As a homeschooling father, Dr. Scott Hardin realized that he and other parents were concerned about providing high level science education to their children. He decided to create Life Science and Biology courses that would raise the bar, yet still be suitable for students to work through independently.
In addition, Dr. Hardin is a Christian, so he wanted to point out problems with the theory of evolution, while also teaching students what they were expected to know about evolution as taught in most textbooks. So he devotes one chapter in Life Science and three chapters in Biology to the topic. He presents both evolution and creationism as philosophies, but he ends up demonstrating that creationism is more plausible than evolution. Throughout the rest of both texts, the science is presented objectively without reference to either philosophy. This is in contrast to many texts used by Christian homeschoolers that integrate creationism throughout.
Life Science can be used with students in grade 7 through 9 and Biology is a high school level course. The Biology course should prepare students to be able to take the CLEP exam for college credit.
As you might expect, these courses are more challenging than most others used by homeschoolers. While both texts cover the same topics as do other texts, the presentation requires a higher level of student attention. This might be due to the writing style. As an example, the following excerpt is from Life Science, p. 55.
All cells are bounded by a cell membrane. The cell membrane encloses the interior of the cell and protects its contents. Every cell contains smaller units, called organelles, which perform specific functions in the cell. The only organelle that prokaryotes have is ribosomes to make proteins. Eukaryotes have many different types of organelles. All eukaryotic organelles, except ribosomes, are covered with a membrane. Prokaryotic ribosomes do not have membranes, either. Prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells both have DNA.
In addition, pages are more dense with print than in many other texts. Full-color illustrations are helpful, but these are accompanied by sometimes lengthy explanations in small fonts that also need to be read. Students who have excellent concentration and reading skills should be able to use these texts, but those weak in either area might have trouble.
Both textbooks present the material in a similar fashion. Each chapter begins with a chapter preview and brief overview. Then each topic is taught as you would find in most textbooks. Each chapter concludes with a summary of key points, a vocabulary list with definitions, and a set of study questions for students to answer. For each text there are a Test Booklet and an Answer Key & Parent Companion. The Answer Key & Parent Companion has answers to both study and test questions. They also have chapter outlines with key points summarized for each section. A helpful extra for parents who really want to stay connected to what their students are learning is the “topic questions.” Topic questions present a question the parent might ask the student for each section within a chapter; there are quite a few of these for each chapter. An appropriate answer is provided so the parent need not actually read the material.
Life Science does not have a lab component, although the publisher is working on a lab manual. Meanwhile they recommend a lab book from another publisher if you wish to make it a lab class.
For the Biology course, they have a complete Biology Lab Manual with twenty labs, including dissections. These were designed to be done at home although some equipment is needed—microscope, slides, dissection kit, and stains for creating slides in addition to other items that can be purchased at a drug or grocery store. Science Shepherd sells a kit with all materials except the microscope and Lab Manual.
They have also produced a Biology Labs DVD with complete demonstrations of all labs, including reproductions of slides viewed through the microscope. Students who watch the labs and complete the worksheets in the manual might still be able to obtain credit for a full lab course since the DVD labs cover the steps of each lab activity. Note that the DVD is a narrated PowerPoint presentation rather than video. Dr. Hardin explains each step slowly and clearly so it is easy for students to follow along in the Lab Manual. Answers to lab activities are at the back of the Manual.
For Biology, the optional Enhanced Study Question & Answer DVD has audio and visual presentation of the chapter study questions, providing answers plus extensive explanations for challenging concepts. This might be useful for students who need this extra bit of help.
These courses fit a unique niche in the homeschool market since they are designed for independent study, teach at a challenging level, deal with the evolution/creation question in a manner not offensive to creationists, and provide a lab component, all without requiring parental involvement beyond checking answers.