Tristan adores science of every kind and he likes to watch videos on the internet of various bits of science. When he found out that we’d been chosen to review Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) by Visual Learning Systems he was jumping for joy! Also available is Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12).
The Elementary Edition is actually broken down into two parts: Primary is K-2, and Elementary is grades 3-5. There are a total of 136 videos between the two sections. Primary videos are 10-12 minutes long, with a 15-page teacher’s guide that includes the video transcripts, student worksheets, and answer keys. Elementary videos are 14-15 minutes long and these teacher’s guides are 25 pages for each video.
The videos are streamed over the internet as the name Digital Science Online implies, but there are DVDs available, though they’d be more geared towards schools rather than homeschools simply due to the cost of physical products.
There isn’t a “set” order in which to work through the videos, so we began with a little Physical Science for Tristan to get used to some of the terminology and workings of science such as how and why we measure things, solids, liquids, and gases as well as magnetism.
This was a good time to bring the magnets out of the science kit and let the children see for themselves how they work. Kallista is fascinated by the way magnets work.
Then we dipped into some earth science, which is Tristan’s favourite type of science. He began with the Sun and Stars, Biodiversity, Landforms, then Soil and Rocks.
To help bring the soil and rocks unit into ‘real life’ for the children, we took a walk one morning by the sea so they could see where part of a hillside is eroding and the different soil layers could easily be seen. I’ve often mentioned this to them previously, but now they have a better grasp of it.
In Life Science the children learned about plants, birds, and migration. Tristan has come with us a couple of times when I join with a couple of others to do a bird count of a nearby lough (lake) in the winter months to look for migratory birds. This helped him understand what it was about and why the birds weren’t there during the summer months. Kallista has applied the concept to her life by telling me that I’ve migrated from Canada! I love when learning is applied to new contexts!
We don’t print out all of the worksheets. Some we simply look at online and work through verbally. We don’t use the pre-video worksheets to find out “What Do You Know Now?” , but I always print out the “What Have You Learned?” for Tristan to work through on his own after he’s finished watching each video. He’s able to read them on his own, and does very well with them. He has control over the video so that if he needs clarification he can re-watch a segment.
Tristan hasn’t always been so willing to do written work, but I think we’ve found a way in which he will do it willingly with the worksheets. He’s answering in full sentences and with proper punctuation – and his spelling is improving. Obviously the key was to find something he’s very interested in and have him work on that!
Other worksheets are more ‘fun’ with word searches, colouring, cutting and gluing things into order. Tristan’s folder is quickly expanding with his new knowledge. We came across an experiment about gravity. There are more experiments in the more advanced levels, but it would be so much more fun for young children to do more hands-on science as well.
We were requested to work on Visual Learning Systems three times a week. Now, Tristan didn’t need to complete an entire lesson in each session as they would be easy to break down into smaller sessions if that’s what works best for you. BUT Tristan’s been so interested that he’s completed at least one lesson per day, and often 4-6 days a week!
Kallista (4.75 years old) doesn’t have the patience to sit and watch as much science as Tristan (7). She tends to start to watch, then wanders off and colours or occupies herself otherwise. Even though it doesn’t appear so, she’s listening in and learning, too. I know this because she will start a conversation a few days later using her new vocabulary.
I watched the tutorial information before we signed up to the review. Although the presenter was obviously very passionate about his product, it didn’t really hold my attention so I was still a little leery about the program. However, once we signed in and Tristan began his lessons, I left my reservations at the door! Visual Learning Systems has been a wonderful success in our homeschool. This is one program that we’ll absolutely be using for the entire year!
Homeschoolers have a special pricing for this program of $99.00/year for either the Elementary Edition or the Secondary Edition. You can request a trial if you’d like to take it for a spin before you commit.
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