Memoria Press has created a biology course that can easily be used by homeschoolers for independent study. The course is titled Modern Biology, and it uses the Modern Biology textbook published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. This 1128-page textbook has far more material than students need in a high school biology course. So for Memoria Press’s course, Dr. Rebecca Shellburne has selected chapters to be read from the text (18 of the 51 chapters in the Modern Biology textbook), and she has created video lectures that explain and expand upon the information in those chapters. She has also written a student guide with activities that reinforce lessons and help students master the vocabulary of biology.
The components included with the complete course are the Modern Biology textbook, access to the streamed lectures, a student guide, a teacher guide, a book of tests (chapter tests and a final exam), and the Biology Coloring Workbook published by The Princeton Review. Lesson plans for the Modern Biology course are available, but they are not essential. They make it easy to see at a glance what students need to do. The complete ninth-grade curriculum package from Memoria Press includes lesson plans for this and other courses, but otherwise, you need to purchase the Modern Biology course lesson plans for $8.
The video lectures are accessed through Memoria Press’s website. Dr. Shellburne’s lectures follow the layout of the textbook and reflect its promotion of evolution as a key theme. The lectures are a critical component of the course, both because of the instruction they provide and because Dr. Shellburne explains which parts of each chapter students need to read, and which questions to answer.
The teacher guide serves primarily as an answer key for both the student guide activities and the tests. It also has notes telling when to complete pages in the Biology Coloring Workbook. The coloring book helps students memorize features of biological structures and processes as they color and label them.
The consumable student guide has questions with space for answers, diagrams for students to complete, and vocabulary words for students to define.
There are section review questions throughout each chapter in the textbook. These questions are not repeated in the student guide. Dr. Shellburne sometimes tells students explicitly to answer them, but they need to do so somewhere other than in their student guide. Answers to these questions are in the teacher guide.
The book of tests has a chapter test for each chapter, although two of these tests cover more than one chapter. (Chapters 33 and 34 are grouped together for one test, and chapters 36 through 38 are grouped together for another.) The book of tests also has a lengthy final exam. Answers are in the teacher guide.
The Modern Biology course from Memoria Press spends proportionately more time on biochemistry and microbiology than do most high school biology courses. It covers cell structures, cell functions, DNA, RNA, proteins, genetics, ecology, bacteria, viruses, protists, plants, and animals. However, Dr. Shellburne has selected only one chapter from the text on plants and seven chapters on animals. She does not use any of the chapters on human biology. (Memoria Press's catalog shows the Modern Biology textbook being used in a future anatomy course for twelfth grade.) Lest you be concerned that the amount of textbook material isn’t adequate, Dr. Shellburne says that students completing the course with scores of 90% or above should be prepared to take the SAT Biology (molecular focus) exam. The Memoria Press course is oriented toward the memorization of information, a strategy that lends itself well to preparing for this test.
This is not a lab course, but there are 66 “Quick Labs” and 51 “Chapter Labs” in the textbook that could be used to create lab activities. (These are not used by the Memoria Press course.) However, it would be challenging to gather the resources and equipment required for these labs. A more practical lab alternative might be to use a kit and manual from Quality Science Labs such as the Logos Science Kits or the Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments and its companion lab kit.
This Modern Biology course should work particularly well for independent study since it supplies the teaching through video lectures, and there is no need for interaction. Of course, adding a lab component requires adult supervision and assistance for safety reasons and to integrate lab experiences with what students are learning in the course itself.
The course is organized in trimesters, but there are no trimester exams or other factors that prevent you from dividing the course into two semesters. The optional lesson plans show a schedule for 33 weeks in all. You receive access to the instructional videos for 13 months, so you can stretch the course out if you need more time.
The Modern Biology course from Memoria Press should work well for those who want a secular approach to biology that is suitable for independent study.