested media. – Could be a photo, a short YouTube video, or even a movie. These are to help them dig deeper into what they just read about and really start to love science.
- Complete today’s text Learning Check questions. – Typically 3-5 questions that would need to be answered on a separate piece of paper.
- Spend some time practicing this chapter’s vocabulary terms. – This could be using flash cards as they suggest. We prefer to use Quizlet.com so I don’t have to worry about the kids losing their flash cards and trying to get out of practicing. Either way works, just as long as the kids are practicing those vocabulary terms.
- At the end of each week there is a Weekly Review Sheet handed out to the students. These are available on the Earth Science Resource CD, sold separately. Because this company is really devoted to helping students master the material, they added in these review sheets to help students learn how to study the material they are presented. These sheets will cover info from the chapter they are working on as well as all previous chapters.
- At the end of each chapter (15 chapters total) there are one to two days devoted to completing the Chapter Exercise Questions (usually around 10-15 questions) and possibly an experiment or project (8 total through out the text).
- There are also quizzes added in through out the year. These are available on the Earth Science Resource CD, sold separately. These quizzes are cumulative in the material they include, which is why the review sheets are so important.
So what did we think of this curriculum?
Personally I have mixed feeling about this curriculum.
- I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how consistent the work flow is. Kids are able to really grasp what is expected of them which really helped my kid to quickly settle into learning science.
- I LOVE the use of images in the text, as well as the text size in general. It isn’t too overwhelming with just the right size to make you feel like you are picking up a hard cover novel instead of a text book.
- I LOVE that there are many options of extra media that can be chosen from to include in each section’s reading. With being a visual learner myself these added videos and pictures really help to make the section’s information stick and bring the fun to science.
- I LOVE that there are not many experiments. This means less items I have to purchase and have on hand as well as less cabinet space I need for storing all those items. It also means that when an experiment comes up we can put our whole heart and energy into it and take away more from them, loving science more than before.
- I LOVE that not only does this curriculum work on mastery, but they actually put the effort in to help my child know how to study properly to be successful.
Now for the not so great…FOR US…parts of this curriculum. I definitely want to state that this is our opinion and even though this is how we feel, these items might just be what you were looking for. However, because of our beliefs I feel it is important to mention them.
- I LOVE how the text talks about God and points kids to look to him, however I feel that this message is dimmed with some of the video extras they suggest for each section. Below is one of the videos Novare recommends for Chapter 1, section 4.
After watching I think you can see what I am talking about. However, because these are extras that are only shown in the teacher’s section as suggestions, if you as the homeschool parent review each video before assigning it to your child, you can weed out the ones that do not help expand on the idea that kids should be pointed back to God. So while I see this as a negative, it is easily worked with.
- The last is that there is not an audio book available for this text, yet. Since the kiddo who is using this curriculum is Dyslexic, having an audiobook would help dramatically for him to feel more independent. For now I sit with him and we alternate reading. This helps him to not have so much reading to do but does take a lot more of my time. As a middle-schooler having independence is huge. For my kiddo this was his one complaint about using this curriculum.
If this all sounds great to you, awesome! Novare Science & Math has a whole line of science curriculum for middle and high schoolers. For middle school there is Physical Science. For High School there is Chemistry and Physics.
Interested in what other reviewers thought of Earth Science or other Novare products? Click the picture below to be brought to more reviews.