My family was recently given the opportunity to review the Fascinating Biology course from Fascinating Education. There were three to choose from: Biology, Chemistry and Physics. We chose Biology, my oldest son and I. Something for us to do as we learn together.
Technically this is considered an online high school science curriculum but with my oldest son being very interested in biology, and my skills being rather lacking, I saw this as a great chance for us to do some learning together. 🙂
Since in Fascinating Education lessons, Dr. Margulies uses simple, colorful illustrations as the primary teaching tool and supplements those with text, in the form of attached audio files, to explain the illustrations, this was definitely a fun change of pace. Each lesson is full of questions and answers too; this helps our kids to be more engaged students in their learning I think. The lessons begin with an everyday observation or sometimes a commonly known fact. The lesson moves forward asking “why that happens” and then, a string of conversation ensues. As we obtain the answer to one question, along comes another question, and the process repeats itself one step at a time in simple English without being too complex and scientific.. The proper terminology is given; but it is not presented as a prerequisite to understanding the topic at hand.
Fascinating Education currently offers three high school science programs: Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Each one is available for one year for $79 per course . These are designed for middle school through high school. Interestingly, Dr. Margulies, recommends beginning with Chemistry, and then Biology and Physics, due to the large amount of Chemistry involved in Biology. (I had no idea, did you?)
There are 19 lessons in the Biology program, and each one contains a video lesson with a test at the end. The lessons all include a pdf script of which we printed out as we went along. The lessons are about 45 minutes, and the test afterwards is all multiple choice. There is the option to complete the test online or print it out so we the teacher can grade it ourselves (we just did them online). Since this course does focus on topic mastery, students are encouraged to retake any test that they get a grade lower than 80% on.
I have to say again, Dr. Margulies has such a wonderful outlook on learning (which happens to match my own educational beliefs too) being that the grade matters least, mastery of the content is of far more importance in learning. That said, we are able to review the answers that are incorrect, see what the correct answers are, and then take the test again. There does need to be a score of at least 80% however to move forward in the program. Makes sense to me. No doubt that in this program, we will walk away knowing and understanding the material that was taught. Now that is what learning is all about. 😀
Now there were a couple of things that I wish would have been different. For me personally, I really like programs that have some type of report area, where we can go back and see how they are progressing; print out a progress report or a final report when the course is completed. Its also a bit frustrating (for my son anyway) that we have to close each window when one task is completed and then go to another window to choose the lesson/test/script as we continue through each lesson. They are not marked off or anything as they are completed so I would be a bit concerned were my son to be doing this independently. It can be a challenge for him to remember where he leaves off in some lessons since we tend to require certain subjects only 2 -3 times per week.
I do have to say, this is not a Biblically based program so there are some details that may contradict, just a bit, with other materials we have used. Certainly I think it is important for our youth to have a Biblical Worldview but I do believe they also need to see the other side of things so that they are able to “give an answer” that is wise. In many ways, at least when my son is older, this type of program would be excellent to be studied alongside another, Biblically based program. I can see many benefits in a study done in this manner too.