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Feb 26, 2014

Eureka!: Review

We tend to get a lot of science done in our homeschool.  That includes notebooking, read alouds, videos, co-op classes, and hands-on experiments.  At the end of the year, when we gather our work together to report to the state, I never feel like we haven't covered enough science.  I'm not super science-minded, but the boys just eat this stuff up, especially Xavier.  I was pretty pleased when our first curriculum review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew would be the Online Subscription.

Science4Us Review is a full science curriculum for grades K-2 and is great review for 3rd-5th grades.  Using a 5E method of teaching, the website uses modules to cover topics such as simple machines, living or non-living, qualitative and quantitative data, science tools, and much more. The 5Es stand for Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.  There are eight sessions for each module, designed to take two weeks to cover.  Each session runs about 15-30 minutes.  In addition to the online tasks, you will find optional printable activities to be completed before and/or after each of the sessions.  These sheets help parents and teachers assess prior knowledge, take the lesson further, and evaluate the level of the students retention. provides a good basic STEM foundation for lower elementary grades.  It's a great way to sneak in some math and language arts, too.  Math skills taught include tallies, graphing, measurement, and diagrams.  Language arts skills are bolstered by practice in alphabetical ordering, analogies, vocabulary words, and syllables instruction, as well as stories, songs, and poems.  It's suitable for classroom or home use.

This snapshot is a peek inside the teacher side of

Science4Us Review

After logging in to your teacher account, you can choose one of the four science books and select a module.  Each module contains eight daily sessions.  The intention is to spend 15 to 30 minutes four days per week for two weeks.  The session time includes the offline materials available for the students.  Each session is very fully explained here, with quick links to the teacher resources on the left and classroom/offline resources on the right.  The student materials are very similar, with minor adjustments for grade level, so would be very easy for a homeschool family to use with multiple students across several grades.

Teachers are able to assign a few sessions, the entire module, and even everything available on the website to individual students or all students.  There is even functionality to assign due dates.  Reports can be easily viewed under each module using the Teaching Tools section.

The students names are listed on the left, the name of each session is across the top, a star shows a completed activity, and there are two graded sessions in each module.  By clicking on the grade, one can access all the questions, see the student's answers and which questions were missed.

This is what a student sees upon logging into their personal account.

Science4Us Review
Any assignments will be shown where this photo reads Recent Activity.  Completed sessions will be marked by a star here also.  If nothing has been assigned, or if you don't mind letting the child direct his own assignments by a current interest, they are able to choose a science book, module, and session from the upper right section.  The My Tools section contains a glossary, notebook, and a "mini-explain" booklet.  What is a Venn diagram?  How does a balance scale work?  Your student will find the explanation here.

Mal can turn just about anything into something train related.
I could go on and on about the features of, but those are just the facts.  How did it work here, in our home?  Well, pretty well!  Usually, when I assigned all the components of a module, I gave them a week to complete it, not the two weeks the eight sessions are intended for.  They would complete them in about two or three days.  Now, that was just the online part, but we would do many of the offline resources together at the table.  Not only did they fly through the assigned activities, but they would repeat favorite parts or go off and explore the other modules available as well.

I think they gained a really sound foundation on a lot of parts of elementary science I hadn't touched on much.  We've been using more of a one topic for months at a time approach to science.  Astronomy?  Let's study that!  Anatomy?  Let's study that!  And the rest was a hodge podge of randomness on the side.  They got a much better grasp in some areas doing things we hadn't touched on at all this year.

Both Malachi and Xavier are eager to do science on the computer, they've done well with the offline activities, and we've found some projects and hands on experiments to reinforce that learning.  Merrick loves to sit and watch them and I'm happy to let him!

Merrick put his "Blue's Clues" stamp of approval on Xav's work.
I'm not being driven crazy by any of the voices, stories, or songs.  That alone is a huge plus since I have two punks using it every day.  The teacher helps are very thorough.  The activities are engaging, in fact there is one I want to do myself just to hear the things the characters say.  (FYI: It's the Question Conveyor game where they say encouraging things like, "Byoo-tee-ful.  Very nice." in an accent that I would call New York City-ish.)

We've had two technical problems.  We have not been able to complete one sorting game and earn the star.  When I contacted customer support, I was basically told I must not be finishing it and was given a list of the correct answers (the same list I have in the teacher section of the website).  We also haven't been able to complete about half of all of the alphabetizing games.  Usually, when the boys get to the last word, it will not move to the alphabetized side.  The computer hasn't "locked up" or frozen.  Everything still works, but the last word won't move.  These issues are relatively minor and affect a very small percentage of the over 350 activities.  But if you have a child who needs to see that star for completion, it can cause a bit of stress.  These issues occurred in both Firefox and Internet Explorer and consistently involved the same activities.
The web site says "Automated Reporting for Homeschool Portfolios."  While there is a module report (see above), I have NOT been able to view any type of full website tracking report, requiring me to print out all of the module reports.  This just doesn't make sense to me.

Bottom line - will probably be one of our very favorite Schoolhouse Review Crew vendors this year.  I see us using this product until the day our subscription expires even though we will have finished every module on the website before then. costs $7.95 per month for each child.  The lessons are currently web-based, but will be available on iPad THIS YEAR.  {Yippee!}

Psssst...  They're looking for Beta Testers for the iPad app coming out this year!  Apply to be a beta tester.   {wishes I had an iPad}

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