Although this is a challenging course to use, it is still suitable for homeschoolers. Both the student textbook and the teacher’s edition come in two volumes. In the teacher’s edition, reduced student pages are surrounded by teaching notes and answers to exercises.
Arrangement of topics is fairly traditional, beginning at the cellular level and ending with man. Significant attention is given to the creation/evolution controversy, and the Biblical Christian worldview is evident throughout the text. One of the most significant changes from the third edition to this fourth edition is the treatment of evolution. Chapter eight covers evolution and creation, but evolutionary explanations and history have been expanded so that students will be familiar with the information they are expected to know for standardized tests. This information is countered with explanations from a Creationist viewpoint. An explanation of Intelligent Design is also presented in that chapter.
Interestingly, this text spends less time on botany than does the A Beka text; it should take only a few weeks to cover the bulk of the instruction on botany here, while A Beka dedicates almost a third of the book to botany. It appears that BJUP spends much more time on cytology (cells) and microbiology than does A Beka’s Biology.
The text is heavy with vocabulary, so use your best judgment as to how much to require students to master. Read the introductory teacher’s information, since it offers excellent advice as to how to use the material presented. One feature that makes the text more flexible is the separation of some material into sidebar boxes and “Facets of Biology” sections that are optional depending upon your time, goals, and interests.
The text is very colorful, although the language is often dry—as it true of most biology textbooks. Sections on the philosophical and religious aspects of biology are certainly more interesting than the vocabulary and data oriented sections.
Each chapter includes lists of objectives and key terms. Review questions follow each subsection within a chapter. You might require written responses for most of these, but some of the questions are marked with a symbol indicating that these are thought questions and might best be used for discussion. Another set of questions in multiple-choice format is available for each subsection on the Teacher's Toolkit CD-ROM that is packaged at the back of the first volume of the TE. The Teacher's Toolkit also has “Standardized-Test Preparation Questions” for each chapter. These are full-length tests that include multiple-choice and open-ended questions, including some questions that require students to work from data presented in charts and diagrams. Test and quiz answer keys are also on the CD-ROM. In addition to quizzes and tests, the Teacher's Toolkit has supplementary lesson information and illustrations
The Lab Manual is a separate book with its own Teacher's Edition. It is possible to use the text without a lab, although lab work makes the content more interesting and complete and it fulfills lab requirements for either graduation or college preparation. The lab work is classroom oriented, but the TE for the Lab Manual does suggest alternatives for some equipment or experiments since even some Christian schools have limited lab equipment. The authors have tried to select lab activities and equipment for which students and schools get the most value for the cost involved. For example, they require a microscope since it is used so frequently and is an essential tool for lab work. However, they try to avoid expensive equipment that gets minimal use.
Essential items are the student text and Teacher's Edition. The Lab Manual and its TE are also essential for a lab course. A Test booklet is available. The Homeschool Kit includes the text, the Lab Manual, both of their TEs, the Test booklet, and the Test answer key. BJU Press also sells a Dissection Kit (with an activity book) as well as the aforementioned Biology Dissection Labs DVD. While having students perform their own dissections is recommended, viewing the DVD might be the better choice in some situations.
Students might read through the textbook on their own, but they really should have discussions for the thought questions. I think this course would work best with instruction from a parent/teacher or for homeschoolers who meet for discussions and labs, while working independently through the text between sessions. In addition, there is more content in the text than most students are expected to cover, so it would help if a parent/teacher created lesson plans showing what students are expected to cover.