There are currently 7 titles available in Jennie Fulbright’s Apologia Elementary Science series: Astronomy, Botany, Zoology 1, Zoology 2, Zoology 3, Anatomy and Physiology, and the latest, Chemistry and Physics. Target audience for these books is K to grade 6. The publisher offers notebook journals (a regular and a junior one) for each title in the series. Experiment kits for corresponding books can also be purchased through various homeschool suppliers (easily pieced together though as labs mostly make use of household supplies).
The Apologia series is designed to provide the homeschooling community an alternative to the variety of science textbooks already in the market. In contrast to the usual science texts, each book in the series concentrates on one topic as the title suggests and aims to give the student an extensive grasp of the subject. However, based on experience, spending around 14 lessons on the different planets or on studying vegetation may exhaust one uninterested in the particular topic. We have remedied this disadvantage by doing our Apologia readings side by side with a Sonlight Science core each year (and we would drop a book we were really not interested in reading or one that was just flying over my children’s head).
We discovered this resource in our homeschool when my now high school children were in the 5th and 6th grades. With a newborn, a 4-year old, and a 6-year old then, these older children ended up independently reading the few Apologia books they had time for before moving onto the Apologia Jr. High/Sr. High series beginning 7th grade. At that time, third child had the pleasure of listening to his older sisters read aloud to him from the Astronomy and the Botany texts. Second child was able to still complete Flying Creatures and Land Animals along with the corresponding journals on her own. For a peek on some of her notebook pages, see previous post on Notebooking.
The Apologia Notebooking Journal supplement contains a wide variety of activities to help children remember what they have read. There are copy work pages, differently designed notebook pages that require retelling, drawing, as well as cutting and pasting, review comprehension questions, and even crossword puzzles. Completing all of this is, of course, unnecessary. One who has more time and who is more resourceful is definitely better off creating original notebook pages. Or after reading aloud a section, encourage creativity by providing your child with blank sheets of paper and colouring materials to make a notebook page of whatever he learned. My fourth child did this as a 3rd grader last school year with excellent results.
There is a danger, especially in the younger years, that the notebook journal might eventually hinder the flow of learning as completing the pages can be tedious. In our experience, there were times we felt we could not read ahead in our lessons just because the notebook pages were not all done. Thus, the age of the child should be a consideration in the use of notebooking (in particular the original journals sold with the series) as a valuable tool in measuring and testing learning. Perhaps, this is the reason the publisher came up with the “junior” version. Prior to the release of the latter, there were free simple notebooking pages on the old Apologia Elementary website which were quite similar.
It was when middle child reached 3rd grade (3 years ago) that I began reading aloud the series in earnest. At that time, I helped complete 8 year old’s journal pages as he would tell me back what I read to him. His 1st grade sister listened in that year we completed Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day (Zoology 1). It was a bonus that the two were able to join the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines as they went birding in our neighbourhood.
The following school year, I read the Astronomy and Botany book to the same set of children. Then, the older child was able to work on the notebooking pages with more ease. We went on with Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day (Zoology 2) the year after (click here for a related post) and we are finishing up Land Animals of the Sixth Day (Zoology 3) currently.
Aside from the notebooking component, the Apologia books contain suggestions for experiments (with supplementary material contained in the notebooking journals). Prioritising these activities over accomplishing the notebook journal seems to be more valuable especially if you have children who learn hands-on. For more information or resources (such as tests made for corresponding books) on the use of this curricula, there is an existing Apologia Elementary yahoo group that is very active. One can gain a lot of ideas on how homeschoolers use this program by subscribing to the posts there.
Having tested this program with 5 children of differing ages, I think that these books are best used for ages 8 to 10 (or grades 3 to 5). At this ideal age range, children are able to absorb the depth at which the books handle the science topics. The ability to write with ease and work on the notebooking component is also an advantage. Setting up experiments and/or activities to illustrate science concepts is more doable and interpretation of results realizable. The author’s tone may seem young for some 6th graders (as it was for my oldest child). Since there are 7 titles in the series, you can pick and choose which your children are truly interested in. Take note that there are 5 titles on biology (Botany, Zoo 1, 2, 3, and Anatomy and Physiology) but only one book combining chemistry and physics. The books also don’t include some biography of important scientists.
Overall, these texts are very engaging and full of information. More importantly, they will help strengthen a Creationist worldview as you homeschool your children. The Zoology books are especially geared towards taxonomy and after some time, my animal loving son had a very deep understanding of animal classification. He also enjoyed learning which part of the world certain creatures are found.
With children still in grade school (grades 1 and 5 next school year), I am looking forward to reading aloud the last 2 books in the series so far as well as going through the books again with the youngest child in the years to come.