Kinetic Books has developed several products that are worthy of the homeschool communities perusal. There has long been an absence of science curriculum that can be done in the home and still have the effect and results of a lab situation. Kinetic Books recognized this problem and although originally designed for the school platform, their products work amazingly well in the home school environment.
To test the Principles of Physics program, I installed the program and then set my 17 year old son to complete it. Principles of Physics (PP) is a full year of algebra level physics. You may not think you need the algebra at the beginning but the assumption is there and the requirement is stated and it becomes quickly apparent that at least Algebra 1 is necessary. So, we began. I expected Jon to whiz through the program and he did so - not completely happily because he is not a science loving kid - but fairly easily, which is what I wanted to note. The program installed easily and completely and the graphics are fair to good and the explanations straight forward and complete.
What I did NOT expect was for me to get 'sucked into' the world of physics along with my son. I should note here that I received a very very low mark in high school physics and ever after I had considered myself 'physically impaired' if you can take the pun. BUT the folks at Kinetic Books did such a good job introducing the subject, I wasn't intimidated and I didn't run in fear. I read the first chapter, then the second, then I had my husband laughing at me for the number of times I said "did you know..." as I was reading. I thoroughly enjoyed what I have learned so far, and I intend to finish the program with my son this year. I can't believe how good that makes me feel! Not that physics is required in everyone's life, but a good body of general knowledge is a gift we can give to our children. Kinetic Books has developed a way to make that easier, and actually interesting! Hallelujah!
Principles of Physics is a thorough course, consisting of hundreds of simulations, thousands of animations, and covering everything from basic mathematics and metric history to nuclear physics. Honestly, even if you have never touched on physics in your life, you can teach this course and allow your kids to capture a ton of new information. They even have an online homework option that you can choose, where you will receive different questions than the ones that are included on the program. You can check out the complete table of contents at their website. Besides Principles of Physics they offer Physics for Scientists and Engineers, which is calculus based, and Conceptual Physics, which is a little more rigorous than Hewitts CP which I have already reviewed for The Old Schoolhouse.
Kinetic Books also offers a Virtual Physics Lab which I think is a godsend. It includes 16 labs, starting with mechanics and ending with special relativity, all incredibly well explained with spaces for student's thoughts, notes, responses, and observations. This program is perfect for the student who is taking off with physics but has no access to a lab or the equipment necessary to test out some of the theories. Physics is all about the physical world so this lab helped me out a great deal. I am a very kinesthetic person and I need to see something work in order to understand it - theories and principles just don't cut it. This lab program, in addition to the Principles of Physics program, taught me more in one short setting than I feel I learned in my whole grade 10 physics class.
So, what's in there? Well, since it is computer based, you do need to have access to a computer. The version I reviewed was good for Windows or Macintosh, and included the ability to personalize my book by adding margin notes and highlights where I chose to put them, making recall and review much easier for both my son and I. In a typical chapter you will find a qualitative exercise which establishes the focus of the chapter and enables the student to experiment with key concepts. This is followed by 4 or 5 explanatory paragraphs. These paragraphs explain the concepts involved, and they include lots of animations and diagrams that are very helpful. Then you will find a couple of sections of student self assessment via simulations or interactive checkpoints, some more explanatory discussion, and on to the next chapter. It flows very easily and I think you and your students will find it a welcome break from the normal routine of textbooks and written answers. I like the instant gratification when I get a simulation and play it out successfully and I appreciate the explanations and helps when I don't quite 'get it'.
All the graphics are interactive and they will all animate or play audio etc. I liked to be able to control the pace of the presentation and pause whenever we needed a bit more time. I really liked the interactive whiteboards with equations and examples that I could work with right on screen. Kinetic Books has done physics and proven that you can do physics right along with them, in home, or school. I highly recommend this program; it might just change your own outlook on science!
The prices are another huge perk in favor of Kinetic Books. Realizing that textbook prices are going through the roof, they have managed not only to keep their prices down, but keep them very low, especially for what you receive. You can purchase these programs for a single computer or for a computer lab, either way the prices work for me. I am impressed, so now you can go and check them out for yourselves!
One thing I should note, if you are just looking for some extra lab work for your students, for example you already have a physics program but it is very text based; the Virtual Physics lab would be a good choice for you. It is a stand alone product and does not require the textbook. The lab write-ups contain all the physics relevant to the lab topic. My son found a few minor frustrations in the first lab, but after that it went fine. These labs generally will take from 45 to 60 minutes each but there are a few that could take you up to two or three hours to work through...Mission to Mars anyone? We had a good feeling about the whole Kinetic Books experience and I am sure you will also.