Five volumes of a projected twelve are available thus far in R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey series designed for those pursuing a classical form of education. Each volume should require one school year to complete.
Volumes are written at three different levels with four volumes for each level: level one for grades 1-4, level two for grades 5-8, and level three for grades 9-12. You might use the volumes for any one level in any order you please. Volumes purposely narrow the field of topics for each year to provide more in-depth and hands-on study of topics rather than shallowly covering a broad range of topics as is often done in standard textbooks. Lessons follow a sequence so that they build one upon another, both in progression of topics and in use and review of vocabulary. It should take a full school year to complete each volume.
Volume titles and levels are as follows:
- Life Science (available now)
- Earth and Space (available now)
- Chemistry (available now)
- Physics (available now)
- Biology (available now)
- Earth and Space
- Earth Science and Astronomy
Four of the volumes presently available are for the early grades (1-4), and I haven't yet reviewed Biology for level 2. I expect that volumes for upper grades will be a bit different if the series truly follows a classical model of education.
The author accurately describes this as both a classical curriculum and a "hands-on, minds-on" program. Each lesson is built around hands-on activities, but students are also challenged to think about what they are doing and learning rather than simply enjoying the activities and making observations. Since the books I reviewed are for children in grades 1-4 (grammar stage), one finds the coverage of vocabulary and basic facts expected in a classical curriculum. However, I was pleased to note that even these Level One books often take children beyond the grammar stage into more thought-provoking analysis. This is a great introduction to the use of scientific method. Also, while an extensive amount of vocabulary is taught, children learn the vocabulary through usage and exposure rather than memorization.
Students each create their own notebook with reproducible activity and information pages from the book. Families are given permission to reproduce pages for children in their immediate family. When you order, you need to choose either the loose leaf version or the bound version with perforated pages. Pages in both are easily removable for copying.
Students are also encouraged to keep a science journal. Suggestions for journaling are at the front of each volume. The amount of writing required for the activities is very reasonable, but journaling might significantly increase the amount of writing.
Each lesson begins with a list of materials needed. A comprehensive list at the front of the book will help you gather or purchase all the items in advance so you don't end up scrambling to find what you need as you begin each lesson. Many are common household items like tongs, funnel, ice pick, stapler, cheese grater, dry erase marker, kitchen knife, tweezers, cookie sheet, and glue. You will likely have to order others like an inflatable globe, outdoor thermometer, rock and mineral kit, gram scale, glass eyedropper, binoculars, fish net, and a metal Slinky. (Sources are suggested for the unusual items.)
Next in each lesson after the materials list is a paragraph in bold typeface that parents might read aloud to their children to introduce the topic and, perhaps, some of the vocabulary. Then it is time to move directly into the "lab" activity. Activity sheets are provided for students to record observations or data, make drawings, or fill in the blanks.
Younger children (and maybe even some fourth graders) are likely to find some of the math over their heads. Different types of measurements are used throughout the lessons. so children will use both the metric and English systems, and they will learn to measure or count length, volume, time, repetitions, etc. They also do so simple graphing. One lesson in Earth and Space (p. 83) even has children working with percents, a math skill most children in the early grades will not have yet mastered. Another lesson in the Life volume uses multiplication, a concept that some children might not yet have learned. These last two examples are atypical, and the math should not be a problem throughout the curriculum. Still, parents need to note lesson items that might be too challenging for their children and either provide the necessary help or skip parts of the lesson.
Notebook pages are written directly to children. These present the key ideas and vocabulary for each lesson. Again, some children will not be reading at the level required and will require parental assistance.
At the front of each volume are extensive lists of books and websites for each unit. None of these books (other than field guides) are required for the lessons. No specific pages from any books are listed for lessons. Theoretically, you could do only the activities and pages in the lessons, but I suspect you will enjoy the program more if you intersperse reading from some of these recommended books or research and reading from websites. You should also try to dedicate a day for science journaling every week or so. You might arrange your schedule so that one day is for journaling, one large block of time on another day is set aside for the lesson and lab activity. Then you might read each day for a short period from one of the recommended books or from websites.
Having said that, I would also recommend using fewer of these activities and books with a younger child than with an older child.
This program requires parent preparation, presentation, and supervision most of the time. You can purchase volumes in print or digital editions. Extra sets of student pages are available for those teaching more than one child.
Books for level one have no religious content and do not discuss evolution.