We’re living in such an amazing time for homeschooling. To begin with, there are seemingly endless curricula to choose from. And so many of them are interesting. Really, no two are exactly alike. Because so many homeschool curriculum writers share their interests and have their individual way of presenting subjects, it keeps things fresh. Especially, I appreciate the homeschool curriculum choices that come with video. Ben has always responded well to video-based curriculum, which is why we have used it often through the years. For high school, at least 50% of his curriculum is enriched with a video component.
There are a few reasons why I believe adding video to homeschool curriculum is so beneficial.
Using Video to Enhance Homeschool Curriculum
Variety Is the Spice of Homeschooling
If you’re familiar with my blog, you know that I love variety. And being a delight-directed homeschooling family, this means several things. When my son wants to learn how to do something hands-on, he’s given the opportunity. If there’s a book that he wants to read on a topic, he’s soon immersed in it. And if there’s something that he can learn by watching a video about it, I have no problem with that. As more options are given to him to learn from, it helps keep his interest and cements the new information.
Keeping Up with Homeschool When Traveling
We especially find video helpful when we are traveling. On a recent 2-week trip out west, we spent a total of 16 hours flying or in airports, and probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 hours in the car. There was also some downtime at night in hotel rooms. This was time that would have been wasted for Ben had he not been able to stream most of his homeschool lessons. Even if you’re only in the car for 30 minutes driving to a doctor’s appointment, a math video can be watched on a smartphone or iPad. For some families who spend a lot of time going to medical and therapy appointments, this could save your homeschool.
And when you can’t travel for whatever reason, video can be a nice replacement. Of course, this depends on the subject matter. But video has a lot to offer when learning about geographical locations, history, and even science. Sure, my son can certainly read several books on these topics. However, video allows him to see the sights, hear the sounds, and it helps him grasp some concepts better.
Watching video lessons is like he gets to travel with narrators. But without the costs and inconvenience of travel. Obviously, we love the real thing, but it’s just not always feasible to travel because of time, expense, or location of preference. Video learning can be a fun replacement!
Using Homeschool Curriculum with Video Frees Up Time
Even though my son is more of an independent learner at his age, he still needs to be taught some topics. With video curriculum, I can let the expert teach him and I don’t have to be right by his side for this like I would if I were doing all of the teaching myself. My time is freed up to do other tasks that demand my time (like writing this blog post). After all, there are only so many hours in a day. As a work at home, homeschooling mom, I appreciate having some time when I’m not nodding off and should be sleeping, to get some work done.
Video Homeschool Curriculum is Easily Accessible
For the most part it is anyway. Really, we don’t have to take a jaunt down to the library to pick something out. As you’re probably aware, there are several video streaming services available today, not to mention the many options when it comes to online courses for homeschooling students. The possibilities today are nearly endless and amazingly helpful.
Learning Without Being Too Hands-On (when you don’t want to be)
Some students have a hard time with hands-on projects, in particular, things like animal dissection. Dissection is one thing that simply does not interest my son. He’s very sensitive where animals are concerned. However, he can watch video dissections with interest, since he’s not the one actually doing it. He’s also been in the observation room during open heart surgery (which is much like video learning as well). Don’t get me wrong, he loves science, and is especially interested in biology and anatomy and physiology courses. He hopes to train as an EMT upon graduation and be a Navy medic some day.
So, he was never so happy about using video learning than when he discovered there are science courses that show students the dissection process without having to physically participate in the act of dissection. You might be wondering if using video instead of physically doing dissection counts. That’s up to you as the homeschool teacher to decide. But bear in mind, students can still do all of the recording of findings they would do if they dissected the specimen themselves. And there are medical schools that have no dissection policies, relying mostly on video and models to teach future doctors. I personally feel comfortable to count video instruction as a lab and assign high school credit no differently.
Yes, it’s true. My superhero cape does hang up in the closet more often than not anymore. But that doesn’t mean I’m less of a supermom. And it doesn’t mean that you are less of one either if you decide to stash your cape in your closet and integrate video instruction into your homeschool curriculum either. Not only might you find it helpful and convenient to do so, your students will love you for it.
What We Use for Video-Enhanced Biology — Friendly Biology
As I mentioned before, we use video for several of my son’s high school subjects, but his current favorite is biology.
When choosing the homeschool company we would use for high school homeschool biology, we had a few criteria that needed to be met:
- The course needed to be taught from a Christian worldview. This is one area where we will not compromise.
- The materials needed to be mostly student-led and complete, with a student textbook written in an engaging way by one author (not like public school books where many people might contribute) qualified to teach Biology either by education or experience and include worksheets and tests (with an answer key).
- If at all possible, my son wanted a video component, especially for dissection labs.
Being a curriculum reviewer for many years, I had a list in my head of companies to check out, but as I searched for just the right curriculum, I happened upon a company I had noticed in social media but had not looked at closely, Friendly Biology. Because of Ben’s personal philosophy, I was immediately struck by the Hajdas’ goal in teaching biology:
. . . attaining a greater respect for the beauty and complexity of living things
This fits perfectly with Ben’s desire to be respectful of animals in his high school science curriculum. After doing a little research (ie: reading some reviews and checking out the website), I reached out to Dr. Joey Hajda, one of the authors (along with his wife, Lisa) of Friendly Biology, and requested a review copy of his curriculum, which he happily sent to me. At the time of our initial contact, no video component was available for Friendly Biology, but it was in the works. So we proceeded, hopeful that the video component would be forthcoming.
My son (a high school junior) has been studying with Friendly Biology for a few months now. Just a few lessons into his studies, the video lessons became available and Dr. Hajda was kind to grant us access to those as well. While Ben was already using Friendly Biology successfully and enjoying it, gaining access to the videos made a huge difference for him. Here are a few reasons we can wholeheartedly recommend Friendly Biology:
Author Education and Experience
Dr. Joey Hajda is a veterinarian by both education and experience, and also holds a masters degree in curriculum and instruction. He has taught biology at the middle and high school level as well as community college for 25 years. Lisa also has a degree in animal and veterinary science as well as a masters degree in elementary curriculum and instruction. Together, they have homeschooled their 10 children, some of which have graduated and are in college now. It is evident in both the textbook and the videos that the Hajdas are passionate about animals and biology. The textbook is very much a living book, written in an engaging manner, not boring or too “technical” but thorough just the same. The same is true of the video component — it’s also engaging and keeps my student’s attention (and mine!).
Friendly Biology has been written in two editions to serve both Christian and secular homeschool families. The Christian Worldview curriculum is what we used because that is important to us. The main difference in the two versions is that the Christian worldview version gives credit to God as the Creator and the secular version leaves out that mention. Neither course teaches about evolution, focusing rather on observing living organisms.
Should you opt-in to the video component, each chapter of the book has a video to complement it. Most of the information taught in the video is contained within the text your student will also be reading. The reading is also reinforced by the questions in the student workbook. So your student reads, watches the video, and then answers questions (mostly fill-in-the-blank type questions) in the workbook. The information is solidified by this multi-sensory process. While they are optional, my son is retaining much more information since he began using the videos. His test scores are better and his worksheets have few incorrect answers.
Labs with Video Dissection
Most lab work uses common household items, not including dissections of course, or items that can be purchased at your local grocery store. Many include food (which will make any teenage boy happy). You can see a list of the required items here on the Friendly Biology website.
If you have a student who would prefer not to do dissections himself (or if you prefer that), you will really appreciate these videos. As I mentioned, Dr. Hajda is a veterinarian. He is also the teacher in the videos. He uses the natural death of his family’s pet cow to teach dissection. He literally dissects this entire cow and shares segments of that throughout the course. It is amazing to watch.
To give you an idea of what that looks like, when Dr. Hajda teaches about the heart, your student will not only be able to watch the dissection of the heart itself, but Dr. Hajda begins with literally dissecting the chest cavity to get to the heart. He doesn’t show the goriest parts (having seen full human autopsies, I know it can be pretty disturbing to watch it all), but you do see where the heart is placed in the chest cavity, how it relates positionally to the lungs, along with bones, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, etc. It’s super cool to watch and I actually prefer his video instruction over any dissection I ever did in nursing school. Ben found it all fascinating as well. And it was nice to see specimens that were not discolored from preservation (and really good not to have to smell formaldehyde!). If you or your student prefers to do dissections, there are instructions for them as well. We did not, so this was perfect for us.
It is important to note the video component is not a stand-alone Biology course; it is meant to enhance the written curriculum, not replace it. On the flipside, the course is 100% complete without the video component (though not nearly as fun!). Also, while we chose not to copy the dissections at home, Friendly Biology does encourage that hands-on component. I feel comfortable not doing so and still giving my student credit for lab completion merely from the video instruction. You’ll need to make that determination for yourself.
High School Credit
Friendly Biology contains 28 lessons, meant to be taught at a rate of one lesson per week. We actually moved through it a little quicker than that, so it can be done in less than a school year if need be. It serves as one full credit on your student’s high school credit for Science with Lab.
We are now big fans of the Friendly sciences and looking forward to using more in Ben’s senior year. The ease of use, coupled with the gentle nature of the instruction and unique gifts of the authors and video teacher makes Friendly Biology useable both for the science nerd and those who may be somewhat science-averse.
Visit Friendly Biology to see lesson examples and to place your order. For a limited time, you can get the Video Bundle 50% OFF!