Serious science is coupled with a light-hearted approach and lots of hands-on activity in The Rainbow, a two-year course targeted at junior high level. Written specifically for Christian homeschoolers, The Rainbow has a softcover student textbook, a huge lab set, the Teacher's Helper (teacher guide), and a lab book.
The course is 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 applications (applied science).
The Teacher’s Helper is the guide for the text as well as the labs, covering both years. The first year’s lab set includes a lab notebook plus both durable equipment and consumable supplies. For the second year, you need additional equipment, supplies, and a new lab notebook, all of which is sold as a Year 2 set.
I really enjoy Dr. Dobbins' personal, friendly writing style in the textbook, 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 them to familiar experiences as he does above. Lessons are presented in small sections—about two pages each—with a few questions following each section. Some questions are simple comprehension questions while others might be used for either discussion or written assignments. The student text is heavily illustrated in full color, so the pages are not crowded with text.
The Teacher’s Helper outlines a schedule for three days per week for 32 weeks per year. It describes the purpose of each lesson, then also provides answer keys, section review quizzes, 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 a 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.
The complete kit also includes both the text and a lab book, but if you have more than one student, you will need to add an extra lab workbook and will probably want an extra textbook. Each lab workbook comes with a pair of safety glasses, an essential item for each student. Other than that, two 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.