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REAL Science Odyssey Biology Level 2 Review


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We used – and loved – REAL Science Odyssey from Pandia Press when my younger two kids were in elementary school. (You can read my reviews of Life and Earth and Space.) We loved the engaging lessons and hands-on labs. So, it makes sense that we would come back to the series for middle school.

REAL Science Odyssey Biology 2 Review

I get asked to do a lot of reviews on my blog, but this is one of those cases when I emailed the company and asked if they’d let me review their products again – and we were not disappointed. The REAL Science Odyssey Level 2, Biology, is just as engaging, just as well-written, and just as hands-on as its elementary-level predecessors.

How are REAL Science Biology lessons set up?

I really love the fact that the biology lessons are set up in predictable patterns. Y’all probably know by now that I am a creature of habit. Each lesson contains:

  • Read – This is the written text of the lesson, which introduces new concepts and expounds on those previously taught. This is designed so that most middle school students can read it independently. New vocabulary is printed in bold text and typically includes an explanation with the formal definition included in the glossary.
  • Explore – The explore section includes both general and microscope labs. The microscope labs are optional, but highly recommended. We love them! (Because everyone always asks, this is the microscope we use.)
  • Absorb – This section includes the Famous Science series and offers a chance for students to do some research on their own about topics related to that unit’s study. The topic will either be a famous scientist, pathogen, molecule, or discovery. The answers are not included in the student’s text, but are intended to be discovered through research. We have used the Internet for this.
  • Learn – Finally, each chapter ends with a Show What You Know section, which is a comprehension quiz over the topics studied in the chapter. I really, really like this because it offers a good opportunity to review, gives my kids some test-taking practice (which they haven’t had much before), and shows me what we may need to go over again.

The available texts for Biology 2 include the teacher’s manual, a student text, and extra student pages, which contains only the printable pages if you have more than one child using the text. Each is available in print and digital form. I appreciated the fact that the digital form includes rights to download it to each of your children’s computers, so all your kids can use the books without violating copyright.

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I haven’t used the teacher’s manual much, but the times I’ve used it, I’ve been very glad to have it. It contains answer keys and lab notes (for those times when you’re not sure the lab turned out quite like it was supposed to). It also has a suggested weekly schedule for covering science 2, 3, or 5 days of the week.

Can REAL Science Biology 2 be used for high school?

One of the reasons I was really interested in checking out the Level 2 Biology text was that I had heard that it could be beefed up enough to use for high school science. In my opinion as a homeschool mom, not a science instructor, I think it could. It includes both general and microscope labs for each chapter. It even includes a couple of dissection labs.

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If I were using it for high school credit (and I’m leaning toward doing so), I’d want to add some more dissections, I think. I’m not sure what else I would adjust since we’re only into the second unit, but it might also work well alongside something like DVD lessons.

What were our thoughts about REAL Science Odyssey Biology Level 2?

As I said earlier, we are really, really enjoying this curriculum. It’s brought excitement back to our science lessons. The lessons are easy to understand without being “dumbed down.” The reading portion of the lessons is much longer than the Level 1 books, which is to be expected. It’s very appropriate for middle school students in length, subject matter, and reading level.

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The labs are engaging and age-appropriate. The directions are given in numbered, step-by-step instructions so that students can do them with minimal supervision. The labs don’t shy away from math, but give kids real-life applications for all that math they’ve had to learn. (We haven’t gotten into anything too complicated, but that may be another reason this math-phobic mom is glad to have the teacher’s manual.)

The lab reports are laid out in such a way as to prepare students for high school and college level lab write-ups, with sections for:

  • hypothesis
  • procedure
  • observation
  • results and calculations
  • conclusion

I also like that the microscope view sheets have a graph-paper-like space for students to draw what they saw. The graph lines encourage students to attempt to draw to scale what they saw through the microscope lens. I think it encourages more detailed drawings than my kids might normally attempt.

We love the hands-on labs, such as building a cell model, though we opted for a  cake version, rather than the Plaster of Paris version in the text. What can I say? We each have a sweet tooth.

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It’s worth noting that REAL Science Odyssey is a secular curriculum, so there is a unit on evolution. I know that will excite some of you and disappoint others. We are a Christian family, but I plan on covering the evolution unit because I think it’s important that my kids understand the Theory of Evolution and how it compares to our Ceationist beliefs, so the unit doesn’t bother me.

Finally, I want to be sure to point you to one of things I really love about all Pandia Press courses – their Try Before You Buy option. They allow you to download several week’s worth of the full curriculum at no charge – not just sample pages, but full lessons. If you like it, you just come back and pay to download the remainder. If not, you move on. That’s it. I love that!

We are so happy with our science choice for this year. I’ll be bringing you a review of Pandia Press’s history curriculum soon, so be on the lookout for that.

Have you used any curriculum from Pandia Press? What did you think?

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28 Comments

  1. You keep reading my mind and posting about things I’m pondering! That’s why I come to your blog daily. My oldest will be starting 7th grade and wants to do Biology next year. This is a curriculum I’m considering. I didn’t care for biology in school (Chemistry/Physics were my thing); so I’m struggling with the decision on what to use. I will definitely download the free sample and try it; so we can see if it fits us.

    1. I love the option of using the free sample! You just can’t go wrong. Let me know what you think about it.

  2. Thanks for another enlightening review. So appreciate your help with looking at curriculum for middle and high school.

  3. I wish I had seen this before we started doing Biology this year! It looks like a really great program, but we won’t need it now that we are almost done with the program we chose. If you know of a really great Earth Science or Astronomy program for Junior High age, I would love to know! Thanks!

    1. I wish I did. We’d really like to do astronomy. One course I have considered is Real Science 4 Kids, which is often confused with REAL Science Odyssey. We used their middle school chemistry book once upon a time for my older daughter and really enjoyed it. I’ll probably the high school version for my younger two since RSO doesn’t have high school science yet.

      1. Thanks for responding! This past year we used Focus on Middle School Biology. I like it well enough, but not enough to write as glowing a review of it as you did of REAL Science. It is very much a “cut-to-the-chase” kind of program; they tell you what you really need to know, but don’t inspire independent investigation. I used NOEO Chemistry Level 2 for my now 10th grade daughter, and I liked that with the exception of the lab component. The Chemistry experiment set was expensive and the experiments were lacking in detailed information. I loved the books that came with it, though. Very enjoyable for Chemistry reading! My son, who is now the middle schooler, is not a Reader (with a capital R!) like his sister, so NOEO is not necessarily the best fit for him. We actually did your cell model cake, and he LOVED making it! He says that if all else fails, he will be a chef when he grows up πŸ™‚

  4. I’m a big fan of Pandia Press. All of my kids have used level 2 history. In fact we actually tested and commented on a couple of volumes before they were published so you’ll find us acknowledged in the front! Some used some level 3 history and my younger ones used some level 1 science as well. We’re currently using Biology 2 and we’re finding it very thorough. Certainly the sections on cells and genetics are more in depth and detailed than many high school level courses I’ve looked at. Not an easy course . Not sure I’d use it for a so-called average 5th grader but for my 13 yo dd it is a good challenge. She found other middle school books a bit too light and general. My daughter especially likes the research involved in Famous Science section and I appreciate having the real world applications drawn to her attention. I also love that Pandia Press has a great try before you buy section – far more helpful than just a few isolated random sample pages that many companies provide. For people who can’t see a sample in real life this is brilliant. And, living overseas I love the ebook option. Saves on postage (I really hate paying more for postage than I do for the product itself!) and we find we don’t need to print out too much.

    1. Sounds like you love Pandia Press products as much as we do. I’m with you, I think their Level 2 courses are very in-depth. As a matter of fact, we used on of the Level 2 history books (can’t remember which one right now) for high school when my oldest was in 9th grade. I agree, too, that there isn’t a whole lot that needs to be printed. I really like the eBook option.

  5. Thank you Kris! I was just looking at this the other day. My soon to be 9th grader (dev. delayed/Autism) is looking forward to Physical Science next year, but I would love to keep him and my almost 7th grader together for another year. We loved Pandia’s Earth Science curriculum! a friend and I used it to teach our kids over the summer a couple years ago and we all had SO much fun with it. I do hope that they come out with more Level 2 science curriculum– or high school?– soon though, because what will we do the year after? πŸ™‚

    1. I know. I wish they’d come out with more, too. I was digging around on the site and it doesn’t look like anything is in the works. We’ll probably use Real Science 4 Kids for chemistry. Their middle school chemistry course was recommended to me for my oldest (dyslexia) for high school and it worked well. Because so many people were using it for high school, they beefed it up a bit (added more chapters to make it more comprehensive) and released the beefed-up version as a high school course. I haven’t used that version yet, but unless something changes that’s what we’ll use. I’ve got the Biology 101 and Chemistry 101 DVD sets (you can find them on Amazon), so we may use those in conjunction.

      1. I have seen those 101 sets before, and I’ve read mixed reviews of them, some saying they aren’t in depth enough to be considered a high school lab curriculum. In conjunction with Pandia’s I’m sure it would be as much, if not more comprehensive. GREAT idea Kris!

    1. The Level 1 books don’t have microscope labs. Biology 2 has optional microscope labs, which you need a microscope to do.

  6. Kris,
    someone sent me the link to your review today. I want to thank you very much. Biology 2 was a lot of work, all written while homeschooling my now 14-year-old. I am writing Earth and Space 2 at this time. Reviews like this give me the energy and fortitude to stick with it and make it happen.

    Thanks again,
    Blair Lee

    1. You are so welcome, Blair. We are truly enjoying Biology 2 (as we did all the other REAL Science Odyssey books). I’m so excited to hear that you’re writing E&S2! I’m sure we’ll enjoy it just as much and can’t wait for the opportunity to use it. Thank you for all the time you put into writing such quality science programs.

  7. Thanks for your review. I wonder if you could give me some information about selecting a microscope to go along with this curriculum? High power vs. low power, monocular vs. binocular etc?

    1. I really know nothing about the pros and cons of various microscopes. We used this one because we already owned it, having purchased it when my daughter did Apologia biology.

  8. Our online school will allow either Pandia or Apologia Biology. which one would you suggest for a 7th grader?

    1. That really depends on how strong your student is in science. Apologia is a rigorous, high school level course. For my 7th grader, I’d go with Pandia’s Biology 2, but you know your student’s abilities.

  9. We love RSO Biology2! My son just made the 3-D cell today. We used plaster and Sculpey, but i just love the idea of making the cell into a cake! Very creative πŸ˜‰

  10. Hi, I just came across your review of Biology 2 here. We’ve used several of the science level one and we love them! I am wondering about Biology 2 and evolution – we do not believe in evolution. I wouldn’t mind exposing my kids to it as a theory, but definitely wouldn’t teach it as fact. Did that go ok for you teaching it that way? Did you find evolution to be throughout the book, or just in the one evolution chapter? Is the genetics chapter problematic? Just wondering more thoughts from you as someone who doesn’t believe in evolution and how the book worked in that regards. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi, Christy. I don’t recall having any problems with evolution throughout the text. Like you, I don’t have a problem teaching it as a theory because I want my kids to understand it as such. The genetics chapter was one of our most memorable. We still talk about the things we learned – yes, we, because I learned a lot, too. πŸ™‚ I don’t think you’d have a problem with it, but Pandia Press does offer a try before you buy option that may give you enough of an idea if the text would be right for your family. I hope that helps!

  11. Hi Kris, I have a 4th and 6th graders. Do you think Biology 2 is too hard for a 4th grader? She grew up in the public school system so I do not believe she learns much in the science area. I am trying to find a science program to teach both my kids. I am worried that level 1 will be too easy for my 6th grader but level 2 will be too hard for my 4th grader. Did you spend the whole school year to teach just Biology 2? Thank you.

    1. We did spend a year on Biology 2. My kids were both in middle school when we used it. I would suggest using Pandia Press’s “try it before you buy it” option to determine which would work best for you. You can down the first few lessons of each. Hope that helps!

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