I received this product through The Melanated Gold Review Squad in exchange for my honest review.
We have been homeschooling for the past few years and this year has felt different. My intention is to be year-round homeschoolers, but that just doesn’t happen here. The kids go to camp all summer and during the weekends and on homeschool dad’s day off, its ice cream, video games, staying up late, parks and intentional family time. Aside from pleasure reading and math practice, I don’t have the time nor the desire to do any formal schooling.
So after our much needed two week reset period, the kids’ and I are ready to officially do school. But this year….wow…this first quarter has been d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g. I knew there needed to be a change in our routine, an adjustment to our schooling and a lift to our spirits. So when the opportunity was presented to review BookShark Elementary Science Curriculum, I said yes, most definitely.
We have never used a structured science curriculum or anything BookShark, so I didn’t set any expectations. But when I initially opened the box, a sense of relief washed over me. This I can manage. This is going to be good for us.
What is BookShark?
BookShark is a 4-day schedule literature-based curriculum developed for students from Pre-K to Highschool and offers multiple subjects like Science, LA, History and an option for Math with an outside vendor. We’re using the BookShark Level D, so that’s what i’ll be focusing on. Further, this can be a deciding factor to some families, but BookShark is a neutral-science literature-based curriculum and there is coverage of micro-evolution and genetics. Here is what BookShark says about it.
BookShark does not espouse or oppose any faith. Our Science and History programs do not teach the origin of life, creationism, or intelligent design theory. So BookShark may be better termed faith-neutral. BookShark leaves the teaching of the origins of life and matters of spirituality to the parents rather than promoting any particular viewpoint in the curriculum. Our faith-neutral curriculum allows families from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs to enjoy a well-planned homeschooling year steeped in living literature, read alouds, and hands-on science activities.-BookShark.com
Grade Level/Age: BookShark Level D is geared for ages 8-11, so traditionally 3rd-6th graders. The levels are based on age ranges instead of being pigeon-holed to a specific grade. You might think, what does the matter; specific grade vs age range? Well, inclusion. There is no preconceived notion that they are not where they belong because of a label. Its just family-learning time, together. It’s also easier for me, to group them together time-wise .
Parent Involvement: Varies on the child’s ability and willingness. We mostly used it as family-style so, I was very much present. But, there were many occasions when my oldest would read ahead and answer the questions independently. As a follow up, I would ask him open-ended questions to see if he really did read and retained anything. He did! 🙂
Schedule: I love schedules, or at least some guidelines to follow. This right here, is explicitly laid out for me. Its an easy to implement, open and go format. It’s a 36 week, 4-day program that covers 144 school days. The weekly schedule is formatted the same way throughout the year; Day 1-3 is scheduled for literature, light comprehension questions and optional activities, while Day 4 is scheduled for lab. Day 5 is free to be used any way you feel like; music, baking, field trips, or Netflix binge watching; related or unrelated to science. Whatever. There’s also a future planning section that will remind you on what is needed for this week’s class or for the following.
Lessons & Books: The lessons and labs are short and sweet, about 30 – 45 minutes. Your kids will learn about forces and interactions, life systems and cycles, weather and climate, and engineering design. The content is introductory level, but it gives enough exposure to the topics and vocabulary to reel the kids in to ask more questions. And that’s what you want! You want enough intrigue to dig deeper. Most of the books safely hit the age range, though some adjustments can be made for the older students if you feel the need. However, don’t feel discouraged about books with pictures for the older kids. The books used here are from well-known publishing houses like HarperCollins Publishers, Candlewick Press, NatGeo, DK, Crabtree, Usborne and Kids Can Press so, as a homeschool mom, you already know its quality and compact with juicy facts.
Science kits are included for your convenience. It includes almost everything needed for all projects and if not, the items can easily be found in your home, i.e., scissors, pencils, sandwich bags, and rubbing alcohol. You don’t have to hurry to the market for that one material you forgot yesterday and then to pull everything together last minute. It’s all there for you.
Easy lab days; all you need is the Science Experiment teacher manual, the supplies and the student activity sheets. If you have multiple kids, it is advised to purchase extra sets of student activity sheets and experiment paper packet per child. The TM is visually appealing and user-friendly including easy step-by-step instructions, visual aids, and discussion follow-up questions.
Product Format: We received a physical curriculum but there is an optional virtual seat available at extra cost. On the virtual platform, the student has access to the student weekly schedule and activity questions. There are also features where an educator can create a grading system, assign classwork, receive classwork and keep some logs, which can be especially useful for recordkeeping. Surprisingly to me, the Virtual Seat option is working for my son. It could be his age and growing maturity, but using the digital format is really increasing his educational independence and sense of ownership/responsibility.
The first three weeks of every Virtual course are available for free just like the Instructor’s Guide samples always have been (here). Watch the demo videos to get your bearings, and then take it for a spin. Let your child take a peek, too
State Standards: For those who care, specifically NYC homeschoolers, NYS Science grades 3-5 is covered. BookShark Science aligns the science program with the Next Generation Science Standards. From BookShark, “No, NGSS is not associated with Common Core. NGSS standards were created by states in conjunction with practicing scientists and science-based industries in many fields so that America can continue innovating, leading, and creating science jobs for the future.”
Parents, copy and paste those standards into your IHIP. Done.
Overall: I love that it caters to both of my kids, 8 and 10 years old. They are learning the same thing but absorbing and comprehending at their own ability. Since we are doing this family-style, the kids help eachother, willingly. They have organic discussions, they joke and play while learning. Not all the time, (hello, they’re siblings! Ha!) but enough times that I’ll consider this curriculum a win. My girl is really enjoying this program, especially when we can easily incorporate art and visual media. My son appreciates the concise lessons. The virtual option was eye opening for ME. My son is ready for less hand-holding from Mami. And I can add digital platforms into our home-learning without sacrificing quality content.
The activity questions are gently presented and the expected answers would be filled-in the blanks, one sentence answers and/or matching. I love the detailed scheduling, everyone is enjoying the lessons, the labs are simple and engaging. There is enough flexibility where I can add related books and even youtube videos to our lessons without feeling overwhelmed. It could be this season of our homeschooling journey, but using this open and go curriculum really alleviated a huge mental load for this Mama with a toddler.
BookShark Elementary Science Curriculum can average about $250, but depending on your criteria, it is worth the price. You get a 36-week day-to-day detailed lesson plan, quality living books and a science kit that will supply most materials needed for the whole school year; not included would be everyday items like pencils, icecubes, scissors, and etc.
If you’re still not sure, BookShark offers free unit studies to give you a glimpse of what they offer. If you are interested in learning more and possibly adding this curriculum into your home, please visit BookShark for guidance.
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I hope this review was helpful and please check out what my fellow Melanated Gold Review Squad Members thought about BookShark.