Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Supercharged Science: e-Science Premium Membership - a Crew Review

I think a lot of us homeschooling parents feel like there are one or two things missing in our children's education. Maybe it's not a core subject, maybe it is. 
There are times when life gets so busy or strange that I wish we could have spent more time on a particular subject than we were able. These are the topics that I hope to 'cover again' before the girls get out of High School. One of those is Physical Science. There just aren't always enough hours in the day for me to sit and do experiments with Emily and Arlene. That's why I was intrigued by the opportunity to review the e-Science Premium Membership from Supercharged Science for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. The girls (with a little help from me) have been in control of their own Science class for the past 6 weeks during this review, and they've been having a lot of fun!

Supercharged eScience Review
 Supercharged Science is the brainchild of Aurora Lipper, a former NASA Rocket Scientist who realized that her college students at Cal Poly State University were bored. Aurora realized that younger students were not being taught science through experience and experiments, but rather through boring lessons. Thus when they got to her classes, they just weren't expecting to enjoy science. She set out to teach kids physical science that would be fun. Hoping to improve science class from the beginning.

These lessons are definitely fun. Each unit has multiple lessons, with Aurora teaching the basic principle through a video lesson. Then there is a section for the student to read (or for you to read to/with your younger students.) Then come the experiments. Many lessons have multiple experiments, many of which use basic household items, or items you can purchase at your local big box or electronics store. There is a nifty Shopping List you can print out for each Unit, allowing you to go around your house looking for supplies, then determine which items you will need to purchase. If you want to know specifics about each experiment, you can look at individual experiments for their supply lists.

Some Units have long supply lists, but if you look them over, you'll see how Aurora uses many common things to teach great science concepts. In Unit 1, which covers Force, Gravity, & Friction, there were only one or two things we didn't already have. However, if you're planning on doing Units 10 (Electricity) or 14 (Electronics), you might want to have a Radio Shack nearby! You don't have to do all the experiments, but expect that your children will want to do at least MOST of them, after all, they're FUN!

The e-Science membership gives you access to one or two additional units every month of your membership. That gives you about 60-80 new experiments to try every month. While a lot of these are geared for K-8th grade, there are several of them geared towards High Schoolers, like the Unit on Astrophysics! Even in the experiments geared for Elementary or Middle School students, many of them have a link at the bottom of the page for advanced students to click to get High School level lab worksheets, which include more in-depth learning on each subject & require more math.

That means you'll start with a sizable chunk of science to cover in just the first month. You can do as many or as few of the experiments as you want, but I think you'll really enjoy Aurora's video lessons. Arlene mentioned that she really likes the teaching videos because then there is not so much reading to do each time. Plus, when Aurora explains the science concept in her video, the student has a better idea of what to watch for during their experiments. Too many times in the past, Arlene was frustrated by different science books that just didn't give specific enough instructions for her to understand HOW to do the experiments. I liked that for your older students, they can take charge of this and do it almost all on their own. This was particularly helpful for us this past month when Kurt was sick. The girls were able to take the laptop into the other room & complete science class on their own. When you read through the Supercharged Science website, you'll read (& hear) repeatedly that this curriculum does NOT require you to know about science. That is awesome for me, because my science focused on Biology, not Physical Science, and the last time I studied Physics was 20+ years ago!

Supercharged Science intends to teach students at least 10 of the 18 main principles in Science. The other eight are college level, which will be much easier to learn if your student grasps these 10 now. Some great features that everyone can access as soon as they sign up include Unit 0 (especially great for the parents, although you'll want your kids to watch it for a basic overview of principles like Newton's first Law of Motion and the First Law of Thermodynamics) an overview of the Scientific Method,  and a terrific section about how to make and use a Scientific Journal. This Science Journal has helped the girls remember what they've done during their experiments, and gives them a place to write any notes they might want to make from the videos. Be sure to watch this video WITH your students, and help them get started on their Journal. Many of these experiments work best with 4 hands, so having your students work together fits in really well. If you have a single student, or only one older student, expect them to need some help with some experiments, especially those that use a stopwatch!

For the review, our girls started with Unit 1, learning about Force, Gravity, and Motion, and then I let them pick and choose what to do next. You can follow a path Unit 1-Unit 20, or you can skip around through whatever units you have available based on how long you've had your membership. I can definitely see using the entire curriculum over 2 or 3 years, but you can choose just to do specific units based on your needs. The staff at Supercharged Science is good about responding to your questions and are really helpful. On the website, they have Conversion Charts where you can see which units line up with 20 of the most popular homeschool science curriculums. That way, if you already have a favorite, but it seems lacking in labs/experiments, you can match them up. If your science curriculum isn't listed, you can email them a Table of Contents and they'll make up a conversion chart for you.

Arlene doing an experiment with magnets 

Part of the reading about friction

Emily recording the experiment in her Scientific journal

homeschool science curriculum
We've been using e-Science for the girls, and plan on continuing it as our main science curriculum for the rest of the year. The girls are enjoying it, and I am hearing them talk about scientific principles at random times without any prodding. 

If your students are in grades K-8, you can use the e-Science program for $37 a month. If you're wanting to have access to all the older student experiments and lab sheets, the e-Science Premium Membership costs $57 a month. I know, that seems like a lot of money, but I've not seen another science curriculum that covers this much. I might suggest you plan to set something else aside for the year that you use Supercharged Science, as you could do ALL the units and get 2 years' worth of science done in one year. A true plus to this membership is that you can use one membership for the WHOLE family. So yes, your 2nd grader can learn about Motion, your 6th grader about Matter, and your High Schooler can learn Astrophysics all at the same time. How many Moms or Dads have time to teach all 3 of those in one year?! If you used the all-ages e-Science Premium Membership for 8 months, it would cost you $456. How much did you spend on science for your children this year?

Not all of e-science is Physical Science though, there are 2 Units on Chemistry, 2 Units that cover Life Sciences/ Biology, and one unit on Earth Science.

online homeschool

So what did we think overall? This is a really cool science curriculum. I wasn't sure what to think about the claim that it doesn't teach either Creationism or Evolution, but it really doesn't. Since so much of this is based on current, observable science, it stays focused on scientific principles and doing experiments. That means I can heartily recommend this to anyone who wants their students to get a quality science education.

Our girls (15 & 13) tended to work on this for 2 hours at a time, every other day, as opposed to an hour each day. I think that plan works better for older students, as it gives then time to complete a lesson well. They could watch the video, read the extra material, do their experiment and record it in their journal. That's one of the joys of homeschooling- setting your own schedule!

The girls' favorite experiment was making Glowing Slime! Emily has a Dr Who sonic screwdriver that has a black light on one end, so they've been busy turning fluorescent highlighters into glowing slime.

It took them a while to get set up, but because the video was so informative, everything worked right the first time!

homeschool science

Mixing, measuring...

Squeezing out the extra water

Looks a little creepy...

  The orange highlighter produced this one

  Arlene used the glow juice from two yellow highlighters for hers

Now they're in our fridge in their own little jars. I'm really impressed by how confidently and correctly the girls did this start to finish on their own. The only thing I had to do was buy them some Borax and clear glue.

We give Supercharged Science two thumbs up. You can follow Supercharged Science on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. At the time of posting, Supercharged Science is offering a special of $1 for the first month. If you're still unsure, you can try a 5 lesson mini-program for free. Click below to read other reviews from the Crew.

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