From the very first time my kids sat down to watch a recorded lesson of Science is WEIRD, our entire family was hooked. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a class that marketed itself as “hyperactive.” I wasn’t really planning to watch it with my kids. I’m a grown-up. I have things to do. I even told them they were free to wander away if they got bored. Honestly, I kind of didn’t want them to like it because of the monthly expense. About one minute in, we were all riveted. The teacher, Brandon, is compelling. He uses his sense of humor and larger-than-life personality to draw kids (and grown-ups 😂) into the mysteries and intricacies of science. Since our family started taking their classes nearly two years ago, my kids have insisted that we do everything this company puts out. There is so much value in what they do, that I’m fully onboard with this plan.
Some of you might know me from my minimalist math curriculum. I love math, but I don’t believe in wasting my kids’ time. Time is our most precious commodity. I want math to have meaning and value for them. Similarly, I love science (even more than I love math 😄). I have a PhD and Masters in engineering from Stanford where I was a part of the Stanford Plasma Physics Laboratory. I went to Caltech for my undergrad and got my bachelor’s degree in Engineering and Applied Science. I’ve interned for NASA. I worked as a research scientist in space propulsion for the U.S. Air Force for over a decade. I’m currently enrolled in a teacher’s program through WGU to get my Masters in Education and license to teach high school physics. Whether they become scientists and engineers or not, I want my kids to love and appreciate the beauty of science as much as I do. Science is WEIRD takes care of ALL of that for me.
They have a ridiculous guarantee posted on their website that says kids will learn more science in a 6-week topic than all of the last school year AND have more fun doing it or your money back. The first time I read that, I thought, “Ha! Yeah, right.” I was amused by their bold claim and, honestly, it was probably the nudge that got me to sign up. I thought, what’s there to lose? Well, my self-assured smugness, for one.
That first month, we took Crows are WEIRD and I could NOT believe how interested every single person in my family became about crows. We would be at the soccer field and my then-5-year-old would point to the sky and yell “Corvus!” My 11-year-old had a big fat journal full of notes he had taken himself. All of my kids could not wait to dive into all the extra videos, trivia, and activities that were sent out to go along with each lesson. By the end of those 6 weeks, my kids had not only learned about crow’s anatomy, lifestyles, mating habits, intelligence, and evolution but so much more. They learned the classification system for animals, about natural selection, vertebrates vs. invertebrates, cold-blooded vs. warm-blooded, sound waves and hearing, the chemical composition and structure of feathers. They touched on history through Carl Linnaeus and geography in describing the decline of bird populations worldwide. They had philosophical discussions regarding the meaning of intelligence and whether it’s appropriate to anthropomorphize animals.
The best part? They had so much fun doing it. The company also has a complete workshop series on their educational philosophy which is utterly fascinating. Basically, they help kids cultivate their “life of the mind” by leveraging ways of understanding that humanity has been using throughout history (and pre-history). Each lesson is a riddle that kids work together to solve. Brandon, the teacher, acts as a guide, asking questions, sharing stories, offering metaphors, and providing mental images to help kids find their way to the answer, which itself is always surprising and memorable in some way.
We started off the first year just watching the recorded webinars. Our schedule was so busy that we weren’t able to make them live. This is the least expensive Science is Weird option, and we still got so much out of it. We were completely unprepared for how much content there would be. In addition to each weekly hour-long lesson/riddle, they also send a PDF file filled with supplemental videos to watch, trivia, and other ways to extend the learning. After the first 6 weeks, kids who have completed certain sections of the supplemental content are eligible to take a “scary” test (which is actually really fun and not scary at all). Regardless of how you do on the test, you are automatically admitted into the “Philosopher’s Club” where you get even MORE bonus content including an entire extra class. That first month for crows, we fell behind and my kids were so bummed. However, after we eventually did all the work, I emailed their administrative person, Angela, who kindly sent us the bonus lesson replay.
After doing the recorded webinars for a full year, my oldest was obsessed and wanted to do the live seminar summer camps. These are a big step up in price, but they offer kids the chance to participate on-camera in a small group setting. They get to share their ideas, guesses, and crazy ideas face-to-face with Brandon and a class of about 15 kids over Zoom. My oldest loved it and didn’t want to go back to the cameras-off lessons. My youngest kids still do the webinar, live when we’re able, but I’ve continued paying for my oldest to continue doing the more intimate seminars.
Science is WEIRD teaches kids of any age more science than any curriculum or program I’ve ever seen. Our family actually enjoys a lot of other science curricula (for example, Sassafras, Real Science Odyssey, and Science Mom). However, none of these really compare with the level of engagement that my kids have using Science is WEIRD. The classes are taught in such a way that what they learn is memorable and meaningful. If money is an issue, I would say start with just one recorded topic from their science library and do it at your own pace. You could feel confident with that as your entire science curriculum for several months. If you have a child that is interested in science or just really want your kids to develop a passion for science, their monthly subscription which runs from September to June is the way to go.
NOTE April 2023: The last topic of the 2022-2023 school year will be Dogs are WEIRD which will cover zoology (and, I’m sure, so much more). As dog lovers, my kids can’t wait! If you’re a new customer and would like to try it for half off, you can sign up for the self-paced option using the code HALFDOGSREC, the live option using code HALFDOGSLIVE, and the Tuesday evening small group seminar using code DOGSTUESEVE.
Here are some of the benefits of Science is WEIRD.
- ENGAGEMENT – The classes are so engaging. There is nothing “school-like” about them. The teacher is funny, the content is fascinating, and the pace is perfect to keep students’ attention.
- CONTENT – The material is not dumbed down for kids. The classes teach high-level science concepts in a way that is accessible to kids of all ages. In my Master’s program coursework, I have spent SO MUCH TIME with the Next Generation Science Standards and I feel completely comfortable saying the content exceeds national standards.
- ALL AGES – My youngest is 6 and my oldest is 13. The age range advertised on their website is 8 to 14, but personally, I think they are selling themselves short. My 6-year-old may not understand it all, but he is entertained and gets a ton out of it. It seems unlikely my 13-year-old is going to want to stop in a couple years given how much he loves it now. I’m spending a lot of time in high school science classrooms as part of my Masters program and I feel confident saying that this is appropriate even for high schoolers. I love that this is a curriculum we can truly do as a family. (And with the webinars, another benefit is that it is just one price for the whole family.)
- FOR EVERYONE – Is your child gifted? These classes would be perfect. Are they dyslexic? My dyslexic child adores these classes. (The teacher actually sends out all his drawings after class which is so helpful for my dyslexic kiddo.) Does your child have ADHD? So does the teacher! These classes were designed with those who have ADHD in mind.
- DEEP DIVES – Each class comes with a whole packet of ways to explore the material even further. These are entirely optional, but also a lot of fun.
- PHILOSOPHERS CLUB – At no extra cost, Science is WEIRD entices kids to not only do the Deep Dives, but also to VOLUNTARILY take a test on what they learned by offering an array of extra experiences to those who put in the work. A bonus class, a live brain bowl and game show, playing Mario Kart with the teacher…my kids stay on top of ME to make sure they don’t miss out. How often do you hear kids say, “Mom, don’t forget we need to take the scary test!”?
- CUSTOMER SERVICE – This company is run by a small group of caring people. Can’t make a class live? Email Angela and she will send you the recording. Can’t find a link or misplaced a file? Email Angela and she will get it to you. Have any issues at all? Just email Angela and she will take care of you quickly and kindly. I feel like I should be sending Angela a Christmas card based on the number of times she’s helped me out.
- CRITICAL THINKING – Each class is a riddle. Kids are not spoon-fed information. They have to work for it. Kids are not only learning science, but how to think like a scientist. Whether or not kids pursue science in their adult lives, the skills they learn in these classes will last their lifetime.
- MAKING CONNECTIONS – Each class is not just about science. The classes weave in relevant connections to other areas of human knowledge. History, geography, psychology, philosophy…the learning becomes more meaningful when kids see how it all ties together.
- SO EASY FOR PARENTS – I am good at science. I like science. And I love that I don’t have to do anything to make sure that my kids are getting a fantastic science education. I supply them with a laptop, an internet connection, and time in their schedule. Brandon does the rest.
Here are some of the cons. Yes, I know, they’re not EXACTLY cons, but they have a con-ish feeling to them.
- PRICE – Is it worth it? Yes. Is it a lot? It can definitely feel that way. Their cheapest option (the self-paced, recorded webinar) is $35/month for the whole family which comes out to $350 for all 10 months of the school year. When we started, that felt excessive given that other printable or book-based science curricula I’ve purchased in the past were under $100 for an entire year. However, even a single Science is WEIRD topic (currently $70) will almost certainly result in more long-term science knowledge than any of those other curricula.
- SO MANY OPTIONS – When you’re starting out, it can feel confusing to know what to do. Seminars? Webinars? Live? Asynchronous? The important thing to know is that all the content is the same. The variable is the level of interaction and type of student participation. If you can make the webinars live (currently 4 pm Eastern/1 pm Pacific on Wednesdays), that’s the way to go in my opinion. If not, getting the recordings from those live classes is a great option. It’s what my family did the first year. (If it’s still April 2023 when you’re reading this, use code HALFDOGSLIVE or HALFDOGSREC for half off.)
- OVERWHELM – It’s a lot. No, I’m not kidding. It’s REALLY a lot. Their Deep Dives currently include links to videos, trivia, an activity, a book recommendation with an accompanying video, a cypher just for fun, and a set of digital spaced-repetition flashcards. The pace is fast and our family does it all, but honestly, it can be a challenge to fit it all in some weeks. I have blocks of time set aside in our schedule for Science is WEIRD. However, remember that all the extra stuff is optional. You aren’t behind if you choose not to do it. Also, my advice for someone who tends to get overwhelmed by curriculum easily is to just start with one topic, let it be your only science curriculum and take your time. I promise it will be enough.
- CONTROVERSY – Science is WEIRD takes some controversial stances, such as teaching kids about evolution. You can read more about them here to see if they fit with your own family’s personal beliefs.
- LANGUAGE – Brandon has been known to say “stupid” and “crap” on occasion. Personally, this is a selling point among my band of hooligans, but just be aware.
- ADDICTION – No, seriously. My kids are obsessed. When I so much as suggested that my oldest maybe didn’t have to do ALL the summer classes last year, he looked at me like I’d lost my mind. These classes may not be for all kids, but just know that if they happen to be for YOUR kid, there is a good chance you will feel some pressure to continue and might even have kids wheedling for the more expensive option. 😜
I hope that’s helpful! If you have any questions, feel free to message me!