I was introduced to Pandia Press last year when I had the opportunity to review History Odyssey: Modern Times (Level 2). I was really impressed with their products, so I contacted the folks at Pandia Press about doing a couple of reviews for them this year. They graciously sent me both R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey: Life (Level 1) and History Odyssey: Early Modern (Level 1).
R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey
We have absolutely loved R.E.A.L. Science! R.E.A.L. is an acronym for Read, Explore, Absorb, and Learn and that’s exactly what you and your kids will be doing with this curriculum. It’s full of great, fun, hands-on science experiments in every lesson.
Each lesson begins with a read-aloud page, called For My Notebook, to introduce the concept. I make a copy of this page for Josh and Megan so that they can read along and pick up on new terms, which are introduced and casually defined in the lesson, with pronunciation helps in parentheses.
After I read the lesson, the kids use highlighters to mark the “big idea” and some of the “small stuff.” The big idea is the main point of the lesson that all grade levels should understand. (Level 1 is geared toward 1-4 graders.) The small stuff are those points that older children would do well to know, but it isn’t expected that they’ll get it all. Going back over and highlighting it has been great reinforcement.
The lessons are then followed by hands-on experiments that get kids excited about studying science. I don’t think we’ve come across an activity yet that my kids haven’t enjoyed. From getting outside observing life in a “plot study” to looking at cells (eggs) to piecing together a paper skeleton, the hands-on activities are the variety that teach while still being fun.
I love that R.E.A.L. Science: Life author, Terri Williams, realizes that parents, like their children, have different learning/teaching styles and she makes it easy to use the book based on your style. There are several pages of useful websites for those who like to get online to read more and supplement the activities in the book.
There are several pages of book suggestions for each lesson for those who like to use the library to supplement. There are even tips on keeping an optional nature journal.
A friend had commented to me that they had used Science Odyssey and didn’t like it because it was basically a collection of labs without enough substantial teaching. I haven’t found that to be the case.
Pairing the For My Notebook sections with supplemental material from the website or book resource pages provides a very thorough elementary science program. I had thought that we might pair Science Odyssey with a separate reading-heavy/experiment-light science program, but I’ve found that hasn’t been necessary. Science Odyssey seems to be providing exactly what we need.
You can’t buy the Science Odyssey books directly from Pandia Press, but they offer a list of retailers. The price varies depending on the retailer from whom you purchase. The list price is $58, but I’ve seen it for quite a bit less than that.
I was anxious to try the Level 1 History Odyssey. Brianna is using Level 2 and I really like it. She’s not too crazy about it, but only because it’s a little more work than she’d like to be doing and she’s found the reading somewhat challenging. As the mom, I think it makes a great high school level history course.
I like that all of the History Odyssey books take a classical approach to history, learning through living books, our preferred method for studying history. The required spine book for Early Modern: Level 1 is The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the World, with one of our favorites, Story of the World, as an optional resource.
The lesson plans are written for children in the grammar stage (ages 6-10), so there are suggestions as to how to use the guide with both independent and non-independent readers. The lessons are well laid-out, though it’s important to realize that each part of the lesson is designed to take about a week to complete.
Even though it says that right in the book and is laid out accordingly in the accompanying suggested weekly schedule, I kind of forgot about the suggested schedule and missed that line about one week and really pushed my kids’ attentions spans a bit the first couple of weeks. How’s that for being real with y’all? In my defense, I was breaking the parts down into a couple of days, but three or four days would make a lot more sense.
In each lesson you will do several activities, such as:
- Read an overview in The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World Hisotry
- Read from one or both of the optional spine books, A Child’s History of the World or Story of the World
- Do a writing activity such as looking up and copying one or more vocabulary word definitions or writing a simple outline summary of the day’s lesson
- Hands-on activity project
- Coloring page and/or map work
- Do an activity from one of the two History Pockets books you’ll use with this course (only for the American history portions of the guide)
- Read your choice of supplemental literature
We have already dropped the outlining portion of the lessons because my kids hated it. I now have them do an illustrated narration sheet for most lessons. They don’t really like that either, but they like it better than the outlines.
I really like following up the Encyclopedia of World History overview with SOTW. The overview provides a nice foundation upon which the corresponding Story of the World chapter can build.
When I first read the reading list (which you can see for each level by clicking on the History Odyssey tab and scrolling down a bit) I thought the book choices were a bit light. Then, I realized they were chosen so that a grammar stage independent reader can read on his own. More in-depth books can be chosen as read-alouds from the suggested literature in the guide.
The only thing I dislike about History Odyssey Level 1 is that there aren’t enough hands-on activities for my taste. I mean, there are the coloring pages and map work, but there are only eight projects included in the guide.
I know it can be hard to come up with meaningful projects, but I’d love to see one for each lesson even if they were listed as optional suggestions, rather than hard and fast assignments. As a matter of fact, we’ve just started our first project, a sun king plaque, with lesson 4, which is why I don’t have any photos for the history portion of the review like I do with science.
Overall, I’m pleased with the History Odyssey series, both Level 1 and Level 2. Again, Pandia Press doesn’t sell their resources directly, but you can purchase from any of their suggested retailers for a retail price of $36-45, often lower depending on the vendor.
I received these products free for the purpose of reviewing them. I received no other compensation for this review. The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions. Your experience may vary.
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.