As our girls get a bit older, we are beginning to look at science courses that are a bit more advanced. Novare Science & Math has science courses for middle school that look appealing. They sent us a copy of Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home for this review.
Novare Science & Math is not a new company but they are new to the homeschooling market. They have a line of science texts and teacher resources. These include (among some other titles):
This company is working to bring high quality texts to students in order to help them understand their world. Hand in hand with this understanding, there is a goal to help the students recognize and understand God’s role in the design and creation of the world we live in.
Their mission is found in three key words: mastery, integration, and kingdom. (Read more about this on the Novare website.)
The textbook is designed to help the student completely understand the concepts and master them. Each chapter begins with stated learning expectations that are measurable. The chapter is then broken into sections that are numbered. (If your students get help from outlining, this is an awesome feature.) Each section has a few learning check questions that revisit the main points. By answering these in writing with full sentences, the students really absorb the information.
If the accompanying CD is purchased, there are additional materials that really help in the mastery phase. There is a planning schedule to help keep on track and moving forward, as it can be easy to get bogged down. There are weekly quizzes, reviews, and tests. These come with answer keys and are printable so that you can print them as needed. There are also maps for the topography sections, additional links and resource lists, and more. There is a lot on the CD.
This refers to including in the text and accompanying activities, questions, and labs materials that bring other disciplines into the discussion. One the example would be the inclusion of history by writing about notable inventions or people of influence within the text rather than delegating that information to a separate page or a sidebar. Another would be requiring the student to write complete sentence answers and to verbally express answers in a large or small group setting to incorporate language arts. Math is even included in the science text by having computations for students to do when it is textually appropriate.
Due to the mission of Novare Science & Math, you will find theology throughout the text of Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home .
The texts present and confirm God’s mastery design for the earth and its inhabitants. This is found throughout all of their texts. While the focus is intended to be on God, the mainstream science laws, theories, and ideas are addressed and included. Novare wants students to be prepared to face the world as it is and to have in hand the information necessary to be a well-spoken advocate for God’s place in nature. With an intentional purpose, the science texts are intended to have the students working towards understanding, conservation, and sustainability.
The Text: Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home
As the title of this text suggests, it covers earth science. Looking at the student introduction gives us a pretty good idea of where it is going: Psalm 24 is quoted. Introducing the students to God’s World is perhaps the main goal of the text. Understanding of the balances in nature, how they work, and how to be good stewards of the earth and its processes are all underlying purposes of having a student use this text. The topics include:
- Earth in Space
- Science topics (facts, theories, hypotheses, research, Christianity and science, stewardship, and more)
- Matter and Minerals
- Rocks and the Rock Cycle
- Plate Tectonics
- Volcanoes and Earthquakes
- Weathering, Erosion, Soils
- Earth History
HOW WE USED IT
Honestly, we struggled. When the text for Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home first arrived, I was thrilled. It is a lovely, well-constructed book full of beautiful, engaging images. It has a study, hard-back cover that is comfortable to hold. But it is intimidating. The print size is fairly small and there is a lot of it on each page.
After taking a couple of days to kind of absorb the text and how it was set up, I got the CD information (I received it via download). I began going through that download systematically and attempting to put it all into order in my brain about how it was to be used and applied to the text. I finally found a PDF titled Recommendations for Teaching Earth Science and, while it was a long document, it had a lot of helpful tips.
Using the tips from that document and the document with the suggested schedule, we got started. The plan, since we were basically in summer school mode, was for Miss E, age 13, to read one section a day and write the answers for the learning check questions. This was about 2-3 pages of reading and 3 questions. After a few days, we realized that this was not going to work. She was struggling with the questions.
We revised our plan. We attempted the same reading schedule with her working through the questions orally with me. That worked better, as I was able to point out within the text what she needed for answering the questions. After answering orally, she wrote the answers in her notebook. This worked for a bit but as we neared the end of the first chapter, I found that she was not retaining the information; she could not remember the details of what she had read. So, we revised again.
This time, she would read one day and work on vocabulary words. The next day, she would read the same text again and work on the questions with me. After trying this for a while, something was still not clicking with her.
My thoughts on that? This text is designed for middle-school students. So, with Miss E heading into 8th grade, it seems as though it ought to fit. While having the objectives and full vocabulary list at the beginning of the chapters is helpful from a teaching perspective, I can see it being frightening from a student perspective. (I have to know ALL of THAT?!?) I am certain that some of it also has to do with the jump in font size and text density per page from her previous science text to this one. This one is also written at a much higher, more academic reading level that takes more effort to understand.
I think Novare Science & Math is a great addition to the homeschool market and I am excited to see more of their products. I do believe that this is a text we will use but I don’t know if it will be this coming year. We may need to add an in-between text that doesn’t create such a gap between the way her previous text was written and this one. But, I do like this one a lot and hope we can revisit it before too long.
I think any science loving student will be able to jump into this text easily, perhaps even as early as sixth grade, and absorb the information. Some of the material may be a bit too advanced but it really does depend on the student. Novare Science & Math is a company that I will be keeping in mind as we move forward in our homeschooling journey.
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