Monday, February 20, 2012

Supercharged Science e-science curriculum Review

One of my favorite pieces from Anna's "Cell City"--a City
Hall for the nucleus with a bank of file drawers at the back.
Here the RNA man is copying the DNA stored in one of
the drawers.
Last year my then 6th grade daughter won "Grand Champion" at the Northern Illinois Regional Science Fair, with her Cell City model.  The prize was a year's subscription to Supercharged Science!  Now I'll tell ya, my first reaction (after rejoicing with her!) was one of sheer terror.  I know, funny reaction to your child winning a science curriculum, but you have to understand, science is NOT my thing.  She gets all of her science genes from her father!  But with his illness, he is not often able to help her.

I consider it my personal responsibility to see that she is fully supplied with whatever wingdings, hoodads, gadgets and what have you, to help her pick out good books, resources, and internet links to read (we choose together), and then to basically stay out of her way.  Well, I have one other job, that's to ask questions and let her be the expert--or let her realize what it is that she needs to find out.

 As you might have guessed...I'm not big on experiments, and Supercharged Science is ALL about the experiments!  Hence my terror...and my daughter's delight!  So, once I calmed down and figured out exactly what this thing was that she'd won, I spent about 30 minutes getting familiar with the website, and another 10 or so showing my daughter around, explaining how passwords work, and then letting her know to come get me if she had any trouble.  It's February.  I haven't heard from her since August.

Anna, working on her hovercraft, bananas and all!
Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, and only in relation to science (we work together daily on other subjects!).  I do have her give me a weekly update on her projects, and she keeps a running list of what she needs.  Each day she can:  watch a video of an experiment by the author, Aurora Lipper, replicate the experiment (a few, such as plasma grapes, require adult supervision), read all about how it works, or write or draw in her science journal (I added that part).  Right now it's nigh dinner time and she's downstairs singing in the kitchen, cutting up foam and hooking up a little motor with wires to a battery; she's making a hovercraft.

"What time is it, Mom?"
"Really?  I've been working for an hour and a half!"
Yep, really.
She's made several like Aurora's examples, now she's
branching out and trying her own design.

I thought she'd be overwhelmed by the immense size of the website; I was!  But she wasn't.  She's been able to find the videos and experiments and explanations all by herself.  Sometimes she has questions that didn't get answered; at the bottom of each experiment there is a place to leave comments, and she'll ask there.  Aurora will post an answer.  Sometimes she will continue to look up things in other places (the other day my husband actually found a special on the history of hovercrafts on TV, and the two of them watched it together.  It was midnight!  I bit my tongue...)

On the Supercharged Science site, it says:

The Secret to Giving Your Kids a Really
Great Homeschool Science Education

...even if you don't know much science yourself, or
don't have the time to teach it."

That's certainly been true in my case!  The only con I can think of is that it's more expensive than many curricula out there.  Despite that, I'm strongly considering enrolling again next year, and maybe I'll even use it for both kids (one subscription can be used for multiple children in your family, so in that way the cost does balance out a bit).  I asked my daughter how much of the website she has explored, and she said with starry eyes, "Oh, not even 1/4 of it!"  She likes that there are videos instead of just a book, and feels she learns better this way.  My daughter has learned more...and TRIED more things than I ever would have led her to do.  I'm excited that we had this opportunity to check out a great curriculum.


  1. That was a great review, thanks for sharing it! I have avoided looking into it due to cost but you have me very intrigued.

  2. Honestly, I wouldn't have considered it either, but now after doing it...I think both kids may be using it next year! It's looking like a good option for high school too. (And still cheaper than private school, LOL!)


  3. How extensive are the supply lists? I'm okay buying stuff (my kids are always tinkering anyway) but we're moving to China so I do worry a bit about finding stuff. For the most part is it every day stuff or is some of it pretty out there? (Also is there a way to sort of get a general supply list so I can stock up and maybe ship stuff before I go?) Thanks so much! Loved the review and could see my kids doing the same thing!

  4. I would email supercharged and see if they might be able to get a list. Some were normal items, and some required us to go shopping (like the motors for the hovercraft). A lot of times my daughter improvised when we didn't have something and used another household item as a replacement. You could also start with just a one month subscription, look around at the various experiments, and see if it's going to be a fit for you and for what you'll have available. (If you purchase a whole year and then end up not using it all year, it's not refundable after the first month--so make sure you really want it before getting that!) I hope your move goes well!