See the complete review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
Apologia courses are among the few options for college-prep lab science courses for junior and senior high that do not require someone to teach the courses. Another factor that makes them popular is their very reasonable cost.
Apologia offers courses for general science, physical science, biology, chemistry, and physics. I appreciate the options that accommodate a range of student goals—from the non-science oriented student who just wants the basics through the ambitious, college-bound student who wants advanced level courses. All courses offer engaging lab experiences.
Most courses are available in your choice of traditional textbook or CD-ROM versions. Textbook courses come as two-volume sets. The first book is the hardbound student text with color illustrations. The second is a softbound Solutions and Tests book with complete answers and explanations for questions from the student book as well as for the tests. Step-by-step instructions for lab experiments appear in each chapter alongside the concepts they illustrate.
CD-ROM versions contain all of the textbook and solutions manual content plus multi-media video clips, animations, pronunciation guides, and other helpful tools. They also have nifty indexing so you can simply click on an index entry to go to that topic in the correct module on the CD-ROM. Those who select the textbook version of one of these courses can get the multi-media content by itself on an optional Multimedia Companion CD-ROM (available for most courses). Icons in the textbook alert students to available video clips they might want to pull up on each CD-ROM.
Students who benefit from auditory input might prefer to hear the textbooks read aloud. CDs with MP3 files have the complete student text content read aloud for each of the courses. Students still need the print textbook to read along with or refer to as they study and complete their work. Some students do better with an instructor, but if one isn't available, some of the courses have optional DVDs with experienced teachers presenting the courses.
Lab equipment and resources are also available for both levels of Biology and Chemistry.
A Christian worldview permeates these courses. Apologia brings in not just creationist views, but also other scientific issues and ideas in relation to Christianity.
All of these courses were written for independent study, addressing students directly. The conversational style of writing makes these texts much easier to read than most others. Brief information for parents or teachers is at the beginning of each Solutions and Tests book. Free support is available by email and phone. Students who need more oversight or outside prodding might want to enroll in one of the Apologia Academy internet courses.
In student textbooks, the text font is large compared to other science texts, but this makes it easier to read and less intimidating. That also means there has to be slightly less content than in an equivalently-sized book with smaller type.
Books are divided into 16 modules, and each module should take two weeks to complete. Modules are divided into a number of topics and activities. Within each module are “on your own” questions. Students are to answer these as they proceed through each section, and answers can be self-checked within the textbook. At the end of each module is a study guide with additional questions. Answer keys are in the Solutions and Tests book for each course.
Students also need to keep a separate lab notebook to record observations and conclusions from their experiments. Several courses have optional Student Notebooks that I highly recommend. Student Notebooks reinforce course material and serve as lab notebooks.
All textbooks have glossaries and indexes plus other helpful tools such as the periodic table and lists of the elements and their symbols. At the beginning of each book are lists of lab materials needed. Apologia specifies lab materials that, for the most part, can be found at grocery and hardware stores. However, the biology and chemistry labs do require some more specific equipment like a scale, microscope, and test tubes. Using some non-traditional lab equipment means students will not be familiar with all of the more complex scientific equipment when they enter college, but this should be a small liability given the practical advantages of this type of lab for homeschoolers. Lab equipment and resources for high school level courses are available from Apologia.
Exploring Creation with General Science and Exploring Creation with Physical Science are junior high courses targeted at grades seven and eight. Exploring Creation with Biology, Exploring Creation with Chemistry, and Exploring Creation with Physics meet requirements for high school lab courses.
Apologia also offers advanced courses in biology, chemistry, and physics that, combined with the corresponding foundational course from Apologia, cover advanced content. The advanced courses are titled Advanced Chemistry in Creation, Advanced Physics in Creation, Advanced Biology: The Human Body, and Exploring Creation with Marine Biology. These are similar in format to the foundational texts, but Advanced Physics is illustrated only in black and white. CD-ROM versions of only Advanced Physics and Marine Biology are available. (Note that I have not reviewed Advanced Chemistry, Advanced Physics, or Marine Biology.)
Read descriptions of individual courses in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
NOTE: When the first printing of the third edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry came out, it was significantly revised from the second edition, and it ended up with a number of errors. As of May 2015, Apologia has made available Exploring Creation with Chemistry, third edition, second printing in which they have corrected the errors. This is the edition you should look for.