Stereotypical scientists wear huge glasses, never shower, and can't enjoy the world around them because all they see are molecular formulas. Whether or not this applies to most scientists, it certainly isn't true of Dr. Jay Wile, primary author of the Apologia science curriculum. He doesn't wear glasses, in pictures he appears well-groomed, and his texts are filled with wonder at creation. At any rate, a science curriculum that encourages kids to enjoy science instead of dreading it can't be all bad, and we think there's a lot more good than bad here.
Designed for junior high and high schoolers, the Apologia Exploring Creation series can be used both as a standard science program and as a prep course for college-bound students. Dr. Wile, a former assistant professor at University of Rochester in New York and himself a homeschool dad, intended the course specifically for homeschool use. Each book is particularly adaptable for student self-directed study, though teacher elaboration of the more advanced texts can be beneficial. The writing is more relaxed than what is found in most textbooks, and clearly presents the material. Experiments help make key concepts observable, and most of them require no more than common household items. Some math is required as prerequisite for a couple of the texts, though nothing higher than algebra 1, geometry, and basic trigonometry.
Books are divided into 16 modules apiece; at a pace of approximately two weeks per module, each text should take one school year to finish. The basic kit includes a hardbound student text and a softcover solutions and test book. We also recommend the multimedia CD as a supplement, and we discount the three when you buy them simultaneously. Apologia also offers a CD-ROM text containing all the above content on two discs; and, for your audio learner, they have recorded an MP3 audio book of the entire student text. Either the kit and CD, or the CD-ROM, contain all student material, on-your-own questions and solutions, laboratory exercises and chapter study guides needed for the course.
Essential experiments can typically be done without extra trips to Walmart, though some texts have supplementary experiments requiring supplies which can be purchased from Nature's Workshop Plus). Each module consists of reading assignments, written questions, experiments, and a final test.
Students are encouraged to study on their own and at their own pace. This makes it easier for parents with little or no background in science. At the same time, there aren't any teacher materials (other than the text answer key), so students having a difficult time with certain concepts could get easily frustrated. Fortunately, Apologia offers free assistance to users via email, fax or phone.
The texts themselves have relatively few pictures, though the multimedia CDs offer plenty and the experiments add a visual element to the work. For many students, the limited visuals could actually be a plus, as too-cluttered textbooks can often be distracting rather than instructive. With Apologia, students learn the material as well as how to apply it without a lot of extra "stuff" to distract attention.
Dr. Wile does a good job relating science fact to biblical Christian truth without being heavy-handed. He doesn't preach, but he makes sure students understand how what they're learning fits into a Christian worldview. This is one of the best aspects of the series—students can study science without simultaneously having to defend against a non-Christian perspective.
Even if your child aspires to be a stereotypical scientist (though we highly encourage you don't let him forget personal hygiene), the Apologia curriculum is an excellent start to a thorough science education. For those students intending to pursue science in college, there are advanced texts for the senior year of high school which delve into particular branches more thoroughly. Like any good educator, Dr. Wile's concern is that students understand how to learn and how to integrate knowledge and that they enjoy doing so; his curriculum seems to go a long way toward that goal.
Most of the Apologia Exploring Creation texts have been revised. Changes that apply to all of their second edition courses include:
Because of the differences between the first and second editions, students in a group setting cannot use both. They must all have the same edition. Because of this, the first edition of the course will still be available for those in schools or support groups that use the first edition.