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 and eight. It should take one school year to complete each course. The titles of the eight courses 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 to observe and describe creation.
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. 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.
Each course 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 relatively small 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.
Each course consists of an instructor's guide, a student lab manual, an assortment of non-fiction books, and resources for experiments. 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 as much on the memorization typical of many science courses, and neither does it use lists of questions for students to answer. That doesn’t mean students do no writing. The student book has perforated pages 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: Many of the forms from the student lab manuals are also available as free downloads at the Logos Press website. Look for "Free Resources to Download" on each course's page.)
The softcover instructor’s guide is the key component for each course. 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 templates for student worksheets, and a supply list of items needed for other experiments and activities.
The books selected for each course are outstanding. For example, the Chemistry 2 books are The Usborne Science Encyclopedia; Fizz, Bubble & Flash; Smithsonian Explanatorium of Science; Janice Van Cleave's Chemistry for Every Kid; The Mystery of the Periodic Table; and Explore Rocks and Minerals!: 20 Great Projects, Activities, Experiments. These are mostly colorful, illustrated books that children will love to explore on their own. Even better, both Chemistry 2 and Physics 2 use two of the same books, The Usborne Science Encyclopedia and Smithsonian Explanatorium of Science, so you can save on the second course by purchasing a less expensive package that does not include them. You will develop a great science library with the books from these courses.
While the instructor's guides reflect a Christian worldview (with occasional references to scripture and mentions of God as creator), the resource books do not. Christian parents might want to add discussion about God’s design or presence when it seems appropriate. The instructor's guides include a "Note to Parents on Sensitive Topics" to highlight potential trouble spots in the books you will be using. Parents might use encounters with secular or materialist viewpoints in the resource books as opportunities for discussion rather than skipping over them.
For those who want secular courses, alternate versions of each course—labeled Charter Edition—eliminate the Christian content in the instructor's guides.
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
Experiment kits from the Young Scientist Club are included in all courses for levels 1 and 2. Biology 2 also includes an inexpensive slide microscope. More extensive kits from Thames & Kosmos and Elenco 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 still need to supply items like paperclips, food coloring, celery, and baking soda. These are shown on the supply list in the instructor's guide for each course.
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.
Noeo courses require quite a bit of parental involvement for the first, level, but as students become independent readers, they can read some of the books independently and gradually learn to complete some experiments on their own. Even at the younger levels, the courses are quite easy to use because everything is supplied and scheduled for you. And the variety of resources should pique the interest of most students.