Update: Apologia has been revising their materials over the last few years and 2020 brought two major changes front and center. First, with the release of the 3rd editions of Physical Science and Biology, Jay Wile is no longer a primary author of the books (only Physics, Advanced Physics and Chemistry are still his). We're not quite sure what we think of this yet, and will be reviewing these as we have time. But we are sure of one thing: we're not a fan of the new softcover format of nearly all the Jr/Sr high texts. Please note that the newer versions have been adopted by groups like Classical Conversations, so watch editions if trying to purchase used copies!
Parents often have a difficult time teaching their kids math and science, primarily because they either didn't have much themselves or because they haven't had to use it since high school or college. Apologia offers a thorough introduction to general and specific science that is student-directed and doesn't require a lot from parents or teachers. It makes science fun and interesting, helping remove the scariness from a commonly intimidating subject.
Usually there are enough pros and cons in a particular curriculum that it's hard to back it whole-heartedly, but this is one we feel we can recommend for home school families without any serious reservation. While it isn't a perfect program, it is thorough, self-taught, and generally fun, without sacrificing content. One major complaint some have expressed is the lack of technical vocabulary (that's a plus for others). Perhaps of more concern is that this program takes more time to cover ground, dividing their high school topics into two full-year levels each, making it difficult to fully cover biology, chemistry and physics in the allotted timeframe. Finally, some argue that while it is nice that the experiments can be done without regular lab equipment, the purpose for lab science is that students learn to use those tools.
Apologia's open help policy is indispensable for many parents whose kids just aren't grasping certain concepts. Assistance is provided on request via email, standard mail, voicemail, online or fax, and addresses and numbers are provided in the front of each student text. Most parents that have used the course say they never had to contact the publisher, but those who have say help has been timely and truly helpful.
The Young Explorer Series for elementary kids deals with the natural world and astronomy and is based on the days of creation. The Exploring Creation books are for junior high and high school students and cover general science, biology, physics, and other more specific disciplines. There are some differences of approach between the two series, though the routine of reading text, answering questions and doing experiments is pretty standard throughout. You can learn more about both levels of books by clicking on the series links for more in-depth reviews.
It's pretty hard for a lot of us to get excited about science, but if there's a curriculum that can do it, this is it. Your child doesn't need to be a genius to understand the straight forward text, or have a fully-functional lab to do the experiments. All they really need is a healthy dose of curiosity and a willingness to learn, the only requirements for success in any discipline.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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