Catholic Heritage has developed a beautiful series of science textbooks for homeschoolers that features solid science content and plenty of hands-on activity.
The series extends from first to seventh grade. While Behold and See 4 is an older book now in its sixth edition, all the other books were published in 2010-2014. Books are written by different authors and they differ in style quite a bit. Books for grades one through four are self-contained, each in a single, spiral-bound worktext, while grades five through seven each have two softcover books. All books except Behold and See 4 and the workbooks for grades five through seven are printed in full color. Each course has an answer key at the back.
Many lessons include hands-on activities that are an important part of the learning process. You should really try to complete all of them if possible.
These books are written from a Catholic perspective and include scripture references. They present a strong belief in God as Creator, a pro-life position, and an attitude of love and concern for people as well as the environment. Within the “Note to Parents” at the beginning of Behold and See 3 is a summary of official Church teaching regarding evolution. The author follows with comments that point out a few of the unproven claims of evolution. Aside from an indirect comment in Behold and See 5 mentioning millions of years in regard to geological movements and a chapter in Behold and See 6 explaining the Big Bang theory as the best model to describe “what the universe was probably like right after Creation,” I could not find evolution discussed in the textbooks themselves.
The entire program is relatively easy to use. Activities and experiments require some pre-planning and supervision. Parents should plan to teach these texts rather than use them for independent study. Overall, this seems to me one of the best science programs for Catholic families.
Behold and See 1 and 2
The first two books are co-authored by Nancy Nicholson and Mary Piecynski. The books share a similar format featuring two children, Josh and Hanna, who interact with their parents and each other in story dialogues throughout the books. Much of the scientific information is imparted within the stories but some is presented in a more traditional fashion.
Behold and See 1 is subtitled, On the Farm with Josh and Hanna. The text follows through each season on the farm as they learn about seeds, plants, mammals, weather, reptiles, fish, birds, vertebrates, invertebrates, skeletons, exoskeletons, evergreen and deciduous trees, insects, and spiders. The final chapter shifts to the human senses. You will need to complete about two lessons per week to finish this text in one year.
Each lesson includes an activity. This might be a worksheet, a cut-and-paste activity, an experiment, a drawing, or something similar. Many activities for first graders aim at developing observation skills. Toward the end of the book, students record data from experiments as they begin to apply scientific method.
The few experiment supplies that you will need are listed in a box at the beginning of each lesson. Among the necessary supplies are a magnifying glass, seeds, soil, plastic wrap, dry oats, and magazines or catalogs with pictures of various types of leaves. The only challenging item might be the suggestion that you catch or purchase crickets to observe and keep as pets.
Behold and See 2, subtitled More Science with Josh and Hanna, shifts into the physical sciences with lessons on tools, machines, and energy. It also studies the water cycle, natural resources, conservation, erosion, the earth, rocks, volcanoes, the ocean, and marine life. The reading level is actually a little easier than the first grade book; students might be able to read parts of the lessons, although they should not try to work independently. There are more experiments and they are more complex than in the first grade book. You will find some of the standard types of experiments such as testing the qualities of different types of rock and construction of a baking soda and vinegar volcano. There are a few activities that use foods. I particularly like the one for modeling the creation of sedimentary rock with raisins, coconut, nuts, graham cracker crumbs, butter, and other ingredients. Children do only a little more writing at this level.
Behold and See 3
Behold and See 3, written by Suchi Myjak, is intended to be used as a general introduction to science. It begins with a chapter about the nature of science and scientific method, introducing the foundational concept that science is the study of God's creation. The remaining nine chapters are divided into groups of three under the headings “Physical Science,” “Life Science,” and “Human Body.” Physical science covers matter, force, energy, the sun, the moon, and the stars. Life science teaches about animals, plants, and interdependence. The section on the human body begins with a correlation between the parts of our bodies and Christians as members of the Body of Christ. This is followed by an overview of body systems, the senses, and nutrition and health.
This book is loaded with investigations and experiments. Many of these use an inductive approach, leading students through an experiment and their observations to arrive at conclusions or generalizations. For example, students construct a simple balance with balloons on each end to try to answer the question, “Does air have mass?” Each chapter ends with a substantial section of review questions and a beautifully-illustrated page for students to write a pertinent scripture verse.
Behold and See 4
Subtitled Human Anatomy and Health, this book was originally published in 1998 and is now in its sixth edition. The current 2014 edition is up-to-date and includes website addresses for investigation of some topics.
There is quite a lot of overlap in content with the last third of Behold and See 3. The first half of this book covers body systems while the second half teaches about nutrition, health, and first aid. Behold and See 4 was written by Katherine Rode, R.N. and Dr. Mary Ann Grobbel, and the content is presented quite differently than the content of the third grade book. Even so, I would be unlikely to use these two books one right after the other because of the repetition.
Behold and See 4 has fewer activities, although it does include patterns for creating a child-size body with a skeleton and some of the organs. The book directs you to "make organs" using felt pieces that you sew together and stuff with batting. (The skeleton and ureters are only one layer of felt.) All of these are then to be sewn onto a cardboard outline of each child. You could simplify this project by using construction paper (and overlapping organs) and glue if the sewing is intimidating.
The two halves of the book were each written separately by one of the authors, and they are presented quite differently. The first half seems much more interesting—this is where you find the hands-on activities. Both sections have vocabulary lists. In the first half, vocabulary words are accompanied by their definitions. In the second half, definitions are in a glossary at the end. The first half includes optional Suggestions for Supplemental Activities for each section. Review activities for the first half are a series of word puzzles, a few activity sheets, and a Jeopardy type game. Many questions at the end of the chapters in both sections require full sentence responses.
Behold and See 5
text - $39.95, workbook - $13.95
Behold and See 5, by David Beresford, Ph.D., takes a large step up in the amount of content and the level of difficulty. It addresses a broad range of topics but selects a narrow subtopic within each one, providing a more in-depth study than one usually finds in books for fifth grade. For example, chapter 3 is titled, “Food Webs, Resistance to Disease, and Conservation of Energy. While information throughout the chapter is interrelated, eleven pages focus specifically on the pesticide DDT under the subtopic heading, “Immunity in Insect Populations and Making Wise Choices.” Using the story of DDT, graphs, charts, and data, it helps children (and adults!) understand how creatures can build up immunities or resistance, how improper use of pesticides or other control measures can create unintended consequences, and generally teaches them to think through the complex interactions. Of course, this lesson applies far beyond the story of DDT. Chapter 6 in this text is titled, “Logic: Deduction, Induction, and Scientific Reasoning.” While this chapter directly teaches about logic and reasoning, the entire book applies it.
Among other topics covered are metamorphosis, photosynthesis, the circulatory system, competition among plants and animals, seasons, atmosphere, the weather cycle, the earth and its composition, genetics, and taxonomy.
I found this text very interesting to read, even as an adult. Some fifth graders might find it challenging, but Dr. Beresford has done an excellent job of presenting complex ideas with stories, photos, examples, and diagrams that make it understandable.
The text is a non-consumable 226-page book. The 115-page, consumable student workbook includes experiment data sheets, written-activity sheets, review questions, tests, and answer keys.
Behold and See 6
text - $48.95, workbook - $15.95
Behold and See 6 is written by RoseMary Johnson B.A. in collaboration with Dr. Richard P. Olenick, Nancy Nicholson, and Mary Catalano B.S. This gorgeously illustrated text is much larger than the others at 350 pages. The student workbook is 125 pages. The text is written as conversations rather than direct presentation of lesson material. This makes it very interesting to read. It includes experiments, activities, and website addresses for further exploration.
The text has three units focusing on physical science, biomes, and space respectively. As with the fifth grade text, topics are narrower than in traditional texts, and the authors explore each area more expansively. The result is high level science that is enjoyable to read.
Behold and See Life Science 7
See separate review here.
Catholic Heritage Curricula has done a great job of enlisting experienced scientists to write in an engaging manner about topics they obviously love. Even with their diverse approaches, the entire series is excellent.