With the recent upsurge of interest both in Classical education and the Charlotte Mason method, it's surprising more curriculum writers haven't tried to reconcile the two in a science program. While there are plenty of unit study-type science courses, Noeo Science is one of the few that imparts the true nature of science to children through observation, the formulation of critical thinking skills, and an emphasis on dictation and paraphrase rather than worksheets and tests. Easy on teachers and fun for students, Noeo Science may be the curriculum destined to change a lot of minds about the importance of teaching science and the ability of the average parent to do so.
How Do These Work?
Loosely based on the Classical trivium model (grammar, logic, rhetoric as educational stages and teaching rubrics), there are currently two levels with three books each, with the first volume of a third level recently completed and now available. Each level includes one teacher's guide each on biology, chemistry and physics; the level three book available is the chemistry text. Level one covers grades 1-3, level two is for grades 4-6, and level three will be for grades 7-9. It is not decided yet whether there will be a fourth level.
Courses can be completed in any order within their levels. For instance, if you want to start with physics you can, or you can start with biology or chemistry and move to either of the other two from there—no previous knowledge of the subject at hand is needed at any level. Every year is covered in a single instructor's guide, with a complete book list for students and a number of experiment packages to purchase. Complete subject sets are available from the publisher, or you can purchase what you need individually.
Instructor guides provide lesson plans for a regular 36-week school year. Parents can choose between 4-day- and 2-day-per-week schedules. Reading lists include a variety of Usborne books, biographies and other "living books" (textbooks are specifically avoided) to more thoroughly engage children and get them interested in what they're learning. Daily readings (with page numbers) and experiments are assigned; experiments always directly correlate to what kids are reading. Lists of household items needed for experiments are included in the guides, while everything else you'll need comes in the experiment kits.
This is a very hands-on course, in every sense. Not only are experiments an important aspect of the program, after kids finish their reading assignments they are to either narrate out loud or write down a brief paraphrase that captures the important elements of what they read. Here author Dr. Randy Pritchard borrows heavily from Charlotte Mason, who believed tests and worksheets were a poor substitute for narration in this sense. His definition of science also bears her influence—for him, science is the observation and description of God's creation.
Which is a pretty good working definition. It also demonstrates Pritchard's Christian faith, though this is not a "faith-based" program. None of the books used is specifically Christian, and many evidence evolutionary or materialistic attitudes. Pritchard (a veterinarian) urges parents to discuss these views with their children, believing (as we do) that to avoid such discussions is to open your children to extreme confusion when they inevitably encounter such ideas elsewhere and haven't been prepared to adequately defend their own.
Each instructor's guide begins with a description of the author's science education philosophy. Then come several reproducible pages for students to draw pictures and keep science journals—these pages are also available on the Noeo website to print for free. Book and experiment material lists come next, followed by the lesson plans. Assignments and objectives are clearly presented in these plans so you don't need to scramble—if you have the books and the experiment kits (along with a few household items) you'll be good to go.
Our Honest Opinion:
Not only does Noeo Science present an often dreaded subject in a new (and yes, fun) way, it does so without sacrificing content. While one or two critics have made the valid point that Usborne books (heavily employed in all subjects and levels) are little more than facts alongside pretty pictures, we would respond that science is a largely fact-based discipline, so why not make the foundational facts attractive to children with vibrant artwork? The fact that students are to reiterate what they read (and the fact that reading assignments are generally short) should put complaints of this kind to rest.
A much more obvious flaw is that not all of the required texts are still in print. While most of the titles are still available, the fact that even a single text is not readily obtainable is a notable downside when every book is required. However, even this isn't enough to not recommend Noeo Science—the amount of scientific knowledge your kids will learn, along with the hands-on methodology and emphasis on learning rather than spitting out information on a test, make this a great choice for elementary and middle school students. Oh, and if you want to know what "noeo" means, buy the instructor's guide.
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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