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Using Apologia Science Curriculum for Elementary

November 4, 2011

I have been using the Apologia (Dr. Jay L. Wile) science curriculum for my middle and high school students for over 10 years now, but I was afraid to try the curriculum offered for the elementary grades until two years ago. I could kick myself for waiting that long.

We used the Exploring Creation with Astronomy previously and this year we are using Exploring Creation with Botany.This year Grace (6th grade) and Carl (1st grade) are doing the study together. Although Grace could read the text on her own and complete assignments, I think it is worth the time for me to read and discuss the text with her.

You already know that I am a big proponent of having children think through the possibilities that their knowledge affords them. This is how they understand a concept instead of just knowing it. I think that memorizing facts  without application is uninteresting to students, especially younger ones. The Apologia curriculum provides many hands-on experiments that put the newly learned facts in a concrete format. This is the way to learn!

For those who worry about the extra time it takes to gather supplies, set up, and clean up the experiments amd projects, your worries are well-founded. This takes time, but the upside is the HUGE gains in what your students understand and retain.

Through the last 20 years of homeschooling eight children, I have learned a few things. One of the keys is this: Don’t be temped to measure learning by the number of texts completed (or even a test grade); rather, measure it by the quality of work completed. If a certain text (any subject) has grabbed your student’s attention and they are learning, don’t skip the hands-on activities so you can finish the course in a year!  One of the best perks of homeschooling is the flexibility it offers.

Back to Apologia….. these texts use the immersion approach, not the spiral approach. With the immersion approach, you a subject in-depth until you have exhausted it. Hence, a year studying JUST the solar system, or birds, or plants, or …. . These pupils develop confidence in a subject, because they understand it.

With the spiral approach, you are exposed to bit of information on many topics. You skim the surface and never get to the interesting and exciting parts of the subject. Often these students think they know something, but in truth, they don’t fully understand it.

Grace is using the Notebooking Journal from Apologia too. You could make your own with a binder and notebook paper, but the journal is a special place to record your assignments and experiments. It has some extra vocabulary work, templates to write your narrations, and even lap-book style mini-books.

Carl is making a lap book to record what he has learned. I bought a CD with all the layouts and templates produce by Knowledge Box Central. This is very effective for his age. He is creating a visual reminder of all that he is learning without the tediousness of so much writing.

Other great things about Apologia:

  • Written from a Christian perspective. I don’t mean to say that your children are shielded from other ideas and theories, but this always points to God as the Creator and Sustainer, and His Word as the Ultimate Authority on human life and its purpose.
  • A course website, that gives more information and sources of information to augment and enrich your study.
  • Narration prompts for your children to use as they explain what they learned each day. (Just like it helps you to remember a name by repeating it, a student who repeats what they learned in an audible voice immediately after the lesson, is more likely to remember it.)
  • Demonstrations and project instructions.
  • A list  of materials needed divided by lesson/chapters. Most items are things you already have or can get at a supermarket. If it is “out of the ordinary” they usually offer a suggestion on where it can be found.
  • No tests! There is plenty of work that you can grade, if you feel the need to assign a letter grade. The folks at Apologia feel that the narrations and such are clear evidence that your child is learning about the subject.
  • E-mail address for when you need help! And a phone number too!

I have to admit that sometimes the information that I want Grace to learn is too deep for Carl, but he sits quietly and while Grace is writing her narrations, I ask him the questions orally. I am surprised not just be how much he did grasp, but it puts a smile on my face to see him excited to learn so much more. 🙂

Apologia curriculum is available directly from Apologia Educational Ministries (and also Rainbow Resource Center and Christian Book Distributors.)

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