Apologia - Exploring Creation with Biology {Review}

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

High school is upon us (gulp.) Way back when I was a new homeschool mom to a preschool-aged child, I remember shaking in my boots at the thought of eventually teaching high school math and science. As we progressed through the years, however, I started gaining confidence and worried less than I did in those early years. What I’ve found is that there are so many companies that make it easy to homeschool. We modern homeschoolers have the benefit of the pioneers who paved the way for us and made so many great products available to us who would follow in their footsteps. 



As I started making choices for our upcoming 9th grade year, I realized my confidence was a little shaken. A homeschool veteran to whom I like to listen calls this the “Re-Upping Moment" of entering the high school years. It’s as if you are starting all over again, and you again question whether you can pull it off. In my mind I knew I had made it this far, and that each year built upon the last. Choosing our high school science shouldn’t be a big deal, right? However, all of a sudden it was. I began to look high and low for the “right” thing for science next year, and I came up against a wall again and again. I had forgotten that there was a science company I had always trusted. Enter Apologia.


We have enjoyed Apologia science all throughout our homeschool years here at Monarch Room. It took me a while before I realized what a treasure it really was. I remember walking the aisles of the homeschool curriculum store, and bumping into those shiny, colorful books. Can I be honest? I wasn’t interested. To me they looked like traditional textbooks, and I wanted something living and interesting. My heart was very quickly won over, however, when I began to read the content. It was so conversational and engaging! It was nothing like the science I remembered from school. I wish with all my ever-loving heart I had given it a chance sooner. My eldest son declared in 5th grade that Apologia Land Animals was his favorite science book of all time when he turned the final page. What a joy it was to see my child loving what he was learning and sharing it with everyone he knew. I’m going to go ahead and call that a major win. Wouldn’t you?


Again, I found myself in a pickle in 7th grade when something we had chosen wasn’t a great fit for my eldest. We switched him about a quarter of the way through the year to Apologia General Science. He came to me after that first week and said, “Mom, I really like my science book so much more than the other thing.” Why I didn’t immediately run to Apologia for high school science is a mystery to me. I was struggling with science sequence for one, but mostly I just wanted something that was actually doable. The last thing this literature major wanted was something that was impossible to teach because it required foreknowledge of which I had zero. Finally….finally, I came to my senses and landed on the Apologia website, and sweet peace rested again on our little homeschool.


As good fortune would have it, the kind and generous folks at Apologia gave me the honor of reviewing Exploring Creation with Biology. When this box arrived on our doorstep I breathed a great sigh of relief, and I knew we had great things ahead of us. I was delighted to have to opportunity to share about a company I already love, and hopefully this will help you decide whether or not this is a good option for your family. If any of you have followed our homeschool journey, you know I love to share what works for us. I am so excited to share with you why we chose this curriculum this coming school year.

What I love about Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology, and Why I Ultimately Chose It:

God Centered
I love knowing that I can hand my beloved child a science book that is God-honoring. It's a joy to see how God is central to the modules presented. I am confident that when I hand my child this book, not only will his knowledge of science be nurtured, but his faith will also be strengthened.

Tried & True
If you spend any amount of time on homeschool forums, you know that a new homeschool company pops up every day. New is fine, but there is something to be said for using a curriculum that thousands of other homeschool families have used for years. There is a comfort in trusting what you already know has worked for you and countless others.

Made for Homeschoolers
One of the things I especially love about Apologia is that it was designed to be used by homeschoolers. Many homeschoolers attempt to turn texts intended for traditional classroom use into at-home curriculum. This often leads to frustration, and a lot of needless editing-out of what doesn't work at home. I’ve always found it much easier to use a program that has the home environment in mind.

Notebooks
I adore the Apologia notebooks! Not only are they beautifully designed, but they make the everyday work happen in a far more effortless way. There is no juggling binders and loose pieces of paper. I love that everything is in one place, and that at the end of the year we will have a beautiful record of all we have learned.

Quality
I love the high-quality standards of Apologia products. We are a one-income homeschool family, as many of you are. I love that Apologia books hold up to multiple uses and even last long enough to eventually be sent off to another homeschool family. Not only are the books high quality; the content is fantastic too!

Science Kits
This is a huge bonus for me. I remember our first year of homeschool, and how I failed often to make experiments happen because I didn’t have what I needed on hand. I love that Apologia has partnered with other companies to provide all-in-one lab kits that provide most of the supplies needed to make science actually happen, and to relieve the stress of locating random items. I have found that while it is an investment at first, the cost is far less than if I pieced together every single item on the supply list. Often you need a small amount of something you will never use again. The kits save so much time and money, and are worth every penny in case you are curious.

Helps
Each Apologia textbook has a variety of helps. From Audio Book CDs, Multi-media DVD-ROMs, to DVD Lecture presentations to Flash Card Apps. You can invest as much or as little as you want and still have a fantastic experience. I will share the components we will be using below.

The Course Components We Plan on Using Next Year:


Textbook
The textbooks is divided into 16 modules, each of which takes around two weeks to complete. The modules are divided as so:

Table of Contents
1. Biology: The Study of Life
2. Kingdom Monera
3. Kingdom Protista
4. Kingdom Fungi
5. The Chemistry of Life
6. The Cell
7. Cellular Reproductions and DNA
8. Mendelian Genetics
9. Evolution: Part Scientific Theory, Part Unconfirmed Hypothesis
10. Ecology
11. The Invertebrates of Kingdom Animalia
12. Phylum Arthropoda
13. Phylum Chordata
14. Kingdom Plantae: Anatomy and Classification
15. Kingdom Plantae: Physiology and Reproduction
16. Reptiles, Birds and Mammals
Glossary
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Index
      I appreciate that there are beautiful images throughout the book that give a clear representation of the concept being discussed.

      At the end of each reading, the student answers the “On Your Own” questions in the textbook. I really like how the information that the students are required to study is in bold print, making it easy to sift out the important information on which to study.

      Each module also includes a study guide that will help them to study for the module test.

      There is also a Multimedia Companion CD-ROM that you can pop in to get more information about each lesson. The CD image in the top left corner alerts you that there is more information if there is time or interest.

       Experiments and dissections are presented in a clear and detailed way, making it easy to perform them at home.

      I really appreciate the list of laboratory equipment and supplies needed. It makes preparing for the week so much easier.


      Student Notebook
      The notebook is suggested, but in my opinion, is absolutely a necessity.

      The Student Notebook includes a daily schedule, which makes dividing up the text much easier than doing it on your own. I appreciate that they scheduled the course for 34 weeks, which allows one or two weeks of wiggle room to complete the course even with the inevitable interruptions of life.

      The notebook also has all the “On Your Own” questions that are in the text, and also each “Study Guide” is represented as well. This creates one space in which to catch all the learning, and eases the struggle to keep everything together. 

      There are also pages for taking notes while reading.

      One of my favorite parts of the notebook is the Lab Reports section. There is a detailed introduction section that explains lab report instructions and microscope use and care.

       What I love the most is how detailed the lab instructions are. I don’t come from a science background, but I can follow clear instructions. This gives me peace that we can do what we have set out to accomplish this year in Biology.

      The microscope lessons have places to record observations. My artist will enjoy doing this part!

      Grading Rubrics
      As we set out to tackle our first year of high school, I appreciate that clear grading rubrics are set out in the notebook, along with a nice chart in which to write scores. The authors suggest only including lab reports and tests in figuring out the student’s course grade, and not taking the On Your Own or Study Guide into account. This will make keeping track of our year so much easier than if we were tediously grading every single written answer.


      Test Book and Tests
      The Solutions and Tests book is also a great resource. It has the answers to the Study Guide questions, and solutions for all Module and Quarterly Tests. There is a handy tear-out test booklet, but each test is in the book as well, with permission to copy them for your family if you have multiple students. I have heard there is also an alternative test packet of more simplified tests, and that you can email Apologia for a copy of those.


      Microscope
      Ok, so I was a little giddy when we got our microscope in the mail. Both boys gathered round to see what we could see right away. Next year we are not only are we doing Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology, but we are also using Apologia Anatomy and Physiology. The microscope will be so fun to have around! It makes me feel like we have entered the legit science phase, and that so much fantastic learning is about to happen. I’m hoping it will spark the imagination in my boys for all the unseen things in God’s creation.


      Microscope Kit
      I appreciate that all the microscope supplies we needed came in one kit. You can purchase these on the Apologia site, or through Rainbow Resource, Home Training Tools or Nature’s Workshop Plus.


      Slide Set
      It helped greatly that the microscope kit included all the necessary slides for the course. Piecing these together would have been costly, and the slides may have been difficult to find.


      Lab Specimens
      This is the exciting part for the boys (and myself too, if I’m honest.) We will dissect an earthworm, crayfish, perch and frog this year. All the creepy crawly things are all ready for my scientist.


      Audio CD
      For those of you with auditory learners I would highly suggest the MP3 Audio Book. I enjoyed previewing the CD. The reader’s voice is enjoyable (which isn’t always the case with such resources). She reads in a pleasant tone, and doesn't read too fast or too slow. This is an excellent resource!


      Flash Card App
      I was happy to see that there is a flash card app for only $4.99. This will make studying for the course a breeze!


      There is a section for each module, and also quarterly review which will be helpful for the accumulative tests.

      The app goes through the concepts in multiple choice format. There are a lot of terms to learn in this course, so this will save a lot of time over making homemade flashcards.

       And there you have it...My anxiety-free science choice for our first year of high school. Smile. I'm beyond thrilled to have this decision behind us, and I hope you feel this review can help you make an informed and peace-filled decision for your family. I look forward to sharing more of our journey through this coming year! I plan to write an additional post sharing how we organized our supplies. I love having all things close at hand needed for making our days run more smoothly. Do you love and use Apologia Science? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

      Disclaimer: In exchange for this review Apologia sent me the Textbook, Student Notebook, Test Books and MP3 Audio Book. All of the opinions are shared with the sincerest honesty and are my own.

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      14 comments:

      1. Excellent review! I think you will really love it - we did! They didn't have a Student Journal when I did it with Jordan, but they did by the time I got to Nathan - they are fantastic! Can't wait to see your organizational posts and how Aedan does with it. :)

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        1. Thank you! Your vote of confidence and experience are always important to me :) It was good knowing it was something that worked for you guys. I tend to gravitate toward the same kinds of curriculum choices as you!

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      2. Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts on this program. I didn't realize there was an app. That will make studying so much easier.

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        1. Isn't that cool? I was so happy about that!

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      3. This is an excellent review! We use Apologia as well in our homeschool. I will have a 9th grader too and am debating if I should start with Biology or Physical Science. Thanks for sharing.

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        1. I wavered between the two as well. Physical is a great choice as well! Then you can take care of the physical credit if you don't want or need physical later.

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      4. Great review! I'm just going to stick with the HOD science because my son has liked it every year and because I know it will get done. Every time I try and change or substitute something, it always ends up falling by the wayside.

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        1. You're a wise woman :) I love HOD choices as well. We are only switching a few things out next year. You'll have to share your review of WG science with me after this year :)

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      5. My daughter did Land Animals this year with CTC, and she absolutely *loved* it! She couldn't wait to tell her daddy all about her science lessons each night at the dinner table. We have never been let down by Apologia either, so I'll say we will stick with it, too! Thanks for the great review. :)

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        1. She sounds just like my son! We did Astronomy from RtR instead of Land Animals this year. He said he wants to read it this summer :)

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      6. The dissection specimens sure bring back lots of fun memories of when we used them several years ago. I hadn't heard about the app though. I'm so glad you mentioned it since my son will be doing biology next year.

        I know that HOD does not use the notebooking journals for the younger years in which they use apologia. Would you recommend using one with the astronomy book during CTC for example?

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        1. HOD assigns different assignments with Apologia. You certainly could use the journals instead of doing the HOD activities.

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      7. I don't see the app on their website available to purchase. How do you get that?

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        1. I purchased it on the Apple App Store for my iPhone :). I'm not sure if it's available for Android devices.

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