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.)
Exploring Creation with General Science
This is a broad general science course for junior high students that includes a significant amount of lab work, conveniently using household items. Topics covered include the history of science, scientific method, how to perform experiments, simple machines, archaeology, rocks, minerals, fossils, geology, paleontology, evolution and interrelated theories, living organisms, organisms and energy, classifications, and the human body. An optional student notebook is available for this course.
Exploring Creation with Physical Science
This 490-page text is the foundation for the most user-friendly, yet academically challenging physical science course for homeschoolers of which I am aware. It qualifies as a lab course with extensive experiments and recording activity. In fact, the first lesson begins with an experiment. The text carefully details how to perform this experiment as well as the expected results. It also describes possible corrections if the experiment is not working as it should. The text then uses the results as a platform to provide a basic explanation of molecules, atoms, and chemical reactions. This and other experiments require only household chemicals and supplies.
Topics covered include air, atmosphere, water, the hydrosphere, earth and the lithosphere, weather, motion, gravity, electromagnetic force, electrical circuits, magnetism, atomic structure, radioactivity, waves and sound, light, and astrophysics.
While the content is appropriate and challenging, it is not as difficult as some physical science texts. For example, in discussing chemical bonds, it addresses overall positive and negative charges without going into valences as do some physical science courses.
An optional student notebook is available for this course.
Exploring Creation with Biology
This text is very similar in format and presentation to the Physical Science course. While it is traditional in its approach for the most part, it does not include study of the human body. Instead, human anatomy and physiology are covered in a separate course, Advanced Biology: The Human Body.
Clear explanations present concepts in a friendly fashion without oversimplification. Questions provoke thought rather than just recall of information.
With this text, lab activity becomes more demanding, although you have a choice about how much of it your student needs to complete. There are three levels of lab activity: household labs require minimal equipment and should be completed by all students; optional microscope labs require a microscope and slide set (kit available for $316); dissection labs are also optional, but the dissection kit is only $55. Instructions for all labs are found in the text. A student notebook, which includes a lab notebook section is available for this course.
Exploring Creation with Chemistry
This text covers essentially the same content as most high school chemistry courses. Algebra 1 is a prerequisite. While the authors assume that the student has this math background, they do offer some math review.
The text presents concepts and guides students through prac-
tice exercises before leaving them to work on problems. Solutions to test questions include the math work, so students weak in math can figure out what they might have missed. This sort of help is very rare in chemistry courses.
The authors have done a great job constructing lab activities with low-cost equipment while providing enough experience for a solid college-prep course. The labs are exacting in detail, achieving a great deal of precision with minimal equipment.
Apologia sells a Chemistry Glassware Set for this course ($60) that provides the basic equipment you need. All of the chemicals you need are available at the grocery, drug, or hardware store. However, the second edition of the text for this course has added optional extra lab work for which you need to purchase a “secondary lab set” ($157) that includes more specialized chemicals.
One negative point: chemicals are frequently introduced by formula but not by common names. This seems odd in a text that is generally good at making practical connections for students. However, Apologia explains the reason for this: “When you introduce every chemical with its name, the student is quickly overwhelmed by the names and thus ceases to remember them. Therefore, we only introduce the names of practical chemicals that the student will encounter in everyday life. As a result, the student remembers the important names and does not get overwhelmed with chemical names he or she will never encounter.”
Apologia’s Advanced Chemistry course can be taken after this foundational course, possibly in the same year, for more advanced study.
Exploring Creation with Physics
This course will be quite challenging for students who attempt to work independently unless parents are knowledgeable and can help from time to time. However, it is still a good course for the student who does not intend to take much science in college. Coverage is adequate but not as complete as in some other high school physics texts. For example, there is no treatment of the properties of matter, heat transfer, atomic and nuclear physics, relativity or quantum physics. (Such topics are covered in some, but not all, high school level physics courses.) These shortcomings not withstanding, the casual and illustrative prose goes a long way toward helping both teacher and student grasp inherently difficult subjects.
Lab activities are fairly simple for a high school physics lab course. Lab experiments seem to be designed to illustrate principles more than to provide opportunities for serious scientific work. Nevertheless, this course will satisfy most college entry requirements for a physics course with lab.
Science oriented students should consider adding Apologia’s Advanced Physics course.
This is a math-based course; prerequisites are algebra and geometry up through beginning trigonometry. However, the math is not overly complex, and example problems are worked out in clear and thorough detail.
Apologia offers a Video Instruction DVD that might make this course more practical in some situations. The DVD (which plays only on computers that can handle .wmv files and open PDF files) features more than 20 hours of lecture and presentation of experiments. It also has printable notes from the lectures. It does not replace the print or CD-ROM textbook.
Advanced Biology Course - The Human Body
Many parents will want to cover human anatomy and physiology as part of their teen’s biology instruction. However, be forewarned that this is a challenging course with some content (especially the large amount of vocabulary to be mastered) more likely to be encountered in a college course rather than a high school course.
Along with the student textbook and the Solutions and Tests book, students will need other items which are all available through Apologia: a microscope ($262); a set of prepared slides ($73); a dissection specimens kit with a cow's eye, cow's heart, and a fetal pig ($44); and The Anatomy Coloring Book (McCann and Wise) ($22). The Anatomy Coloring Book is a critical component since it has far more detailed illustrations than does the text. As with other Apologia courses, students need to keep a separate lab notebook. A student notebook, which includes a lab notebook section is available.
Although this is a very challenging course, it is designed such that students can complete all work independently. The publisher recommends it for twelfth grade but says it can also be used from tenth grade on if students have the prerequisites—first year courses in both biology and chemistry.
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.