Textbooks are generally not ideal learning material but now and then we get an exception to the rule. Apologia's Exploring Creation with General Science, 3rd Edition, is one of these times.
Apologia offers a creation-based science program that even the most die-hard secularists will enjoy.
They were kind enough to send me a free sample in exchange for this review, but it was not contingent upon a favorable review, so what follows are my sincere thoughts on what I believe to be an excellent product.
To begin, what's the first thing you look for in a great teacher?
Sherri Seligson, who is the author of Apologia’s science program, is about as passionate as someone can be about science, and she wants to impart this to her readers.
A Homeschool Science Curriculum for Middle School
The program, intended for seventh or eighth graders, begins where all general science books should begin; at the beginning. We find ourselves in Ancient Egypt, where we learn that Egyptians healed wounds with moldy bread!
Using examples of moldy bread and poppy seeds to explain how the study of science came to be, Seligson then takes us on a journey back to the first scientist during the time of Ancient Greece.
We discover that the first known astronomer was Thales of Miletus (540 - 640 bc). From Thales, we travel through history unto present times encountering the most prominent scientists along the way.
This is the perfect beginning because you always want to give your children a chronological study of the development of thought.
A Novel Concept
Did you know that science, as a secular subject, is a relatively new concept? How does such a drastic change in our worldview occur, and who were the scientists responsible for it?
These are some of the questions Seligson answers in her masterfully designed program. While she writes from a Christian perspective, her content is not so overbearing that people of other faiths or even no faith can’t enjoy it too.
By the way, Apologia is offering a sale on their products until August 20th, so if you’re interested in their science program for this coming homeschool year, you can use this direct link: Apologia's Exploring Creation with General Science, 3rd Edition.
Overall, the curriculum is organized well and covers everything you would expect to find in a general science program without seeming like a textbook.
The style is captivating and the program has some features which I found particularly useful.
Each chapter (called modules) features a Quaestio section. The Quaestio gives you a quick preview of the main point to the module. I liked this idea because right away the student knows what he needs to accomplish in the module.
What Seligson calls On Your Own sections, you'll find at various points throughout the modules. Each of these sections contains a few questions for the student to answer to be sure that he is retaining the material.
While there isn't a lot of gravity put on test-taking, there is an attempt for the author to teach the middle-grade student how to take notes and pass exams. Learning how to study for exams is important because he will need to know how to do this to get into college and to do well in college.
As test-taking can be a weak spot for homeschoolers, the middle grades are a good time to begin this training as Seligson points out.
To this end, you'll find that each module finishes with a test the student should take. You have the option to grade the tests with instructions in the book on how to determine the grade.
Another thing I found useful is that each module features experiments that are simple but powerful.
(Did you read my post about studying oxidation from an iron skillet in my kitchen?)
All the material for conducting the experiments can be found either in your home or a local store which makes it very easy for a busy homeschooling mom. Nothing fancy or expensive is required.
The Scientific Method
The student will learn how to use the scientific method to decide on a hypothesis, design the experiment, record it, and analyze the results. He will also learn how to make various graphs to compare the results.
One enticing experiment in the book is all about how to make a sundial. Your student can see how people told the time in the olden days and also become familiar with the patterns of light in relation to the time of day and the season.
Another experiment that looks fun is in the module on meteorology and oceanography. The children learn how clouds form using a jar, boiling water, hot pads, a zippered plastic bag, ice, match, and a dark sheet of construction paper.
Doesn't this sound interesting?!
Each experiment begins with the student writing down what he thinks will happen before he performs the experiment. This is an important exercise because it helps to train the student's mind to stretch its thinking.
The lesson book features both blue boldface words and black boldface words. The blue words are the names, terms, and definitions that the children should memorize and the black ones are for learning but not necessarily memorize.
As homeschoolers, we may not always be certain about what's important to memorize and what isn't, so the color-coding saves us a lot of guesswork and error.
The student workbook is not your typical workbook either, but it's a place for the student to record his notes, experiments, and build a science timeline. Workbooks are usually "work," but with this workbook, the student should find the work enjoyable.
A review should offer a fair estimation of a book, so let me share a couple of things that I didn't like. They are so minor that I wouldn't normally mention them.
I would have liked to see the name of the country where the various scientists came from included. Sometimes it's obvious from their names, but not always.
I would have liked to see the Latin and Greek root words included with the vocabulary words.
Those were my only two criticisms, and as you can see, they are minor. And, as my readers know, I'm not easy to please when it comes to books for children either.
By now, you may be wondering what you actually receive when you invest in the Apologia science program, and how much of an investment is it?
Apologia offers you a few choices. Their deluxe choice is a complete set that includes the lesson book, student workbook, solutions, and tests book plus some multi-media.
The basic set comes next and includes just the books without the multi-media, and lastly, you can buy each item individually.
My suggestion is to purchase the basic book set for the very fair price of $122.25 and on sale until August 20th. The basic set will give you the lesson book, student workbook, and the tests and solutions book.
One thing I didn't mention is–– and this will be a boon for homeschoolers––lesson plans come with the program.
Yes, those dreaded lesson plans! It's all laid out for you.
A science program designed by someone who understands the needs of both homeschooling parents and homeschooled children is priceless. It solves the problem of "What do I teach for science?"
Even if you are a homeschooling parent of younger children, you might consider buying this book as a reference book for yourself too. It is full of great information. I know I would have found it useful when my now college-age children were younger.
Even a high schooler who hasn’t had a general science program would find it interesting.
Apologia is offering a generous giveaway too. All you have to do is enter your name and email.
The last thing I want to say is this: the lesson book will stay on my coffee table for a long time. I reviewed it for you, and now I am going to read it cover-to-cover for me.
As I said in the beginning, It's that good!
Raise Your Child Well: Laying the Foundation in Childhood for a Satisfying, Successful and Happy Adulthood. Please join the waiting list to be notified first when enrollment opens again.
Don’t miss our free download, 10 Signs Your Parenting Strategies May Need Tweaking.
Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, parenting coach certificate, plus 17+ years working in education to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.
A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two homeschooled children in college.