Apr 17, 2012

TOS Review: Bright Ideas Press

As a family, as a homeschooling family, I do believe our greatest love is science. Now, I was homeschooled, but it was way back in the olden days when curriculum choices were incredibly slim pickin's. So my exposure to science was, well, not good. I thought science was boring, gross, dumb and not fun at all! Then, one day, I became an adult and was expected to teach science. Suddenly, I realized that science, REAL science was NOT what I had been "taught" as a kid. Real science was exploring, experimenting, and engaging with the real world around us. I realized that I had been "doing science" my whole life without even realizing it! So my kids, they love science. And I love teaching it to them, even though I don't really teach it, I am really learning right along beside them.
I have several science curriculum and resources that I use and love, but I have always felt that something was just a little bit lacking. So I am always investigating new science curriculum. I was quite pleased, then, to be chosen to review Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space, which is published by Bright Ideas Press. We were sent the textbook and the Student Activity Book download.

The first thing that I liked about Christian Kids Explore is that it is a unit study. I'm not good at unit studies because I usually manage to lose myself in the research and can't see the forest for the trees, but I love that the work has already been done for me. The study of the earth and space has been divided into six units and 25 lessons, complete with reproducible maps, coloring pages, illustrations to label, quizzes, reviews, recipes, book lists, and instructions for making a folder book as well as a regular notebook. For someone who loves the idea of a unit study but is totally incapable of pulling it off, this curriculum is perfect!
Secondly, I liked that Christian Kids Explore was written by a homeschool mom. Stephanie Redmond was unable to find Creation based science for kids, so she wrote her own! Then she had it reviewed and edited by qualified people to ensure the quality of the content. I love that. :)
My third favorite thing about Christian Kids Explore is that we can easily use it as a family. It is intended to be used with multiple ages. Aimed at 3rd through 6th graders, there are ideas for simplifying for younger kids and for increasing the difficulty for older ones. I used it with K through 4th, and it was wonderfully easy to implement.
At the beginning of each Unit is a timeline, a vocabulary list, and a Materials needed list. Each lesson has a section to be read (called Teaching Time) which I read aloud to everyone since I have younger kids, but my older ones could easily have read it themselves. In the margins are the vocabulary words with definitions; Scripture verses that correspond to the lessons; and Internet links as suggestions for jumping off places to dive in deeper. Each lesson also has a hands-on section with ideas for older and younger kids. Sometimes we chose one or the other, sometimes we did both.
At the back of the book are the maps, illustrations, and other reproducible forms, lists of stuff to memorize, Scripture Memory cards, recipes, answer keys and book and resource lists. Everything you might possibly need or want to print can be found in the Student Activity Book Download. I loved having this because copying out of books usually leaves me with a less-than-beautiful copy. I really liked being able to just print out multiple copies of the pages I wanted to use at the touch of a button. This download book makes Christian Kids Explore a non-consumable curriculum. I like non-consumable.
My one real con of this program is the coloring pages. They are very intricate and detailed and frustrated my six year old. He likes to color and he likes it to look just right, but his fine motor skills are not strong enough for him to color those small spaces and intricate details to his satisfaction. I can see that an older child would prefer such complex coloring pages, but since this is supposed to be multi-aged, I would love to have additional, simpler pages for the younger kids.
This is where I have to apologize for not having pictures and input from the kids. We are in the middle of a (long, protracted, agonizing even) move and I am writing this in a weirdly-smelling but blessedly quiet meeting room of a motel while the kids and my husband, (oh, and my very helpful nephew) are down the hall, sleeping. At least, I hope they are sleeping! So you will just have to take my word for it that the kids' liked this curriculum and I had no complaints from them. :)
You can also check out other Crew Reviews (some of them reviewed other titles: physics, biology and chemistry) on the Crew Blog.

Disclaimer: and, as always, this product was sent to me free of charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions are honest and are my own.

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