We used Earth & Space this past year. I was very pleased with the design and information. I am of the notion that science should be experienced as much as is possible, especially in the grammar stage. Pandia Press’s R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey (RSO) manuals certainly do allow for a hands-on approach. This is primarily an experiment-based science approach.
I think this is one of those programs that you could purchase in PDF form. You will find this to be an economical way to use and reprint if necessary. If you are like us, there always seems to be a mistake made on a lab report that will necessitate redoing it. If you choose to purchase a hard copy, you do not need the student pages. All of the pages are contained in the main set. There is not a teacher’s manual per se. Answers are provided on the lab sheets when needed. However, you could purchase the main copy in a PDF and purchase student pages. I would load the PDF version to a Kindle or Nook (any eReader) and place the student pages in a three-ring binder. Truly, what you purchase depends greatly on the way that you want to see and to use the manual. At the very least, you need to keep in mind that mistakes are inevitable. As well, you will not be able to purchase only the student pages.
Each section or lesson, began with text. We would read the text aloud. I would have my child circle the new terminology. Definitions are not explicit. This is one drawback for me. However, this was not an issue for my child. Actually, the idea of using the terminology as it is applicable within the text lent itself to being better understood than simply defining the word itself. I am sure this is not a new concept, but it is not something that I have encountered within a science program until this one. As I note this, let me just say that I did have my child provide a verbal definition for each word that was applicable terminology for that particular section or lesson. I felt more comfortable with this. I do not think it was a needed adjustment, but it made me feel better.
I had a book basket at the ready. I required independent reading. We did not narrate or summarize science. Again, my feeling being that a hands-on approach, that is experimentation, would accomplish the same thing as a narration or summary. Pandia Press provides websites and book lists to help you make selections appropriate for the section or lesson. We would explorer the sites, investigate new sites, watch videos, and check out books from the local library. I did not always locate all of the books at the library. I could have prepared in advance, but I am not that organized. I would substitute as needed. As long as I had plenty of books in the basket, I did not care if I matched the selections book by book. I liked the further explorations through the web, books, and reading. Do not go overboard with substitution or enhancement. My child developed quite a lot in the way of understanding through the experience of the experiment. The supplements only added a review or helped to satisfy the deviations from the topic, which were often the result of the material being studied.
Lastly, we would complete the diagram and/or the experiment, including filling out the lab sheet(s). I would take photographs of the experiments when possible. We were not the sketching or drawing sort. I scaled down the photos, cut, and pasted to the lab sheet. I would take photographs of my child performing the experiment. We would place these on cardstock and include in our notebook, adding stickers or clip art.
Also, along the way, I added certain elements from lap-books or mini-books. We mounted to cardstock and included where appropriate in our binder. I just felt that certain things were better served with some other type of hands-on activity. I do not think it was necessary, but I wanted to do it nonetheless.
In the end, we ended up with a 2-inch, three-ring binder full of our experiments and experiences.
I do want to add that I changed the space, or astronomy, portion of this particular set, Earth & Space. I added reading from Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy. We saved the space portion for the warmer months. I added reading and we completed experiments from both. I added these to our RSO binder too.
Pay careful attention to the suggested grade levels. While the Earth & Space was done in large by my fourth grader with little assistance, I would consider that you will need to participate and be involved to some extent, especially with younger children.