Fascinating Biology from Fascinating Education – A Homeschool Review Crew review
My daughter loves biology, but most science textbooks work their way slowly through the information with a lot of review. This drives her bonkers and so when we got the opportunity to review Fascinating Biology, a high school biology course from Fascinating Education, we jumped at the chance. And this course did not disappoint. If you have children that need the review, they can have it by going through the relatively short lessons over several times until they understand everything. But if you have kids that pick up and understand the material right away, this course offers your child a way to move through the material at their own pace.
Will It Enhance Your Homeschool?
Lessons That Your Child Can Do Independently
The Fascinating Biology lessons are designed to be worked through by a high-school age child at their own pace and completely independently.
My daughter and I found the lessons enjoyable and easy. It is not because of the subject matter, for that is definitely hard-core high school biology. But to me, listening to Dr. Margulies teaching his way through biology is so much like sitting down with my physician for a chat. The kind of physician who gives you the feeling that he will sit and explain things to you all day long until you feel comfortable and understand what is going on. He paces the material and emphasizes points exactly as an excellent physician explains a complex medical term to you – in an easy to understand way. This may not be that strange, though, as Dr. Margulies is a retired neurologist and medical school professor.
Preparing Your Child for College
This course is almost like going to a set of college lectures. Each lesson reminds me a lot of sitting in a lecture hall, listening to the professor for 45 minutes and watching as he demonstrates and illustrates his lecture with a set of slides.
The only difference is that your child does not have to frantically take notes in case some little detail in the lecture is covered on the test. The Fascinating Biology course includes PDF downloads of all the lecture scripts. If you are teaching your child with classical methods and you wish for them to practice outlining, you could have them add note taking to the lessons, but my daughter learned more just by sitting and focusing on the lectures.
Visual Learning Instead of Text-based Learning
The Fascinating Biology course is designed with visual (and audio) learning as its base. The creator of the content, Dr. Sheldon Margulies, is a retired neurologist and medical school professor who has spent years developing a method of teaching that optimizes learning and retention.
One of the most impressive proofs of this visual learning approach is a statistic I discovered on Fascinating Education’s web site:
“Fascinating Biology was used by Dunbar High School in 2007-2008, and the standardized test scores rose from 40% passing in 2006 to 87% in 2008.” Source: Fascinating Education website
What Comes With This Product?
This curriculum consists of online video instruction delivered in 18 lessons, followed by online multiple choice tests. The lesson scripts and tests are also available as downloadable PDFs, making the lessons very flexible and adaptable to various types of learning styles.
Online Tutorial to Understand How The Courses Work
There is a tutorial that explains all the detail of how to navigate the courses and how to administrate the course. The tutorial is useful for both parents and students.
Course Keeps Big-Picture Map In Mind
The first lecture in the course defines life as having 7 characteristics and the rest of the course goes on to investigate those characteristics one by one. It is a very straight-forward way of teaching biology so that your student will not get lost in the weeds of a particular aspect of biology.
I cannot tell you how often I got lost in high school and college biology courses. I understood the particular lesson or lecture but lost my way in terms of the bigger picture of how it all related to biology as a whole. With Fascinating Biology, your child will always have that bigger-picture map of biology in mind as she learns the material. And that is just one of the reasons I love this curriculum!
Biology Subjects Covered in 18 Lessons
- What is Life (This lecture defines life as having 7 characteristics and the rest of the course goes on to investigate those characteristics one by one)
- Chemistry Review (Much of the biology course depends on an understanding of chemistry and chemical forces. If your child has trouble, or has not yet had chemistry you can purchase an add-on mini chemistry course that will prepare her for Fascinating Biology)
- The Cell Membrane (Atoms and Molecules, Types of Substances, Isotopes and Atomic Masses, Density and Quantity of Substances)
- Take In Nutrients (Atomic Spectra, The Bohr Model of the Atom, The Quantum Model of the Atom, Electron Configurations, Empirical Formulas)
- Take In Energy (This subject takes four lessons to cover)
- Reproduce (This subject takes three lessons to cover and, not to worry, the material is all discussed without those ‘facts of life’ details you really want to teach your children yourself)
- Homeostasis (This subject takes 2 lessons to cover)
- Adapt (This subject takes 2 lessons to cover)
- Prokaryotes, Protists, Animals, Fungi
‘Catch Your Breath’ & ‘What You Know So Far’ Sections
These are review periods during a lesson. The ‘Catch Your Breath’ section of a lesson comes somewhere in the middle and allows your child the chance to get a quick summary of everything taught so far. The ‘What You Know So Far’ section comes a the end of each lesson and provides a point by point summary of the lessons.
These summaries are fantastic as your child can tell if there is an area that she really did not fully understand at this point and she can go back to the slide covering that information and review it before taking the test.
Glossaries to Learn the Vocabulary
There are online glossaries in each lesson so that your child can stop the video at any time and look up the meaning of a word. This is especially important in biology, as so much of understanding the science depends on learning the new language of biology with the accompanying myriad of terms.
Rigorous Exams Ensure Understanding
The exams come at the end of each lesson. Your child can take them as an online multiple choice test, or you have the option of downloading the tests as PDFs and printing them.
Optional Chemistry Mini-Course Add-On
Much of the biology course depends on an understanding of chemistry and chemical forces. If your child has trouble, or has not yet had chemistry you can purchase an add-on mini chemistry course that will prepare her for Fascinating Biology.
Fascinating Biology does not include a pacing guide, but given that there are eighteen lessons, your child could easily complete the course in 18 weeks at a pace of one lesson per week. The material is a comprehensive year-long course covering high school biology content so your child could also easily also take a couple of weeks to work through each lesson and still complete the material in a year.
Time Required To Teach This
Preparation Time: 0-30 minutes each week (you could let your child go through the material completely independently, or you could watch the lessons each week yourself before she does – that was the way we worked through lessons so that I could help her if she did not understand something.)
Teaching Time: 45 minutes per lesson, on average with as much as an additional 30 minutes for review (This is time your child sits at the computer and watches the lesson video, followed by a short lesson test.)
Grading: Automated. You can print the results of each test, as they are not stored in the online account. If you decide to print the lesson tests instead of taking the tests online, you only will spend a few minutes grading as the questions are all multiple choice.
How We Liked It & How We Used It
The lessons in Fascinating Biology are wonderful deep dives into high school biology. Instead of just learning the ‘what’ of biology, this course teaches your child the ‘why’. My daughter got a great understanding of the details of the various biological processes and components that is typical of a rigorous high school biology curriculum. But more importantly, she got an understanding of the bigger picture and how all those details work together and combine into what we understand of life. That is the unique bit of Fascinating Education’s curriculum that makes it so good I would recommend that if you already have a high school science curriculum in mind, you should think about at least adding Fascinating education as a supplement if not a replacement.
We tried using all the teaching features available with the course, and even tried adapting them to suit our specific needs.
First my daughter listened and watched lectures and then took the tests online. This worked well, although she found it the tests difficult to master this way.
Then she tried printing the lesson scripts, reading them after having watched each lesson, and taking the tests in written form (using the downloadable test PDFs). This worked a bit better as she got a second method of review (reading the lesson scripts).
The last method we tried worked the best. She watched the lesson, sometimes several times until she understood it completely. Then she reviewed the lesson by reading the script a day later. After than I sat down with her, lesson test printed out and in my lap. Then I asked her broad open-ended questions about the lesson material.
“Tell me about membranes,” I asked my daughter.
All the details and processes and facts came back across at me from the other end of the living room, where my daughter sat curled up in a big easy chair, in one long coherent statement.
“But what I really want to know is how nutrients get through the lipid bilayer. Did I miss that in the lesson? I went over it many times but couldn’t figure it out.”
“That,” I answered, “is exactly the subject of the next lesson.”
This is the hardest way to demonstrate you learned the material because your must reply with the broader picture as well as minute details and vocabulary, but I suspect this method would only work if you as the parent had a background in Biology. My daughter loves this last way of learning biology. She is learning the details and understanding the processes and I could not be more pleased.
Overview Of Fascinating Biology from Fascinating Education
- Easy to Adapt To Your Homeschool
- Student Can Use The Course Independently (no or little parental involvement required)
- Stand-Alone (no additional textbook required)
- Works with Gifted Children
- Good for Dyslexic Children
Works with these Age Ranges
- High School (9-12)
Good For These Educational Styles
- Charlotte Mason
- Traditional (like public school)
For Kids Who Like
- Video/Oral Instruction
- Independent Work