Tuesday, March 10, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ Visual Learning Systems

When I think back to when I was homeschooled (and yes, I am getting old and graduated from high school over 20 years ago), I think what a different journey it would have been if we had the technology we have today.

And it is in the internet world that we see most of those changes.

The product I have been using the last few weeks is an online video based science curriculum: Visual Learning Systems.

Visual Learning Systems Review


What It Is And What You Get:

There are two levels to Visual Learning Systems; Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5), and Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12).

There are actually three levels on the website; the Elementary Edition includes a Primary level as well.

The Elementary and Primary include these science topics: Physical, Earth, Life, and Health (Primary only).

The Middle/High School covers Physical, Earth, Life, Integrated, Health, and Biology.


This digital subscription has four components:

  • Videos
  • Animations
  • Images
  • Teacher Guides

The Videos are well done and range in length based on grade level. The primary videos are around 9 minutes long, the elementary ones are 13 minutes long, and the middle/high school levels are 20 minutes in length. They are also conveniently divided into chapters which makes it easy to pause the video if needed.

The Animations are lots of fun! They are short clips that animate a scientific process. You can see a seed germinate, the human respiratory process, the water cycle, and bird migration to name a few. Each topic has at least one animation, and many have several.

The Images were extremely helpful. In one of our biology lessons we were learning about simple, non-vascular plants and since I didn't have a photo of liverworts laying around, I pulled up the images for that lesson and my kids were able to identify them. Each topic has multiple images too.

The Teacher Guide is the glue of the program. In the guide you will find learning objectives, assessments, viewing suggestions, the script of the video (this was priceless!) and student activities sheets with answer keys.

Visual Learning Systems Review



You do purchase the two levels separately; they do have special pricing for homeschoolers with up to 8 students for home use.

And you can also view video tutorials to see if this might be a good fit for you.



How We Used This:

This came to me at the perfect time. I am teaching high school biology this year and was finding it a bit dry. My students would look at me with glazed over eyes when I would tell them it was time for biology.

But not the last few weeks.

These videos and worksheets have really rejuvenated our science. As we watched the videos I had them complete the Video Review and Assessment. The video would pause to give them time to answer the questions. I also encouraged them to take notes on the page as they watched.




These review pages really helped to engage them while they were listening. I used both the Pre and Post Assessments to orally ask them questions after we watched the video. Even though this level is both middle school and high school, I found the biology to be at the high school level and challenging for my kiddos in high school.

The worksheets were really helpful in reiterating the topic.

In this worksheet they had to label the parts of a root and answer questions.





One week we soaked different seeds and then dissected them. The worksheets led the students through the dissections, telling them what to look for.

My younger two are learning about human anatomy this year so I had them watch a few videos from the elementary level. They liked this one on blood and circulation.



They also watched one on muscles and movement. After they watched it, I had them do a vocabulary page. They would choose from a word bank and put the word next to the correct definition.

They also had a writing activity, where the student fills in the blanks in a paragraph about the different kinds of muscles, using a work bank. I have one child that really struggles with writing so this exercise was perfect for her.


What We Thought:

This program was a great fit for us. I loved the variety of activities in the Teacher Guides, in both levels. When I first began using this I thought it would only be useful as a supplement, but even for my high school students, if I added some writing and research assignments and we completed all the topics in biology,  I would count as a full biology credit.

The videos were of high quality, with lots of great images and running video. I also loved having the animations; my younger girls spent one afternoon looking through the Life topics and watching animation of moving muscle, virus reproduction, and osmosis. These were much shorter videos, and lasted anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes.

This is from a secular perspective so we did run into a few references to evolution, but I have had many conversations with my kids about our view of creation, and was able to use them as teaching moments.

I am going to continue to use this for my high school biology curriculum. It has really re-vitalized our upper level science this year, and I am thankful that my kids are a little more excited about biology. Best of all I am hearing, "Oh, I get it now!" Lots of time when we see something happening in real life on a video it makes more sense then reading a text in a book.

There are so many other topics that other members of The Crew reviewed; see what they thought by clicking below.



Visual Learning Systems Review


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1 comment:

  1. Great review. I noticed the evolution, too, but I agree that it doesn't take away from the program and can be used as a teachable moment.

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