Frequently Asked Questions
Novare (no-VAH-ray) is a Latin word meaning “to renew” or “to begin again.” We selected this name because of our sense that science education in America is in bad shape and in need of renewal. Some of our ideas are refurbishments of traditional attitudes and methods, and some are new applications of proven, forward-thinking strategies.
Yes we do! Here's a helpful chart that corresponds with our textbooks. Also, for a full explanation of the science sequence we recommend, and why it makes so much sense, please read our September 2013 Newsletter.
This is a thorny question and debate among educators about the merits of the AP program has been ongoing for well over a decade. One viewpoint is that the application process for college admission is fiercely competitive and becomes more so each year. Many students have a large number of AP courses on their transcripts, and to be competitive—particularly for students applying to more selective colleges—a student needs to have the same. The opposite view is that our contemporary college admission process has gotten out of control and that expecting students to undertake a large number of college-level courses in high school is insane. Further, this insanity becomes a process of teaching to and drilling for tests, rather than spending time having an enriching educational experience suitable for high school students.
We cannot prescribe which view is appropriate for your educational context. For some, particularly students who desire to study at one of the most prestigious universities, taking as many AP courses as possible may be an appropriate approach (although we have known many students who have been admitted to top universities without emphasizing AP courses in their high school careers). For others, the wiser choice may be to focus on deep understanding of core material, with enriching discussions that explore the meaning and application of core principles to various situations.
Yes it is. But it may not feel like what you are used to.
Science education in our country is badly impaired by poorly calibrated expectations. Sadly, that includes much that is produced for home use. 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, boards, and even more than most publishers are willing or able to accomplish. The pedagogical goal of science education should be 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 level of comprehension at which a student feels like she has grasped the material, but cannot talk competently about it, cannot solve computation problems, and does not possess the skills of measurement, observation, and analysis required in real science.
Many curriculum producers hold out the promise of easy learning, simple administration, and making the subject fun, all the while promising academic rigor, creation-based content, and preparation for college. But what you often get is a paint-by-numbers, connect-the-dots approach that in the interest of simplicity, low cost, parental freedom, and enabling independent learning ultimately fails to provide an education anywhere near an ordinary public school, much less realize the dreams parents had when they started home schooling in the first place: that they could do a better job than public schools.
Lab experiments using only household items are inadequate to teach students laboratory skills such as the use of real lab apparatus, applying the concepts of precision vs. accuracy in measurement, following correct safety procedures, and using correct material disposal procedures. All of these are essential scientific skills 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, answering multiple choice questions, completing sentences 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 Novare materials are for you.
With the growing popularity of home schooling in America, hundreds of publishers are vying to accommodate this lucrative market. Parents of home schoolers are notoriously a very busy lot and often feel out of their depth in the higher grades. Subsequently, welcome message has been fostered by some publishers that home schooling at the high school level can happen with little effort on the part of parents (as seen by the products that promise “such-and-such made easy!”) They tell busy parents what they want to hear and affirm common fears: you don’t have time, you don’t know science well enough to teach it anyway, you need our easy solution to educate your children. Thus, many “science-in-a-box” programs give the appearance of education with worksheets, experiments, reading, and vocabulary. But in most cases, the quality of learning is shallow, soon forgotten, and does not adequately prepare students for college sciences or a technical career.
Novare materials are not difficult to use, but we believe that effective learning does not happen with many traditional methods. Hard work is needed on the part of students: daily review, close reading of textbooks, and regular rehearsal of skills, terms, and concepts. Students must develop the discipline of managing their own personal academic life.
The hardest part about using Novare materials is not the content, but the determination required to stay on top of the textbook reading and studying according to the methods described in each course, methods designed to bring about mastery. This requires responsibility and maturity and, as mentioned above, it probably will not feel like what your student is used to. It will feel harder because it requires more focus and closer engagement with the content than is demanded by most science programs.
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.
Our books are priced competitively. All major publishers charge much more than Novare. And most Christian home school publisher’s materials are in the same ballpark.
And since Novare does not rely on teacher’s manuals, a complete bundle of our high-quality course often costs as much or less than that of other publishers.
As for lab expenses, we strive to keep them modest. Nevertheless, we believe some investment in a few pieces of real lab equipment and materials is imperative. More is caught than taught, as the saying goes, and students learn much from handling beakers and measuring chemicals and operating a balance beam. Nobody wants their student to encounter a graduated cylinder for the first time in their college chemistry course.
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 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
- Fielding additional questions, shoring up any lingering questions
- Conducting experiments
- A weekly quiz (although parents can administer this at home and submit it to the teacher for grading)
- Working on lab reports
- Other enhancement activities
We encourage lots of group activities or collaborative work during this time.
If you have follow-up questions, please feel free to email us.
Thank you for writing to raise your concerns about the references cited in my text Novare Physical Science. Since you raised several issues, this email will be rather lengthy. So here is a short summary of where I am going: First, the quote in handinhandhomeschool.com which you referenced is inaccurate, as I will explain. Second, most textbooks cite no references at all and textbook users are completely uninformed about textbook content sources. I cited a few—but certainly not all—sources for specific reasons. Finally, all of my texts have been reviewed by scientists and teachers with excellent credentials. You may be confident that my texts are both scientifically accurate and faithful to historic Christian belief.
To begin, the quote taken from handinhandhomeschool.com stated, "the textbook’s reference page states that the author made liberal and virtually exclusive use of wikipedia.org and commons.wikimedia.org to fact-check his material." In fact, page 335 of the text [Novare Physical Science] actually states, "the excellent websites wikipedia.org and commons.wikimedia.org were used as sources of information and for checking details throughout the book." By no means were these sites "exclusively" used for information. In fact, hundreds of other sources inform the writing of my texts—the texts, articles, and books I have read and consulted in a lifetime of study. But since I did fact check names, dates, and so on on using wikipedia.org, I said so on the references page by way of giving credit. As for commons.wikimedia.org, this is not a source of the "information" we would think of as content; it is a site for sharing public domain and free-license images, such as historic photos and images produced by NASA, and some of the images in the text were taken from that site. There is certainly nothing illegitimate about using images available at commons.wikimedia.org.
There are several important comments to make at this point. First, textbooks do not generally cite references at all, because textbooks are not usually based on original research. The information in textbooks is available from thousands of different sources. No textbook I know of cites a list of content sources. My books generally don't cite content sources either. Even so, I felt it was appropriate to cite a few sources from which specific quotes or other details were obtained.
Second, this may go without saying but composition is different from fact checking. All content in my textbooks is my own original composition, certainly not lifted from wikipedia.org or any other reference.
Third, regarding the quality of the information on wikipedia.org, note that while wikipedia is not regarded as a scholarly resource, it is highly regarded within the scientific community as a reliable source for scientific information, and every article includes citations of the actual scholarly sources from which the article is drawn. In fact, the scientific community seems to take delight in maintaining the entries in wikipedia in the interests of promoting reliable scientific information. (Articles without citations are flagged as unacceptable until citations are provided.) I use wikipedia as a source for fact checking, and for that, at least in the sciences, it is excellent. Of course, wikipedia is not perfect, but neither is any other source. One must always cross-reference information with other sources, and I do that constantly with all the sources I use—even other textbooks. But it is simply incorrect to say that wikipedia.org is "highly inaccurate, not reliable or not credible." In fact, the four links at the bottom of this message below my signature refer to studies attesting to the accuracy of wikipedia. My own scientist friends all regard the science pages at wikipedia.org as reliable sources of information. Again though, I use wikipedia.org mainly for fact checking and not as a primary content source.
Before closing, I would like briefly to address the issue of credibility by mentioning the scientific credentials of one of my reviewers, Dr. Chris Mack. Chris is one of the world's leading experts in the field of photolithography. He has five BS degrees (including physics and chemistry), an MS in Electrical Engineering, and a PhD in Chemical Engineering. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and is the author of over 170 peer-reviewed scientific publications. In 2009 Chris was awarded the prestigious Frits Zernike Award for Microlithography, and in 2010 he was elected Fellow of the IEEE. Chris is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS (JM3). Chris has read all of my books and has been most stringent in seeing that my scientific descriptions are accurate. Chris (along with others) has read all of my books and has directly helped me to assure that they are as scientifically accurate as finite writers and editors can make them.
I could address your concerns at further length, but I think I will let this explanation suffice. Naturally, if you have additional questions, please let me know.
Our mission is to provide premier science instruction methods and materials for Christian students grade 7-12th, to the glory of God. Excellence in Christian education cannot exist where passions and alarms have colored the study before it has even begun. A good education involves bringing students into the ongoing conversation of ideas, insisting on their mature engagement with them.
For this reason, Novare’s future biology texts (Life Science for middle school, and General Biology and Microbiology for high school) will include a complete presentation of evolutionary theory in a manner appropriate to the grade level of each text. Our texts will not cast aspersions or malign the intelligence or character of evolutionary theorists. Neither will they advocate in favor of the acceptance or rejection of evolution. They will present the current state of the scientific consensus as best it can be done at each level.
Novare Science & Math as a company does not take a position on evolution, and for a good reason. To explain why will take some space here. First a word about “theories.”
A theory is a mental model that we use to try to explain experimental data and to predict outcomes of future experiments. Evolution is just like other theories such as The Atomic Model, Photosynthesis, Kinetic-Molecular Theory of Gases, and Relativity. To say that evolution is "just a theory" that "has never been proven" is a misunderstanding of the word theory. In science everything is a theory. Science can be described as the enterprise of developing good theories. Theories are the glory of science.
Secondly, theories are never “proven.” Theories should never be spoken of as “true” or “false”. It is more appropriate to say a theory is either “strong” or “weak” depending on how well it can explain the data and predict future experimental outcomes. If enough experiments are conducted that cannot be explained by the theory, that theory is weakened. Conversely, if experiments and data confirm the theory, then it is strengthened, but not “proven.” True and False are words that do not apply to theories. All we can say about the theory of evolution is, “is it a strong theory, or is it weak?” In other words, how well does it explain experimental data?
Still, a theory can be strong and people can still reject it (and vice versa. For example UFOs which many people accept with little or no evidence). While we acknowledge that evolution is the mother of all debates between Evangelical Christianity and the scientific mainstream, our concern lies in advocating and facilitating the best educational practices in the Christian science classroom or homeschool. This means that students should, for starters, be presented with the concepts and mechanics of evolution for the sake of scientific literacy.
But because evolution reaches so far into Christian worldview concerns, there will necessarily need to be a discussion on the worldview level. One way in which we hope to address this is to publish a Discussion Guide in the form of a supplementary booklet (tentatively called Teachers and Students Discussing Evolution). While the textbook will contain some interaction about worldview concerns, this resource will go much further. We envision it containing primary source readings, incisive discussion questions, and approaches to scientific, philosophical, and Biblical angles of the issue that will foster productive interaction and learning.
As discussed in our book Teaching Science so that Students Learn Science, students should have a safe place to bring their questions. In any school, there will be students who bring varying sides of the issue to class with them. In Economics, Government, and Bible courses, good educators present ideas in a neutral way for students to wrestle with rather than simply teach their own opinions. In the same way, when the day comes in the biology class to talk about evolution, educators should create an inviting learning environment, teaching students to interact respectfully with each other, presenting all sides of the issue dispassionately. As in all subjects, and in life as an adult, an idea should stand or fall based on its own merits.
Will our book insist upon acceptance of evolutionary theory? No. We will present it as we would any scientific topic: as the mainstream scientific model for explaining origins, with little interaction on worldview matters. Anyone is free to reject evolution, but our job is not worldview concerns or harmonizing science and the faith convictions of those who find an idea to be in conflict. There are many other books on that subject. And there are Christian believers to be found at every point along the spectrum of opinion.
Christianity is a big tent. There is room for a variety of views on many secondary doctrines such as baptism, predestination, and eschatology. There is even room for difference of opinion on evolution. Many sincere Christians (indeed, the majority of Christians worldwide) accept evolution as at least part of the way God brought about the variety of life on earth. It is part of our communion as the people of God, united in Christ, that we respect differences of opinion on secondary issues.
Also, several of our resources do not make religious references including The Student Lab Report Handbook, Science for Every Teacher, Favorite Experiments in Physics and Physical Science and our two Chemistry Experiment manuals.
This is one thing that is very different about Novare 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.
Sound crazy? Outside the box? Read Teaching Science so that Students Learn Science for a full treatment of mastery-learning methods.
The biblical interpretation on this question is discussed at length in the this blog article. That is not the concern here.
Practically speaking, a Young Earth school that wants to expose their students to both sides of the age-of-the-earth debate will have to supplement one side or the other. It can use one of the many Young Earth texts and supplement some old earth material. Or it can use Novare’s Old Earth text and supplement the Young Earth side.
In a Young Earth community or context, chances are students are already very much exposed to Young Earth arguments. So if such a school is going to supplement, it would be better to use a well-crafted, Christian, Old Earth text and supplement (if necessary) the Youth Earth side. Or the Young Earth school board can simply disavow the Old Earth material in the text and go right on using the book.
Many schools have a policy of not taking a stance on divisive issues such as predestination vs. freewill, speaking in tongues, end times prophecy, communion, baptism, the role of women in the church, church government etc. The age of the earth is a similar issue about which Christians of good will can disagree.
There are two problems with changing the traditional sequence. One is that since most schools follow the traditional sequence, students moving in and out of the school will not be in sync with the math courses at the schools they are coming from or going to. This is a practical issue. The other has more to do with child development: When geom occurs between the two algebras, most students are at a good place developmentally for studying geometry.
The only justification I have ever seen for changing this sequence to place the two algebra courses adjacent to one another is that students forget their Algebra 1 by the time they get to Alg 2 after a year in Geom. That does not seem to me to be a very good justification—it assumes there is nothing we can do to prevent students from forgetting their algebra! But Algebra 1 is too fundamental to forget. A superior approach, in my view, involves two components. First, teach Algebra according to mastery principles—lots of review problems on assessments so that students internalize basic concepts. Second, review algebra skills constantly throughout the geometry course, including on exams, so that during the geometry year students don’t forget their algebra.
Our physics and chemistry texts are suitable for AP classes designed by the College Board. Chemistry for Accelerated Students can be used with AP Chemistry, and Physics: Modeling Nature can be used with the AP Physics 1/2 curriculum. In each case, the text covers the entire AP curriculum with a small number of exceptions. (For example, in the case of AP Chemistry, our text does not address the topics of sigma and pi bonding.) Those considering AP courses should note two important points.
First, AP courses require a great deal of planning and entail particular ways of organizing and emphasizing course material. Our texts do not address these particulars. Instructors are advised to undertake a training course administered by the College Board in order to be properly trained for conducting an AP course.
Second, the AP curriculum for both these courses requires a significant laboratory component. The experiments books we supply for use with our chemistry and physics courses are not extensive enough to meet the demands of the AP curriculum. Instructors need to implement a laboratory program using a suitable set of experiments. Implementing such a program requires a substantial amount of time each week.
I did not use the arrow analogy because although it is a correct analogy, it is very misleading because it is always poorly explained. I have never seen it correctly explained in any text. Writers use it because everyone else uses it, and its explanation seems clear and obvious, even though it is not. Shooting arrows implies a human action of delivering something (arrows) to something else (target). But in the context of science, the concepts of accuracy and precision refer to the taking of measurements. It is not we who give to something else; it is the something else that gives something to us, namely, its measurements. Thus, students have a clear idea of how precision applies to shooting arrows, but they do not have a clear idea of how the arrow analogy applies to the taking of measurements. I have always thought the arrow analogy to be particularly terrible just because it is so misleading in this respect, and everyone keeps using it without noticing the pedagogical failure involved.
Now, as the text explains, precision in measurements has to do with the resolution in the measurement, the fine-ness or graininess of the measurement. If I take measurements with a more precise tool, my measurement will consistently “hit” more closely together. And if the measurements are also accurate, then the tightly clustered measurements will be close to the true measurement. This is where the arrow analogy comes in.
Here is another example. Let’s say we have a box whose true length is 9.85000 inches. As described in the text, when measuring we know all digits with certainty except the last one, which is an estimate between the two finest marks on the scale. If we measure the box’s length with one of those rulers for children marked off to the nearest ¼ inch, the length falls between 9 ¾ inches and 10 inches on the ruler. People will estimate differently, but the estimates might be values such as 9.8 or 9.9 inches (all valid measurements). If, instead of the low-precision ruler, we use a higher-precision ruler marked off in tenths of an inch, we still must estimate, but now we are estimating the hundredths value instead of the tenths value. The length falls between 9.8 and 9.9 inches, so our estimates will be values such as 9.83, 9.84, 9.85, 9.86, or 9.87 (all valid measurements). We can get even more precise by using some kind of instrument that can measure to the nearest hundredth of an inch. Now our measurements will be values such as 9.849, 9.850, or 9.851. These are all very close together—the spread between the highest and lowest estimates is only 0.002 inches.
So you see that precision is all about the fine-ness or resolution of the measurement, and this is signified by the number of digits we have in the measurement, the significant digits. But greater precision in the measurement allows us to make repeated measurements that are close together, just as 9.849, 9.850, and 9.851 are all much closer together than 9.7, 9.8 and 9.9 are. This is analogous to the arrows being close together on the target.
The arrow analogy always shows arrows close together to signify precision, and arrows clustered at the center to signify accuracy. In the measurement example above, a device that measures to the nearest hundredth of an inch could be poorly manufactured so that all the measurements are off by a tenth of an inch. This would result in measurements of 9.749, 9.750, or 9.751. These are all close together (like the arrows), but they are inaccurate because they are not close to the true value. The target analogy illustrates this with arrows clustered closely together but not at the bull’s eye.
Finally, I have found that students often fail to learn the accuracy/precision definitions at first until they find out from the quiz that they are expected to learn the definitions in the text thoroughly and be able to quote them (rather than giving vague or superficial answers lacking in detail). The objectives say this, but kids being what they are, they often under-estimate how thorough they need to be. They need to be given a poor score on the question when this happens and told to sharpen up their ability to give a thorough and correct answer to the question next time around. The answers in the sample answers are the answers I expect my students to deliver, and they do. Students will meet our high expectations when we hold them accountable for doing so, and the result is high-quality learning. When they must answer the question over and over on quizzes over a period of months, then mastery and long-term retention are achieved. These are the goals of our methodology.