"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Psalm 113:3

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Apologia's Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics...A TOS Crew Review...

Let me start this out by saying, #1, I love all things Apologia Educational Ministries, and #2, I hate all things physics.

(I'm going to be real with you all here, people).

So, when the opportunity came up to review Apologia's newest Exploring Creation set, Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics, aimed at kiddos K-6th grade, I had extremely mixed feelings.

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First of all, if you haven't ever heard of Apologia, they are a Christian-based company whose mission is "to help families learn, live, and defend the historic Christian faith" (from their website).  Their elementary homeschool science resources, or Young Explorer Series, contains several books written in a conversational style, and helps to introduce the young learner to all of God's wonder of creation.  We have used Apologia's Astronomy, Anatomy, and Land Animals sets before in our homeschool, and had delighted in them very much.

  But, did I mention, I hate all things physics!  Like, really hate.  

I've always found it tremendously boring, with a capital B-O-R-I-N-G.   As a matter of fact, a major selling point to me on putting my kiddos back in co-op this year is that they are doing physical science at co-op.  With people other than me.  Yay!

So...that made me slightly less than enthusiastic to really dig into this set.  But I shouldn't have worried.

In a nutshell?  This curriculum is amazing.  With a capital A.

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What Did We Receive?

We were blessed to receive the text of Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics ($39), a Notebooking Journal for upper elementary students ($24), and a Junior Notebooking Journal, for younger elementary students, or students with writing challenges ($24).

The hardcover copy of the textbook, by Jeannie Fulbright, is an almost-300 page, beautifully done text written in true Apologia form, like a living book, in a conversational tone.  It has fourteen lessons in chemistry and physics together, with topics such as:

--Chemistry and Physics Matter

--Moving Matter

--Building Blocks of Creation

--Sound of Energy

--Dyamics of Motion

Each lesson contains plenty of information, not watered down, but still understandable to young children.  The text is broken up with full-color pictures used to help further explain difficult concepts.  Some ideas are even explained through entertaining stories that all kids can relate to--like the moving atoms in gas compared to a very active little boy that finally gets sent outside by his mother.  And throughout each chapter are several "Try This" experiments, which also help to cement the teaching.

Also included in the text are an introduction that explains Apologia's method of curriculum, a password to enter Apologia's website and access book extras, a step-by-step guide to using the book, projects at the end of each chapter, a lesson by lesson supply list, and an answer key.

The spiral-bound Notebooking Journals are very similar, but they definitely have some things that make the Junior Notebooking Journal better for younger kiddos.  Both journals contain a suggested daily schedule, notebooking assignments, activities, and projects, scripture copywork (in print and cursive), cut-and-fold miniature books, a "test it out" section, project pages, and field trip sheets.  The older journal, however, has places to record fascinating facts, what do you remember narrative questions, harder crossword puzzles, and a final review over the entire course.  The Junior Journal includes coloring pages and larger lines to print on.

How Did We Use This?

I intended to use this with both of my younger children (ages 10 and 7), to supplement the learning they are doing in their co-op.  However, very often, when we sat down to read, or to do experiments, my 13 year-old would jump in, making sure she wasn't going to miss out on "anything fun".

Although there was a suggested schedule given in the Journals, we didn't follow it.  I felt like the material covered was very complete, so we went more slowly than the suggested schedule.  Usually, we would read two to three pages aloud and spend time going over the highlighted, and more important, words.  We would then stop and move onto an experiment, or some notebooking work, on the next day.  We used the curriculum three to four days / week.  At this pace, we covered approximately one lesson every three weeks.  There are tons and tons of "Try This" activities throughout this book, and while not all of them are required, we really enjoyed them and did almost all of the ones we came across.

We began by using this as part of our more intense "school time", right in the morning.  Most often, we would end up spending more time than I had budgeted for science--time that was filled with my kiddos asking questions, offering "one time I did that" stories related to the text, or "just one more" run on an experiment.  Then I finally got smart, and left science as the one thing we would do after lunch.  That gave us plenty of time to really get into what we were doing.

What Did I Think?

I was not expecting to like this curriculum very much, so I probably went into this review with a slight bias that I shouldn't have had.

Well, the joke was on me, since I ended up completely in love!

This set is, by far, my favorite of all of the Apologia science curriculum that I've used.  And for a curriculum that includes physics, that is saying a TON!

First of all, the textbook:  it is beautiful!  The cover is lively and colorful, and the text is broken up wonderfully with color photographs.  The information is very meaty, but it is explained in a way that even my youngest (newly seven) could understand.  My children were fully engaged, even on the days when we were just reading aloud, and they never complained when it was time for science.

The experiments?  Excellent!  They were such a marvelous way to make the learning sink in!  And the main thing that I'm looking for in science experiments was taken care of too--they used typical household supplies, or offered substitutions.  Since I'm not a master of planning ahead so much, the open-and-go of these experiments was phenomenal.  For example, of the forty-two supplies needed for the first lesson, there was only one that I needed to buy at the store before we could do the experiment (and that was Alka-Seltzer).  Forty-two sounds like a lot, I know, but remember that we did Lesson One over three weeks.

Another thing I look for in no-preparation science experiments is that they work.  I know, I know--there's a whole lesson to be learned when they don't, but I prefer them to just go ahead and work.  These did.  Every time.

It was awesome!

The experiments were so much fun that at one point, we even had a non-homeschool friend come over to join us and he ended up begging for more.  (Proud homeschool momma moment, right there!)  I really can't say enough great things about how well these were done.

The Notebooking Journal and Junior Notebooking Journal were super extras for us.  My 5th-grader used the regular journal, and my 1st-grader used the Junior Journal.  For my older child, I felt the journal was just right.  She doesn't like to write, but she can do it when she has to, and we used this as yet another way to help that learning soak in.  After each lesson's read-aloud, I would have her go to her journal and summarize what we had talked about.  Although there weren't specific pages just for that, we were able to find ways to make the journal work for us.  She loved the crossword puzzles and cut-and-paste activities, but expressed a wish that her journal included the coloring pages that her brother got to use.

The Junior Journal may still have been a bit much for my youngest, but, in fairness, he is NOT a writer.  He enjoyed the coloring pages and crossword puzzles (easier than the ones in the older journal), and could complete the copywork, but that was pretty much all we used in his journal.  There were more areas that were lined that he could work in, but we chose to simply have him draw a picture of some of the more popular experiments, or just copy a vocabulary word.

What Did My Kids Think?

"I really, really love it!  I don't have many questions after we read the lessons, because it really explains a lot and it has the coolest experiments.  I didn't know that you could really make a lava lamp out of supplies you had at home.  And it's just really, really, really cool!"  (Firefly, age 10)

"It was really good!  I really liked the experiments and the book.  It was sublime. (Momma note here--Yes, he did use the word "sublime".  Evidently he just read it in some cartoon book and it means, and I quote, "better than words can describe".  And no, he wouldn't just let me type "better than words".  Which would have made more sense for a seven year-old.  But, hey, he's weird.  And a homeschooler, lol!)  My favorite part was the lava lamp experiment, where my friend's lava lamp exploded!  (Another Momma note--maybe taking off the top of the lava lamp should be done with just a bit more caution than we actually used...)  I liked all of it!"  (Bug, age 7)

Find Out More:

Apologia offers plenty of resources for you to get even a better look at this curriculum!  You can download Frequently Asked Questions, a sample chapter of the textbook, the Table of Contents, and a lab supply list on their website.  You can also download a sample of each of the Notebooking Journals as well.

My Crewmates received and reviewed the same materials, so make sure to go over and take a look at what they thought, and at the fun that they had.

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1 comment:

  1. I love Apologia, but probably would've shied away from this one because of the subject material... I too hate physics. But, this looks awesome. We may just have to do this Apologia after all.



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