For years I’ve advocated avoiding traditional science textbooks and, instead, choosing fewer topics to cover in more detail using real books and experiments. Obviously, many homeschoolers agree with me since publishers are increasingly putting together courses that fit this description. I think Noeo Science has done one of the best jobs yet! You’ll see why as you read on.
Courses are available for three levels. Level 1 courses target grades one through three, level 2 courses are for grades four through six, and level 3 courses are to be used in grades seven through nine. It should take one school year to complete each course. The titles of the eight volumes in the series are:
You might have noticed that all courses are titled Biology, Chemistry, or Physics. Some science topics such as geology, weather, and astronomy overlap these three areas of science, so they are included at points within chemistry, biology, and physics where they fit most appropriately.
It doesn’t really matter which order you use the volumes for each level. Choosing the most appropriate level is more important. However, you might easily shift a student who is at one end or the other of a level into the closest lower or higher level if it allows you to teach more than one child at the same time. While the titles of the books seem similar, the content at each level changes to cover different topics within biology, chemistry, and physics (as well as other areas of science) so that students will have a broad and thorough science education after completing these courses.
Noeo Science takes its name from a Greek word meaning “to understand.” While the courses stress understanding scientific concepts, they also want children to learn that, “The essence of science is simply observing and describing God’s creation. When scientists make a new discovery, they are seeing another part of creation revealed…." (From the introduction to each book.)
The curriculum’s approach is primarily a mixture of Charlotte Mason and unit study methods, but it also works well for those pursuing a classical education.
Each volume of Noeo Science targets a narrow range of topics under the general headings of biology, chemistry, or physics. For example, Biology 1 covers weather, bacteria and fungi, sea life, amphibians, plants, insects, birds, and the human body. Despite the number of topics, extensive time is spent on narrower subsets of each of the above topics, using real books, observations, and experiments—all hallmarks of unit studies.
Charlotte Mason’s influence is seen in the use of real books, the use of narration (oral and written), drawing, and the creation of a notebook.
The curriculum is designed with lots of experiments and hands-on activity rather than in a traditional format. While children learn some vocabulary, the curriculum does not rely on the memorization typical of many science courses, and neither does it use typical worksheets and tests. That doesn’t mean students do no writing. Reproducible forms in each volume are used by students for notebooking, drawing, recording data from experiments, writing definitions, and taking notes. Samples of completed student pages are included in the instructor’s guide to assist parents. (Note: The reproducible pages are also available as free downloads at the Logos Press website.)
For each course, the key component is the instructor’s guide which comes in a spiral-bound book. Each instructor’s guide consists primarily of lesson plans that are laid out for each week in chart form for easy reference. They list the pages in books to be read, experiments to be completed, optional experiments, and optional websites to explore. Notes at the bottom tell you when students need to make notes or drawings for their notebooks or provide a narration.
Each instructor’s guide also has a fairly brief explanation of how the curriculum works, the aforementioned reproducible pages, lists of required books and experiment kits, and a master supply list of items needed for other experiments and activities.
The books selected for each course are outstanding. For example, Chemistry 2 books are The Usborne Science Encyclopedia; Fizz, Bubble & Flash; Smithsonian Exploratorium of Science; Janice VanCleave's Chemistry for Every Kid; The Mystery of the Periodic Table; and Explore Rocks and Minerals!: 20 Great Projects, Activities, Experiements. These are mostly colorful, illustrated books that children will love to explore on their own. Even better, both Chemistry 2 and Physics 2 use the same Usborne and Smithsonian books, so you can save on the second course by purchasing a less expensive package that does not include those two books. You will develop a great science library with the books from these courses.
While the curriculum itself reflects a Christian worldview, most of the resource books do not. The introduction to each book suggests using encounters with secular or materialist viewpoints in the resource books as opportunities for discussion rather than skipping over them. I also suggest that since the resource books are your primary source of information, Christian parents might want to add discussion about God’s design or presence when it seems appropriate.
Each course is laid out for 36 weeks—a full school year. Lessons are provided for four days a week. However, lessons for level 1 should take only 15 to 20 minutes a day, lessons for level 2 should take only 20 to 30 minutes per day, and lessons for level 3 should take 30 to 40 minutes per day. This means that you can easily double up your lessons and do science two days a week in longer sessions since even level 3 lessons twice a week would require no more than 60 to 80 minutes each. Of course, if students complete optional reading or experiments, that will take more time. In addition, many of the observations, activities, and experiments in all of the volumes could be expanded beyond the minimal time required.
Experiments and Lab Work
Logos Press sells the Noeo instructor’s guides packaged with sets of the required books and experiment kits, saving you money over the cost of buying items individually. However, you can purchase all items separately if you prefer. (Check the publisher's website for information on various options for purchasing individual components.)
Experiment kits from the Young Scientist Club (www.theyoungscientistsclub.com) are included in all courses for levels 1 and 2. Biology 2 also includes an inexpensive slide microscope. More extensive kits from Thames & Kosmos (www.thamesandkosmos.com) are used with level 3 courses. The Young Scientist Club experiment kits for younger levels—with between five and seven kits per course—come bundled in boxes for each course rather than individually. It is important to note that the Young Scientist Club Kits have a number of experiments within each individual kit so there’s even more here than you might think. Each kit includes its own instruction book plus equipment and supplies for all the experiments. These kits are relatively small and inexpensive, but they do contain some unusual items like a spring scale, glycerol, and a petri dish. You will need to collect some common household items (see the master supply list in each volume) to use with the kits, but all of the difficult-to-get items are provided.
Chemistry 3 and Physics 3 come with larger experiment kits, each with its own substantial manual. Students are not required to complete every experiment in each kit, but they might enjoy them enough to tackle the optional experiments on their own.
Physics 3 has two kits. A Physics Workshop kit (with all sorts of gears, pulleys, rods, building components, and a battery-operated motor) has 38 workshop projects for students to construct things from the kit. Most workshop projects are accompanied by experiments in which students use the workshop creation. For example, students build a force scale and type-two lever in a workshop then use it in an experiment to measure forces on a lever. The Electronic Snap Circuits Kit used in Physics 3 can be used for building 78 projects for learning all about electricity.
Chemistry 3 has one large kit that includes chemicals and lab equipment as well as a complete manual with instructions for 251 experiments.
Some parents using level 3 courses will be concerned about high school requirements. While there is plenty of lab work in both the Physics 3 and Chemistry 3 courses, the labs do not require the mathematical measurements and calculations typical of high school-level labs. The course material introduces ideas taught in high school but does not go as far as usual for high school courses. For example, at least two of the books in the Chemistry 3 course—Eyewitness Books Chemistry (DK Books) and Material Matters: Mixtures, Compounds & Solutions (Raintree)—discuss covalent and ionic bonds, yet none of them fully develop the technical aspect of how atoms bond with each other. Consequently, these courses are perfect for junior high and might serve as introductory courses for ninth graders that would be followed up later with more challenging, math-based chemistry or physics courses.