Visual Learning Systems {review}

Visual Learning Systems Review

In our home we have a very avid lover of science.  Connor is always talking of science related things, checking out non-fiction books on various subjects from the library, watching documentaries and begging to do experiments.  He is always game for anything science related.  Imagine his excitement when I told him we were reviewing an online science program!

Visual Learning Systems has graciously granted us access to their Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5), and the Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) for review.

What is Visual Learning Systems?

Visual Learning System is an online based science curriculum compiled of numerous videos and animations.  Within the program you will have access to videos, any hour of the day or night, on over 136 different subjects.  With each subject comes video clips, animations, student worksheets or activities (quiz, assessment, test and/or hands-on activity), and a PDF download of a full teacher guide which contains detailed information.  You'll find things such as answers to the student questions, all student worksheets and a student objective, to name a few.

This online science program is offered at a special price for homeschoolers.  For one low price you'll have a one year subscription that will include up to 8 students, ranging in grades K-5 or for grades 6-12.

The Elementary Edition is made up of topics set for the K-5 levels.  They are grouped into two groups:  the "primary" level, for K-2, and the "elementary" for grades 2-5.  You may pick and choose your topics in either of the levels.  For the purpose of this review we did have access to the Secondary Edition (grades 6-12) as well, however we didn't explore there as much since our student ages are 8 and under. 

The secondary edition does offer the same broad range of learning tools as the elementary edition, with videos, worksheets, activities and a full downloadable teachers guide.

How we used this program:

I had intended to use this program with my 8 year old (2nd grader), but we ended up also including my 4 year old as well (who works at a Kindergarten level). 

We were expected to use this three times a week.  In reality, we actually sometimes used it more than that because the kids had such a great time.  We successfully viewed this science program, with no problems, using a windows computer, an iMac computer with Safari, and on an iPad using Safari. 

In my use of this program, I had the frame of mind, when choosing topics, of an "interest based" learning as well as supplementation to our scheduled unit studies.  In total, over our 6 week review period, we used 9 lessons, with topics such as "What is Science", "Day and Night", "What is a Mammal", "Winter", "Biodiversity" and "Food and Digestion".

We found the videos to be easy to hear, articulate and pleasing to listen to.  The worksheets and activities are easy to access, print and use.

Connor is very much into all things prehistoric.  He loves to learn of fossils, rocks and minerals.  We found 3 units for Connor, based on this topic that he eagerly requested.  (There are numerous others that could be classed under rocks and/or ancient history, but these are the 3 we focused on)
  • Fascinating Fossils:  how fossils are formed and preserved; intended for K-2
  • Exploring Fossils:  a more in-depth lesson on how fossils are formed and preserved; grades 3-5
  • Soils and Rocks:  an introduction to how soils are formed and the role rocks play in that; K-2
These videos are secular so we did encounter wording different from our own Christian beliefs, such as "millions" and "billions of years ago."  Personally, I'm not bothered too much by this as we just re-discuss and compare our beliefs with worldly beliefs.   I was pleased with the post test, which asked a question, "Fossils are traces or remains of living things from" and answer "the ancient past", instead of "millions of years ago".  That's something both believers and non-believers can agree on, it all happened in the ancient past.
We started with "Fascinating Fossils", at the primary level, as a review to our very knowledgeable "ancient past" enthusiast and as an introduction to fossils for Emma (age 4).   This unit contains a printable hands-on activity to make your own "fossil".

The following week Connor did lessons with "Exploring Fossils" from the elementary level.  This was a more in-depth (higher level) look at fossils, adding in a writing activity and more challenging vocabulary words.  This unit also included the hands-on activity of making your own fossil impression, but it also adds in 3 additional, different ways to create mock fossils and one lesson on the Fossil Fish in Wyoming. 

Separate from my children, I viewed a few things in the middle/high school edition for the purpose of review.  I sought out controversial topics to see if this would be something I personally would use later on, with my children.
I looked into "Early Life", "Life Through Time", "Evolution", and "Reproduction" (since that is the most awkward topic I can think of having to approach with my kids in a few short years)
As I said, this is a secular program, so I was not surprised to hear wording such as "billions" of years ago within the historical topics.  The wording did not bother me though, and this isn't something I would personally avoid when my children are older.  The approach used in the lesson was that of "some scientists believe... " or "many scientists believe..." and "one theory is ... ", as opposed to hard fact.
The Reproduction unit was done very tastefully, and I might add, much less embarrassing than what I had to watch back in my 6th grade class, which showed too much of the whole process.  Visual Learning Systems remains very tactful and matter of fact throughout the segment.  It is something I wouldn't be too embarrassed to have my children view, when they are of the right age.

My Thoughts:

This is a secular program, so Christians should approach this with due caution.  I don't think the secular wording of a few videos is necessarily a reason to avoid this program as there are many other videos and animations that are not conflicting.  Personally, I think secular wording isn't anything to avoid or be scared of.  In our family, it just means acknowledging that others view differently and we then re-visit our beliefs and compare it to what the Bible says.

I would still recommend Visual Learning Systems as a science program, but I would advice to have a discerning eye and ear.  Preview the videos or the teacher guide before allowing your child to watch solo.

This program would be great for families that learn via unit studies, or families that follow the child (interest) based learning model, as well as the visual learner and/or auditory learners.  In addition, closed captioning is available for the hearing impaired.

You can find and follow along with Visual Learning Systems on Facebook and Twitter.

To see what the rest of crew did and had to say about Visual Learning Systems, click the banner below:

Visual Learning Systems Review

1 comment:

  1. I love your pictures of the project! How fun!


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