Journey Home Academy presents online science courses for Christian students at three levels: A (elementary), B (middle school), and C (high school). Previously, I reviewed their Experience Biology: Level C. In this review, I explore the science courses for the elementary grades (Level A): Earth Science Elementary, Experience Biology Elementary, and Experience Astronomy Elementary. The elementary level (A) is appropriate for children in grades one through five. When you sign up for a course, you can include as many children in your family as you wish. All these courses follow the same format and should take about 30 weeks to complete.
The online course material includes videos, printable pages, instructions for hands-on activities, and quizzes. You will need to supply books from the recommended reading list and resources for the hands-on activities.
Each course has 30 lessons with the following components:
- a video
- a hands-on activity
- memory work via flashcards and a Memory Video
- a recommended reading list
- copywork pages (featuring Scripture verses related to the topic)
A complete list of the recommended reading books (listed in both lesson and alphabetical order), a supply list, and answer keys are provided for the teacher.
You can download the student pages each week as needed, but you can also download the pages for the entire course as a single file under the resources tab. The file is formatted as a book titled Student Adventure Guide. You can also purchase a spiral-bound Student Adventure Guide if you don’t want to print out pages.
How the Courses Work
The video for each lesson runs about 13 to 20 minutes and is the key component. Videos are presented by Trisha and Luke Gilkerson with the occasional assistance of their twin sons. The videos include plenty of images and video clips to illustrate what they are teaching. Both Luke and Trisha Gilkerson often dress in costumes to portray scientists and explorers who give “first person” reports on science discoveries. At the end of each video, they summarize key ideas.
Parents can choose which of the other lesson components to use and in what order. The courses are designed to be flexible to suit both the learning style and academic needs of different children.
The downloadable activity pages vary greatly in their formats, particularly for the biology and earth science courses. For those two courses, the lessons include a hands-on activity as well as some writing. Some pages have instructions for the hands-on activities and experiments. Other pages have students cut-and-paste facts to arrange labels or images correctly—sometimes as an accompaniment to the experiment or hands-on activity. Some pages require coloring to identify particular features. Sometimes students will draw the results of their investigations, while other times, they will write about them. Generally, little writing is required, although there are a few exceptions. For example, in Earth Science, parents will read aloud one or more books about tornadoes, then students will write (or dictate) about the damaging effects of four tornadoes. Similarly, parents will assist students in locating information about the major oceans, which students will fill in on the forms provided.
Hands-on activities are usually followed by a few questions. The PDFs have lines for students to write out answers to questions such as “Explain the differences you see between your two Petri dishes” (Experience Biology: Student Adventure Guide, p. 64), but I think most parents will either discuss these questions with their children or assist them in writing rather than expecting them to write answers on their own.
The hands-on activities for all courses require school supplies such as colored pencils, posterboard, markers, scissors, and tape, plus household and “play” items such as food coloring, plastic bottles, playdough, and salt.
Experience Astronomy Differences
It appears to me that the astronomy course was the first one created and that the formats for subsequent courses include more variety. Experience Astronomy has an activity for every lesson but fewer activity pages and no follow-up questions. However, the activities will often take a more time to complete than those in the other courses. A few activities direct you to websites for instructions. For several activities, students will draw results on their own paper.
The activity for the third lesson provides a good example of both the time required and a drawing activity. Students are to draw a rough blueprint of their home identifying where windows are located. They are then to check at morning, noon, and before sunset to see which windows get the most light at each time of day. From that information, they try to identify the cardinal directions in relation to their home.
In some lessons, students are given a graphic organizer to complete with facts on a particular planet. A “Fast Facts Key” under the resources tab has the answer keys for these pages.
It is important to note that Experience Astronomy includes instructions for those living in either the northern or southern hemisphere when needed.
The recommended reading books (a mix of informational books and biographies) are not required, but I highly recommend using at least some of them. For the earth science and biology courses, each lesson has two to seven books listed. The astronomy course has a briefer list with one to four books per lesson. While more than 90 books are listed for the biology and earth science courses, you are not expected to read all of them. Some books will be better for younger students and some for older. Nevertheless, the more of them you use, the more your children are likely to learn.
For each course, Journey Homeschool Academy suggests the most important books of all those recommended for each course. Many of these are used over many lessons and would be difficult to use as library loans.
For Experience Earth Science: The Geology Book by John Morris, Weather by Rebecca Rupp, Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed Science by Rachel Ignotofsky, Scientists Who Changed History: Great Lives by DK, Rocks, Rivers, and the Changing Earth: A First Book about Geology by Herman Schneider and Nina Schneider, Minerals, Rocks, and Soil by Barbara Davis, and Rocks, Minerals, and Soil by Susan Markowitz.
For Experience Biology: The Biosphere by Gregory L. Vogt, Plant Parts by Richard and Louise Spilsbury, The Tree Book: For Kids and their Grown Ups by Gina Ingoglia, Marvels of Creation: Sensational Sea Creatures by Buddy and Kay Davis, and The Bacteria Book: The Big World of Really Tiny Microbes by Steve Mould.
For Experience Astronomy: Astronomy (Eyewitness Books) by Kristen Lippincott, A Walk Through the Heavens (Northern Hemisphere families) or A Walk Through the Southern Sky (Southern Hemisphere families), Our Solar System by Seymour Simon, and D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.
Memory Work and Christian Content
Students can use the flashcards to learn key terms and definitions. In addition, each lesson has a short Memory Video in which Luke Gilkerson reviews the key terms and their definitions. He also challenges students to memorize scripture passages. To make this easier for young students, he teaches some memory techniques.
The courses are Christian even though most of the recommended reading books are not. The Memory Videos add discussions of biblical concepts, such as the nature of God. These courses do not present opinions on the age of the earth, and there is no mention of evolution.
Copywork and Quizzes
Copywork and quizzes are both optional, although many parents will find them useful. Each lesson presents a loosely related Bible verse for copywork, in your choice of print or cursive on two separate pages. (Some copywork passages in the astronomy course are much longer than those in the other two courses.)
Each lesson concludes with a quiz containing multiple-choice and true-false questions. Experience Astronomy also has some questions that require written responses. Answers are found in the stand-alone answer key under resources and at the end of each course’s Student Adventure Guide.
The program allows students to mark online that videos have been watched, but it does not track quiz scores or other completed work. Parents need to do that.
These courses are excellent. Both children and parents should find the videos and hands-on activities engaging. And while the videos alone cover a lot of information, you have the option of reinforcing or going deeper with activity pages, hands-on activities, memory work, and the recommended reading.