Nov 4, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Fascinating Education

We had a little trouble this year choosing a science course. This was difficult for all the kids, but more so for Nate because he is my biggest science fan and the one that I could not find a "just right" plan for. He needed something that was difficult enough to challenge him, but that he could still handle on his own. So I was delighted to get the chance to review a course from Fascinating Education.

Developed by Dr. Margulies, this is an online science program for middle school and high school aged kids. There are three different courses offered, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Nate wanted to take Physics, but since he is only ten and in fifth grade, did not meet the prerequisites for the class. So he settled for Fascinating Chemistry, which is the suggested place to start after all.

Dr. Margulies has a unique method of teaching science, which you can read about on the About page. But in short, he uses illustrations in the form of videos to teach instead of the traditional method of using a textbook.

Fascinating Chemistry was easy for us to implement. We received a username and password in an email. After I signed in, Nate sat down and got right to work. For each of the 18 lessons, there are three options: the lesson,which is a video; a text script of the lesson; and the test.

Clicking on the Lesson tab starts the video. This is divided into sections and the student can either go through the lesson sequentially or can choose a section (called a slide) to view. In addition, if you stop the lesson anywhere in the middle, when you return you have the option to go to the spot where you left off. (You can do this with the tests, too.) This is a great feature because the lessons are long There is also a Glossary tab with science terms from the lesson and their definitions. At any time the student can pause, fast forward or restart the lesson video.

The Script button provides the student with a text version of the videos. This is in PDF format and can be printed if you like.

The Tests are in multiple choice format. When you finish a test you are immediately given your score in percentages and points and told what is needed to pass the test. You then have the option to review your test which shows you both the correct answer and your answer to each question. You can retake the test. You can print out a copy of your results, which is necessary if you want to keep records because Fascinating Education does not keep results. You also can print out a hard copy of the test and have your student take it that way. The PDFs of the tests and the answers are password protected so your child will not have access to them unless you so choose.

I don't know about the other two courses, but Fascinating Chemistry comes with labs. These are also password protected and parental supervision is advised for all labs. There isn't a lab with every lesson, and some lessons have more than one. There are 12 labs in all. The labs are in PDF form so you can print them and they contain the purpose, the "why it works", the items needed and directions to perform the lab.

I expected Nate to be able to use Fascinating Chemistry mostly on his own. He watched the first video straight through and then, before I could stop him, he took the first test. He soundly flunked it. We then sat down together and worked out a system. He would watch a few slides a day and then review using the text script. This is where the "return to where you left off" option came in handy because he always knew right where he was each day. After he worked his way back through the lesson at this slow pace, he re-took the test and not only passed but made 100%. An older child would, no doubt, be able to move at a much quicker pace (he is only on the third lesson after about four weeks) but it worked well for us.

I feel that he is getting a good, basic understanding of Chemistry in a format that he enjoys. Because he is a visual learner and he loves technology of any sort, online videos are the perfect thing for him. I like that he can work at his own pace and I love that actual labs are included. Yes, he likes videos, but when it comes to science doing it is so much more valuable than just watching it. I do wish there was a little more accountability when it comes to the tests, though. Unless I print and administer a hard copy test, there is nothing to keep him from just retaking tests until he gets a 100% and I would never know.

Nate's review: It's interesting. The tests and stuff are cool. It has taught me a lot of science, like I didn't know about intermolecular bonds and how they work until I started doing Fascinating Chemistry. I would recommend it for kids ten or older who love science.

Any of the three Fascinating Education courses can be purchased for $79 for a full year of access. Check out the Scope and Sequence or click on the banner below to see what other Crew members thought.

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