I am often amazed at the plethora of homeschool curriculum options in some areas, but at the same time, I'm also surprised at how difficult it can be to find the right option in other areas. When Addison was in high school, we searched high and low for a physics class that met her high standards. She dismissed one curriculum because of math inaccuracies, one because it unnecessarily "dumbed down" the science concepts, and another because it didn't have enough math. (She called the latter one "math for music majors.") She wanted a solid advanced physics course that would prepare her for college engineering classes. She also hoped for calculus-based physics instructions, as opposed to the more popular algebra-based methods. I tried to explain that the majority of homeschool high schoolers are not ready to use calculus in a science class, but she counter-argued that there still should be that option available for the few students who wanted to go the more difficult route.
As I started once again researching high school physics options, I was pleased to find Novare Science & Math. They advertise their materials as being "both true to the historic Christian faith and academically robust." Brennan and I have been examining the Physics: Modeling Nature textbook and a digital version of its corresponding Resource CD so that we could determine if it would meet his need for an Advanced Physics course next year.
Novare believes in a physics-first approach to high school science classes. Their Introductory Physics materials are intended to be used by 9th graders (and up through 11th graders). It emphasizes math concepts but can be completed by a student that is currently taking Algebra I. An advanced introductory option is to use Accelerated Studies in Physics and Chemistry, which is designed for 9th graders who completed Algebra I in middle school.
Physics: Modeling Nature is designed for upper level high school students (probably seniors) who are on a college preparatory path and who have already completed trigonometry. The preface to the book clearly outlines the specific knowledge and skills that a student should be familiar with prior to starting this course. I should note, however, that the topics are fully explained in this text and that a student will have all the information they need, even if they've not fully mastered the topic in an earlier class (or have forgotten it). Brennan has not taken a formal physics class, but he has studied a lot of physics topics during his Science Olympiad preparations the past two years. Since he completed Pre-Calculus last year, Physics: Modeling Nature looks to be at the perfect level for his junior year.
As expected, Physics: Modeling Nature is a serious textbook -- "academically robust" is indeed a good description. The first chapter jumps in with a quick review of matter, mass, the SI unit system, significant digits, and more. It then moves into a detailed explanation of vectors and how to work with them in a mathematical sense (vector addition using trigonometry and vector multiplication). Brennan read through the textbook materials on his own, but then asked my husband (who has an engineering degree) to clarify a few things. The text gives an example using work and explains that common simple definitions of work, such as those used in an introductory physics class, do not account for a force applied in a direction different to the direction of the movement.
In chapter 2, I see the first "Connections to Calculus" section. Physics: Modeling Nature never requires a student to know Calculus, but it includes separated sections that explain connections between physics concepts and calculus-based math. Based on Brennan's Calculus schedule, he will not have enough calculus knowledge by the time he is in chapter 2 of this physics book to understand the explanation. He could, however, go back to this section to see a real-life application when he gets to this concept in his Calculus class. I showed one of these sections to Addison, and she thought it was great. In fact, this format was probably what she was looking for when she was searching for an acceptable Physics course for her senior year of high school (when she had already finished Calculus I).
In addition to the textbook, Novare offers a Resource CD to help a parent or teacher teach the course. There is a schedule which breaks down the material into daily assignments, quizzes (with answer keys), exams (again with answer keys), and recommendations for teaching. The answers to all of the textbook exercises are included in the back of the book, but full written explanations of those problems are only available in the Solutions Manual (sold separately).
Physics: Modeling Nature is a high-quality advanced Physics course designed for students wanting to pursue a math or science intensive field of study in college. I wish Addison could've found this option when she was looking at homeschool science curriculum a few years ago.
Novare Science & Math offers several other science courses, including Earth Science, Physical Science, Chemistry, and Physics. Homeschool Review Crew members have been using various products for the past few weeks and are sharing their thoughts on the crew blog; be sure to check them out if you are looking for a great science program for your older students.