The “Conceptual” series of science textbooks were originally written for traditional schools, including the college level. Conceptual Academy was created by the authors of the Conceptual line of science textbooks for use by college and university students to enhance learning with video instruction.
Some of the textbooks, such as Conceptual Physics and Conceptual Chemistry, have been especially popular among homeschoolers, so Learn Science Conceptual Academy (a separate website) was created to make these and their other textbooks easier and more practical for homeschooling students in grades seven through twelve. The ancillary items (teachers manuals and other resources) for these textbooks are expensive, so at Learn Science Conceptual Academy, the authors of the textbooks joined together to provide videos and other online resources that eliminate the need for homeschoolers to purchase teacher manuals, tests, and answer keys.
Learn Science Conceptual Academy has courses for grades seven through nine titled Physical Science (Explorations) and Integrated Science (Explorations). They also have high school courses for physical science, integrated science, chemistry, physics, biology, and astronomy. Note that there are two Conceptual Physical Science textbooks, and there are two Conceptual Integrated Science textbooks. The Explorations versions of these two textbooks are easier and are intended for middle school.
The courses are highly structured, and in addition to the videos, they include study aids, worksheets, quizzes, exams, and lab activities. Lab activities use readily available resources rather than specialized equipment. Students will keep a journal for their lab work.
The program for these courses tracks student progress on reading quizzes, video quizzes, and Homework Practice Session questions. (For all of these questions, only those with predictable responses are graded by the program.) Lab work and journaling need to be evaluated by the parent, and unit exams (printed from PDFs) need to be hand graded. Parents are provided with instructions for overseeing the courses.
A subscription for one of these courses provides one year of access.
Homeschool Planet has lesson plans available for many of these courses that make them even easier to use.
Courses Vary in Design
Integrated Science (Explorations) is a two-year course that is probably the best starting place for seventh graders. It can be completed in seventh and eighth grade or in grades eight and nine. Ninth graders can earn course credit for the second year as a high school course.
Physical Science (Explorations) is a two-year course for grades seven through nine that covers physics, chemistry, Earth science, and astronomy. There is a Homeschool Planet lesson plan for the complete course, but there is also an option for a scaled-back, one-year course that focuses only on physics and astronomy.
Physical Science has options for either a one-year or two-year course for high school. The two-year course covers physics, chemistry, earth science, and astronomy. The one-year course omits earth science.
Conceptual Chemistry has four different course options to fit different needs. All four options are at high school level.
Biology is offered as either a standard or an honors course for high school. It includes a PDF version of the textbook—there is no print version of that textbook available. Not having to purchase a textbook cuts the cost of this course significantly.
For Physics they offer both a standard and an honors course for high school.
Integrated Science for high school is a two-year course—a different course than Integrated Science (Explorations)—and it covers both physical and life sciences. The first year covers physics and chemistry, and the second year covers biology, earth science, and astronomy.
Astronomy is a half-credit course for high school that can be spread out over a leisurely 27 weeks or completed at a faster pace in one semester—or even over the summer. It uses chapters from the Conceptual Physical Science textbook.
I’m including my review of the options for the Conceptual Chemistry online courses to provide more details.
There are four online, self-study course options to help students using the Conceptual Chemistry textbook. One course, titled Conceptual Chemistry, is the full version covering the entire textbook. The second course option, titled Contextual Chemistry, has an environmental emphasis. It cuts out some material to offer a course that will be a little less time-consuming. The third chemistry course option, Life Science Chemistry, is designed for students with an interest in the life and health sciences, and the fourth course option, Preparatory Chemistry, is designed for math-oriented students likely to pursue a college degree in a physical science. Any of these courses should be able to be completed in one school year and will satisfy the requirement for high school chemistry. You can read the details for each self-study course here.
The self-study courses were created by John Suchocki, the author of the textbook. The Learn Science Conceptual Academy courses serve as lesson guides that walk students through lessons, presenting videos and quizzes that correlate with the textbook. (In these courses, the lessons are called "classes," but I will use the word lessons in this review to eliminate confusion.) While the Conceptual Chemistry course option follows the order of the book, the other three course options rearrange the lessons into a different order than in the textbook. (You should be aware that the online lesson guides are gradually transitioning over to new ones that are still created by the author, but now in conjunction with Homeschool Planet.)
The full course option presents the lessons under six units: Elements of Chemistry, Atomic Particles, Atoms and Molecules are Sticky, Chemical Reactions, The Chemistry of Life, and Environmental Chemistry. There are five to seven classes per unit in the full course. Contextual Chemistry has only four units: Chemistry in the Environment, Energy Resources, The Chemistry of Water, and The Chemistry of Life. Unit headings in the other two courses also change to reflect the differing emphases. Despite the unit headings, all of the courses cover all of the basic topics vital to chemistry, such as elements, particles, bonds, etc.
There are a total of 35 classes in the full course, 31 classes in Preparatory Chemistry, 30 in Life Science Chemistry, and 26 for the briefest course, Contextual Chemistry. So the rate at which students must move through the various courses varies from slightly less than one week to a little more than one week per class.
The format of the classes is the same in all courses. Each class begins with an introduction—the "FYI page" in the class schedule. It is vital that students read the FYI page since this is where they are told about quizzes and other assignments. On the first FYI page, Suchocki directs students to complete the "Confirm the Chemistry" hands-on activities at the end of each chapter in the text. He also recommends that students use the MicroChem Kit (from Home Science Tools) for more in-depth lab work. If you follow Suchocki's suggestions, students will satisfy the lab requirements for a college prep course.
On the FYI page, Suchocki also points out parts of chapters that students need to pay close attention to and highlights other aspects of the course. After reading the FYI page, students click on each part of the online lesson guide for the lesson material to be completed that week. Generally, there are three to six sections within each lesson. Each section directs students to read pages from the textbook, watch the correlated videos, complete activity pages, and take the online quizzes.
Videos vary from just a few minutes to about ten minutes in length, but there might be up to three or four videos for a section—and sometimes there are none. Videos might feature the author teaching a concept with animations on a screen; the author performing an experiment in his lab; the author filmed on location somewhere; a Hawaiian couple, Kai and Maile, interviewing a scientist about his work; Kai and Maile performing an experiment; or something else. You might expect educational videos like these to be somewhat serious, but these videos are purposefully silly and casual, even corny. Some are more scientifically interesting than others, and some are downright fascinating.
For each class, there are a Class Reading Quiz and a Video Quiz; both are taken online and scored automatically. The printable activity pages have various types of questions that assess comprehension as well as deeper thinking. The activity pages are PDF files linked on the FYI page for each class, and these two or three pages are used for the entire week. Answer keys for the activity pages are in a file linked on the FYI page for the second chapter of the first unit. The activity pages are attractively formatted, and they are much more appealing than just answering questions from the textbook. Nevertheless, Suchocki also sometimes assigns selected questions from the textbook as well. In addition, Suchocki presents a Poster assignment that will require a good bit of research plus presentation to an audience.
Unit exams and answer keys are included at the end of each unit. Suchocki presents an unusual approach for taking the exams that you can read about when it’s time for the first exam.
While the four courses that I've described are ready to use just as they are, there are also online tools that allow co-op instructors to transform any one of these self-study courses into their own “instructor-led” course, which they can modify as they see fit. They will also be able to monitor student performance through a class grade book.
These online courses do a fantastic job of making it practical for homeschool students to work independently using these excellent textbooks, and many of the courses include options for students of varying abilities.