REAL Science Odyssey Review

Science curriculum

Although may require a little more prep than some other programs, with its engaging lessons and fun, thought provoking experiments, REAL Science Odyssey offers homeschools a rigorous and thorough secular science curriculum that won’t burn students out. 

If you want an easy way to get your hands dirty and enjoy doing science, rather than just reading about it, REAL Science Odyssey might be the program for you.

What We Like

Try before you buy option lets parents download and check out most of a textbook for themselves
Rigorous secular science curriculum, doesn’t shy away from scientific vocabulary, scientific method and math
Incremental approach to learning makes science learning gentler and easier for kids to absorb the material over time
Very easy to teach, textbooks guide students and parents carefully through each lesson
Teaches science in a very approachable way, with narrative-style lessons and plenty of visuals
Makes hands-on learning a key part of its learning, with plenty of explorational activities and lab components
Multisensory, with lots of visuals, discussions and tactile activities
Lab reports ease kids into using the scientific method and encourage them to think of science as a structured method of inquiry
Tons of fun and engaging experiments that use common household items
Gradually encourages independence in learning

But watch out for

Can require a good deal of prep time to set up experiments properly
Lessons need to be done in a certain order to make sense and prevent knowledge gaps
Doesn’t yet cover all science topics at the middle/high school level

What is REAL Science Odyssey?

Created by Pandia Press, REAL Science Odyssey is a series of secular homeschool science curricula that teach Life Science, Biology, Earth Science, Physics, Chemistry and Astronomy at the Elementary to early High School level. 

Age and Grade Range 

As with other homeschool curricula out there, REAL Science Odyssey doesn’t really have a firm age range for which it is intended.

Instead, the program is divided into two levels – one for K-6 and the other for grades 6-10, with each book teaching a range of grades.

Overall, we think REAL Science Odyssey does a pretty good job at being usable at different grade levels. 

While it’s true that the curriculum can be rigorous and doesn’t shy away from science terminology or concepts, the material and math are explained in ways that even younger students should be able to understand with a little help from their parents. 

For example, concepts and topics are clearly explained in ways that kids (and science-shy parents) can understand and absorb, and REAL Science Odyssey often links abstract ideas to concrete, real world examples, which can help kids better wrap their minds around them. 

How does it work?

REAL Science Odyssey is a classical, secular textbook-based approach to teaching science. 

The overall program is divided into two levels, one for kids up to grade 8 and one for middle and early high school:  

Level One (K-6)

SubjectApprox. Grade Level
Life Science Grades K-4
Earth and Environment Grades 1-4
Astronomy Grades 1-4
Chemistry Grades 2-5
PhysicsGrades 2-5

Level Two 

SubjectApprox. Grade Level
Biology Grades 6-10
Astronomy Grades 6-10

Approach to Teaching Science

Unlike many other science programs for kids REAL Science doesn’t take a spiral approach to science, meaning they don’t integrate several science subjects into a single curriculum and revisit concepts in more depth as they go. 

Instead, each textbook covers a single subject in Science, be it chemistry, physics, biology, earth science or astronomy, and dives deeply and thoroughly into the material over the course of a year 

The overall effect is that kids can then explore a topic more deeply and thoroughly than they would otherwise have a chance to, as the curriculum doesn’t jump from science topic to science topic. 

REAL Science Odyssey Textbooks 

Each course is taught with its own integrated textbook/workbook, which is where students do most of their learning and work.  

These textbooks contain full lessons, as well as relevant exercises and room for answers, and many of the pages are detachable, allowing students to build their own notebooks for later review and study.

For parents with multiple kids, REAL Science Odyssey also helpfully offers supplementary consumables called Student Pages, which lets parents keep their main textbooks unmarked in case they want to reuse them with other kids. 

Level One

At the first level, lessons are designed to be taught by the parent. The textbooks are written to the parent and provide a variety of cues and notes to make teaching each lesson a fairly step by step process. 

In general, parents read through the lessons with the student, possibly engage in a variety of activities, conduct an experiment, observe and discuss results and optionally explore other material (books, videos) for further learning on the subject. 

REAL Science Odyssey doesn’t presuppose any experience at homeschooling or in science, for that matter. 

Each lesson is pretty well scripted and the curriculum as a whole is fairly open and go. 

The Earth Science textbook we looked at, for example, had a variety of scripts that parents could follow word for word, should they choose, to introduce concepts and topics.

It included fairly detailed directions as well as notes on what is being taught, explanations, keywords and why/how each concept fits into the broader scheme of the subject matter. 

Level two

At the higher levels (level two), REAL Science Odyssey promotes more independent learning, which is something we like. 

Textbooks are written to the student, rather than the parent. To that effect, the information is written in a more engaging and slightly more casual way than the lower level material. 

At the same time, parents help guide the learning with a teacher’s guide. 

This guide contains the information included in the textbook as well as essentials to help direct the learning, such as lesson plan suggestions, summaries and explanations, answer keys for tests and assignments and so on. 

As with Level One, Level Two’s textbooks and teacher’s guides are highly scripted and designed to carry the student and parent through the process of learning, making the process of learning fairly open and go. 

Science experiments 

Hands-on learning is a critical component of REAL Science Odyssey. 

While experimentation is an important part of any science curriculum, REAL Science goes a step further and includes multiple hands-on labs and activities for each unit. 

In fact, it is a rare lesson in REAL Science Odyssey that doesn’t have at least one engaging hands-on activity or formal lab experiment. 

Typically, these experiments are pretty simple to put together and pretty much exclusively use common household items. 

For example, a student might make a timeline of the Earth’s age using yarn and crayons, or model inertia with a toy car and lego figurine.  

What this means for parents is that there is no special equipment needed (or provided) to conduct experiments. 

In fact, they’ll most likely have most of the materials they’ll need in their house already, and that which they don’t have can be readily found in most supermarkets or discount stores. 

On the downside, unlike other curricula that include a ready-made kit for experiments, this approach does require parents to gather and prepare materials themselves, which can be time consuming.

Similarly, because the experiments are homemade, it does require a bit more prep time from parents.  

To their credit, however, REAL Science does go to great effort to provide a lab supply list for each curriculum, and its directions for setting up experiments are quite detailed and step by step, leaving little room for error. 

Interestingly, some companies do offer prepared kits for each REAL Science Odyssey subject and level with some of the more unusual and hard to find items.

These can be a real timesaver and quite helpful if you live in a more rural or out of the way area, but they are extra and you do have to buy them separately. 

Although we appreciate the convenience of a ready science kit, we actually like science curricula that use common household items. 

Other than the fact that it keeps the overall cost down, as there’s no need for special equipment or materials, it can make experimenting a less stressful experience for everyone. 

If an experiment goes drastically awry, it is relatively easy to replace any destroyed or ruined material. As a result, parents and students can feel a little more free to play around and test things.

Similarly, this approach can help kids learn that science is all around them, which is itself useful in getting them thinking critically about the world around them. 

What’s it like using the REAL Science Odyssey Curriculum

REAL Science Odyssey’s textbooks and curriculum are designed to teach through a full school year, and this becomes fairly evident when you first handle one of their textbooks. 

They are fairly lengthy textbooks, usually a couple hundred pages each depending on the subject, and the lessons are usually grouped into a few different thematic units. 

For example, in Earth Science there are units on Plate Tectonics, the Geosphere, Weather and Climate, while in Physics there are units on Newton’s Laws, Friction, Magnetism and so on.

Now, REAL in REAL Science Odyssey stands for 

  • Read 
  • Explore 
  • Absorb 
  • Learn

And to one degree or another, the way in which REAL Science teaches tends to reflect this.

The Lessons (Read)

Each lesson begins with a materials list for the relevant experiment, so parents can get started with prep as early as possible.

Parents and students then begin with the the formal lesson. 

The lessons themselves are presented in a casual, narrative form, almost like a little story, weaving scientific fact, methods, thought and even history into an entertaining whole. 

During this narrative there are quite a few questions that parents are supposed to ask, designed to spark discussion and deeper thought on the part of the student, getting them to think critically about what they’re learning, which we liked. 

Lessons also frequently include diagrams and cartoons that parents can work with to visually demonstrate concepts, which can be quite helpful sometimes. 

As parents move through lessons, they’ll frequently encounter a variety of activities.

Some are simple thought exercises, such as explaining what might happen in a hypothetical scenario of some sort, others may get kids out and exploring their environment, doing things like kite flying, stargazing and more. 

REAL Science Odyssey’s lessons are incrementally taught. 

This means that the concepts presented build on themselves gradually from lesson to lesson. 

On the one hand, this is a far gentler approach to teaching science that doesn’t overwhelm students as much with vocabulary and facts. 

On the other hand, it does mean that the lessons have to be taught in a certain order to make sense, meaning parents can’t easily dip in and out or rearrange the curriculum to suit their needs. 

That said, the lessons really are step by step, giving parents a script they can read out, as well as fairly detailed instructions and procedures to carry out.

As with most heavily scripted curricula, what the lessons perhaps lack in flexibility and overall customization, they certainly make up for in ease of use. 

In fact, if a parent had no experience homeschooling before or had no background in science, we think they would have no issue teaching a lesson with REAL Science Odyssey.

Labs (Explore and Absorb).

Generally speaking, following the lesson there is a more formal hands-on lab experiment.

The labs tend to have two components- the experiment itself and a “report” – specific exercises that get kids used to approaching problems using the scientific method. 

Experiments

The experiments in REAL Science are pretty interesting and fun for kids, and some of them are pretty creative in making the most out of everyday items

In fact, our tester reportedly kept the coke-bottle model Earth they built as part of testing out the Earth Science curriculum for quite some time in their bedroom. 

That said, being designed for younger kids and to be performed using household materials there’s nothing too crazy or wildly different about them, there won’t be much in the way of fiery explosions, lasers or work with powerful acids, for example.

Reports

Before and following the experiment, students have to construct a hypothesis, note their observations, note their results and draw a conclusion. 

They usually also have to answer somewhat leading questions that get them thinking more critically about what’s going on (asking what would happen if certain parts of the experiment were to change, for instance) and what might happen in different circumstances.

In this way, REAL Science makes their lab component more true to life, giving kids ample opportunity to get used to using the scientific method and is actually one of the one of the things we really like about REAL Science. 

Many curricula, especially for young kids, approach experimentation in a more haphazard way, with labs ending after reaching some kind of result. 

By including the scientific method in its reports, we think REAL Science can be really beneficial in getting kids thinking about science as a structured approach of inquiry, in getting them to think critically about the world around them and in helping them learn to organize their thinking in general. 

Ideas for Further Learning

REAL Science concludes each unit with a section that offers ideas and suggestions for further learning. 

These can be books or texts or even links to popular YouTube videos that parents and students can watch together, which we thought was kind of fun. 

Is REAL Science Odyssey an open and go curriculum

By providing parents with easy to implement, scripted and step by step lessons, and a plan to work with, REAL Science Odyssey makes it quite easy for parents to get started teaching science. 

Unlike other homeschool curricula out there, there’s no real need to learn how to use its program or how to teach using its approach. 

As such, we think it’s a pretty open and go curriculum overall. 

That said, it is a very hands-on curriculum with explorational learning being a critical component, and parents will probably need to spend some time doing prep work, figuring out the procedures, setting up the experiment and sometimes even building things. 

This means parents with a very busy homeschool may have to more carefully budget their time compared to science curriculum that provide experiments in a box. 

Is REAL Science Odyssey Secular, Neutral or Faith-based?

Real Science Odyssey is a secular science curriculum – it contains no religious material and is not influenced by any religious beliefs or groups. 

In addition, its biology, astronomy and earth science courses all teach their material from a secular perspective. with sections on evolution, the natural origin of the universe and climate change.

Is REAL Science Odyssey Standards aligned? 

No, although we think the quality of science teaching is quite thorough and can serve as a good foundation in science for most homeschools, REAL Science Odyssey is not common core or Next Generation Science Standards aligned at this time. 

Pros and Cons of REAL Science Odyssey

Pros

Multisensory 

REAL Science Odyssey is a very multisensory program. In addition to listening/reading about science, students can learn from diagrams and other visual elements, as well as through a great number of hands-on, tactile experiments and activities. 

Rigorous approach to science

While REAL Science Odyssey is written in an approachable way with a variety of cartoon illustrations, it does take its science quite seriously. 

In its program, kids will be exposed to fairly sophisticated concepts in science and are challenged to develop a proper science vocabulary, to approach observation with the scientific method and to develop their applied math skills as they pertain to the various science subjects. 

Approachable

A rigorous curriculum can have the tendency to overwhelm students with math, scientific concepts and complex jargon, burning them out and turning them off the path of scientific inquiry before they’ve even really started. 

To help get around this, REAL Science Odyssey is written to both parents and students in a very clear and straightforward way, using illustrations and cartoons to lighten the mood, offering lots of hands on, explorational learning ideas and frequently drawing comparisons between the concepts they’re trying to teach and things kids are already familiar with. 

Easy to use and teach with 

REAL Science Odyssey is also quite easy to teach with. 

Parents who are perhaps less confident in their ability to teach physics and chemistry will appreciate the fact that the lessons are quite scripted and will guide them through teaching pretty painlessly

Very hands-on

One of the central components of the REAL in REAL Science Odyssey is Explore. 

As such REAL Science is a very hands-on science program, with a lot of science experiments to go through and lessons that will get kids out observing and interacting with the world around them, experiencing how scientific principles work outside the textbook. 

Promotes independent inquiry and learning

REAL Science does allow some freedom for students to take learning into their own hand. 

In level one, students work together with their parents, but are tasked with putting together their own notebook and learning material, as well as being challenged to be an active participant in learning and observing scientific phenomenon through targeted questions, reports and analysis. 

At level two, Real Science allows students a greater degree of independence, letting them take charge of their learning with textbooks written to and for them. 

Cons

Experiments do require some prep work

While relying on home products for DIY experiments does keep the overall price of the curriculum down, it does mean that parents will have to spend some time familiarizing themselves with the experiment, organizing material and planning out its execution. 

While not uncommon with homeschool science curricula, finding the time to do it can be a hassle for parents with a busy or chaotic homeschool life.

Incremental approach makes it harder to customize order of lessons

REAL Science Odyssey takes an incremental approach to teaching science concepts, where concepts and ideas are introduced gradually over the period of several lessons. 

As a consequence, its lessons have to be done in sequence or students will build up critical knowledge gaps. 

Parents who are looking to supplement an existing science curriculum by picking and choosing chapters they like may need to look elsewhere. 

Doesn’t cover all science subjects yet

While REAL Science covers elementary and middle school subjects fairly well and in depth, at the upper levels it is currently only available for select subjects, Biology and Astronomy, which can limit its usefulness to some degree.

Who is REAL Science Odyssey ideal for?

Secular homeschoolers

REAL Science Odyssey is a secular homeschool science curriculum. It teaches topics like evolution and offers natural theories for the origin of the universe (Big Bang, etc). 

As such, RSO can be a great curriculum for homeschoolers who don’t want to teach using a faith-neutral curriculum or by adapting a faith-based one. 

Kids who benefit from extensive hands-on and multisensory learning

Students who enjoy getting hands on and physically engaging with their subject matter will find a lot to like with REAL Science Odyssey. 

In addition to the formal experiments, each lesson contains suggestions for going out and exploring science in the real world, which is great for kids who want to get up and move or who have a hard time absorbing abstract concepts and can benefit from real world, concrete explorations.

Those looking for a rigorous STEM curriculum that won’t overwhelm kids

REAL Science Odyssey is a fairly rigorous curriculum that doesn’t shy away from teaching younger kids the scientific method, scientific vocabulary or getting them to do the relevant applied math.

That said, the textbooks are still written in a very engaging and approachable way, with plenty of fun illustrations and activities to help reduce stress. 

Those who want to limit screen time when it comes to science learning

REAL Science Odyssey is a textbook based curriculum.

While there is an option for ebooks, these are meant to be printed out as needed, as a good deal of learning involves writing reports and answering questions in a classic pencil and paper method, 

This makes it an ideal program for parents concerned about screen time.

Who is it not ideal for?

Religious or faith neutral homeschoolers

REAL Science Odyssey is a science curriculum that doesn’t shy away from teaching science from a secular point of view. 

Consequently, it teaches concepts like evolution and the big bang as fact and does not offer alternative theories or leave much room for parents to modify it with their own beliefs.

As such it may not be an ideal science curriculum for faith-based homeschoolers.

Those looking for a more high tech curriculum

While RSO does offer suggestions for videos that students can watch on their own to further their learning , it does not itself contain a lot of high tech learning. 

There are no in-built videos, games or adaptive learning algorithms. 

In fact, aside from its availability as an ebook, it is pretty much a pencil and paper curriculum. 

Parents looking for more technology-integrative or multimedia science learning, may need to look elsewhere. 

Really busy homeschools

While REAL Science Odyssey does do a good job at guiding parents through the process of teaching various science subjects, and it does slowly transition into more independent learning for students, it does rely on a lot of homemade science experiments that can require some prep work to set up.

This prep work generally has to be done before each lesson and may be hard for busy homeschoolers to fit into their schedules, as such those homeschoolers may be more interested in a science curriculum that provides ready-made and ready to go experiment kits.

Price

REAL Science Odyssey’s books are offered at two price points. Parents can purchase a pre-printed textbook or a less expensive ebook that they can print themselves needed

Level 1 printed textbooks run between $57.99-68.99, while Level 1 ebooks run between $34.99-$42.99. 

Additional level 1 student pages cost $27.99 for a pre-printed copy or $18.99 for a printable ebook version.

At Level 2 things get a little bit more complicated as parents also need to buy a teacher’s guide to help oversee lessons and learning, as well as an extra workbook for biology.

BiologyAstronomy
Textbook (printed)$68.99$69.99
Textbook (ebook)$53.99$39.99
Workbook (printed)$44.99
Workbook (ebook)$29.99
Teacher’s guide (printed)$38.99$38.99
Teacher’s guide (ebook)$25.99$27.99

In terms of price, REAL Science Odyssey is a bit higher priced than some other similar curricula out there, such as Real Science 4 kids or Building Foundations for a Scientific Understanding, particularly at Level 2 when parents will need to purchase a textbook, workbook and teacher’s guide.

That said, the cost can be significantly lowered if parents choose the ebook versions and print it themselves at home.  

One thing that we did like a lot and that is very unusual for a homeschool curriculum is that REAL Science Odyssey offers a free trial of sorts. 

With just an email parents can download a partial copy of any of their textbooks.

These copies contain a table of contents, a materials list and a selection of full lessons from the textbook that really give parents a good idea of what the program is like to use. 

We highly recommend that parents take a look at them before making a decision. 

Is it worth the price?

Although it’s not the most inexpensive science curriculum around, overall we think REAL Science Odyssey is a good choice for homeschoolers looking for a secular science curriculum. 

Each REAL Science Odyssey book is a full year’s curriculum packed full of engaging lessons, hands-on activities and rigorous science learning. 

Despite delving fairly deeply and thoroughly into science topics, and getting kids into the scientific mindset early on, they are written in an approachable, engaging and easy to understand way. 

The lessons are also well designed and scripted, making it very easy for those new to homeschooling or those uncertain about their own science skills to teach, and are essentially as open and go as it gets. 

Finally, REAL Science Odyssey’s experiments are fun and age appropriate, creatively using fairly commonly available home items to produce some pretty entertaining and sometimes thought provoking outcomes. 

Bottom Line

Although may require a little more prep than some other programs, with its engaging lessons and fun, thought provoking experiments, REAL Science Odyssey offers homeschools a rigorous and thorough secular science curriculum that won’t burn students out. 

If you want an easy way to get your hands dirty and enjoy doing science, rather than just reading about it, this might be the program for you.

FAQ

Photo of Jennifer Keenes, a writer for the smarter learning guide

Jennifer

Jennifer Keenes is a writer and a new mom living in Florida. She studied education and, prior to becoming a freelance writer, worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary and middle school level. She is a big fan of the beach, working out and homeschooling her two daughters.