Serious science is coupled with a light-hearted approach and lots of hands-on activity for this two-year course targeted at junior high level. Written specifically for Christian homeschoolers, The Rainbow has a beautiful full-color textbook (softcover) and huge lab set with all sorts of interesting items.
The course is also unusual because the text is intended to be used for two years. In the first year, students study physics and chemistry, and in the second year they study biology and applied science.
The Teacher’s Helper is a guide for the text as well as the labs, covering both years. The first year’s lab set includes both durable equipment and consumable supplies plus a lab workbook. For the second year, you need additional equipment, supplies, and a new lab workbook, all of which is sold as a “year 2” set.
I really enjoy Dr. Dobbins personal, friendly writing style, and I think most junior high students will too. Here’s a short excerpt to give you the flavor:
So you’ve given up on dissolving oil and vinegar together without killing people, but you are still convinced you are a smart chemist. So what do you do? Like every other good chemist in the world, you pick up the bottle of salad dressing and shake it really hard, then fret to remove the cap and pour the dressing before it separates again. But unlike the untrained non-chemists, you know the word for what you just did. You created a suspension. (p. 118)
Dr. Dobbins explains concepts simply, frequently relating concepts to familiar experiences such as the above. Each small section has “exercises”—questions that can be used for discussion or written assignments.
The Teacher’s Helper outlines a schedule for three days per week for 32 weeks per year. It also gives the purpose of each lesson as well as section review quizzes, answers, and troubleshooting ideas in case a lab experiment doesn’t turn out as it should. A separate lab workbook for the student gives detailed (and often humorous) instructions for the weekly experiment.
The complete kit includes a neatly packaged set of lab materials with everything needed to carry out the experiments including such items as safety glasses, a marble roller assembly, a baseball, resistors, magnets, light bulbs, glass tubing, syringe, PVC tubing, dye, and much more. You could conceivably collect your own materials from the list provided on the publisher’s website, but it’s such an odd assortment that you would be better off purchasing the kit from the publisher.
If you have more than one student, you will need to add an extra lab workbook. Each lab workbook comes with a pair of safety glasses, an essential item for each student. Other than that, students should be able to work cooperatively on the experiments using what comes in the kit. Those using this program with a larger group need to order multiple kits.
The curriculum is obviously Christian with its numerous references to God. Dr. Dobbins’ treatment of the theory of evolution is interesting. He says, “In this text we will attempt to teach the general theory of evolution because a good education in the sciences requires it. We present it as a theory… which we ourselves do not accept” (p. 136). However, it does not seem to me that evolution is taught in this text so much as it is undermined or argued against. Dr. Dobbins does not take a position on the age of the earth. Another sensitive subject might be human reproduction, but it is tastefully and conservatively explained.
Overall, I think this course prepares students with a solid foundation for more in-depth high school level science courses.