The Curriculum Choice

May 22, 2009

Apologia Elementary Science

Filed under: charlotte mason, classical, Curriculum choices, Science, Written by Kristen — Kristen @ 12:08 am

Apologia publishes a full-range of science texts for the Christian homeschool. They began with high school science texts which have been very popular with homeschoolers for many years. More recently, Apologia began publishing elementary texts. Currently, the elementary science series includes five titles: Astronomy, Botany, Flying Creatures, Swimming Creatures, and Land Creatures. These texts follow the immersion principle of learning. Rather than study a wide-variety of unrelated science topics during the course of a school year, these texts dig deeply into one science topic.

Features of Elementary Apologia Books

  • Engaging hard-cover text with many full-color pictures
  • What Do You Remember? questions to discuss
  • Common household items used in experiments and projects
  • Master list of necessary materials
  • Notebooking activities included

All of these texts have 13 or 14 lessons. But don’t be fooled into thinking that with a small number of lessons the books won’t last a whole year. These are not short lessons. They each include 10-20 pages of text (I read these aloud). In addition, all the lessons include at least one notebook assignment and either an experiment or project. Many lessons have both a project and an experiment. I like that the author has clearly separated projects and activities from experiments. In the experiments, the scientific method is emphasized including discussions of variables, controls, hypotheses, data collection, and drawing conclusions. So although the book could easily be read in less than a school year, completing all the included notebook pages, projects and experiments will extend this text to easily encompass a year’s study. However, if you do want to complete more than one of these texts in one school year, the Astronomy and Botany books are a little shorter than the Zoology books.

I love that this one text can be used with all my students. I can customize the notebook assignments to fit their abilities. (Some of the notebook assignments have two options: one for older students and one for younger.) My first grader loves to sit and look at the pictures. He doesn’t participate in very many of the activities, but he is still learning with us. Many first graders could easily participate more than mine does. My daughter who is in 3rd grade now, completed the astronomy book when she was in kindergarten. She completed the notebook assignments and still remembers much of what we studied. I say this as a reminder that this text is easily adapted to the needs of families with widely varying ages and abilities of children.

So why would anyone not like Apologia?

You will not like this text if you do not want to include any of the Bible in your science lessons. These texts are unapologetically (pardon the pun) Christian. The author believes in creation and presents evidence that supports creation in the text. It does not give equal time to evolutionary theory believing that is better left to science geared to older students. Of course, most any animal book checked out of the library contains references to evolution, so this book helps provide a balance with its absence of evolutionary content.

You might not like this text if you want a more traditional approach to science including worksheets, tests and quizzes. The reinforcement of material in these texts is through talking about the text and creating notebook pages. The writing style is also different than most science books. These books are written like the author is talking directly to you. I don’t mean vernacular speech, but it contains questions that are somewhat rhetorical. It also goes into great detail.  Additionally, if you want to study many different topics in one school year, these texts would not be a good fit.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the other Apologia Elementary Science books, they are available from many vendors of homeschool products. They can also be purchased directly from Apologia at their website for $35.00.

Written by Kristen

The Curriculum Choice


April 20, 2009

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Biology 2nd Edition

Apologia: Exploring Creation With Biology 2nd Edition  Am-biology2

This is a college-preparatory, high school level, biology course that would be recomended in a student’s freshmen year. It is designed to be an independent study. It includes tests, labs, and video clips to go along with the course. Dr Jay L. Wile is the author of this course.  

Overview of the program : 
The are 16 modules to be covered in one year.  The student will read the modules and answer review questions throughout each module. There is a study guide at the end of each module to be done before the student takes a test. There are tests for each module. There are 1-2 experiments for each module. Many of the experiments are examing prepared slides under the microscope. There are four animal dissections.  
Supplies: You need to purchase Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology textbook or CD-rom version. Both versions are the same. You need a student micropscope, prepared microscope slide set, dissections tools and animal specimens. All of these supplies can be easily purchased from Apologia or many other homeschool suppliers. I do suggest to shop around for the best prices.
The student will be introduce to the study of biology in the first module. The student will then start to study the five kingdoms of the animal world. The course starts at the microscopic level of Kingdom Monera. In the second module the student will collect samples of pond water, and will study the samples under a microscope.
Kingdom Protista is the third module. Microscopic life is studied under the micropscope. There are some great video clips of Amoebas.
Kingdom Fungi is the fourth module of the course. The student will have opportunties to do experiments with yeast, and different types of mold. The student will study  samples under the microscope.
The fifth module is a basic introduction of chemistry. The student will perform experiments that explore diffsion and osmosis. There is also an experiment with organic bases and acids.
The sixth module is the study of the cell. It is great chapter that explains the magnificent world of cells.
The seventh module is the study of cellualr reproduction.  Again ther are some great video clips to go with this chapter.
The eighth module is a short chapter on genetics. Experiments with punet squares are done in this chapter.
The ninth module is a great chapter on creation vs. evolution. Dr. Wile goes over microevolution and macroevolution. Charles Darwin is introduced along with his theories.  It is great chapter with wonderful tidbits of interesting information.
The tenth module is thestudy of ecology. Dr Wile did a great job making this chapter interesting with true stories.
The eleventh chapter is where all the fun begins. This chapter is the study oinvertebratesThe student will disect the earthworm. This is a great disection to start with. It’s interesting and easy to do.
The twelth module studies one phylum; Pylum Arthopoda. The student has the oppprotunity to disect a second time. This time it is the crayfish. This is another great disection. It is very interesting and fun. The student will also study insects and spiders.
The thirteenth module is the study of Phylum Chordata. There are two more dissections in this chapter. The student will study Class Osteichthyes and will dissect a perch fish. This was my least favorite dissection due to how bony the perch fish is. I would reccomend getting a fresh fish to dissect as oppose to a preserved fish. The student will then study Class Amphibia. You can guess what dissection comes next. Yes, its the infamous frog dissection. My kids loved the frog dissection. It is amazing to see all the organs in a small creature. My daughter took the heart out and sliced it in half. It was amazing to see the chambers of the frog’s heart! 
Modules fourteen and fifteen are the study of Kingdom Plantae. Again, their will be experiments using the microscope. There is an experiment to dissect a flower, not as fun as the frog but still interesting.
Module Sixteen is the last module. You study reptiles, birds and mammals in this chapter. The last experiment is examining a slide with chicken embryos.
What are the pros? This is an excellent college-preparatory course for high school. There has been claims that some students have been able to clep out of a college biology class after taking this course. The course is set up for independent study. There are some interesting video clips that can be seen on the CD-Rom version or the CD companion that goes along with the hardcover textbook. The microscopic slides are  wonderful quality, and are a great teaching tool with the course. The dissections are fun, easy, and interesting. The textbook reads easily. The author has a wonderful writing style that keeps the student interested. There are tests to go along with the course. The author has a pro-creation view point given through-out the book.
What are the cons? Can be costly especially if you don’t own a microscope.
If you would like more info here is a link:
Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology
Written by Korey

The Curriculum Choice

April 16, 2009

Just Write, a Creative Writing Program

Filed under: charlotte mason, language arts, Written by Korey — Korey @ 8:02 pm

Just Write Just Write, Book 2Write About Me, Grade 1

Just Write” is a writing program for the elementary years. There are four levels taught. Each level is taught over one year. It is a workbook type program. It is a creative writing program that is easy to teach program with very little preparation. This is one program my children have truly enjoyed. This program does not kill the joy of writing as some programs can do. For my own children it has ignited a love for writing. When I started homeschooling I had researched many writing programs to fit our style and needs. This program has been a great fit for us.
In the first level there are the two books to choose from. One is called “Write About Me” and the other is called “Write About My World“. The publisher sells this book for the first grade level. In my opinion, it is for an advance first grader who is able to read and write or it is for a second grader. This book helps the beginner writer to understand how take his thoughts and put them into writing. This was one of my absolute favorite curriculums I have used with my own children. It is a book that you will keep as a keepsake for many years. With my children, I had used the book “Write About Me“. The book consists of daily writing exercises that are fun and easy to do at this level. The children will write about their family, friends, past experiences, and even their dreams. The writing exercises are cleverly done so the child does not have to write a lot but just enough to enjoy the exercise. The children can add photos to the book with some of the writing exercises. I truly believe this book helped my own daughter to love to write.
The second year is called “Just Write 1“. This is when the child starts a more formal writing program. In the beginning, the lessons encourage the child to just write without worrying about all the rules. This may be hard for the classical minded homeschooler but if you stick with the program it works! In later lessons the child will learn about capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and paragraphs.  There are chapters that teach how to use creative words, descriptive passages, and comparisons. There are lessons on how to edit your writing and make a final copy.  The child learns how to brainstorm, create characters, and develop a story. 
The third year is called “Just Write 2“. This is for 3rd to 4th graders. With each year of “Just Write” the writing lessons are becoming more focused. In this year the student will begin with a review of basic grammar, punctuation and capitalization. From there the student will learn how to construct and write a good paragraph.  There are lessons using comparisons and overused words. Then the student starts leaning skills to write a story. They start with story planning, creating characters and creating a plot. The child learns how to write and use dialogue. There are lessons on writing from different points of view. The child continues to learn how to edit and make a final story.
The fourth year, “Just Write 3” is the final book in the series. It is for 4th to 5th graders.  In this final book the student continues to perfect the skills he learned in the previous books. Now the student is introduced to the four types of writing; narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive. The student develops his reasons for writing such as what is the purpose of his paper and who is the audience he is trying to reach. The student learns how to construct a multi-paragraph paper. The student is taught how to research a paper and gather information. My favorite part is the lessons on learning to write a persuasive paper. My son wrote a paper on why it is important to put your dog on a leash. It was a typical persuasive paper. Then my son had to write the same report but to a different audience. This time he wrote it as if his audience were dogs. His paper was hilarious and well written. This last book is a great stepping stone to higher level writing programs.
What are the pros? Many of the lessons are fun. It really helps to foster the love of writing yet it helps your student develop excellent writing skills. Even though this is a workbook program I think the Charlotte Mason homeschooler will love how it allows the child to write from his heart. They will love how the lessons are short and to the point. For the classical minded folks, I think it will please them since it teaches grammar and well structured papers. It is affordable, the workbooks are around $10-$12. The teacher manuals are small, simple to use, and are also very affordable. It is so easy to teach! There isn’t any preparation, just open and go.
What are the cons? It is a workbook and that can be a turn off for some people. My daughter hates workbook type of learning but she has never complained about doing her writing assignments in “Just Write“.
There are few cons for me to give because I have loved using this program for our family.
Written by Korey
Here is a link if you would like more information regarding this curriculum:
EPS books

The Curriculum Choice

April 8, 2009

Using Dictation as a Grammar Tool

Filed under: charlotte mason, language arts, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 4:08 am
What is dictation?

Dictation is the practice of reading a passage to your child and having them dictate, or write it down.  You first read the whole passage, then you break it down into bite size chunks for them.  After they complete the passage you next check the spelling, punctuation and possibly correct the handwriting if needed.

How can I work dictation into our homeschool? Do I need a special book?

Here’s a few tips and suggestions for you. Pick a passage from a literature book that you are reading for history or for a family read-aloud. Read it out loud and have your child write what they hear. Then go over necessary spelling and grammatical mistakes. Then talk about the uniqueness of the sentence. There are sure to be some grammar pointers in there somewhere. Often, I get questions about punctuation marks (: or ; for instance) and anything I can’t explain, I simply look these up in a grammar reference.

Pick a poem that you are currently memorizing – or start memorizing one! Or, pick a well-loved poem and have them copy it first, this may take several days. Then one day dictate it and have them write it. Go over the poem as I mentioned above.

How about a hymn? Hymns have wonderful vocabulary. There are sure to be some words that you can look up (or have an older student look up on their own). And of course, Bible verses are great for dictation too. Especially ones that you are trying to commit to memory.

How about science? Is there something really neat that you read about in science that maybe sparked an interest in your child? Something from a living book or a science encyclopedia would work well.

For younger children, some good ideas are:

  • Days and months
  • Address
  • Short verse
  • Sentence from a beloved book
  • Names of family members
  • A poem (do a little every day)
Get creative! You don’t need a book telling you what to dictate. Make it a more natural fit with what you are already doing. It will enhance your studies and seal a grammar lesson in the mind of your child.

The Curriculum Choice

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