If you want to give your kids a curriculum and let them go at it, only intervening to correct worksheets, AOP is one of the best options around. If you want to instill in your kids an actual love of science and a desire to study it, you can do better. This is more or less a "just the facts, ma'am" approach, with plenty of text, lots of written work, and not much else. One of the attractions to the program is that you can just hand your students a workbook, tell them to finish it, then simply hand them another one.
Many people who use LIFEPACS for every other subject find something else to use for science and history, or at least find ways to supplement. While there is enough information here to make it a complete curriculum, the texts move at breakneck speed and there will probably be gaps in what kids learn and understand. Some people also use the LIFEPAC curriculum to satisfy state education requirements, while pulling together a patchwork curriculum of their own.
How Do These Work?
For each grade there are ten worktexts and one teacher's guide. The worktexts contain student reading assignments and problems to answer, with a final test. The teacher's guide contains all the answers for written work and tests, material and instruction lists for experiments, and some limited lesson notes. There is very little visual stimulation in the worktexts; a minimal number of cartoony color illustrations in the early grades become simply black and white text in later levels. The text is relatively easy to read, but a little stilted and unimaginative. There is a supplementary DVD sold separately, and kits can be purchased containing all the science materials needed for the activities.
The entire course is simply called "Science." The emphasis is on basic familiarity, not in-depth pursuit, so a large spread of topics are addressed. The early grades (1-8) are, of course, general science; later grades are more specific. Grade 9 is basically earth science, grade 10 is biology, grade 11 is chemistry, and grade 12 is physics, though topics are frequently intertwined. This approach, intended to help students integrate knowledge rather than compartmentalize it, could lead to confusion.
There aren't nearly as many experiments in this course as in other science curricula, and they're described so drably they might not interest most students. Science is often a subject that kids need extra encouragement in, but AOP's assumption seems to be that if they don't like it already, they never will.
Our Honest Opinion:
Every worktext and teacher's guide for every year has the same picture on the front. While that by itself isn't disastrous, the fact that the insides of the worktexts are only distinguishable by their subject matter should begin to sound alarms. One way to describe this kind of approach could be "no-nonsense" or "straightforward"; another might be "boring." True, kids should be more focused on learning than on being entertained, but at some point they need to find what they're studying interesting or they won't care to learn more.
As we purchase used books, we quite often see worktexts 4-10 for various grade levels returned, unused. Many kids we've dealt with can't cope with the way it presents material; many parents choose not to. While this course may be useful for providing some basic or key information, it probably shouldn't be used all by itself. (It could work well as remedial-work—if your student is having a hard time in science, catch him up quickly with AOP and then move on to something that isn't just a workbook.) There are enough science curricula out there that are interesting, fun, and educational that AOP doesn't need to be the only one you use.
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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