07:44 – This will probably be my last post for a while, and one of few I’ll make between now and my drop-dead book deadline on 31 January.
I thought this comment, which was posted yesterday, deserved more of a response than I could give it in the comments section.
RBT, I have a couple questions relating to your home science books. I don’t recall seeing them asked before, but apologies if they’ve been asked and answered already.
Is the Forensics book likely to be available in the next year or so, or ever? I gather there was an ownership or other legal issue. This is of interest to me because one of my kids is interested in chemistry and biology but his eyes light up when discussing forensics.
Of the Chemistry, Biology, and possible Forensics books and lab sets, is there any required or recommended order? I’ll be getting one of the kits for this coming summer when he’s with me and the second for the following summer. I’m too ignorant to have an informed opinion. (I took Bio and Chem in high school, but that was 30 years ago and the labs were minimal with junk scopes and balances. But that’s ok. The football and basketball teams were well funded, so the important stuff was taken care of.)
Thanks (and best wishes for continued growth and profitability)
I have no idea when (or if) the forensics lab book will be published. The only issue that’s kept it on the shelf until now is that the (print) publishing environment has been very challenging over the last few years. When O’Reilly/MAKE decides to put a book into print, they have to judge whether the cost of doing so is likely to be returned with a profit from sales of that book. Four-color books (like the forensics lab book) have historically been very expensive to produce and print. There’s also a trade-off between print run size and cost per book, but of course printing a whole bunch of copies also incurs warehousing costs and risks having too many copies that don’t sell.
Originally I of course envisioned the biology book I’m working on now as a four-color title, but it soon became clear when I was pitching it to O’Reilly/MAKE that the numbers just wouldn’t support the cost and risk of doing it in four-color. But then a couple months ago my editor emailed with some good news. O’Reilly/MAKE is changing over from the traditional style of offset printing to print-on-demand, at least for four-color titles. That reduces risks a lot. Instead of doing a print run of, say, 25,000 copies of a four-color book, which ain’t cheap, they can do only as many POD copies as needed at one time. That greatly cuts down on inventory cost, warehousing cost, and so on, which in turn made it practical to do the biology book in four color.
Four-color POD may make it practical to do the forensics lab book in four-color as well, and I’ve already spoken to my editor about that idea. If we do that, I’m going to have to rewrite the entire book to build it around a custom kit that we’ll put together and sell. That’s for the benefit of the readers. The current draft of the forensics lab book is written like the chemistry lab book: it assumes lab equipment and chemicals that are rather costly (compared to most homeschoolers’ budgets). By rewriting the forensics book around a custom kit, I can do two things: First, make it much more affordable (because buying stuff piecemeal is much more expensive than just buying a kit that has test solutions and so forth already made up). Second, I can do lab sessions that it wouldn’t be practical to do (if only on the basis of cost) without access to the resources of a custom kit.
One way or another, I intend to have the forensic science kits available before start of the autumn 2012 semester, and I hope to have them available in time for summer session. If we can’t get the forensics book into print by then, I’ll simply include a PDF of the manual. It won’t be the full forensics book, but it will cover all the labs comprehensively. Believe me, your son is by no means alone. Kids are fascinated with real forensic science, and many of them would love the chance to do real forensic work themselves. I mean real stuff, as in what real forensics labs do every day.
As far as sequence, the traditional method for academic/science track students was biology in 9th grade, chemistry in 10th, physics in 11th, and an advanced science in 12th. In some cases, students took more than one science class per year. For example, I did biology in 9th, chemistry and a second independent-study biology course in 10th, physics and a second chemistry course in 11th, and a second physics course and third independent-study chemistry course in 12th. (That was an extremely heavy science load, even back in the 60’s.) The traditional sequence has less to do with the sciences themselves and more to do with math. A first-year biology course required no advanced math, and so is suitable for 9th or even 8th grade. First-year chemistry requires at least algebra II, so is usually scheduled for 10th. First-year physics requires geometry/trigonometry, and so is usually scheduled for 11th. Second-year physics really should have calculus and differential equations as prerequisites, but is often scheduled for 12th grade at the same time students are taking calc/diff-e.
My own opinion is that forensic science is an ideal first lab course. It’s cross-discipline, incorporating elements of biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, and the other hard sciences, but it typically doesn’t require advanced math. Also, it doesn’t hurt that, as you say, kids are fascinated by it.