I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for new science materials. Something new, something different, something fun, something simple, etc. So I’m at least somewhat familiar with the main science curricula out there created for homeschoolers.
We were recently sent an issue of Science Weekly to review. Each edition of Science Weekly is available in six different levels, individualized for grades K-6. (The issue for 5th/6th grade is the same.) The theme of the issue was Fractions – not exactly your typical science topic, but useful, since so many science projects do require an understanding of fractions for measuring.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how much effort had been put into adapting each level to be appropriate for the age group. The changes in word difficulty, depth of detail, and work required are impressively detailed – these aren’t token changes. To examine the issues for yourself and see what I’m talking about, download samples of the Coral Reefs edition here. Teacher’s notes for each level, with supplemental information and answer keys, are also available.
Subjects covered seem random but full of intriguing variety. For the 2010-11 school year, topics covered include: Pulleys, Cats, The Flu, Glass, Fractions, Composting, The Science of Movies, The Science of Money, Scuba Diving, Poisonous Animals, Caves, Teeth, Deserts, Green Buildings, The Moon.
All in all, Science Weekly would make a fun science supplement for grade schoolers, and Level E could possibly be adapted to interest older students, especially if working alongside younger students. Lab projects are different in each level, so it would be possible to combine and extend the length of each unit.
However – there are a couple things that concern me. Science Weekly’s website describes science weekly as a supplement for public school science – but in emails sent to homeschoolers, it was implied that it would be a more comprehensive curriculum then what they are currently using.
Quotes from the email:
Science Weekly offers an interdisciplinary and inquiry approach to enhance the homeschool teacher’s knowledge and skills in teaching science and literacy.
I’d have to say that this statement might be accurate – but Science Weekly comes across more like a science reader – reading practice on a science topic – then an actual science curriculum. Which might be all well and good for a public school… but most homeschoolers expect actual curriculum. Instead, these are like light unit studies.
Science Weekly is an equitable solution that guarantees each homeschooler an exposure to a body of organized instruction in Science.
Ouch. Several quibbles with this statement. It’s 15 light unit studies per year, not even enough to fill half the weeks in a short school year. It’s also very randomly distributed subjects. It’s not comprehensive enough to “solve” anything, in my opinion, nor is there anyway it could be considered very “organized”.
As for “equitable”… I’m not even sure what they intended to say with that phrase. Overall, it’s not an email that’s likely to win homeschool fans, and I’d definitely suggest that they run further adwriting past a homeschooler or two before sending it out. Again, this is a publication created for and marketed to public schools, which probably explains the awkwardness.
Also a bit awkward: the pricing scale. For classrooms, pricing is currently $4.95 per student per year – that’s with a 20 student minimum. Teaching Notes are free for orders with over 25 student copies. For individual copies, a year’s subscription is $19.95… rather highly priced, in my opinion, for one 11×17 sheet, folded in half, per issue, 15 times a year.
Science Weekly could be a fantastic, fun, spontaneous supplement for the homeschool market – but due to the current sales and pricing structure, I just can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. The price is just too high to make it a good value.
What I’d really love to see is for Science Weekly to take into consideration that the homeschool market is a totally different ballgame then public schools, and re-think it’s individual offerings. This is how I’d change it:
- Sell subscriptions that include all the levels, plus the teacher’s notes. Make it one reasonable rate. $120 per year for what works out to 105 sheets of 11×7 copy paper, counting the teacher’s notes, isn’t something anyone is going to consider acceptable.
- Better yet, they’ve already made a step into online issues and downloadable pdfs with their “new interactive format“. Offer a subscription to this format at a rate comparable to competitors, and homeschoolers will sign up.
- Or take it even further – this is what I’d see as ideal. Sell subscriptions to upcoming years as ebooks. Offer past years in year-bundles or as individual titles. Homeschoolers, as a rule, LOVE unit studies, especially for science, and these are perfect. Let us pick and choose which issues – or all issues – and make some money off your backlist at the same time! 2010-11 is Volume 27. The idea of 26 more years worth of issues just sitting around when they could easily sell as $3-5 ebooks (with all levels and teacher’s notes)… well, I just can’t believe they haven’t already done it.
I’m actually considering purchasing a subscription for a year, of the most challenging level, E. I think we could easily adapt it for the kids next year. But if I had several gradeschoolers that I needed different levels for – probably wouldn’t happen.
To sum it all up: I’m not fond of the marketing and pricing, but because it IS a great product, I’d really like to see some improvements made in those areas.
To see what other crew members had to say about this product, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog post, Science Weekly.
**I received this product for free as a member of the 2010-11 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew so that I could provide you with an honest review of it by our family.**