Do you know what I really enjoy about homeschooling? Flexibility. With our method of homeschooling, which I like to call "Relaxed, Eclectic Homeschooling," we tend to be very flexible and go with the flow. And thanks to being on the Homeschool Review Crew we are able to try many different curricula and change up our homeschool throughout the year. I actually say we are "Relaxed, Eclectic, Review Homeschoolers." So, whether we have a specific product that is working for a subject, or if we are needing something different, being on the Crew gives us that opportunity to explore new offerings without the worry of neglecting our core curriculum. For instance, science for us this year has been hit or miss. So, it was nice to have a change of pace with a new online program called CrossWired Science. We had the opportunity to review their first "project" which consists of two "global topics," those being Sound, and Fluid Dynamics. We have access to these units for a full year.
CrossWired Science can be considered a full, stand-alone science curriculum, or it can be used as a supplement alongside your existing curriculum. There are currently only the two global topics though the vision of the creators is to eventually have 24-30 Global Topics for families to explore, each of which can take a month or two to get through, and can be gone back to at a higher level at a different time. I have to admit, I am quite curious as to what topics are lined up for the future. For now, my children and I have been spending time individually and collectively going through Sound, plus a couple of the children focused more on Fluid Dynamics.
CrossWired Science is designed to be used by school aged children from 4-18, but the creators figure parents will be joining in along the way. Honestly, I have learned an awful lot by watching the videos with the children. Younger children will need more guidance and will need help with the reading portions, but the videos can be enjoyed by all ages.
In order to use CrossWired Science you need a computer with internet access. You are going to be watching lots of videos, so I would say you want to make sure you have decent speed too. I can't see us trying to watch all these wonderful videos with the internet we used to have, where the videos would be buffering every minute or so. There are also experiments to do along the way, so depending upon which experiments you and your children want to do, you will find yourself having to purchase materials if you don't already have access to them. So far, we have limited ourselves to doing the experiments that require materials we already have on hand, or were cheap enough to allow us to purchase them (such as paper cups). There are also worksheets that will need to be printed out, unless you want to read the questions off of the computer and write your answers in a notebook.
Let's look at what is available at CrossWired Science:
First of all, I had to create an account and add the children as students. When we were first granted access, the children had to have their own email accounts, which they thankfully had. However, from my understanding, they have now changed that requirement. Honestly, I was glad to hear about this update because not all parents want their children to have email accounts. The children needed the email for the company to send them their log in information, plus they use them to log in.
My Parent/Teacher account is slightly different than a student account in that I have access to the children progress and some additional resources; however, I can also complete the lessons from my account. So, we are going to be looking at CrossWired Science with screenshots taken from my account.
When you first access the site, you will see the following screen:
As you scroll down, you will find information about the program, sample videos, a sample unit, and pricing information.
You can find more detailed information by clicking on "General Info CWS" from the top navigation bar. If you click on "Ed Whys?" you will discover the goals of the creators of this program. I am thrilled that the creators chief purpose is to please the Lord. I love that by following this curriculum we will be focusing on the wonders and majesty of God's creation, and not trying to ignore His plan as so many secular science curricula do. God fits into creation, and it is so obvious to see in the design of all. However, this isn't a curriculum that is going to be pushing religion on you and your children. So, don't worry about that. It just acknowledges God's role and doesn't ignore it. On the "Ed Whys?" page you will also read more about the integration and cross-wiring that brings the different science information together. Finally, don't forget to try out the Sample Unit, which you can have access to for seven days.
All of the above information is available without having a membership.
Once you have a membership to the site, the home screen will be almost identical:
We can still scroll down to see more information and those samples, and we can still check out the General Info and Ed Whys?, but now the children and I can get into the actual program. Under "Curriculum" in the navigation bar we can choose between First Timers and Second Timers. First Timers is recommended for younger students and for those who are going through the program for the first time. The Second Timers has the same material, but it is supposed to be at a more advanced level. Under the Parent/Teacher heading I can go to my account, manage my students, check their progress and quiz results, find tips for using the program, view a suggested calendar, find the answers for the student worksheets, and have access to all the general and unit link videos. These videos do not have imbedded links for the children, they need to highlight them to copy and paste (or right click and 'go to') to get to the videos.
The children's accounts have a Student Dashboard instead of all the resources available to me as a parent. However, everything else is the same.
When we work on science, we have all been clicking on "First Timers."
When we scroll down we see the pictures for the two global topics: Fluid Dynamics and Sound.
The picture of the tiger drinking water leads to Fluid Dynamics. When you click on it you will find the lesson page with 29 thumbnail links.
The picture of the inner ear leads to Sound. When you click on it you will find the lesson page with 28 thumbnail links.
From here you will find eight core videos, though there are links for experiments, research, general link videos, and U-Choose before you get to the second set of four videos. After the second row of core videos you will again find a tab for experiments. There is also reinforcement, general links, and field trips to choose from. There are four "Read a Book" tabs and then there are "Digging Deeper" or "Gold Dig" links which help the students to, well, dig deeper into the subject. There are also "Unit Links" where you will find a slew of on-topic videos at three different levels to choose from:
Finally, there are a couple of different tabs for devotionals.
Here is a little more detail about all of those thumbnail tabs:
- The Core Videos include videos for the student to watch, worksheets to complete, and quizzes to take. Each true/false quiz is ten questions in length.
- Experiments includes a variety of experiments to go with the topic. Sometimes the instructions are more clear than others, and sometimes there are links included for videos to watch.
- Research gives suggestions for researching a topic.
- General Links has a large selection of off-topic science videos for the children to watch.
- U-Choose gives ideas for different activities to enrich the learning.
- Experiments 2 includes the same links as the first Experiments tab, it just gives the children a second time to do experiments.
- Reinforcement includes was to, well, reinforce the information.
- General Links 2 includes more off-topic videos to watch.
- Field Trip gives field trip suggestions.
- Read a Book gives some suggestions on books to read, though they aren't on-topic as I wish they were.
- Digging Deeper gives the student information to read both in review and to expand their knowledge. There are also links to videos to watch, and at the end there is a longer quiz for the child to take.
- Unit Links, as I mentioned, are all on-topic videos to help children explore different aspects of the topic.
- Then there is a Teen Devotional and Sci-Devotional
How did we use CrossWired Science?
First, I just wanted to say, I am very glad CrossWired Science is a flexible program, because while I couldn't quite understand the suggested calendar that was included, I was able to make up my own plan. From what I remember, the suggested pace was a little faster than I wanted to go, so I changed the pace and the order in which we completed different parts of the program.
I started out by having the children work independently during their computer time. They were allowed to choose Fluid Dynamics or Sound. Two of them chose one, the other two chose the other. The girls were required to view two videos a day and answer the quiz questions. Harold, who is only 7, was allowed to watch just one video and try the quiz. We did discover that once you take the quiz you can not retake it. The program keeps track of where each student is in the program, and it will show a check mark when complete. Well, it is supposed to, and does for me, but for some reason there was a glitch and the children's doesn't always show the checkmark, though I know they have taken the quiz as they are not being given the chance to retake it.
Once the girls finished all the Core Videos, I had them explore Gold Dig/Digging Deeper while I watched the Core Videos on my own time. Even Harold took a break from the Core Videos to watch videos on different bird calls.
I chose to focus on Sound as it went well with the fact that we were learning about human anatomy in our core curriculum.As I watched the videos, I filled out the worksheets.
I'm honestly not sure if the worksheets have been available since we first had access to the site, as I don't remember seeing the button that would bring up the worksheet. So, I hadn't assigned them to the children. That said, they are quite in-depth, and even I had to keep pausing and backtracking in the video to answer the questions, so I am glad I didn't ask the children to work on them independently. I think they would have been a bit overwhelmed.
Once I had finished about half of the videos on my own, I decided we would go back through the Core Videos together during our lesson time. We gathered around the computer and watched the video. Every so often I would pause the video and ask the children to answer a question or two from the worksheet. We were having a great time watching them together, so I decided to try to work on filling out the worksheets while watching with the children.
We continued through each of the videos until all the questions were complete. Yes, sometimes we were rewinding so the children could hear the answer to the question, but we got the work done. In hindsight, I think I preferred watching the videos on my own to make sure I was confident of the answer prior to watching with the children. So, going forward, that is the way we are going to schedule our time with CrossWired Science.
Here is a list of the Sound videos available:
- Audible Vibes
- Sonar and Infrasound
- Bats & Moon Explosions
- Elephants and Lanternfish
- Dolphins Fat Football
- An "Ear-ie" Journey
- Bird Songs - Wow!
- Cochleas & Whale Belting
And here is a list of the Fluid Dynamics videos available:
- FD & Bernoulli
- Wrights & Foils
- Carb Venturis
- Planes, Whiskers, and Alulas
- Hummers & Dolphins
- Boxfish & Penguins
- Nose Aerodynamics
- Dog Slobs & Cats
We are really enjoying the exciting, fact-filled videos. They are fast paced (one of the reasons I had to keep pausing and backtracking to answer the worksheet questions), and very informative. They alternate between an older man and a younger woman discussing the topic, the young woman talking to us on her own, and videos which are a combination of animation, photographs, and text with audio voiceover.
Here are some screenshots from one of the children's favorite videos, Elephants and Lanternfish:
I haven't had the children work on any extra research as of yet. Honestly, I was hoping for a little more guidance in the research and the U-Choose sections of the site, so I have put them off. The children also have tons of books they are reading for different subjects, so I didn't require additional reading for science at this time. Additionally, I have already mentioned that I was hoping for some specific on-topic reading suggestions, not just general science books. Though I was glad to see some great creation science selections on the list. Unfortunately, these selections are also not easy to come by. I would love, love, love to see a list of children's books (both fiction and non-fiction) related to the different topics we watched in the videos.
There are a huge selection of experiments to choose from. We chose a couple of simple ones to work on, ones that we could understand the instructions to, and with easy to find (or cheaply purchase) materials.
Here is the list of the experiments:
Our first experiment was the Hanger Church Bell. When we click on the link it goes to a PDF sheet explaining the experiment, listing the needed supplies, and sharing additional information. The instructions for this experiment were quite clear, which I appreciated, some were not.
We were a little confused as to why the string had to be so long, but we went with it and the children stood on the couch while someone else struck the hanger with the spoon.
We decided to try out some different scenarios. We started with a metal hanger, as we knew that would give us the vibrations we needed. We chose to try both yarn and fishing line. We did find that the fishing line gave a louder sound. Then we tried the plastic hanger. As we figured, it didn't work as there was no vibration. We also tried holding the string halfway between the hanger and our ear, and discovered that yes, that does stop the vibration so we couldn't hear it.
Our second experiment was The Mystery of the String Phones
The children and yes, the parents, had a blast with this one. Again we chose to try both yarn and the fishing line. No surprise we could hear better with the fishing line. Though we were surprised that we could still hear when someone held onto the line in the middle.
I do wish there was more instruction on some of the experiments. Sometimes the information is just not clear enough, so I have passed by the experiment, or the materials are not easy to find.
I do appreciate that they say not to worry too much about the experiments, and that it is okay to just watch some videos about the experiment, such as the one we watched about the Record Player Needle.
We were quite excited to see the recommendation to watch the video of Mr. Wizard, as he was someone my husband used to watch and had been telling the children about his program just recently.
All in all, we really do enjoy CrossWired Science. This is a brand new program and I have been quite impressed with how fast they are trying to fix any kinks, and how fast they reply to emails when there is a concern. The information shared in the videos is amazing! I am loving how much information even I am learning. I love that there are additional unit links with a slew of videos to continue learning about these topics.
I can definitely recommend CrossWired Science, and would suggest you take a look at the sample videos and sample unit to see if this is something that would work in your homeschool.
Don't forget to click on the banner below to see what my fellow Crew Mates thought about this program.