Now that we’re half way through the school year, I’m going to start giving reviews of the individual curriculum we have been using this year. Today, I’ll start with a review of Bookshark Science Level H.
I have two sons, who are currently in 6th and 8th grade. I selected Bookshark Science Level H to use as a science curriculum for both of my boys. It’s their 7th grade level, but recommended for any student ages 12-14 so it seemed perfect for both of my boys. The topic of this year long course is Conservation, Robotics, and Technology. The curriculum comes with eight different books that focus on a more specific subject within that broader topic, as well as a lab kit that includes all the materials needed for weekly lab activities. There is also a student workbook that has critical thinking questions associated with the daily readings from the various texts.
My oldest son is a veracious reader, so I was especially drawn to the living books aspect of this curriculum. My younger son is less excited about reading, but does enjoy doing hands on experiments. My hope going into this program was that my boys could work together and learn from one another’s strengths as they acted as reading buddies and lab partners, working on assignments together. Yeah, that didn’t really happen.
I very quickly figured out that our homeschool goes much more smoothly when my boys are doing entirely different lessons out of entirely different books. Since the bookshark program includes eight different books, I just had them jump around and work on separate sections of the curriculum independently. This worked relatively well, and both of my sons have improved their scientific knowledge using this curriculum.
Once I started shifting the order of the assignments, it quickly became easy to modify the curriculum even more and pull in more resources. My sixth grade son is for the most part sticking with the Bookshark curriculum this year. But, since he is more of a kinesthetic learner, I’ve found additional lab projects to add to the program as I’ve slowed down his reading pace. Because of this, I expect him to only finish 5 of the 8 books during the course of the year.
My eighth grade son would prefer to skip the labs all together and just read the books. He has enjoyed all the books from the program that he’s read, but half way through the school year, it seemed to both of us like he was ready for something different. My eighth grader has always loved astronomy, and he just got a telescope for his 14th birthday. I found a semester long middle school astronomy course that I’m having him use for the second half of the year.
Even though neither of my sons is likely to finish the entire Bookshark curriculum, I do think it’s a good program, especially for students who prefer to learn through reading high quality books. The literary nature of the curriculum does make it a bit week in the actual science though. The lab activities are very basic and there isn’t any emphasis placed on the scientific method.
One other critique that I have for the Bookshark program is that it is not entirely secular. Bookshark is owned by the Christian homeschool curriculum company Sonlight. In order to make their products available to charter schools, Sonlight developed the less religions Bookshark alternative. This curriculum is classified as being “Neutral” which means they took out all the overtly religious references, but didn’t add in anything the Christian parent company views as untrue. When studying conservation, robotics, and technology, this wasn’t an issue at all. A lot of the curriculum is focused on pollution and climate change, and I haven’t seen anything in the curriculum that was not scientifically accurate. I would however be hesitant to use Bookshark curriculum universally for many years because it could lead to gaps in knowledge/understanding.