Christian Kids Explore is another science curriculum developed specifically with homeschoolers in mind. The Biology and Earth & Space volumes were written by a homeschool mom frustrated by the lack of good science programs; Chemistry and Physics were written by a husband and wife who teach science courses at Southwestern Illinois College. This is not a complete 12-yearscience curriculum—there are only four books for elementary students—but it does provide a good introduction to some of the basic material and method of science.
None of the books are geared to a specific grade (the authors suggest a 4th-8th grade range), making the series highly adaptable. If your student is more interested in chemistry than biology, for instance, it's okay to let him work through the Chemistry text first. This is not advanced science—while it is a good introduction to basic themes, the series isn't comprehensive and shouldn't replace high school texts on the same subjects.
These books are decidedly Christian. The authors seem to come from a young-earth perspective, but don't belabor the point. God is consistently praised as Creator of the universe, and the study of science is founded on this admission.
How Do These Work?
These are basically "light" textbooks/unit study guides—a minimum of actual text accompanies a plethora of suggestions and helps for further study. Like a typical textbook, the Christian Kids Explore books are organized into units divided further into lessons and unit reviews, providing one year's worth of study. Each unit relates to the overall topic of each book, while the lessons reflect the specific theme of each unit. Biology has 35 lessons; the other three books have 30 apiece. The authors suggest each lesson be completed in one week, with two 60-90 minute study sessions, one for reading and another for the experiments/activities. Every unit ends with a test (answers are included in the back of the book).
Unlike a typical textbook curriculum, this one is not complete by itself; if only the text is used there will be some gaps in their understanding. These are unit study-style books, and the authors emphasize supplementing with outside material specific to key concepts. The appendixes and reading lists provide more thorough suggestions for further study than any other curriculum we've seen.
As far as the curriculum itself goes, there's just one book per topic—you don't need to invest in teacher's manuals or activity books. Parents are encouraged to supplement with suggested materials (often available at the library). Workpages are reproducible, making this a good choice for large families. The books are black and white—not very engaging visually, but with several detailed coloring pages in each. Note that while most of the books provide answers for the questions throughout the book, the Chemistry text only provides answers for the "Unit Wrap-Ups" and not for the "Review It" sections.
There is a good base of knowledge in the books, but again, they aren't intended to be used without supplementary material. The authors promote a classical approach to education, and since the heart of classical education is reading, reading is stressed. However, each lesson also includes an experiment, vocabulary words, written assignments, and other activities.
Teacher involvement is moderate. Parents are strongly encourged to discuss the material with their kids; they will need to grade the tests and written assignments and gather the supplementary books. But the text can be read and most of the assignments finished by the student with little or no adult supervision. More teacher involvement is possible due to the flexible nature of the curriculum, though not necessary.
Our Honest Opinion:
Two common complaints are that kids find these boring, and that the experiments are aimed at a younger audience than the books themselves. Those who like the series generally appreciate its Christian perspective, affordability, and the appendices offering extensive supplementary reading lists.
Christian Kids Explore is intended to be an introduction to science appropriate for a range of ages, and that's what it is. The authors/publishers suggest using these books for grades 1-8. Parents who want to do a lot of adapting will certainly find ways for their younger kids to learn from these books, but they seem geared to a somewhat older audience—we would probably recommend this series for your 4th-8th grader.
Science is frequently a difficult subject to get kids interested in. While the fact that some students are bored with the Christian Kids Explore series could be a reflection on the books themselves, it could also simply indicate the unpopularity of science in general. The text is forthright and clear, the experiments are engaging, and the flexibility of the course makes it easily adaptable to most homeschool settings.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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