Frequently Asked Questions
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Yes it is. But it may not feel like what you are used to. Keep in mind that much science education is fundamentally broken in our country including much that circulates in homeschool communities. As mentioned in our Textbook Philosophy, the United States falls further behind other western nations in science and math every time a ranking is published, college freshmen are increasingly unprepared for classes, and they often require remedial coursework before they can begin credit classes. To remedy this problem requires more than bureaucracies and boards are willing or able to accomplish. The simple goal is for students to learn, master and retain the subject matter. This is our goal, and we care more about it than we do about increasing sales or pretending education can be easy.
Most science educators know that there is a self-delusional stage at which a student feels like she has grasped the material, but cannot talk competently about it or explain it, cannot solve calculations, and does not possess skills of measurement, observation, or analysis required in real science.
Many homeschool curriculum producers hold out the promise of easy learning, simple administration, and making the subject "fun" all the while promising academic rigor, content aligning with a particular worldview, and preparation for college. But what you often get is a paint-by-numbers approach that, in the interest of simplicity, parental freedom, and enabling independent, self-directed students, ultimately fails to provide an education anywhere near an ordinary public school, much less realize the dreams parents had when they started homeschooling in the first place that they could do a better job than public schools.
Lab experiments using supplies like rubber bands, yarn, and baking soda are woefully inadequate to teach students true scientific skills use of real lab apparatus, precision vs. accuracy in measurement, safety, material disposal issues, all of which are essential skills of a scientist and necessary for college lab preparation. Exercises that avoid the integration of mathematics inexplicably bypass a major learning opportunity. And those that only require meaningless student activities such as copying vocabulary definitions from easy-to-find bolded terms in the chapter, multiple choice questions, sentence completion by fill-in-the-blank, or plotting points on a pre-labeled, pre-scaled grid effect almost no real science learning at all. And few, if any, science-in-a-box curricula require the most basic and best science-learning activity: the preparation from scratch of a concise, properly formatted, analytical lab report.
If you are ready, perhaps even desperate, to escape the cycle of impoverished science-learning methods, then Centripetal Press materials are for you. We strive to keep lab expenses modest, but we believe you simply must spend some money on a few pieces of real lab equipment so your student doesn't encounter an Erlenmeyer Flask for the first time in her undergraduate chemistry course. Also, students will need to allocate time daily for review and study. They will need to read and reread, every chapter of the book. And they will not be able to avoid providing accurate, concise responses using proper scientific vocabulary.
The results in the vast majority of cases will be students who feel they are entering the adult world of science, who feel like they actually know something about these subjects, who, if not falling in love with science, at least find science interesting, and who end up being tutors for their friends in college.
How much parental involvement is required? That depends on how organized your student is, how diligent, how honest, and how motivated. The hardest part about using Centripetal Press materials is not the content, but the personal academic management required of the student to stay on top of reading the text and studying according to the methods described in the introduction of each book, methods that bring about the mastery-learning paradigm. This requires discipline, and, as was mentioned above, it probably will not feel like what you are use to. It will require more focus, more engagement with the content than is demanded by most science books.
Ordinary students will need some administrative help from parents to get a routine established early on and to keep students accountable to produce quality work. Parents do not need to know science, but they need to understand what’s going on with the mastery paradigm, which they can read about in the introduction and documents on the Resource CD.
Many of our customers are homeschoolers, coops, and hybrid schools. We recommend that you do not use your weekly meeting time for lecturing; let the textbooks do that for you. They are thorough and lucid enough that students who give a close reading of the text will have all the information they need for the quizzes, tests, and exercises. Secondly, let the students do their exercises at home as well. Check their work for completion only, not accuracy. Then discuss their half-baked answers together in the group. Let students use this time to improve and correct their answers. Students will encounter this material twice and the exercises will be a group-sourced study tool. Use the rest of class time for 1) fielding additional questions, shoring up any lingering questions 2) conducting experiments 3) the weekly quiz (although parents can administer this at home and submit it to the teacher for grading) 4) working on lab reports or 5) other enhancement activities. We encourage lots of group activities or collaborative work during this time. For a full treatment of creating a premier science program at your school or coop, check out From Wonder to Mastery by John D. Mays
If you have follow up questions, please feel free to email [email protected]
That depends on how organized your student is, how diligent, how honest, and how motivated. The good news is that parents do not need to have a science background. That’s what the textbook is for. Ordinary students will need some degree of administrative help from parents to get a routine established early on and to keep students accountable to produce quality work. However, parents DO need to understand what’s going on with the mastery paradigm. You can read about that in
- the introduction of each text,
- the documents on the Resource CD
- greater depth in our little book Teaching Science So That Students Learn Science, available on our website
Parents can help in getting students organized and on schedule using the materials on the Resource CD. They can help with grading verbal/written work to help students learn to communicate formal technical information, and they can help in overseeing lab experiments. Because homework is graded for completion and not accuracy, students can grade their own homework using the answers included with the course. Parents just need to see that it gets done, and that students follow up on correcting their own work to shore up gaps in their knowledge. Parents can grade quizzes and tests and assign a grade, and they grade high school lab reports using standards described in The Student Lab Report Handbook.
Students will need to allocate time daily for review and study. More is described in the book introduction, but we recommend they make flash cards for memorization work. They will need to read every chapter of the book including the Introduction. And they will be required to provide accurate, concise responses to questions using proper scientific communication. The demands of the mathematics differ from book to book, but it is always aligned to the math course students are traditionally taking simultaneously. With Novare, students feel they are being invited into the adult world of science.
Novare courses are not hard; they are the way science should be taught and the difficulty level that should be expected in order to really learn the subject. Students usually find Novare books challenging, but they cannot help be feel a thrill that they are finally learning something. And that rewards their hard work.
We do have hopes of producing a line of math textbooks in the future with the same features of mastery and design that our science books have. In the meantime, math appears integrated with the science texts, an occasional newsletter articles that deal with math, and in our consulting with schools to help them implement a mastery-based math program. We do not plan to publish other subjects.
Yes we do! Read the article in our Written Resources section called “Sequencing Science and Math in 7-12th Grade.” There are a couple of helpful charts that lay out our recommended sequence.
This is one thing that is very different about Centripetal materials from what teachers are used to. We only provide official answers to calculation questions on the Resource CDs. While it may seem a great inconvenience to teachers or graders, it is an essential aspect of mastery-learning.
One of the defunct study methods common among 6-12th grade science students today is a result of exercises and test questions that encourage students to memorize a “correct” answer and regurgitate it on demand. This happens with simple vocabulary definitions, fill-in-the-blank style questions, and other typical verbal questions that focus more on ease of grading than on student learning. The problem is, this is not real learning. It is the Cram-Pass-Forget Cycle. Students will quickly forget superficially memorized answers. Such a method designed for the teacher’s convenience. It is not designed to maximize the student’s learning opportunity.
How can educators address this?
What is needed is for students to work at it, to wrestle with the words like a blacksmith at a forge, to spend some time thinking about the answer that they put on their papers. They cannot be allowed to simply look up an answer, copy it from a friend, and so on.
Initially we did not even provide “sample answers” because of the potential for such a document to be treated as “the correct answers” and give students a too-easy resource that will lead them back to a cram-pass-forget method. But the outcry from graders and non-scientific teachers for some relief and help with grading has led us to develop the Sample Answers documents with a clear caveat on the first page:
We urge educators NOT to give students access to the Sample Answers document, at least not until students have wrestled to craft their own verbal answers.
But isn’t this inefficient? Isn’t it best for them to learn the correct answer from the outset?
No. Efficiency is not a good molder of the human mind. The best approach is for students to prepare their own half-baked answers at home, then bring them to class or the homeschool coop group. In the group, together they discuss their answers. Together they develop a list of better answers that is crowd-sourced, hammered out together in community, with appropriate guidance from the teacher.
What about the daily homework grade?
In the Novare mastery-learning paradigm, homework is only graded for completion, not accuracy, if even that. A teacher can do this quickly with a glance at each paper. When the students begin to realize that they are not receiving a grade for accuracy, the motivation to cram, steal, copy, or cheat is removed. (After about 9th grade, there should be NO grade for homework.) There is no more jumping through hoops to get a grade. There is only the work of learning to be done, and the document they prepare together in class is a study aid of material they have now encountered repeatedly. They arrive at good answers so they can perform on the quiz, not so they can get a good daily grade on homework.
- The math content is more difficult. Physical science incorporates pre-algebra math skills but not until the spring semester. Students using IPP should have been concurrently enrolled in at least Algebra I.
- Exercises are more challenging in IPP.
- Chapters with similar titles go farther and deeper into the subject in IPP.
- Physical Science includes two chapters that get away from physics and deal with philosophical questions such as “What kind of knowledge does science give us” and “How do we know things.” IPP spends much less time on these sorts of issues to devote the school year to cover more physics material.
- IPP includes two optional chapters (explained in the introduction) with more demanding mathematical requirements for cases where the book is used with more advanced or higher-grade students: chapter 8 – Pressure and Buoyancy and chapter 13 – Geometric Optics. These two chapters are normally skipped by 9th-grade students.
- High school students are expected to do more involved experiments and write full lab reports from scratch, unlike middle school students.
Because there is a degree of conceptual overlaps between the two texts, we usually recommend physical science in 7th grade, followed by Earth Science in 8th, and Physics in 9th for standard track students.
Centripetal Press publishes non-religious or ‘secular’ curriculum. Our primary markets are public Charter Schools, secular private schools, and homeschoolers who desire excellent science curriculum without religious references.
Centripetal Press is an imprint of Novare Science & Math, LLC, created to serve the customers that appreciate the Novare curriculum and mastery-learning methods but preferred a faith-neutral curriculum. If you are looking for the same excellent science curriculum for a faith-based educational context, please check out the Novare website.