Elemental Science

This review needs to be updated! We wrote it before Elemental Science had finished any Logic Stage materials and before they incorporated their living book "Sassafras Science" series.

There aren't many science programs designed specifically for homeschoolers, let alone from a classical perspective. Elemental Science is both, with introductory, grammar, logic and rhetoric levels covering preschool through high school. This is very much a teacher-intensive course (no student-directed options here), though in the rhetoric levels students begin to manage their own assignments more. Introductory and grammar level materials are currently available, with logic and rhetoric levels in development.

How Do These Work?

Each course is divided into 36 weekly units for a full year's study. For every subject (biology; earth science and astronomy; chemistry; and physics) there is one student book/teacher guide per classical education stage (grammar, logic, rhetoric). By covering each of these subjects in three levels, Elemental Science offers twelve complete years of study. The introductory level consists of one student book/teacher guide and provides a basic overview of the four main subjects (biology, chemistry, etc.) for preschoolers and kindergartners.

The student books cannot be used without the teacher guides. They are consumable worktexts with places to draw pictures and write answers; the author has provided preapproval for families to make photocopies for their own use. The teacher guides provide weekly lesson plans broken into both two-day- and five-day-per-week schedules, as well as full scripting for teacher presentation and student quizzes. These work in some ways as unit studies, with plenty of supplementary reading assignments and experiments from outside sources. Almost all experiments (the core of each course) are found in other books, and it will be necessary to procure these in order to complete the work.

At this point only the introductory and grammar levels are available. The introductory course is pretty basic, with most of the experiments found in More Mudpies to Magnets and students required only to complete the experiments, draw a picture of and write briefly about it, and read limited selections from outside sources. The grammar level is more advanced, with more involved experiments (mostly taken from texts by Janice Van Cleave) and much more reading (from sources like Kingfisher and Usborne encyclopedias and biographies about scientists). Quizzes are short and should be fairly painless.

This program should be seen more as a jumping off place for further study rather than an end-all for science instruction. But in the early grades, when science isn't supposed to be difficult yet, this is a great way to introduce its study while making it fun. The hands-on aspect is a great way to do this, as is the use of multiple texts rather than a single textbook which can often burn kids out. And because the material is flexible, you can supplement or limit the program to fit your child's needs and your schedule.

Our Honest Opinion:

Initially we found this program less compelling than other science courses we've reviewed. The workbooks are basically journalssimply places to record information—and it seems unwise to base an entire curriculum on additional resources that may or may not be available. The teacher's guides add little beside weekly lesson plans, so it also seems easier to simply procure and complete those resources rather than finding them and buying these books. If there was plenty of extra content here it might make these texts worth it, but at the early levels especially (when science isn't even required or all that necessary) they just seem like unnecesary added cost.

That being said, there isn't much available science curriculum for early grade school. While the author is a Christian, this is pretty much just science with little reference to faith-based matters (though the grammar-level earth science text does reference creationism and recommend a book from a distinctly creationist perspective—to the author's defense, she's writing in China). The framework nature of the program allows you to add in any elements or emphases you deem necessary. The teacher guides are clear and easy-to-use, making implementation time-efficient and headache-free. Each course stands alone so you can start anywhere you like, though the difficulty increases with every level and each builds on the last. This has potential to make a great science course all the way through grade 12, but we don't think it's there yet.

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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