Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Review of Home Science Adventures

I have been using Home Science Adventures in our homeschool this year with Rose, my third-grader, and James, my sixth-grader. In this post, I'm going to share a few photos of the things we've been doing and some thoughts I have about this program.

First of all, Home Science Adventures offers six different science kits ~ plus two triple sets, which include three of the regular kits. I decided to go with one of the triple sets so we would have our science activities set for the year. We settled on the Astronomy, Birds, and Magnetism set. At the time I ordered, I wasn't totally sure if I would incorporate James into our lessons, mostly because I wasn't sure if the program would feel too young for him. The HSA website recommends the kits for grades 1-8. When I got the materials, I looked everything over and decided it would work fine for him to use along with Rose. He is definitely having a lighter science year this year than last, but that's okay with me. I do think that for us, 6th grade is the upper limit I would use HSA for. To me, it feels too light and "introductory" for an eighth grader.

The lessons in HSA are short, simple, and to the point. The focus is on the hands-on activity. This is definitely a "less is more" type program, and only a few key concepts are introduced in each lesson. I really like that about it though, because I feel like what we learn is really sticking. Also, we only spend about 60-90 minutes total each week on science, usually split over two days.
That gets us through two HSA lessons.  So, it's a very do-able program, even if you are a bit crunched for time, like  me.

How far apart are objects in the solar system?

 As far as the younger grades go, as I said, Rose is a third-grader this year, and I think that age is pretty perfect for this program. It could certainly be used with a first-grader, but it would probably help if they were a bit science-oriented, at least for the two units (astronomy and magnetism) we have tried so far. The other thing is that James could do this program entirely by himself, if I needed him to. Rose would be able to do some parts of it by herself. A younger child would most likely need help the entire time.


Comparing the sizes of the planets

Okay, so you here's what you get when you order the Astronomy-Birds-Magnetism set!

                   

As you can see, you get a lot of stuff! This is a really fun box to open. It has literally everything you need for a whole year of science, except for a two-liter soda bottle. And I really mean everything - we were given tacks, paper cups, string, a nail, a little bag of birdseed, a ruler, a thermometer, toothpicks, and even a pin stuck in a piece of Styrofoam so we don't poke ourselves. In the colored folders are the lesson sheets and any other reproducibles for each lesson. I chose to get the optional binoculars with the astronomy set, and for the small extra price, they work well. You get a ton of little pieces in this box!

The set also comes with a parent guide, which is just a set of stapled notes for each lesson, including answers, hints, and ideas for further study. One of my few complaints about this program is that I would have preferred to have a nicer parent guide, perhaps a small spiral-bound book. I am always afraid of losing the stapled pages, but in retrospect, perhaps I should have hole-punched them or stuck them in a sheet protector. The lesson sheets have the directions for each activity (these are written to the child) and spaces for them to record their thoughts and observations. Writing is pretty minimal, so this program has worked well for my sometimes pencil-phobic children. There is a suggestion in the parent guide to make a science notebook, but we chose to keep it simple and only use the lesson sheets. There is only set of lesson sheets, so I copy an extra for each lesson so both kiddos can have their own.

Testing which poles attract

Some thoughts on doing this with two kids - there are definitely enough supplies to have two kids share this program - you'll just need to copy the lesson sheets if you want them each to have one. Sharing has not been a problem and I often ask James to do the set up, demonstrate how to do the experiment to his sister, and help her fill in her sheet.

The three units of the triple set can be done in any order; they stand alone. We chose to start the year with astronomy, and the very first lesson we did was on tracking the moon. The kids kept a moon chart and noted what phase the moon was in every few nights. Simple, but a really  nice way to get us paying attention to the night sky on a regular basis. Incidentally, we have this calendar at home, and it's a great go-along to the astronomy unit. If we weren't totally sure of the moon phase we just checked our calendar. Our next lesson had the kids draw the moon while observing the craters with their binoculars. We learned what ejecta rays are and how craters form. This lesson had a fun optional idea to design your own moon base, but the kids weren't interested, so I didn't push it.

For other astronomy lessons, we figured out how high the kids could jump, and how high that would be on the moon and on other planets (and why). We did a greenhouse experiment to see just why it is hotter on Venus than Mercury. Again, each of these lessons has go-along hints, tips, and extra facts included in the parent guide, as well as simple ideas for extra study - many of these are just other things to discuss or briefly research and only take a few minutes to add in.

At this point, we hit the holidays, so we took a break from science. Getting back to our astronomy studies proved difficult - it was either cloudy, too cold, or someone was too tired from practice to go outside. We also had several weeks of sickness, which did not help! So, I decided to switch to the  magnetism kit for a while and we'll pick astronomy back up in the spring (we have six lessons left).
Testing out magnetic fields

Another magnet sculpture

Home Science Adventures is not a secular program, and there are a (very) few religious references, but we have not found this to be an issue at all as a secular homeschooling family.

Making predictions ~ what is magnetic?

 So to sum up - I really like this program and I think the kids do, too. It is easy to use, which is always a plus, especially for someone like me who tends to push science to the back burner. This program gets done, which is huge in my book! I also really love having everything provided for me! For so many other science programs we have to hunt around for things, go shopping for items we need to do an experiment, or modify experiments to fit what we do have. Not so here! It is light, but I am okay with that; it fits what I wanted for science this year. If you have any questions about Home Science Adventures, I am happy to try to help; just leave me a comment below. 

3 comments:

  1. Great review! So how do you think it compares to BKSK science?

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  2. I like both. Well, I should say that I have only used actual BKSK science 6, not any of the other levels. But I really like the early levels of Sonlight Science, which I did use. One thing I like better about SL is the books - I thought early on that I would supplement HSA with books, but we haven't been fitting that in. So, I do miss all the books.

    As far as the experiments go, though, I much prefer HSA. We enjoyed many of the SL science experiments, but we also had many flops, things that just didn't work out right. We have had every HSA experiment/activity work well so far, and they are simpler than many of the SL ones. Sometimes I would look at the SL experiment and just feel overwhelmed by it, but I don't feel that way with HSA.

    My overall feeling is that HSA is really best if you want a mostly hands-on experience and don't mind the science being a bit light. And BKSK is best if you want to spend more time reading and don't mind experiments that are a bit more involved. I am not sure about the lower levels of BKSK science, but I was not overly thrilled with BKSK Science 6 (which I don't think has a SL equivalent). We are just finishing that up now with one of my older kids, and I feel like the reading level has been all over the place from super easy to too hard, and the experiments have nearly all been flops for us. We won't be continuing with BKSK science after this level. But I believe the younger levels are totally different and more comparable to Sonlight.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kim. I'm on the fence about science for a 10-year old. I know she'd love the hands-on aspect of either one, but I don't want all the experiments to flop! (I've heard that criticism from other BKSK users, too.) Hmmmmm. Maybe I'll look at Mystery Science some more.

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