Can I just come right out and say it?
I don’t. remember. Biology.
I truly remember NOTHING. Zippo. Zilch. Nada. (Noodle! for all you Veggie-Tales fans out there. :-) )
It’s not Mr. Tregaskis’s fault. I happen to have a brain that is great with short-term memory but not long-term. I could literally get an A on a test and by the following week not remember anything on it, lol! But also, it was a
very long time ago, hello.
One of the biggest fears we ALL have about homeschooling high school is trying to teach higher level coursework such as Biology. I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t remember what we learned way back when — and yet we think we have to be able to teach it to our kids.
Guess what? We don’t.
(Note: This post is sponsored by Compass Classroom. But I was not required to write a positive review. I don’t enter into business with companies whose products I don’t like, y’all. All opinions are completely mine. Also, links to their website in this post are referral links.)
There are SO MANY ways to outsource the stuff we can’t (or don’t want to) teach. In fact, I’m a huge fan of independent learning, which is when the teen actually learns the material all on their own.
But even then, sometimes reading a text can be difficult or boring. And it’s not always possible to join a co-op or hire a tutor or take community college classes.
Enter video homeschool curriculum. Using video can be one of the best ways to homeschool high school, especially for those subjects that are intimidating to the homeschool parent.
By video homeschool curriculum, I do NOT mean interactive texts or CG animation. I am also NOT talking about scheduled online classes. I AM referring to pre-recorded videos with a human being in front of the camera which you watch via streaming or a DVD. :-)
Consider these advantages of video homeschool curriculum:
- The subject is taught by an actual teacher who has experience with the material and how best to teach it.
- The kid will be more interested, motivated, and engaged, cuz screen time, hello. I mean, we might as well accept this reality and use it to our advantage, am I right? :-)
- Visual demonstrations of concepts can be shown, rather than just described (as they would be in a textbook).
- The needs of audio AND visual learners will be met.
- Hands off for the homeschool parent. If you’re anything like me, this is HUGE.
- The student can gain a more thorough understanding of the material, since the lectures and the textbook complement each other. What is not understood in the textbook will probably be explained in the video, and vice-versa.
- Provides the opportunity to learn note-taking skills.
- The ability to work around your own schedule — videos can be watched any time. You don’t need to be in class online or at the community college at a certain time.
- The benefit of a “real” teacher without the expense of a “real” class. Also, the ability to rewind and rewatch — you can’t do that in a classroom!
- The whole family can watch and learn — and discuss!
So, where to find video homeschool curriculum and how to use it?
Well, let’s take a look at some of these options:
1) YouTube — you can find videos about individual topics, if you just want more information about something you’re already studying.
Pros: Fun supplement to regular curriculum, short videos don’t take up much time.
Cons: Possibly time-consuming to find decent videos, always the possibility of being distracted and watching Jimmy Fallon or The Voice clips instead. Not that I would ever do that. Um.
2) Whole-curriculum video sources such as BJU or Abeka. Both of these companies have been around basically forever and have been offering video instruction for many years. With these, you can sign up for an entire year’s worth of coursework — ALL on video — or you can pick and choose individual courses.
I have not tried these myself, but they appear to be very structured, with separate platforms for the student and parent, online quizzes and tests, community forums, etc. The how-to of these is very straightforward — they basically tell you everything to do, and you proceed to check all the boxes.
Each of these, though, seems to rely almost completely on video instruction, with the student watching a 30-to-45-minute video most days of the school year for every subject.
Pros: Can be a quick solution when you’re searching for curriculum; all of the organizational work is done for you.
Cons: Can be expensive, LOTSA screen time (especially if you are doing the whole-curriculum option), might get boring doing the same thing repetitively every day. Evaluation happens on the computer, which often limits it to shallow, multiple-choice or short-answer comprehension questions.
P.S. Acellus is similar, although much less expensive. But still completely video-based — in other words, no accompanying text.
3) The Great Courses — This company makes video courses for just about everything. From history to communication to foreign language, they offer it all.
Pros: Lotsa topics, many inexpensive.
Cons: No lesson plans, quizzes/tests, assignments — just videos. That leaves a lot of work for the homeschoool parent as far as planning time and creating assignments. Also, some are pretty pricey, considering all you get are the videos themselves.
4) And then there’s Compass Classroom, which I recently discovered and have now explored first-hand.
And I gotta say, as a way to outsource high school curriculum, Compass is a GREAT solution.
They have courses in several subjects, including History, Economics, Science, Latin (you may have heard of their Visual Latin, which I had — but I didn’t realize it was them), and more.
These are reasonably-priced video courses with a real teacher giving lectures about their topic — but ACCOMPANYING a text, not in place of the text. Just like a school classroom (hence the name — Compass CLASSROOM, get it? lol).
Now, I know we homeschool to get away from the typical school classroom where everyone is grouped and the class keeps moving on even when Johnny doesn’t understand and our kids learn a lot of unnecessary stuff (and not all academic, if you know what I mean) and we’re tied to someone else’s goals for our child.
But Compass Classroom is not like that. This is like having your own personal teacher! Your kid is the entire classroom, hello — so pace is not an issue, and there is a group of ONE, and there is no exposure to undesireable information. (See above for more advantages, just in case you’ve forgotten them already, lol.)
I have taken a detailed look at their Devotional Biology, which is their newest course offering. And I am impressed!
The teacher got his grad degrees (notice the plural) from HARVARD, y’all. He studied under top evolution scientists, even as a Creationist — and is now one of the top Creation scientists in the world. Actually, ALL of Compass’s video teachers know their stuff way better than you or me — or the usual high school teacher.
We mentioned how a typical school classroom may not have the proper goals for your child — well, if your goal is for your teen to learn more about God, then Devotional Biology will do that. Each chapter starts with an attribute of God — then goes on to explain how that is manifested in the biological world. So it’s a high school level credit in Biology, while at the same time deepening your child’s faith. What school classroom will give you that? For this kinda price?
In fact, almost all of Compass’s offerings express a Christian worldview (the only exception being WordUp, which is a vocabulary course — not much scope for worldview with that topic, lol). So if you want to grow your teen’s understanding of how the Bible fits into “real” life, Complass Classroom is a solid way to do that.
The Biology course comes with a downloadable textbook, lab manual, scope & sequence (i.e., lesson schedule), answer key, and also power points — and the videos themselves, obviously. For this course the videos are only available as streaming right now (although DVD’s are coming in June 2018) — but you can download them for keeps. Their other courses also come in DVD and streaming formats; and all also include text, scope & sequence, and whatever else is appropriate for the given topic. For Biology you can also buy a printed version of the text and/or lab manual, and the lab supplies are available for separate purchase, as well.
Notice that the videos are not the sum total of the course. The activities are not computer-based. The student spends time with a textbook and does not watch a video every day. Evaluation happens OFF the computer.
To me this seems like the best of all worlds — it outsources a tough subject, it encourages my child in a Christian worldview, it can work around the demands of our schedule, and it’s not just a check-the-box solution. My teen learns from an expert — in the comfort of our own home.
And because Compass is NOT a whole-curriculum program, there is room to individualize the rest of your kid’s day. Use Compass for the subjects you want (there are lots to choose from!) — and find other ways to do the rest. This adds up to variety, not boredom. Always a goal when it comes to teens!
Check out the Compass website here: COMPASS CLASSROOM
Check out Devotional Biology here: Devotional Biology Curriculum Package
They have sample lessons to watch and other free resources here: Free Downloads from Compass
They also have a Facebook page here: Compass Classroom on Facebook
Video homeschool curriculum was not around when my oldest kids were doing high school, and we kinda got in a textbook rut. My youngest, though, is ready for Biology next year — so we are excited for her to learn it in a new way! And I bet she’ll remember it, lol!